Israel’s Haaretz reports on a confidential European Union report which “accused both the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality of working deliberately to alter the city’s demographic balance and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank.”
[The EU report] said that both bodies assist right-wing organizations, such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad, in their efforts to implement this “strategic vision,” especially around the Holy Basin area. These organizations buy houses in Arab neighborhoods, and make “attempts to implant further Jewish settlements into the heart of the Muslim Quarter.”
The municipality, the report continued, discriminates against the city’s Arab residents with regard to building permits, health services, education, sanitation and more. [...]
On another issue, it stated: “The expansion of Israeli settlements has sparked a trend of settler violence against the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Such criminal actions have been witnessed by Israeli police but are not met with adequate intervention.”
The EU report also criticized Israel’s closure of Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority institutions in east Jerusalem, stating: “The general sense of neglect felt by many East Jerusalemites and the absence of Palestinian state-sponsored institutions and secular organizations are paving the way for Islamic religious organizations to expand their influence.”
This is a pattern we’ve seen repeatedly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which attempts Israeli attempts to handicap expressions of secular Palestinian nationalism benefited extremist Islamist groups like Hamas. It also echoes a phenomenon found throughout the Middle East, in which government suppression of legitimate political activity has resulted in greater support for religious alternatives.
All of this has been reported on for years by Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tselem and Ir Amim, as well as international human rights organizations like Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, but unfortunately this hasn’t resulted either in Israel changing the policy, or in the country with the most leverage over Israel — the United States — taking serious steps to get Israel to change the policy, which creates understandable resentment and anger which in turn powers extremism and violence. The Obama administration clearly seems to understand that Israel’s cutting off access to the parts of Jerusalem that the Palestinians claim as their capital is a hugely provocative display of bad faith that undermines moderate Palestinian leaders and discredits the path of peaceful negotiation, but at this point the administration doesn’t seem interested in taking on the pro-eviction lobby in Congress and suspending aid to Israel, which is the only thing likely to change Israeli behavior.