In Jerusalem, separate and unequal

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM (IPS) - Israel says “united” Jerusalem will be the eternal capital of the Jewish state. However, a quick walk across the Green Line which marks the international boundary dividing the two parts of the city reveals a city very much divided.

Most of West Jerusalem is clean, well cared for and far more opulent than the poorer east. The streets of East Jerusalem are filled with litter, piles of uncollected garbage, potholes and vermin.

Attorney for The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) Nisreen Alyan says that despite promises from the Jerusalem municipality to improve conditions in East Jerusalem, nothing has been done.

“The streets are taken over by rats at night. During the day stray dogs with disease rummage through the garbage and threaten children,” Alyan told IPS. Alyan authored a report on East Jerusalem titled “Life in the Garbage” earlier this year.

“In the Ras Khamis neighborhood of East Jerusalem the residents had to wait two months before veterinarians sent in by the municipality would take care of packs of stray dogs, some possibly carrying rabies,” she added.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 22 percent of East Jerusalem has been designated for public infrastructure and green areas, 30 percent for unplanned areas, and 35 percent for Israeli settlements.

Palestinians are left with less than 13 percent of the area to build in, and most of that is already built up.

“Since the annexation of Jerusalem, the municipality has built almost no new school, public building, or medical clinic for Palestinians,” says the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. “The lion’s share of investment has been dedicated to the city’s Jewish areas.

“Entire Palestinian neighborhoods are not connected to a sewage system, and do not have paved roads or sidewalks. Almost 90 percent of the sewage pipes, roads, and sidewalks are found in West Jerusalem.”

According to Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), a study over the 2002-2009 period shows discrimination against Palestinians in the provision of municipal services. “The Palestinian population comprises some 30 percent of the city’s population but receives only 8-11 percent of the municipality’s budget.”

West Jerusalem has 1,000 public parks, 34 public swimming pools, 26 libraries and 531 sports facilities. In contrast East Jerusalem has 45 public parks, two libraries and 33 sports facilities.

Nathan Derejko from The Civic Coalition to Defend the Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) says Israeli policy to limit a Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem goes back to a statutory policy in 1972 to keep the demographics limited to 70 percent Jewish and 30 percent Palestinian.

“Jerusalem Municipality’s argument that Palestinians have themselves to blame by boycotting municipal elections and therefore a say in how expenditure is spread, holds no water,” Derejko told IPS.

“Under international law Israel has no right to try and enforce Israeli law on East Jerusalem or hold elections there,” says Aylan. “Israel as the occupying power is responsible for taking care of the social, infrastructure and other needs of the territory it occupies.”

Under international law East Jerusalem is occupied, and considered part of the Palestinian West Bank. Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Israel annexed East Jerusalem, and systematically implemented a system to Judaize that part of the city.

Palestinians hope to make East Jerusalem the capital of their future state. Foreign embassies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv as the international community does not recognize Israel’s control over the eastern sector of the city.

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