The report "This is Jerusalem: Violence and Dispossession in al-‘Esawiyah" describes life in the Palestinian neighborhood of al-‘Esawiyah 53 years after East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel. Over the past year, al-‘Esawiyah has become a flashpoint due to a police operation designed primarily to harass residents. In the report, B'Tselem analyzes Israel’s policy of dispossession, deliberate neglect, lack of planning and police violence in the neighborhood, which is an extreme example of its actions throughout East Jerusalem.
On Feb. and March 2020, three minors aged 8, 9 and 16 were injured by sponge rounds and one lost an eye. As part of a yearlong harassment campaign in al-‘Esawiyah, the police regularly creates friction with residents and then responds violently. Sponge rounds, which have injured thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem in recent years, can be fatal. Nevertheless, the Israel Police refuses to change its policy and avoids action against the responsible officials. As always, no one will be held accountable.
Israel Police continues to abuse Palestinians in al-’Esawiyah, including false arrests of minors, in operation ongoing since April 2019
The police harassment against residents of al-‘Esawiyah we reported in July continues, though it has abated somewhat after the school year began. Over the summer, B’Tselem documented ten cases of police brutality against neighborhood residents, three of which are presented here in detail. This police harassment is an inseparable part of Israeli policy throughout East Jerusalem, which seeks to perpetuate a demographic majority for Jews in the city.
Since mid-June, as collective punishment, the police have been harassing residents of al-’Esawiyah over alleged stone. On 27 June 2019, when police harassed residents, young men threw stones at them, incl. one – Muhammad ‘Abeid, 21 – who shot firecrackers at them. A policeman shot a live round at ‘Abeid, hitting him in the chest. The police pursued residents who were taking ‘Abeid for medical attention, snatched him and took him to the hospital themselves, where he was pronounced dead. The police harassment of al-’Esawiyah residents, including ‘Abeid’s killing, is an inseparable part of Israel’s policy in East Jerusalem designed to secure a Jewish majority in the city.
On the morning of Monday, 22 July 2019, the Israeli authorities began demolishing buildings in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Humos, the eastern extension of Zur Baher in East Jerusalem. The move came after Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected the residents’ appeal, and ruled there was no legal barrier to prevent the demolitions. Israel is planning to demolish a total of 13 buildings, including at least 44 housing units, which are in various stages of construction. Two families were already living in the buildings demolished today. Their 17 members, including 11 minors, are now homeless. Some of the structures slated for demolition were built in Area A, where the Palestinian Authority is responsible for planning and building, and had issued the required permits.
On the last Friday of Ramadan, in two separate incidents, Border Police opened fire at two Palestinian youths trying to cross the Separation Barrier near Beit Sahur to attend prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. One (15 years old) was killed and the other injured. B’Tselem found that neither had – nor could have – posed mortal danger, being in broad daylight, on a buffer path between two fences, facing armed and ready officers in protective gear. The fact that the predictable and deadly outcome of this egregious conduct is met by public indifference and that the conduct receives the full backing of all official bodies demonstrates just how little worth is accorded Palestinian lives.
The Jerusalem Municipality plans to displace all residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Yasul, close to 500 people according to OCHA figures. The residents built the neighborhood in the early 1990s on land privately owned by Palestinians, but which the city zoned as a green area to prevent construction by Palestinians. The city has done so in many other parts East Jerusalem as well. The Jerusalem Municipality issued demolition orders for the houses, and the orders were approved by the courts, who chose to ignore the reality and city policy and focus on technicalities.
This Sunday, Israel will mark Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the annexation of 70 square kilometers from the West Bank to the municipality of Jerusalem. Palestinian residents have little to celebrate - Israel treats them like unwanted immigrants in their own city and employs a policy designed to drive them out of their homes. One of the measures Israel uses for this purpose is lack of urban planning and demolition. First, master plans are not drawn up for Palestinian neighborhoods. Then, when Palestinians build without a permit (because everyone needs a home), the municipality demolishes their homes or threatens to do so. Since 2004, the authorities have demolished at least 848 homes in East Jerusalem, leaving at least 2,960 people - 1,596 of them children - homeless.
In 2019, many more Palestinian families in East Jerusalem demolished their own homes, which were built without permits. They did this to avoid the high fees the city would have charged them for carrying out the demolition itself. Through the end of March, 15 homes were demolished in this way. Israel does not see East Jerusalem residents as equal citizens and barely allows them to build legally. When, given no other choice, they build homes without permits, the municipality demolishes them – all as part of a policy to Judaize Jerusalem.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.