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West Bank Closures – Jerusalem
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2004.
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Israel’s Jerusalem policy, Sparta and apartheid

In July 2003, Israel began to build systems of physical and electronic separation in Jerusalem. If and when the plan is implemented, it will constitute the most dramatic change effected by Israel in East Jerusalem since it was conquered and annexed in 1967. In many places the new line extends into the West Bank beyond the 1967 annexation, but without officially annexing the area. Israel is working to include Rachel’s Tomb and the settlement Har Giloh in southern Jerusalem in the area of Israel, at the expense of areas belonging to Bethlehem and Beit Jalla.

Moreover, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to include several settlements on the Israeli side of the fence, principally Maaleh Adumim and Givat Zeev, which would increase the number of Palestinians on the Israeli side. The World Bank estimates that in addition to the 220,000 residents of East Jerusalem, about 60,000 Palestinians will be trapped between the border system separating them from the West Bank and the walls separating them from East and West Jerusalem. Israel does not intend to grant them residency or the status and rights possessed by East Jerusalemites. It certainly does not intend to offer them the Israeli citizenship that was rejected by almost all the residents of East Jerusalem areas it annexed in 1967.

Over and above extending the area annexed, Israel wants to destroy Arab metropolitan Jerusalem and control it without annexing it. The Israeli undeclared hope is that the conditions of life in these besieged areas will be so hard that most of the residents will prefer to leave. It aspires to achieve this through a wall enveloping all the following suburbs of East Jerusalem: Anata, Hizma, Al-Zaim, Al-Ram, and Dahiat Al-Barid, leaving them only a narrow link with the Palestinian hinterland in the form of a cramped road or tunnel under Israeli control. Only in a limited number of places did Israel agree to relinquish suburbs which it included in “united Jerusalem” in 1967: Kafr Aqab in the north, Arab Al-Sawahara and Sheikh Saad in the East. By that, about 20,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians will be left on the West Bank side of the wall, cut off from their families on the eastern side of the wall.

In densely populated areas where there is no possibility of erecting a broad complex of walls and obstacles, the concrete wall that Israel intends to build will rise to a height of eight meters. In the center of Abu-Dis Israel has already built a concrete wall about two meters high on the 1967 annexation line, dividing in two the neighborhood’s main road. This wall divides the section officially annexed to Israel from the section which in the near future will be cut off from the West Bank and from Israel alike. In order to control entry and exit through this new wall, Israel has also built four permanent points of passage at the entrances to East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Thus the ground is ready to the next stage in the Israeli plan: divided autonomous neighborhoods.

On the neighborhood level there will be Palestinian autonomy for each separate neighborhood or suburb. Contact with the central Palestinian government will be carried out through the local Palestinian resident’s coming to the central Palestinian governmental meeting point, and not through agents of the Palestinian central government coming to the neighborhood. Israeli supervision will be carried out through its control over the road, which is the main artery of the besieged suburb. If the Israeli plan will be completed, about a quarter of a million Palestinian Arab residents of East Jerusalem will be cut off from their social, political, economic, cultural and language hinterland. This is about 10 percent of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank. The metropolitan connections of East Jerusalem had been hard hit by Israeli measures since the early 1990s. Now it can be expected that they will be destroyed.

On the other hand, the accessibility to West Jerusalem of those Palestinians who are today permanent residents in Israel is already not easy nowadays. Israel has blocked many roads that connect East Jerusalem to the West Bank by digging trenches, destroying roads, and constructing walls and piles of earth. Israel erected concrete and earth barriers at the entrance to East Jerusalem neighborhoods looking West, in order to control traffic to the few exit roads, which Israel can supervise. From time to time Israel places checkpoints on these roads. A mobile and rapidly changing line of checkpoints and inspections is also occasionally set up close to the old international border or the “demographic border.”

The intifada, the swelling unemployment, the militarization of life in the city, the lack of a centralized and institutionalized authority which can impose the law in most areas of East Jerusalem - all had grave consequences in places like Al-Tur, Silwan, and Ras Al-Amud and they found themselves on the way to becoming slums.

