Although Working for Peace and justice is focused upon Hebron, we also remain concerned with supporting the struggle for justice in Jerusalem. The cities share many similarities and are at the heart of efforts to achieve a just peace Both Hebron and Jerusalem are home to deeply significant historical sites for people of all three Abrahamic faiths. Both are divided cities and have been the subject of fierce campaigns of expulsion and land annexation by Israel.
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and Hebron exist in the crucible of occupation and face relentless violence. A disproportionate number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers come from these two cities. From the start of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, Hebron and Jerusalem have been the at the center of the illegal effort to expel Palestinians and settle Jews in center city neighborhoods. Palestinian residents of both Hebron and Jerusalem have shown extraordinary courage and perseverance in staying in their ancestral homes.
In both Hebron and Jerusalem the divisions, partitions, inequalities, and symbolic demarcations of colonialism and occupation are vividly present. Partitions in each city function to curtail human rights and restrict Palestinian movement while paving the way for settlers with Israel citizenship to “Judaize” each city. Settlers live illegally in parts of both cities while enjoying expansive rights and military protection. In both cities, annexation efforts seek to expand Israel’s control and make freedom of movement nearly impossible for Palestinians, who are denied the rights of citizenship in their homeland.
Recent political and legal decisions by the state of Israel have increased the pace of annexation and expulsion. In Hebron, Israel's civil administration has recently approved the construction of settlement housing and plans to build 31 housing units in the settlement of Beit Romano in Hebron's Old City, on a site that used to be a bus station on Shuhada Street. An Israeli military base operates from what used to be a Palestinian school. As well, in August 2017, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman upgraded the municipal status of Hebron’s Jewish community, separating it from the Palestinian municipality. In Jerusalem, a proposed Israeli law would effectively annex West Bank settlements to Jerusalem municipality in violation of international law. These recent developments illustrate the mechanisms by which Palestinians are being expelled and place Hebron and Jerusalem at the center of the Israel’s attempts to annex ever more of the West Bank..
In both cities, Palestinian residents face frequent violence from IDF soldiers as well as from settlers. Ani al-Qaq, a Jerusalem resident and former Palestinian ambassador to Switzerland, lamented that “Hebronites and Jerusalemites both share the same repressive situation. Their holy places are constantly being challenged. Their homes are taken, there are checkpoints and settlers everywhere, and Palestinians on both sides experience humiliation on a daily basis,” Qaq said. Apartheid laws, repressive violence, and daily restrictions of freedom of movement make daily life nearly impossible for many Palestinian residents of Hebron and Jerusalem.
Hebron and Jerusalem are connected by their shared experience of occupation and by deep connections between Palestinian residents of each city. Many residents of Jerusalem have family ties to Hebron and the reverse is also true. Although residents of Hebron and Jerusalem face intense adversity, the deep connections between residents of the two cities are propitius for a growing nonviolent resistance movement.
Working for Peace and Justice unequivocally condemns President Trump’s announcement that he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Donald Trump’s decision to align with the state of Israel in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital isolates the U.S diplomatically and has already caused an increase in violence across the region. No other country recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel violates international law and is a clear attempt by Israel and the U.S. to consolidate and intensify Israeli land annexation.
Since Israel annexed the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967, the international community has understood East Jerusalem to be occupied territory. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump is endorsing Israeli policies of dispossession, expulsion, and violent forcible transfer, all of which are in violation of international law and are condemned worldwide. Jerusalem is home to people of many faiths, nearly half of whom are Palestinian. Trump’s decision to move the embassy plainly shows that the U.S. and Israel are both guilty of violating the human and civil rights of Palestinians and that both countries are responsible for sabotaging any real possibility for an equitable agreement and a just peace.