Deepening the Occupation in East Jerusalem

In recent months, the focus of the world, when it comes to East Jerusalem, has been on urgent issues – like violence/clashes, home demolitions, etc. It is to this backdrop that the government of Israel has been quietly advancing two types of measures to increase its presence in the life of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents.

In the education sector – Most recently, the Education Ministry made an “offer” to renovate East Jerusalem schools, on the condition that these schools agree to adopt/teach Israel’s curriculum (a large majority of East Jerusalem schools teach today the PA’s curriculum, with Israel’s acquiescence). To justify the initiative, Israeli Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin claimed that the idea is to help “to improve the employment integration of its students,” a statement which only reinforces the impression that the government is moving from territorial occupation to a more aggressive, supposedly enlightened kind of old style colonization, that denies the identity of Palestinian residents.

In the security sector – The same spirit is reflected in the announcement of Israel’s plans to open six new police stations in East Jerusalem neighborhoods. According to the announcement, the goal is to strengthen the rule of law in East Jerusalem and “provide quality police services to all residents of the city.”

And while Israeli police are increasing their visibility and presence vis-à-vis Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the Ministry of Construction and Housing has published a tender to outsource the supervision of the security services that provide protection to East Jerusalem settlers, creating privatized oversight of a security force that already has the markings of a private police force acting at the service of the settlers. It does that at the same time that it announces its intention to significantly increase the budget allocated for the protection of Jewish settlers living in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, further indicating the government’s intention to empower settlers’ self-rule while deepening Israel’s domination over Palestinians’ lives and livelihoods.

The policies regarding the renovation of the schools and the enhanced security presence are two sides of the same coin, and reflect an increasingly metastasizing, increasingly unsustainable occupation in East Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israeli policies in East Jerusalem have consisted of the carrot and the stick: seeking to control the Palestinian population by policies intended to “buy them” (by offering meager material benefits) or “break them” (by a security stranglehold over the population). This approach is today being significantly intensified. Even the most basic benefits of residency – schooling – must be “purchased” by Palestinians by forfeiting their national identity and playing the submissive role dictated by Israel. And the texture of the security presence in East Jerusalem increasingly resembles that of the West Bank, under the de facto control of the extreme settlers.  Both of these developments are being justified by Orwellian claims, totally detached from reality, with Israel purporting to only have the well-being of the Palestinians in mind.