Erekat: ‘It is time for yet another dark Apartheid chapter to end’

Secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat warned on Tuesday that Israel’s colonial policies in the occupied Palestinian territories is a form of Apartheid, urging the international community in a statement to put an end to this “dark Apartheid chapter” by ending the 50-year-long Israeli occupation.

“Over the past nine months, the Occupying Power has intensified its fierce colonial campaign against the land and people of Palestine as the occupation and siege on Gaza has entered its 10th year. The illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands and settlement construction have violently continued to deny the rights of Palestine as a sovereign, contiguous, and independent State on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Erekat said in  a statement.

“Israel’s illegal colonial policies of constructing ‘Jewish-only’ settlements, granting impunity to its occupying forces and settlers that attack Palestinians on a daily basis, home demolitions, evictions, confiscation of public and private Palestinian properties, military raids, killings, and arrests, have all continued to systematically terrorize the defenseless Palestinian population throughout the occupied West Bank. Israel’s attempts to alter and undermine the Arab-Palestinian character of the occupied Palestinian capital particularly, is intended to Judaize the city and ultimately reduce and drive out any Palestinian presence and increase the Jewish-Israeli population.

“Occupied East Jerusalem has in fact been under siege as Israel continues to occupy, militarily-control, and isolate the city. Since March 1993, Israel has closed off Jerusalem to Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Over 4 million Palestinians are therefore denied entry to the city and to their holy Christian and Muslim sites unless they obtain Israeli-issued permits.

“For the past nine months, Israel’s illegal settlement construction has massively continued in and around occupied East Jerusalem, in the illegal settlements of Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Za’ev and Atarot, with the advancement of more than 1600 new illegal settlement units in most of those settlements, in addition to: Gilo, Har Homa, and Neve Yaakov.

“The Israeli government has also recently announced its immediate intention to forcibly transfer the Palestinian Bedouin community of al-Khan al-Ahmar in the Eastern Jerusalem governorate to advance with its E1 settlement plan. The plan threatens the existence of the Palestinian Bedouin communities in this area with the aim to forcibly transfer the community and replace them with Israeli settlers, to fully isolate the city of Jerusalem, and to permanently sever the West Bank into two parts. For this reason, we have repeatedly alerted the international community that Israel’s advancement of this plan is the last nail in the coffin of the internationally endorsed two-state solution.

“During this same period, Israel has also carried at least 80 demolition operations, which led to the demolition of 36 homes, displacing more than 300 Palestinians, in which the overwhelming majority is children. Israel has also forcibly evicted nine Palestinian families from their homes; including the Sub Laban family from the old city of Jerusalem as well as Shamasneh family from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The eviction proceedings are planned for 180 more Palestinian families, at least 60 of which reside in Sheikh Jarrah.  Additionally, five Jerusalemite Palestinians were killed, at least 400 were arrested and more than 600 were wounded during the remarkable peaceful protests of July this year in defiance of Israel’s plans to change the historic status quo at the Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif compound, and install metal detectors and special surveillance cameras at the entry points of the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound.

“Israeli settlers also continue to storm the Compound on a daily basis while under the protection of Israeli occupying forces. According to the administration of Jerusalem’s Awqaf, at least 2000 Israeli settlers have stormed the Compound in September this year alone.

“We are also deeply concerned with Israeli attempts to take over church property at Jaffa Gate, the most important entry point to the Christian and Armenian Quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. This, just as the Saint John Hospice near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, taken by settlers in coordination with the Israeli government in the early 1990s, are part of Israel’s systematic attempts to undermine the Palestinian identity and presence in the occupied Palestinian capital.

“We call upon the states with special responsibilities in accordance to signed international agreements, including the historic status quo agreement, to assume their responsibilities and take immediate action.

“Israel also continues the closures of at least 22 Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and to ban official Palestinian cultural and sports activities in the city in yet another attempt to erase its national and cultural Palestinian identity. Throughout the past nine months, Israel has banned at least six cultural, academic and sports activities in occupied East Jerusalem and imposed closures on the Palestinian institutions on the day of the activity. This includes the temporary closure of Yabous Cultural Center for one day in September this year, the closure of the Palestinian National Theatre (known as Al-Hakawati) twice, the closure of Burj Al-Laqlaq (Stork Tower) twice, as well as the closure of Al-Saraya Center for Community Service for one day.

“The latest UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem is an affirmation of the long-standing international community’s position that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel that have ‘altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem…are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.’  Israel’s illegal policies and practices violate fundamental human rights and constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  In addition, these actions could amount to war crimes under international criminal law. The international community has an obligation to hold Israel accountable by taking definitive actions to end Israel’s 50-year belligerent military occupation of Palestine.

“In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to fulfill its obligations and to bring a halt to all illegal settlement activities, to end all forms of direct and indirect involvement with Israel’s colonial settlement regime, to ensure international protection to the land and people of Palestine, and to demand Israel’s endorsement and commitment to the two-state solution on the 1967 border towards ending its occupation within a set timeframe. This is the way to achieve peace and security in Palestine, Israel and the whole of the Middle East, not the acceptance of the one-state reality with two systems, Apartheid.

“The President has also urged all states that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so ‘in fulfillment of the principle of equality, which can enhance the chances of peace.’ Palestine has the right to exist and to be recognized as a State that has so much to contribute to our world and the future of humanity. As the President asserted, the people of Palestine will fulfill their rights either in their own sovereign state or through acquiring full and equal rights on the land of historic Palestine. It is time for yet another dark Apartheid chapter, embodied in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, to end – and for a new hopeful chapter to begin.”

Source: WAFA