Jerusalem remains a divided city

Jill Evans reports on the precarious and worsening conditions experienced by Palestinians living in the West Bank

Many, many constituents write to me asking why the European Union will criticise the Israeli government’s violations of international law in its occupation of Palestine, but when it comes to taking action, it’s a different story. In May, heads of state from all the EU countries expressed their strongest sentiments yet. But rather than putting more pressure on Israel they want to effectively reward them, by upgrading their trade agreement with the EU. At the end of the month, the European Parliament could give its approval to this.

I have long campaigned for a suspension of the EU’s trade agreement with Israel. My visit to the West Bank this month, as part of a delegation from the European Parliament, provided yet more evidence for why this should be done.

I was reminded at our first meeting that the Palestinian people are not free to travel from place to place. The director of the human rights organisation we meet cannot be present as he has been denied a permit to travel from one side of Jerusalem to the other. Jerusalem is a divided city, with both Israel and Palestine claiming it as their capital. But Israel is pursuing a policy of annexing the city.

Obstacles and barriers are a fact of everyday life. It is shocking that the actual right to live in Jerusalem was taken away from 4,500 Palestinians in 2008 when their residency was revoked. They don’t have the automatic right to live in the city even if they’ve been born and brought up there and their whole family live there.

From an incredible vantage point over the whole city, including the Mount of Olives and the Dome of the Rock, we learned how planning decisions are also being used by the Israeli authorities to try and move the Palestinians from their homes and from Jerusalem. More and more houses are being built on occupied land for settlers. These are people who move into the West Bank to live illegally but are fully supported by the Israeli government. They create new Israeli towns in the middle of Palestinian communities.

The difference between the two is striking. While the authorities refuse to collect the waste in the Palestinian communities, the settlements have clean, wide pavements with parks for their children to play in and modern recycling facilities. While the Palestinians pay their taxes in full, they are allocated a daily water allowance of only 70 litres per person per day, compared to the 300 litres consumed by Israelis. We in Wales consume around 150 litres a day, double what the Palestinians are allowed.

Segregation is rife too. Separate roads are built for settlers, which are forbidden to Palestinians. It means that children are often forced to take the longer, more dangerous route to school or that a person has to go through a checkpoint even to visit their neighbour. And the infamous wall towers over and divides communities.

Occupation obviously affects the Palestinian economy, as we learnt in a briefing session with the United Nations office for humanitarian relief. Around half of Palestinians live below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is 17 per cent. They don’t have the means to change this as they are being denied access to their natural resources and to facilities to export goods. The World Bank has stated that if the restrictions on movement in the West Bank were removed, the economy would have a chance to flourish.

After a difficult and depressing few days, I was grateful that the final visit was to a school in a refugee camp in Ramallah. Despite the hardship suffered by these children, who have known nothing other than life in the camp, they were full of happiness and energy. I desperately hope that the next generation is not lost to this long conflict.

With the international community’s attention elsewhere, peace initiatives in the region remain frozen. Perhaps as a result of this, Israel has accelerated its construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and tensions in Gaza remain high. The situation is precarious and worsening.

I will now be working with my colleagues in the European Parliament to try and bring pressure on Israel to respect international law. We have to use procurement rules, trade agreements and access to funding programmes to play our part in trying to get a peace agreement. That agreement, and even a Palestinian state itself, seems a distant hope. But we have to try.

Jill Evans MEP is President of Plaid Cymru.

3 thoughts on “Jerusalem remains a divided city

  1. I support your stance on this issue, although I feel that only a one state solution is viable, given the degree of colonisation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers.

    Britain gestated the Israeli State and the US has nourished and sustained it. The US hypocritically turns a blind eye to what is essentially a racist entity which has stolen and settled Palestinian land in defiance of international law. Its treatment of the Palestinian people has been despicable. Arab Israeli citizens are discriminated against in law, in employment, and are in a perpetual minority. Palestinian refugees who fled the atrocities of 1948-49 have not been allowed to return to their homeland, whereas any Jewish person worldwide has an automatic right to Israeli citizenship. The defenceless citizens of Gaza were attacked mercilessly by land sea and air in 2008, when some 300 children were killed. The Gazans live in what is effectively a large prison camp. The international community, including the EU, should be ashamed of having allowed such atrocities. Britain is primarily responsible for creating the entire problem, but typically stands tamely behind the policy of the US State Department.

