Palestinians in East Jerusalem are subjected to violence, repression, and violations of their civil and human rights on a daily basis. Evidence shows that the government of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality often work with extremist settler organizations to implement a strategy that dispossesses Palestinians, expropriates their land, and demolishes their homes in order to establish settlements in the heart of Palestinian villages and neighborhoods, such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras el-Amud, Jabbel Mukabber, and A-Tur. Not only are these settlements illegal according to international law, but they also disrupt the contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank in direct abrogation of the possibility for a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
One of the most effective tools in the occupation of East Jerusalem is the settler-led Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). Private lands belonging to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are routinely declared “national parks,” often against the judgment of planning experts, archaeologists, and city officials.
Within two weeks, yet another political “national park” is to be established, this time on the lands of the residents of Issawiya and A-Tur (The Mount of Olives). The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, together with the popular committees of these villages and a coalition of human rights organizations, opposes the establishment of this national park.
Please take five minutes and send a copy of the letter we prepared, below, to your Jewish community representatives, elected officials, members of Knesset and local Israeli embassies:
Subject: Please Oppose the Slopes of Mount Scopus “National Park.”
To whom it may be concerned,
My name is _____. Like many other individuals and organizations around the world, I am deeply concerned by the actions of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and the Jerusalem Municipality in East Jerusalem, most recently in the villages of A-Tur and Issawiya. There the INPA and the Municipality have begun work on a planned “national park” that will be called the “Mount Scopus Slopes.”
This plan is dangerous and wrong on both a humanitarian and a political level.
The ‘Mount Scopus Slopes’ park will be built directly on land belonging to Palestinian residents of A-Tur and Issawiya, and may even entail the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures. Over the past decade, the residents of A-Tur and Issawiya sought, with the help of the Israeli planning rights organization, Bimkom, to submit development plans to the Israeli courts. These plans- which sought recognition of the rights of Palestinian residents in these two neighborhoods to build and develop in their own neighborhoods- were neither accepted nor rejected by the courts: despite the extensive resources and research that went into them, they were never even discussed. Instead, the INPA and the Municipality were granted a green light to move forward with plans for the Mount Scopus Slopes park.
This park, in addition to inflicting a high human cost on the residents of A-Tur and Issawiya whose only wrongdoing was being born Palestinian in Jerusalem, has political ramifications that could prove catastrophic for the potential of any future peace agreement in the region.
The Mount Scopus Slopes park is strategically located such that it will create Israeli territorial continuity between the Old City and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim in what is known as the area of E1. The US government has consistently opposed Israeli building in E1, due to its potential to permanently seal off any chances for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank with a capital in East Jerusalem. The US government’s opposition to Israeli activity in E1 has been unequivocal, not only under the Obama administration, but under the Bush administration as well. In October 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated: “We have told the Israelis in no uncertain terms that [settlement in the E1 area] would contravene American policy.” Building a “national park” in E1 is the Israeli government’s ill-disguised attempt to circumvent clear-cut American opposition to settlement in E1. It is apparent, however, that the goals of this park are political and not ecological.
According to many planners and urban development experts there is no special ecological interest in these areas, which are located in the middle of two Palestinian villages. Indeed, according to a member of Jerusalem’s city council, Meir Margalit, “This national park is a farce. There’s nothing there but rocks and thorns, certainly nothing to justify a national park. The only reason for such a plan is to seize lands and hold them as a reserve for a future settlement, while suffocating the Palestinian neighborhoods.”
More than just suffocating Palestinian growth, this specific “national park’s” placement corresponds neatly with the agenda of some of leaders of the settlement movement and the government: the creation of facts on the ground, and particularly in E1, that will make the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state in the West Bank with a capital in East Jerusalem a virtual impossibility.
This plan could have highly incendiary consequences for the future of Israelis and Palestinians, sparking tensions in Jerusalem and further decimating the possibilities for a just peace agreement in the near future.
In light of these considerations, I ask you to use your influence to urge the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to relinquish its claims on the private lands of A-Tur and Issawiya, and demand that the Israeli government, including all of its official bodies such as the INPA and the Jerusalem Municipality, respect the wishes of the US government and international leaders and refrain from all construction in and/or unilateral annexation of E1.
To contact your elected representative in the United States, please go to this page.
To contact your local embassy, please go to this page.
Below are the emails of the Members of the current Knesset:
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