Israel argues that her plan to “envelop Jerusalem” will upgrade the status of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. They prefer to disconnect their relationship with the corrupted Palestinian regime in order to enjoy many economic benefits that the Israeli regime offers them, the Israeli argument goes. Thirty-six years of Israeli annexation disprove this argument and show the classical colonial approach behind it.

Using security purposes as a pretext the rightist Israeli government is now attempting to achieve by means of destructive walls what it was unable to achieve since 1967 through a belt of new construction: the building of new Jewish neighborhoods around the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods. In this way Israel forced demographic Jewish-Arab equality in the area annexed in 1967. In the talks in the year 2000 on a permanent settlement, discussions took place on models of dividing both territory and control between Israel and the planned Palestinian State. The rightist Israeli government was not satisfied with this and strives for exclusive Israeli control over all the area annexed in 1967. What the Barak government ’s proposed with the start of negotiations on permanent arrangements for the urban and historical heart of East Jerusalem, the Sharon government proposes to the Palestinians only in distant suburbs scraped off the body of Jerusalem. In such policies the Sharon government is also marking the borders of the authority of that sort of Palestinian State to which it can agree. The authority of the Palestinian State will be weak in East Jerusalem suburbs and non-existent in its center.

This demands the destruction of the demographic, urban and metropolitan reality, which developed since 1967 in Arab Jerusalem. All these measures are intended to perpetuate the control and the superiority of Jewish over Arab Jerusalem. The most appropriate name for this policy is “Spartheid,” Apartheid through the arguments and means employed by Greek Sparta.

Menachem Klein / Daily Star, October 25, 2003.

The route of the separation barrier next to Abu Dis
Photo: Yehezkel Lein / B’Tselem, 2004.

Haj Hassan, a resident of the West Bank village of Abu Dis, prays at the construction site of the new concrete wall in Abu Dis.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

Palestinians walk by the concrete wall separating the West Bank Palestinian village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem. The concrete wall prevents cars from passing from the West Bank into the Jerusalem area but causes great difficulties for the residents on the other side of the wall, most of whom are still linked to Jerusalem through work, school and other socio-economic factors.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

While Israeli border policemen arrive at a routine ID check, Palestinian children cross into Israel through a gap in the concrete wall separating the West Bank Palestinian village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem. The concrete wall prevents cars from passing from the West Bank into the Jerusalem area but causes great difficulties for the residents on the other side of the wall, most of whom are still linked to Jerusalem through work, school and other socio-economic factors.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

A view over the two sides of the separation wall in Abu Dis
Photo: Yehezkel Lein / B’Tselem, 2004.

A Palestinian child sits on the rooftop of his (family’s) shop next to the concrete wall separating the West Bank Palestinian village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

A Palestinian man walks through the construction site of the concrete wall in the West Bank village of Abu Dis.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

Al-Quds University – A Call for Support

Al-Quds University, whose Abu Dis campus straddles the imaginary municipal line dividing Jerusalem from the West Bank, is next in line in Israel's Wall Program. Some of the IDF's contracted huge machinery are now parked in the seized University's main campus grounds, in the middle of the football field. Slated for takeover is almost one third (about seventy dunams) of the University grounds, with a specially preserved pine wood, and areas in which the University had hoped it would develop student sports facilities and a botanical garden.

The University, home to almost 6000 students, has been in the forefront of the campaign to encourage Israeli-Palestinian academic cooperation for the past few years. The University campus has been fairly quiet for the most part during the past three years of bloody violence and confrontation, with students intent whenever allowed to reach the campus on pursuing their research and studies. The ravaging of the campus grounds, and the erection of a high cement wall in its midst blocking the natural view across the valley, cannot but be an indelible statement of enmity, aggression, and political as well as human failure. This negative statement, written in concrete blocks in the face of university students, stands in direct opposition to the positive educational values we try to propagate at the University, such as the necessity of breaking down the barriers of enmity, and the building of bridges of understanding in order to enhance the prospects for peace.

