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According to 'Israel Hayom,' BDS has nothing to do with the occupation

Israel’s most-read newspaper deletes crucial explanations from an Associated Press article, leaving its readers with zero understanding of why Palestinians might want the world to boycott Israel.

The Associated Press published a feature article last week discussing the impact that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement has had on the Israeli music scene as of late.

Spurred by a few high-profile cancellations at a recent music festival in Israel, most notably by singer Lana Del Rey, the article did what one would reasonably expect an international wire service covering such a story to do: it explained the phenomenon, gave some subjective views and objective facts, and, of course, explained what the BDS Movement is and what its demands are.

The article was reproduced and published by a typically large number of international news outlets, including the New York Times. One of those publications, however, the English edition of Israel’s most-read newspaper, Israel Hayom, made an interesting change to the AP article in the version it put online for its readers.

According to the Israel Hayom version of the article, the BDS Movement has absolutely nothing to do with the occupation. The sixth paragraph, which explains the origins and aims of the movement, reads:

The campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities. BDS says it seeks to end what it describes as discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority.

The original AP article, as published on dozens of other websites and newspapers around the world, reads (my emphasis):

The campaign, founded in 2005, calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities.

BDS says it seeks to end Israel’s occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and what it describes as discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority. It calls for the “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to homes their ancestors fled or were expelled from in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.

The bolded parts, which Israel Hayom deleted, represent one of the more balanced and even-handed descriptions of the occupation and Palestinian refugee problem that one can fit into two sentences, and actually veer far closer to the Israeli narrative than the Palestinian one.

So why did Israel Hayom — a free newspaper published...

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The Oslo era is finally over, but it only gets worse from here

In theory, the end of Oslo should be a welcome development. In practice, there is little to celebrate.

There is something unsettling about the way the 25-year anniversary since the signing of the Oslo Accords is being marked — neither eulogy nor longing, and without anyone having any clue what lies ahead. There is one thing that is different this year, however. With the exception of Jason Greenblatt, nobody is paying lip service to the illusion of a peace process any more.

In theory, that should be a welcome development. The Oslo process and the legacy it left on the ground has done far more harm than good. By creating the façade of autonomy and the Palestinian Authority, which arguably has grown into little more than a sub-contractor of the Israeli army, the occupation is far more sustainable for Israel today than it was a quarter century ago.

By leaving in its wake decades of peace processes that went nowhere, Oslo also helped Israel stave off international pressure to either end the occupation or grant Palestinians equal rights. In that regard, Oslo provided international legitimacy for the entire second half of Israel’s 51-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.

In practice, however, there is little to celebrate. The Trump White House’s Mideast policy has been commandeered by John Bolton, who is rapidly working through a checklist designed to dismantle the very idea of Palestine, and even the Palestinian people. (Bolton has long advocated handing large portions of the West Bank to Jordan — allowing Israel to retain whatever pieces it pleases — and the entire Gaza Strip to Egypt.)

Trump is not attempting to create a framework for a negotiated settlement like the previous five administrations did. Trump and his team are trying to lay the groundwork for an imposed resolution to the conflict — one that meets every one of Israel’s demands and undermines and negates nearly every Palestinian position.

In recent months the White House declared that it “took Jerusalem off the table” by recognizing it as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there. It is attempting to neutralize the entire question of Palestinian refugees by defining them out of existence. Washington is attempting to extort complete compliance and obedience out of the Palestinian leadership by cutting almost all funding for the Palestinian government and UN-provided basic social services. And the Bolton team’s latest move,...

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The moment of truth for EU policy on Israel-Palestine

Whether European states follow through on their threats and warnings over the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar will determine a great deal about the EU’s relevance and its ability to influence Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

European powers are going to have to make a crucial choice in the coming week. Two months after five EU states reportedly warned Israel that the demolition and forced displacement of Khan al-Ahmar would “trigger a reaction” from its allies, the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday gave its final stamp of approval for the demolition to go ahead.

