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AlQuds Capital of Arab Culture 2009

Israel's Judaization of Al-Quds: Legal Perspective

Date :20 May 2009

Al-Quds' Status Under International Law

The Oslo Accords of 1993 have turned the Palestinian land into a disputed one where any final solution to Al-Quds (Jerusalem) issue will be based on a compromise that considers the facts Israel has created on the ground.

Against this backdrop, Israel has accelerated its policies to evict the Palestinians from Jerusalem and to detach it from its Arab vicinities to construct irrevocable realities that lead the international community to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

To reverse this policy, the Palestinians and Arabs must adhere to international law, and adopt new policies that serve restoring their land and holy places to their sovereignty.

Jerusalem in International Law

In Nov. 1947, the United Nation General Assembly Resolution 181 recommended diving Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, and making Jerusalem a corpus separatum under the UN Trusteeship Council.

The War of 1948 (Al-Nakba), following the declaration of Israel in May 1948, ended up by dividing Jerusalem into two districts: West Jerusalem occupied by Israel and East Jerusalem, where the holy places exist, annexed to Jordan.

The United Nations, therefore, considers East Jerusalem to be a territory under Israel's belligerent occupation.

In May 1949, the United Nations accepted Israel as a member in its General Assembly, and in Dec. 1949, the United Nations reaffirmed its decision of internationalizing Jerusalem. Israel, however, responded in Jan. 1950 by declaring West Jerusalem as its capital.

On June 5, 1967, Israel waged the June War (Six-day War) against Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, and it  occupied Sinai, the Golan Heights, Wadi Araba, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Under international law, the seizure of territory by force does not change the legal status of the land whether the military action leading to the occupation was aggressive or defensive.

The United Nations, therefore, considers East Jerusalem to be a territory under Israel's belligerent occupation. UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not distinguish East Jerusalem from the rest of the Arab occupied territories; it considered all of them occupied lands by the Israeli force.

Moreover, the UN has refused all Israeli measures in Jerusalem that intended to change its legal status as an occupied land. On June 28, 1967, Israel extended East Jerusalem to include 28 Palestinian villages, and merged it with West Jerusalem. 

As a result, Jerusalem area increased from 40 to 110 square kilometres, its new boundaries reached Hebron in the south of West Bank, and Nablus in the North.

The new boundaries were based upon controlling as large territories as possible around the Western Jerusalem, while including as few Palestinians as possible.

Israel then applied its Jurisdiction and administration to the entire Jerusalem. Security Council Resolution (SCR) 252 and 267 of May 1968 and July 1969 consider that "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem, are invalid and cannot change that status."

Israeli attempts to change Jerusalem's legal status continued. In 1973, Israel made the residents in East Jerusalem eligible for vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, and in 1980, Israel declared "Jerusalem, complete, and united to be the capital of Israel." 

The SCR 476 of August 1980 considers "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded."

The UN Security Council (UNSC) reaffirmed that Israel is an occupying power of Jerusalem in its resolutions 672 and 673 of October 1990, following October 8, 1990 massacre when Israel killed 20 Palestinians and wounded 53 in the old city of Jerusalem.

That is why after six decades of occupying Jerusalem, the more than 160 states that compose the UN General Assembly refuse to consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and reject to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israel Creates "De Facto" in Jerusalem

Israel also prevents the Palestinians from constructing new homes, and demolishes the built ones without prior licenses.

The Jewish Agency's plot to evacuate Jerusalem from its Arab inhabitants has started prior to the establishment of Israel.

In his book, The Revolt, Menachem Begin, the Irgun leader recounted how his terrorist group bombed the Arab villages in Jerusalem from Dec. 11 to 13, 1947. On Jan. 5th, 1948, the Haganah, later on, would be the Israel official army, set a bomb in the Semiramis Hotel in West Jerusalem, killing 26 Palestinians.

In April 1948, the Irgun drove few of whom survived Deir Yassin Massacre in trucks through Jerusalem as a demonstration to the Arabs that what was waiting them was the same fate. The Haganah announced to the Arabs then "unless you leave your homes, the fate of Deir Yassin will be yours."

The occupation of East Jerusalem in June 1967 was followed by broad range of policies aimed at uprooting the Palestinians from their city, isolating it from its neighborhoods, and ensuring "a Jewish nature of the city".

For the starter, Israel granted the Palestinians in Jerusalem a blue Israeli IDs, which means a permanent residency status, but any Palestinian who leaves Jerusalem for seven years and over, loses automatically his residency.