We at the University sadly realize that the Wall is currently an irreversible project, a symbol of the failure of politicians and self-professed peacemakers. However, we believe that it is possible, even obligatory, especially at this campus location, to minimize its negative psychological effects on our student population. The Wall could easily be built further down in the valley, or itself be the western wall of the campus, which we had been prevented by the Municipality so far from building. The presumed security imperative would not be affected by such an adjustment. But the political and psychological damage would be immeasurably reduced.

Help us instill some human and political sensitivity into the IDF's planning department. Speak on our behalf by appealing to the Minister at the following address. Your voice can make the difference. So can your silence.

Work on the route of the separation barrier cutting through the fields of the Al-Quds University
Photo: Yehezkel Lein / B’Tselem, 2003.

Palestinian homes separated from one another by Israel’s Wall in Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem
Photo: Negotiations Affairs Department – Palestine Liberation Organization, 2004.

Palestinians climbing over concrete blocks used to separate two Palestinian areas from one another during construction of Israel’s Wall
Photo: Negotiations Affairs Department – Palestine Liberation Organization, 2004.

View of the Jerusalem envelope in the process of construction
Photo: Yehezkel Lein / B’Tselem, 2004.

Palestinian women pass by the construction site of the concrete wall separating the West Bank village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem. The new 8-meter wall replaces the old concrete wall in Abu Dis, which was low and allowed people to jump over it without difficulty.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2004.

Armenian Patriarchate’s View on the Baron Der Issue

Historical background: The Armenian Patriarchate’s property called Baron Der is named after a renowned and saintly former Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Grigor Baron Der (1560¬1645), who used it as a retreat for devotion and hermitage. According to historical documents, the property was purchased in 1641 by the said Patriarch who lived there. Since then, it has been used by succeeding generations of Armenian clergy for worship, reclusion, and meditation. Located north of the Aida Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem, south of Tantour, the Baron Der property consists of approximately 36 acres (143 dunums) of archaeological land with ancient caves and tombs, as well as hundreds of centuries-old olive trees (1,600 trees). In the southern end of the property stands a convent building, which serves as a residence for Armenian monks who officiate in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In addition, Armenian monks from Jerusalem use the property for annual retreat and spiritual training.

The Issue: Israeli officials first tried to seize a portion of the Baron Der land in early May 2001, when Israeli forces, abruptly and without notification, broke into the convent building. Upon the Patriachate’s complaint, an order of seizure was issued by the Ministry of Defense, not only seizing the property for six months, claiming it was needed for security reasons, but also causing enormous interior and exterior damage to the building and property. Then in late August 2001, despite an immediate attempt by Armenian monks from Bethlehem to prevent it, Israeli forces destroyed the perimeter wall enclosing the Patriarchate’s land, mowed down some of the ancient olive trees with their tanks, and proceeded to build a "temporary" security road 50 meters wide on the site where officials now want to build a more permanent separation security fence.

With the occupation of the convent, the destruction of the perimeter wall and the uprooting of the olive trees, the Patriarchate sent a complaint letter in early September 2001 to Israeli officials of the Ministry of Defense stating that $77,000 in interior and exterior damages had been sustained, asking for withdrawal from the property and compensation for the extensive damage. There was no reply.

Two months later, in December 2001, Israeli authorities responded to the Armenian Patriarchate’s letter of complaint, denying its intrusion into the Patriarchate’s property, and asserting that, in their view, they had never entered the said property and had not caused any of the damages set forth in the Patriarchate’s September letter of complaint. The authorities invited the Patriarchate to write to the committee of insurance and lawsuits of the Ministry of Defense if it had any dissatisfaction.

In January 2002, the Armenian Patriarchate received a letter from the Ministry of Defense, stating that, based on the Patriarchate’s letter of complaint of September 2001, the matter was under consideration.

In March 2002, the Armenian Patriarchate sent a letter requesting a response from the Ministry of Defense as a follow up to the January letter the Ministry had addressed to the Patriarchate. The Patriarchate’s letter went unanswered.