Along with the southern West Bank hamlet of Susya, the EU has touted Khan al-Ahmar as one of a few, seemingly arbitrary red lines in Israel’s decades-long policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and expanding its settlement enterprise in the occupied territory (for an explanation why, read Edo Konrad’s interview with Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann). Diplomats arrive in convoys whenever the small, dilapidated villages in ‘Area C’ are on the verge of being destroyed. Statements of condemnation, and occasional warnings, are fired into the ether.

Up until now, that approach has partially worked. But things have changed in the past two years, the biggest difference being that the current White House – whose Middle East policy is being led by unabashedly right-wing and pro-settler figures like Jared Kushner and David Friedman – is no longer concerned with what Israel does to the Palestinians. And if it does care, it is unwilling to even mutter an indication of disapproval.

This means that the European powers, to put it bluntly, will have to decide whether to put up or shut up about their commitments to Khan al-Ahmar. Even if they were to act, they are unlikely to do so as a united bloc due to Israel’s budding friendships with far-right EU governments, who hold effective veto power in the EU’s consensus-based system of foreign policy. Governments would therefore have to step in individually.

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Considering how few issues the international community is willing to take a stand on vis-à-vis Israel, and considering that EU leaders took it upon themselves to draw a semi-coherent red line with Khan al-Ahmar, the responses of Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and Italy will be crucial in determining the fate of international engagement on the Palestinian issue.

With the United States...

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Israel's family separation law

Netanyahu reveals one of the motivations behind the ‘Jewish Nation-State Law’: to stop Palestinians from ‘exploiting’ family unification procedures to join their families in Israel.

Many people have been asking what harm Israel’s “Jewish Nation-State Law” actually causes — what rights it infringes on, and how it changes the current situation in Israel, in which Jews are already a privileged class. I myself, wrote just last week that the law’s power lies more in its declarations than its legal ramifications.

I stand corrected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained on Sunday exactly how the law harms an untold number of non-Jewish Israeli citizens, specifically, Palestinian citizens of Israel who are married to or who are immediate relatives of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said:

In other words, one of Netanyahu’s primary motivations in passing the Jewish Nation-State Law was to prevent Palestinian families from living together.

Family reunification is a procedure by which Israeli citizens can obtain residency and eventually citizenship for their immediate family who are not citizens.

For Jews, the procedure is moot because Jews can already obtain citizenship under the so-called Law of Return. For non-Jewish, non-Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens, family unification can be an arduous process but not all that unlike similar procedures in many other countries.

If your spouse is Palestinian, however, a demographic almost exclusively comprised of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, you are barred from bringing your family member into Israel and obtaining status for them as if they were Russian, Danish, Nigerian, Mexican, American, Egyptian, or virtually any other nationality.

That ban was first put in place 15 years ago and justified as a security measure. Technically, it is an “emergency regulation,” a category of laws that are only valid as long as Israel is in a “state of emergency,” which it has been for the past 70 years. If the state had argued honestly that the point of halting family unification for Palestinians is borne of demographic and not security concerns, the High Court would have struck it down as unconstitutional.

What Netanyahu said on Sunday is that now, with the Jewish Nation-State Law on the books, he and his government can finally be honest about their intentions. Israel does not want more Palestinian citizens — not due to any security concerns...

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Arabic was an official language in Israel for 70 years, 2 months, and 5 days

You can look at the new Jewish Nation-State Law from two angles: the message it sends to Jews, and the message it sends to Palestinians — you don’t belong here.

Arabic was an official language of the State of Israel for 70 years, two months, and five days. As of July 19, 2018, it is no longer.

There is no practical reason for the change, and, in fact, the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” which abolished Arabic as an official language, basically guarantees that Arabic will retain all the benefits of being an official language despite being stripped of the title.

So why upend the status quo of the past 70-plus years? Sometimes what a law says is more important than what it does.

You can look at the Jewish Nation-State law from two perspectives. There is the message it was intended to send to Jews: a positive affirmation of Israel as the Jewish nation-state; as the Jewish homeland; as the state of the Jews; a reassuring and nationalist message that says ‘this country is yours and yours alone.’

