As the governor of Jerusalem, I have been arrested eight times in the ongoing persecution and harassment of Palestinians
Adnan Ghaith| Published in The National - August 10, 2019
On September 13, 1993, the eyes of the world were on the White House, where the Declaration of Principles, known as the Oslo Accords, was being signed. With all its imperfections, Oslo represented an opportunity to achieve the dream of peace. While the ceremony took place, the late Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini, known as the father of Jerusalem, raised the Palestinian flag at Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters in East Jerusalem. The symbolism of the act was simple: East Jerusalem was the capital of the State of Palestine and without it, there would be no peace agreement.
On August 10, 2001, hundreds of Israeli commandoes and police officers stormed Orient House, stole its archives and lowered the Palestinian flag. The symbolism of this act was also simple: Israel was not interested in a peace agreement; rather, it would push for military action to defeat the Palestinian national movement and consolidate its illegal annexation of occupied territory. As well as Orient House, many Palestinian institutions were closed, including some older than the Israeli occupation, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Higher Council of Tourism.
Israeli policies that fly in the face of basic requirements of peace are well-known and documented by the international community. But the culture of Israeli impunity is unprecedented and denotes the fact that several countries remain accomplices to systematic Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination.
This is not only about the illegal US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 478, but about the attitude taken by several other countries. We often see European and Latin American representatives to Israel posting pictures in East Jerusalem on social media, as if it is part of their mandate, and foreign visitors describing tours of the Old City as part of their “trips to Israel”.
Most recently, we have seen a process of normalisation whereby a few countries have irresponsibly opened offices and honorary consulates in Jerusalem, linked to their representations to Israel, whether cultural or economic.
When we refer to Israeli policies that flout the prospects of peace, in East Jerusalem this includes home demolitions, as seen in Sur Baher, and evictions, colonial settlement expansion, discriminatory planning policies, residency revocations and racist laws, such as one demanding “loyalty to Israel” from Palestinian Jerusalemites, all with one main goal by a fascist regime and our occupier: to keep a demographic balance of 70 per cent of Jewish majority over a 30 per cent Arab minority, in what Israel has unilaterally and illegally defined as “Greater Jerusalem”.
Such policies could soon include further annexation of occupied territory with the green light given by the Trump administration. Annexed areas around occupied East Jerusalem could include the Jordan Valley in the illegal colonial settlement of Maale Adumim, the western Bethlehem area, known by the Israeli occupation as Gush Etzion, and the Givat Zeev colonial settlement north of Jerusalem.
An important part of this policy is the prosecution of any kind of Palestinian political representation in the city. In violation of the commitments made in Norway in the context of the peace process, known as the Peres-Holst letter, Israel has closed our institutions and prevented community work and development with the Palestinian population.
The international community - especially European countries, which base relations with the Palestinian government on conditions set by the Quartet Principles, including security co-ordination - often forget to make their relations with Israel conditional on the same principles. They include a full cessation of settlement activities and the reopening of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem.
It is in this context that the Israeli persecution and harassment of the Palestinian population, Palestinian political representatives and ministers in Jerusalem has been normalised. As the governor of Jerusalem, the highest Palestinian authority in the city, I have been arrested eight times and prevented from entering what remains of the West Bank. While the world chooses to be silent about our fate, what about the opening of a tunnel by Israeli settlers under Palestinian homes in Silwan, inaugurated by the envoys of the Trump administration? Or the Israeli settlers, supported by their government, taking over Christian buildings in Jaffa Gate, effectively separating Armenian from Christian quarters and severely affecting several Christian events?
It is time to put an end to the old slogans about support for the two-state solution, a solution that is being buried deeper every day by Israeli actions and US support. Without East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine, there will be no Palestinian state, no two-state solution, and the result will be no peace.
Serious and decisive action - Israel's respect for international legitimacy, an end to its occupation of Palestinian territory and a full cessation of annexation of our city - are the only effective ways to end this ongoing conflict. Ending the occupation and annexation will prevent Israel’s strategy of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the forcible transfer of the Palestinian people from becoming an irreversible reality.
Adnan Ghaith is the Governor of Jerusalem.