The child also of a permanent resident is only given a residency status under certain conditions. Furthermore, it is almost impossible for the partner of a Jerusalemite to receive a status of permanent residency making it very difficult for a husband and wife to live under one ceiling.

Israel also prevents the Palestinians from constructing new homes, and demolishes the built ones without prior licenses.

For example, in Apr. 2009, Israel decided to demolish 88 homes in Silwan suburb. In addition, Israel has closed Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem that have connections with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (POL) between 1996 and 1999.

Moreover, since the Oslo Agreements in 1993, Israel erected check points on the roads to Jerusalem preventing anyone who does not hold an Israel special permit from entering the city. Today, these check points have been turned into International Crossings with concrete buildings and steel gates.

Recent reports state that Israel will force the Palestinians in Jerusalem to register their names at the crossings when leaving or entering the city. 

The Israeli successive governments have expropriated more than 30 percent of the land in East Jerusalem in order to build new Jewish settlements. This "theft" took place in several ways; declaring the Palestinian land "a state land" or "a land of absentees"; or forging documents to claim ownership of Palestinian properties through governmental agents or not-for-profit organizations.

Today, almost 200,000 settlers reside in colonies/settlements Israel constructed in Jerusalem. The massive construction in East Jerusalem is mostly present along Jerusalem municipal boundary aiming at separating the city from its Palestinian vicinities in order to prevent these neighborhoods from expanding.

Today, Israel plans to construct colonies/settlements in E1 to encircle Jerusalem with Jewish neighborhood.

E1 is an area located on the hills between Ma'aleh Adummim colony/settlement and Jerusalem and the edges of the Palestinian towns of Anata, Abu Dis, and Azariya.

E1 covers 12,000 dunams. Construction in the E1 area began in 2004; the plan includes building a headquarter for the Israeli police in West Bank, the construction of at least 3,500 housing units, a large commercial center, and more.

If the Israel's plot for E1 area is implemented, the West Bank will be separated between south and north with no geographical linkage between the two areas making the two-state solution proposed by the international community impossible to be implemented.

This scheme is coupled with the erection of the Separation Wall inside the West Bank of more than 770 km long, of which more than 170 km is encircling Jerusalem, leaving almost 60,000 Palestinians out of Jerusalem. By July 2008, almost 110 km of the Wall around Jerusalem is completed. 

The most extreme expression of the race to create "a fait accompli" in Jerusalem occurred after the Oslo Agreements in 1993 and during the "peace process" that followed, mainly in the HolyBasin the land of the OldCity and its surroundings.

For example, since 2004, archaeological excavations in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem have been carried out underneath the structure known as "Isaac's Tent".

The excavation site will constitute a tourist attraction, connecting the Al-Buraq Wall (the Western or Wailing Wall) via tunnels with "Isaac's Tent".

In Dec. 2007, the Israeli government decided to renew excavations beneath the Bab El-Maghariba( the Moroccan Gate), designed to allow building of a new bridge on the site.

Saving Jerusalem

Costa Rica and El-Salvador were the last two countries that moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 2006.


Today more than 244,000 Palestinians are living in Jerusalem. It is this Palestinian community that prevented Israel so far from changing the nature of the city into a Jewish city.

Supporting Jerusalemites to endure the hardship and remain in Jerusalem should be a top priority to the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims everywhere.

Adhering to international law has proved very fruitful. Costa Rica and El-Salvador were the last two countries that moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 2006 to mend their relation with the Arab and Muslim worlds in accordance with  international law.

The Palestinians, supported by Arab and Muslim states, should take the case of Jerusalem to international institutions each time Israel violates international law. The Palestinians need to force the international community to step in to force Israel to withdraw.

Jerusalem, by no means, belongs to the Palestinians solely; it belongs to the Arab and Muslim worlds. Its fait therefore should reside in the hands of Arabs, not Palestinians alone. Arab countries should make it clear to the world that it will not accept any solution to the Palestinian question that does not restore Jerusalem with its holy places to their sovereignty.

In this context, The Arab and Muslim states must deploy their economic and political relations with other countries, according to their position from the Arab-Israeli conflict, and at the center of it, Jerusalem.

Mohammad Yaghi is a Palestinian writer and political Analyst. He holds Master Degree in American Studies and worked with not-for-profit organizations including the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the AmericanCenter for the Study of Presidency and he is a reviewer for Global Integritys Reports on Corruption.  

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