The other message, the inverse, meant for Palestinians, is: this is not your land; this country does not belong to you, irrespective of whether you are an Israeli citizen living in the home of your great-grandparents or a refugee yearning to return to the land of your grandparents; your culture, language, and history are at best tolerated — this is not their home, this is not your homeland.

The Jewish Nation-State Law states, implicitly and explicitly, that Israel belongs not to all of its citizens, over 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, it declares that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, some half of whom are not Israeli citizens.

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The law, therefore, constitutionalizes a twisted and exclusionary social contract. Whereas most democratic states draw their legitimacy to govern from the consent of their citizens, Israel has excluded one out of every five Israeli citizens from that contract. For the one in five Israeli citizens who are Arab-Palestinian, consent has effectively been removed from their governance.

Of course, governing without consent has been the rule, not the exception, for most Palestinians living under the Israeli regime for the past 70 years. From 1948 until 1966 Israel put its Arab citizens under a military regime that tightly...

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A state that belongs to only some of its citizens

According to the proposed ‘Jewish Nation-State Law,’ Israel does not belong to Israeli citizens, more than 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, it is the state of the Jewish people, roughly half of whom are not even Israeli.

There is a form on the Israeli Interior Ministry’s website, where one can order duplicate and translated copies of a birth certificate. On that form is a drop-down menu, above which it is written: “Nationality.”

In that drop-down menu you will find a list of nationalities which — if one were to attempt to deduce from it how Israel defines nationality — defies all logic. The nationalities listed include ethnicities without their own states, states without distinct or exclusive nationalities/ethnicities, and long-defunct “minority rule” colonial constructs.

A small sampling includes: American, South African, Hongkonger, Lebanese, East German, Hebrew, Kabardian, Samarian, Rhodesian, Abkhazian, and Kurdish.

What you won’t find is the one nationality you might most expect to: “Israeli.” As absurd as it may sound, the State of Israel does not actually recognize an Israeli nationality. In fact, the state has on several occasions argued in court that no such a nationality exists.

(To be fair, speaking of things Israel refuses to exist, the Interior Ministry drop-down menu doesn’t include the “Palestinian” nationality either.)

That Israel does not acknowledge an Israeli nationality is crucial for understanding why a “constitutional amendment” currently being proposed by Netanyahu and his government — the Jewish Nation-State law — is so problematic.

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According to Netanyahu and his government’s proposed law, Israel does not belong to Israeli citizens, more than 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, Israel is the state of the Jewish people, roughly half of whom are not even Israeli.

Constitutionally anchoring two classes of citizens — those to whom the state belongs and those to whom it doesn’t — is particularly problematic when you consider that Israel doesn’t have any constitutional guarantees of equality on the books. And considering the number of discriminatory laws already on the books (from family unification, immigration, land ownership, housing discrimination, etc.), it’s not a stretch to imagine any number of situations in which the courts determine “Jewish” rights to trump principles of equality once the Nation-State Law is passed.

One of those scenarios is actually enshrined in the current...

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The Gaza siege isn't about security. It's collective punishment, pure and simple

Israel shut down Gaza’s ability to conduct trade because of flaming balloons and kites that Palestinians have been floating over the border. There is no security justification, just collective punishment.

Israeli authorities often claim that the siege on Gaza is about security. Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups must not be allowed to import weapons or materials to build weapons, they say. It is a necessary measure. It’s about security.

That is partly true, sometimes. That is, except when it’s not.

The Israeli political leadership announced this week that it is cshutting down Gaza’s only commercial connection to the outside world. Not that the people of Gaza were allowed to do much trade with anyone before the crossing was closed, but now Israel took away the little commerce it had allowed until now.

Surely there is a good reason. A security reason.

Perhaps Israel received solid intelligence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps was trying to sneak advanced weaponry into Gaza in a shipment of medical supplies? Or maybe the Shin Bet discovered a plot to place explosives in a furniture shipment destined for the West Bank?