  2. The Israelis remind me of the Afrikaaners, the same rhetoric of separate development and two-state solutions and the same unreadiness to compromise from a position of overwhelming power and allow the other community enough land and autonomy to build their own future. Why give up anything until you have to? Keep stealing land whenever you want and create facts on the ground that tilt the situation in your favour. South Africa never had apartheid, it had baaskap, domination of one group by another. The end was not separation but a single state in which ultimately power had to be surrendered to the majority. The Israelis are going down the same path. Their greed has made the two-state solution impossible. They are in a single state with a Palistinian majority. It may take a decade, it may take three decades or a century but eventually the state will be compelled to extend democratic rights to all its residents. That wiill be the end of an edxclusively Jewish state. Dayan recognised that and tried, in Gaza, to change course. He was struck down and Netanyahu, a contemptible moral pigmy is leading his people slowly but surely through a vale of tears to a multinational future.

  3. It’s nice to see that Jill Evans and Plaid Cymru can find time to address one of the longest and perhaps most shameful periods of ‘Western Democracy’.

    There is no question that Israel is an evil state, hell bent on promoting Judaism and the bible gospel on their terms and at the expense of Palestine’s people who perhaps have endured a longest holocaust ever and from people and a nation who should know better as they too lived in horrendous period of a not too distant history.

    Most people know that the root cause of Palestinian suffering is the unbending US Government’s stance and resolve to protect Israeli interests at any cost and no US president has ever dared to challenge Israel and the shameful situation continues unabated at a huge cost to the humanity.

    Palestinian situation suits the US sponsored Imperialism to continue creating perpetual wars for the so called ‘perpetual peace’ and immense suffering of Palestinians and many other nationalities who happen to be at the wrong side of US defined ‘democracy’.

    Perhaps less known to ordinary folks is the fact that the US foreign policy is in the control of Israeli Lobby a shadowy organisation on the Capitol Hill that controls the US Senate and US Congress and in turn these people are controlled by MOSSAD and Tel Aviv based Government.

    Fiction!? – Definitely not and plenty of facts in the public domain for anyone who may seek enlightenment and truth.

    So in a ‘Western Democracy’ how is it possible for a body and an organisation that at best represents some 2% of US population can have such an immense stranglehold on a nation that once stood for true human rights and values?

    The answer is simple Israel Lobby uses its immense wealth to bribe and buy US politicians and those who follow the US politics will know that virtually with no exception US Congressmen when they are elected to the office their first and the foremost duty is to pay homage to Israel and swear unreserved allegiance to a state and a system that from there on controls them – In other words CORRUPTION.

    Till such a time the US Governments finds the resolve to remove Israel stranglehold on their foreign policy Palestinians and many other nationalities will continue to suffer.

    On the other hand in Europe there is a massive popular support for Palestinian independence and creation of Palestinian statehood but again no resolve by the EU member states to collectively challenge US and force the end of the impasse.

    EU should recognise Palestinian state within pre 1967 borders and do so quickly and this act should never been seen as being disloyal to a valuable ally but something that had to be done if the West truly believes it has a moral right to define itself as a democracy!?

    Finally as this note is written on the eve of US presidential election, all I can say ‘God Help us all’ if Romney gets to be the commander in chief of the US of A – This man believes he’s got the God on his side as much as Israel believes that their biblical interpretation gives them the God given right to persecute and banish Palestinians till eternity!!

    PS – A note for Jill – Start by getting all UK’s MEP’s to act on this with absolute unity then lobby all other MEP’s for their support to make a real difference for Palestinians and if you achieve substantial MEP cohesion, reslove and unity then respective member state Governments especially those with close ties to the USA may have to act for the good of the mankind!!

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