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Call to End Systematic Evictions in East Jerusalem and Desist the Ongoing Settlement Policy in the Occupied West Bank

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 11:55
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15 AUGUST 2009 -REF.: 35.2009E.

Al-Haq is deeply concerned about the recent increase in illegal forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. The most recent examples of this trend are the removal of two Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on 2 August 2009 following a ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) that found in favour of Jewish settler claims over the lands.

Al Haq is also alarmed by Israel's continuing use of the Annexation Wall to appropriate land from the areas surrounding East Jerusalem. A recent example concerns the construction of the Wall around the village of Beit Iksa, located North West of Jerusalem. The Annexation Wall is currently being constructed to include the village on the Israeli side of the Wall, in spite of a decision by the previous Israeli government confirming that Beit Iksa would not be annexed. Whilst the current Israeli administration claims that the re-routing of the Wall is a 'temporary measure,' it is likely, given the amount of resources allocated for its construction, to prove permanent. Indeed, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its Advisory Opinion on the Wall, concluded that “the construction of the Wall and its associated regime create a ‘fait accompli’ on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the Wall by Israel, it would be tantamount to de facto annexation” (para. 121).

The increase in evictions from East Jerusalem, coupled with the use of the Annexation Wall to appropriate land in the areas surrounding it, is indicative of a systematic policy by Israel to annex East Jerusalem and its surrounding areas to Israel and to allow for the expansion of settlements there. Both are illegal under international law.

This illegal annexation of East Jerusalem began on the 27 July 1967, when the Israeli Knesset passed an amendment to the Law and Administrative Ordinance 1948. This allowed Israel to extend its laws, jurisdiction and administration to any area of the OPT so designated by the government. Furthermore, in 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, explicitly declaring that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”.

International law, however, is clear that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal. Security Council Resolution 252 (1968) states “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”. This reaffirmed the well-established principle that the acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible. The Resolution calls on Israel to rescind all measures and desist from any activity that tends to change the status of East Jerusalem.

Despite the claims of successive Israeli governments, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory, and the transfer of civilians from the territory of the Occupying Power to the territory it occupies is illegal under customary international law. Furthermore, Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention confirms that the prohibition on settlements applies irrespective of any annexation by the Occupying Power of the whole or part of the occupied territory; the ICJ has affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the OPT, including East Jerusalem. As such, the judicially-sanctioned removal of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the building of settlements on annexed land in the surrounding areas constitute breaches of international law.

Despite the clarity of international law, however, Israel continues its policy of annexation and settlement of East Jerusalem. To date it has appropriated 70,000 dunums of Palestinian land from East Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.
Moreover, the Israeli High Court continues, illegitimately, to accept jurisdiction over settler claims to Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. This provides the claims with the appearance of legal respectability when in fact the Court has no legal basis upon which to preside over the claims; the extension of Israeli civil jurisdiction to occupied land is illegal.

In light of the above, Al-Haq calls upon the international community to:
actively engage the Israeli authorities to comply with international law, and to affirm the status of East Jerusalem as occupied territory; assert their authority as Third States and take effective measures to uphold their legal obligation not to recognise, aid or assist the illegal situation created by Israel’s continuing denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people;  pressure Israel to immediately cease the unlawful construction, expansion, and “natural growth” of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and; actively engage and exert pressure on the Israeli judiciary to comply with international law in manner that respects the international consensus.