Nope.

Either of those scenarios would have been a legitimate reason to temporarily halt commercial activity at the Israeli controlled crossing so that shipments could be more closely inspected and to mitigate the threat. That’s not what happened.

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The decision to tighten the siege on Gaza was collective punishment, pure and simple. Nobody is hiding that.

Israel’s political and military leadership were very clear that its decision to stop all commerce between Gaza and the rest of the world was a response to kites and balloons, sent from Gaza into Israel carrying crude incendiary devices, which have caused considerable damage to Israeli agriculture in recent months.

In other words, millions of people are being made to suffer because of the actions of a few. And the Israeli army has threatened to make things even worse if the kites and balloons continue. That is not a decision based on security considerations: it is a political decision — a political decision to destroy Gaza’s economy.

It is a political decision to ratchet up the suffering of a civilian population that Israel has been economically suffocating for over a decade. Businesses will go bankrupt. An economy with unemployment approaching 50 percent, where

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Hiding the occupation doesn't make it go away

A proposed law, said to be supported by Netanyahu’s government, would criminalize videotaping Israeli soldiers doing the dirty work of the occupation. But hiding something from sight doesn’t make it go away. Or does it?

If an Israeli soldier beats a Palestinian and no one is there to catch it on video, did it really happen? That is the question a group of Israeli lawmakers seems determined to find out.

A new bill, proposed by four members of Avigdor Liberman’s far-right Israel Beiteinu party, would make “videotaping, recording, or photographing Israeli soldiers carrying out their duty with the intention of eroding morale” a crime punishable by five years in prison. If the intent is to harm state security, the punishment doubles to 10 years in prison. The law would also apply to those disseminating such documentation.

According to a Haaretz report, the bill was expected to gain the support of the entire government in a vote on Sunday.

Here are three important things to note about this bill.

1. This is an explicit attempt to silence and criminalize the work of Israeli human rights organizations. The bill’s explainer section specifically cites the work of B’Tselem, Machsom Watch, and Breaking the Silence as its impetus. After a decade of going after human rights and anti-occupation groups’ funding, the ability of Israel’s critics to freely travel, and campaigns accusing them of treason, the government may now attempt to criminalize their activities outright.

Whenever despondency starts to set in, whenever the work of human rights and anti-occupation groups seems utterly futile, remember this bill — irrespective of whether it becomes law or is left to die in committee. This bill is a reminder that Israel’s right-wing nationalist government sees those groups’ work as threatening enough that it is constantly looking for ways to marginalize, disparage, and outlaw them and their work. Clearly, exposing the reality of occupation is a threat to the occupation, and by extension, to the current Israeli regime.

2. The law would only apply to Israelis, not Palestinians. Because Israel has not yet annexed the West Bank and therefore rules over Palestinians as non-citizen subjects of its military regime, laws passed by the Knesset do not apply to the 2.8 million Palestinian who live there. (In order for an Israeli law to apply to Palestinians, the commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank would...

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The most radical thing you can say in Israel

The Knesset won’t even allow this law to be discussed, let alone voted on, because it proposes making Israel a ‘state of all its citizens.’ Why is that so threatening?

The presidium of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, decided on Monday that a proposed law seeking to define Israel as “a state of all its citizens” is so far outside the acceptable political discourse that it cannot even be submitted to the legislature for debate.

The bill — a proposed Basic Law, the closest thing Israel has to constitutional amendments in a country without a constitution — sought to enshrine the principle of equality, recognize the existence of two national groups within Israel, create separation of religion and state, and most importantly: define Israel as a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens.

Why is such a proposition so radical? Simply put, because it seeks to end the current situation, in which Israel is not, in fact, a country that belongs to all of its citizens — specifically, not to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish.

In a letter in support of the decision to disqualify the bill from being submitted, the Knesset’s legal advisor wrote: “The proposed ‘Basic Law: State of All its Citizens’ includes a series of clauses meant to change the character of the State of Israel from the state of the Jewish people to a state in which the Jewish and Arab peoples have equal standing.”

