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From the field

East Jerusalem: 6 Voices - What is East Jerusalem?

The area currently known as East Jerusalem was demarcated in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and annexed some 70 square kilometers of it to West Jerusalem. Israel applied Israeli law in East Jerusalem, while the rest of the West Bank remained under military occupation. Yet the application of Israeli law in the area is partial and discriminatory: the approximately 270,000 Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem hold only an Israeli “permanent resident” status, which can be easily revoked, as opposed to the citizen status held by Israelis throughout the city. Also, the Jerusalem Municipality severely neglects infrastructure in East Jerusalem, imposes harsh planning restrictions on Palestinians and does not allocate adequate resources to the area. The international community does not recognize the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, which it views as occupied territory, like the rest of the West Bank.

Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem
Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem

Settlements in East Jerusalem

Israel built 12 extensive settlements on much of the sparsely-populated land annexed to West Jerusalem, appropriating the land from Palestinians. Some 200,000 Israelis now live there, and they are considered legitimate neighborhoods of Jerusalem by many Israelis, although they are illegal under international law. In addition, fundamentalist settler organizations, supported by the state, consistently work to create Israeli enclaves within Palestinian neighborhoods, with the aim of ensuring an Israeli stronghold on these areas in future negotiations. Such enclaves are now populated by some 2,000 Israelis, have been established in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Silwan, Ras al-Amud, A-Tur, Abu Dis, and Sheikh Jarrah, among others, causing violent friction and constant tension in these neighborhoods.

The Separation Barrier

In 2002, in response to a series of attacks by Palestinians inside Israel, the government decided to erect a physical barrier, allegedly to prevent potential attackers from entering Israel. However, some 85 percent of the barrier’s route runs well within the West Bank, de facto annexing vast land tracts and some 60 settlements to Israel. In the area of Jerusalem, the nine-meter high concrete wall severs many Palestinian rural communities from their center of life in the city and from other Palestinian neighborhoods, and sometimes even divides them in two. It restricts the movement of some 250,000 Palestinians, directly impacting their rights to education, medical treatment, an adequate standard of living, and sustainable family life.