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Israeli Colonisation Of East Jerusalem Cuts To Heart Of Conflict

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Israel's intention to build new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem stands in sharp contrast to the prospects for Palestinians in nearby Shu'fat and its large refugee camp, says Dr Nigel Parsons, a Middle East specialist and senior lecturer in politics.

Israel's plans for 1600 additional homes in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, plus more than 100 others in the settlement of Betar Illit, antagonised visiting United States Vice-President Joe Biden, as well as the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Dr Parsons says.

"But for residents of Shu'fat, the impact will be all the more proximate; along with neighbouring Anata and Beit Hanina, the Palestinian population of contested Jerusalem will find itself further compressed by settlement.

"This cuts right to the heart of the conflict. This is the essence of the problem - the state of Israel lending institutional support to housing for Jewish settlers while in the same location some of the world's most vulnerable people struggle in overcrowded conditions awaiting an end to the occupation and recognition of their rights.

"Shu'fat is unique for hosting the only Palestinian refugee camp within Israeli-defined municipal Jerusalem. The camp is unique again as the only one in the West Bank established nearly two decades after the creation of Israel. In 1948, refugees from more than 50 Palestinian villages fled to Jerusalem's old city; planning urban renewal, the Jordanian government began to relocate them in 1965 before Israel expelled the remainder following the occupation of 1967.

"The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the body responsible for basic services in the camps, records it as established on 20ha. Officially, the population is about 11,000 but it is thought to be well in excess of 20,000.

"Restrictions on movement, unemployment, over-crowding, and separation from the West Bank have generated difficult conditions. However, offers of relocation have been refused by camp residents for fear of undermining the Palestinian right of return, a matter for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

"In lieu of a final status agreement, Shu'fat captures Palestine in microcosm: an isolated, disempowered indigenous population and an overcrowded refugee camp confront advancing Israeli settlement."

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