What a radical proposition.

The following is my translation of the bill, put forth by the Balad party, which was stricken down by the Knesset presidium. Judge for yourself just how radical it is. Think about what kind of country it describes. And think about what it means that a country belongs to only some of its citizens.

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IDF refuses to say what it's doing to avoid killing more journalists

Israeli snipers have killed two Palestinian journalists and shot at least 20 others in Gaza in recent months. What happened to the soldiers responsible? What is the IDF doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again? The army refuses to say.

Nearly two months after Israeli army snipers shot and killed two Palestinian journalists while they were reporting inside the Gaza Strip, the military is refusing to answer any questions about whether the responsible soldiers and commanders are being held accountable in any way.

Over the past two weeks, +972 Magazine has contacted the IDF Spokesperson’s Office five times with the following questions: What investigative actions have been taken into the two killings? Has a decision to charge or discipline the soldiers involved been reached? And, is the army is planning any changes to its standing orders or regulations in order to prevent other journalists from being killed or shot in similar situations.

Although the Spokesperson’s Office acknowledged receiving the questions, it ignored them and refused to answer on all five occasions.

On April 6, 2018, an Israeli army sniper shot photojournalist Yaser Murtaja while he was reporting on the Great Return March protests inside the Gaza Strip. According to numerous witnesses who spoke with a range of media outlets in the days and weeks since, Murtaja was wearing a vest clearly visible “PRESS” vest when he was shot. Israeli soldiers shot and wounded at least a handful of other journalists were shot and wounded that day. He died of his wounds the next day.

A week later, on April 13, 2018, an Israeli army sniper shot Ahmed Abu Hussein, who was also wearing a “PRESS” vest as he was reporting at the weekly protests inside the Gaza Strip. Two weeks later, he died in an Israeli hospital, where he had been transferred due to the severity of his wounds.

The army has not expressed any remorse for killing the two journalists, although military spokespeople did state that journalists were not deliberately shot. Nevertheless, hours after Murtaja was killed, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused him of being a Hamas operative, a claim that was largely refuted by reporting on the ground, including by the fact that Murtaja had recently been vetted by the U.S. State Department.

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According to the Committee to Protect Journalists...

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Israel’s High Court just made an ICC investigation more likely

The court’s rejection of a lawsuit challenging the shooting of protesters in Gaza is a reminder that the Israeli legal system simply isn’t set up to investigate the policy makers and policies that result in alleged war crimes. 

Israel’s High Court of Justice may have just inadvertently increased the possibility that senior Israeli officials might themselves show up on the docket of the International Criminal Court one day.

Last Thursday night, the court rejected a legal challenge that sought to strike down the Israeli army’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip. Six Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups had filed two parallel emergency petitions weeks earlier, before the worst of the violence had occurred, hoping to change the rules of engagement in time to prevent more killing.

But their motions to hold emergency hearings were not granted and by the time the justices reached a decision last week, the Israeli army had killed over 110 Palestinians in Gaza — more than half of them on a single day. Israeli snipers shot and wounded more than 3,600 others during the seven weeks of protests that culminated on May 14th.

Weeks earlier, the army had already announced that it was investigating a few of the killings, but it was the policy — the rules of engagement — that authorized Israeli sniper teams to shoot some 3,600 Palestinians that the rights groups had asked the court to review. The court said no.

When most people think of the ICC investigating alleged Israeli war crimes they think of the destruction and carnage the IDF wrought during the 2014 Gaza war. In all likelihood, that is not a realistic prospect. An investigation — and perhaps, one day, an indictment — is far more likely to result from the mass killing and shooting of protesters in recent weeks, or even settlement construction in the West Bank.

Short of simply not committing war crimes, the easiest way for a state to protect its officials and generals from ending up in The Hague is to set up effective, or even seemingly effective mechanisms for investigating itself. At the core of the ICC’s founding treaty, and the at foundation of its jurisdiction, lies the principle of complementarity. 