On 21 April 2002, the Israeli military paved a road through the Baron Der property dividing it into two useless plots. In the process of paving the road, the Israeli military destroyed ancient tombs and antiquities and uprooted many more centuries-old olive trees. Israeli authorities stated that the road was only for temporary use, and that as soon as the situation in the region became calm, the area would be restored as before. They also requested that the Patriarchate allow them to lease the Baron Der convent to use as their headquarters. The Patriarchate refused this request.

In June, representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the Armenian Patriarchate met at the Baron Der site to discuss the matter. When the Israeli military announced that it was building a security wall, representatives of the Armenian Patriarchate reiterated their demand that the wall be built along the border of the Baron Der property, between the property and the Aida Palestinian refugee camp, so as not to cut the Baron Der property in two. The Israeli side agreed to reduce the width of the road running through the property from 50 meters to 27 meters, but they were not willing to move the road and the separation security wall to the property’s boundary despite the Patriarchate’s consistent demands.


Despite all the efforts of the Armenian Patriarchate to avoid conflicts, and despite all the correspondence of the Patriarchate aimed at reaching a better understanding for a fair agreement on the Baron Der issue, the Patriarchate’s requests have not been granted and its numerous letters have gone unanswered.

Faced with this impasse, the Patriarchate has no alternative but on the one hand to turn to the local and international media, and on the other to mount a formal appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice against the plan to build the permanent security fence in the middle of its property. It has also appealed to the representatives of other Governments, the United Nations Development Programme, and to members of the Armenian community worldwide.

The private property of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem called Baron Der is a sacred and archaeological site within the region. Since the actions above, the Armenian Patriarchate and its monks have not had the unimpeded use of their property at Baron Der, which remains in dispute.

Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem/ Press Information Office, 2002.

Friends When You Need Them

During the summer of 2002, the Diocese's ecumenical work paid off, as religious leaders from across the nation joined the Eastern Diocese in lobbying American government officials to respond to pressure Israeli officials to throw out a plan that would have destroyed property owned and used as a spiritual retreat by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The Israeli military had planned on building a security wall and utility road through the heart of a 36-acre property known as Baron Der. Joining the Diocese in successfully lobbying to stop the wall's construction were groups including the American Jewish Committee, the Episcopal Church, the interfaith Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and the National Council of Churches of Christ.

"During this period, when leaders of the Armenian Church here are working with us to strengthen understanding and mutual respect between our two communities, we respectfully urge the (Israeli) Ministry of Defense to be mindful of their concerns within the context of the compelling needs of safety for all Israelis," the American Jewish Committee leaders wrote in a letter to Israeli officials.

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) / Annual Report, 2002.

Diocesan Community Welcomes Israeli Lawyer

Armenian community leaders came to the Eastern Diocesan Center on Wednesday (6/11) to thank Eytan Epstein, an Israeli lawyer who serves as legal counsel for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Mr. Epstein played a key role last year in helping the Patriarchate preserve the centuries-old Baron Der property when Israeli military officials tried to build a security wall and utility road through the heart of the property.

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) / News Updates, 2003.

Palestinians gather for Friday prayer at a mosque near the concrete wall separating the West Bank village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2004.

Standing on the terrace of a mosque, a Palestinian man looks down over the street where a crowd gathers for a demonstration against the concrete wall separating the West Bank village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2004.

A Palestinian man has his bag inspected by an Israeli border policeman next to the concrete wall separating the West Bank village of Abu Dis from East Jerusalem.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2004.

From their porch the Bassah family, residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, look down upon the concrete wall being built to separate their village from Jerusalem.
Photo: Ahikam Seri, 2003.

A birdcage hanging on a rope on the balcony of a Palestinian house close to the security fence dividing East Jerusalem from the West Bank village of Abu Dis
Photo: Enric Marti / MTI / AP, 2004.

Proximity of the separation wall in Abu Dis
Photo: Mats Svensson, 2004.

Proximity of the separation wall in Abu Dis
Photo: Mats Svensson, 2004.

Wall across the old road to Jericho in Abu Dis
Photo: Mats Svensson, 2004.

Waiting for a bus in Jerusalem
Photo: Alex Levac, 2003-2004.

Waiting for a bus in Jerusalem
Photo: Alex Levac, 2003-2004.