Tuesday, May 10, 2011

OPT: East Jerusalem - 'Key Humanitarian Concerns'

Source: UN Department of Public Information:

Presenting a new report on East Jerusalem at Headquarters today, its author, Ray Dolphin, said the separation barrier under construction there not only had profound humanitarian consequences, but could ultimately have political implications, as well.

Mr. Dolphin said at a press conference that the report, by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and titled East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns, was the first comprehensive one on the humanitarian position of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and brought together many of the well-known issues in one volume for the first time. It examined such vital issues as residency rights, planning, zoning, and demolition, bringing them all together to show how they were interrelated, he said.

“All these factors together are undermining the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem,” he continued. “Basically, Israeli measures and policies are prioritizing the settler population at the expense of the Palestinian population.” The report found a number of persistent problems, with 35 per cent of the land having been confiscated for the expansion and construction of settlements, and only 13 per cent zoned for Palestinians. That left many Palestinian residents no option but to build illegally, putting their homes at risk of demolition.

He went on to say that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem were suffering discrimination for the settlers’ benefit. There was a de facto division of East Jerusalem, with up to 60,000 tax-paying Palestinians now residing on the other side of the barrier, without receiving the Government services to which they were entitled. While all residents were entitled to free education, about 1,000 additional classrooms were needed, according to official Israeli Government statistics, he said, adding that only half the school-aged Palestinians in East Jerusalem were enrolled in free schools. The rest attended schools where they were forced to pay fees, and perhaps up to 10,000 did not attend school at all. Palestinian residency rights were also uncertain, since they were automatically revoked if a resident spent more than seven years away, or took up a second citizenship, he said.

Asked whether OCHA would characterize the situation as “apartheid”, Mr. Dolphin said the Office did not use that term to describe the situation, but rather discussed the various “push” and “pull” factors; while lack of opportunities and resources pushed segments of the population away, many Palestinians were pulled back to East Jerusalem out of fear of losing their residency status. Still, the many push factors were reaching a critical mass and were greatly undermining the Palestinian presence.

Responding to another question, Mr. Dolphin said the report’s recommendations were aimed at the Israeli authorities. While there could only be a political resolution of the conflict, it was not there at the moment. The report therefore outlined key concerns to be addressed in the meantime, he said, adding that the recommendations included stopping settlement building, prioritizing zoning for Palestinians and interim measures to alleviate critical humanitarian issues caused by the barrier.

Asked whether, given the report, it would still be possible to divide East Jerusalem along the lines of the “ Clinton parameters”, he replied that settlements, in general, were problematic in that regard, in that they took land and resources from Palestinian areas, making it more difficult to re-divide East Jerusalem along the prescribed “ethnic” lines. For that reason, it was vitally important that Palestinians remain in East Jerusalem so that a political solution could still be reached.

For information media • not an official record