In short, complementarity means that the ICC will only investigate or prosecute alleged war crimes if the national legal systems — where the crime...

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68 Gazans have died while Israel's High Court deliberates if it's legal to kill them

The High Court has refrained from ruling on an urgent petition about whether it is legal for the army to shoot unarmed, civilian protesters who pose no threat to human life. They have the blood of 68 people on their hands.

The Israeli army has shot and killed 68 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza while the Israeli High Court deliberates whether or not it is legal to shoot unarmed civilian protesters who pose no threat to human life. That number has likely gone up in the time since this article was published.

When a handful of human rights groups filed an urgent petition to the High Court on April 15, demanding that it strike down the army’s open-fire regulations that authorize shooting unarmed civilians just because of their proximity to the Gaza border fence, army snipers had already gunned down 33 unarmed protesters in the Great Return March, including three minors.

While the three Supreme Court justices deliberated, another 68 people have died. The rights groups asked for an urgent decision, hoping to stop the bloodshed.

The justices did not heed their request. No decision has been handed down. The shooting continues. Sixty-eight more people lost their lives.

If, after waiting until the shooting stops, the court ultimately decides that it is not permissible to shoot unarmed, civilian protesters just because of where they are standing, or because they are attempting to cross or even damage a fence, the blood of 68 people will be on their hands.

If the justices decide that it is, indeed, permissible to shoot unarmed civilians just because they might cross a fence, well, then they will have the blood of those 68 people and countless others on their hands.

It’s bad enough that this massacre is state sanctioned. By declining to rule in a timely fashion, however, this predictable massacre has also been sanctioned by the judiciary.

Israel’s Supreme Court is currently in a fight for its life. The legislature and government are threatening to strip the court of its power to overturn unconstitutional laws and policies. If, out of fear of further angering their detractors in Knesset, the justices did not use that power in this case then they don’t deserve to have it in the first place.

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Jerusalem by the numbers: Poverty, demolitions, and exile

As nationalist Israelis celebrate the ‘unification’ of the city, when Israeli troops occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, a look at the data shows a far bleaker picture of life for Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents.

The following is a collection of facts, figures, and statistics about Jerusalem compiled and published on the occasion of “Jerusalem Day.” Nationalist Israelis mark Jerusalem Day on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the conquest of East Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967. The celebrations include the “march of the flags,” where flag-bearing Jewish revelers march through the Palestinian neighborhoods of the Old City, chanting racist, violent and ultra-nationalistic slogans. Any counter protest by Palestinian residents is rarely tolerated by police.

While Jewish Israelis celebrate the “reunification” of Jerusalem, data shows that the city is anything but unified. From concrete walls that separate to budgets that discriminate, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem — despite being a part of the same municipality — are hardly the same, let alone a unified city. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are just that – residents; they were not granted Israeli citizenship and do not have the right to vote in national elections, do not hold Israeli passports thousands have had their right to live in their home city revoked with the stroke of a pen.

The following figures were taken from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), published May 9, 2018, and Ir Amim (IA), published in January 2018.

Demography:

  • Palestinians comprise 37.8 percent of Jerusalem’s residents. (CBS)
  • 61 percent (521,900) of all Jerusalemites live across the Green Line in East Jerusalem — in occupied territory. Of those, 320,300 are Palestinian and 211,600 are Jewish settlers. Despite a theoretical right to live anywhere in the city, a mere 1 percent of Palestinian Jerusalemites live in West Jerusalem. (IA)
  • 78.2 percent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live in poverty. The poverty rate for Palestinian Jerusalemites of all ages is 72.9 percent. For Jews in the city, the poverty rate is 29.8 percent. Both are higher than any other major Israeli city. (IA)
  • Israeli authorities revoked the residency of and exiled 94 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in 2016, 52 of whom were women and children (data for 2017 has yet to be published). Between 1967 and 2015, Israel revoked the residency of 14,500 Palestinian Jerusalemites. (IA)

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Geography:

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