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November 2011, Week 3

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Mon, 21 Nov 2011 21:51:53 -0500
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Israel Shuts Down Palestinian Groups in Jerusalem

The Electronic Intifada November 19, 2011

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-shuts-down
-palestinian-groups-jerusalem/10606

The recent forced closures of Palestinian nonprofit
organizations in Jerusalem is an example of the Israeli
authorities' continued attacks on the city's
Palestinian identity and their attempts to maintain
control over occupied East Jerusalem, according to
local human rights groups.

"The purpose is to control and undermine the role of
Palestinian civil society and [its] efforts in
Jerusalem," Rashad Shtayyeh, the activities coordinator
at the Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinians' Rights
in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), told The Electronic Intifada by
email.

"Also, [this Israeli policy] tries to restrict anything
that might help in protecting the Palestinian identity
in Jerusalem, as a part of the Israeli Judiazation
project in occupied Jerusalem," Shtayyeh explained.

On 25 October, Israeli police presented closure notices
to four Jerusalem-based organizations - Shua'a Women's
Association, al-Quds Development Foundation, Saeed
Education Center and Work Without Borders - for a one-
month period.

Given thirty minutes to leave

Dr. Nufuz Maslamani is the director of the Shua'a
Women's Association, a group that was founded in 2008
with the goal of empowering women in Jerusalem to
achieve their social, political and economic rights.
She told The Electronic Intifada that Israeli police
gave volunteers at the association thirty minutes to
leave their office before they locked the door.

"I said, `Why do you want to close it?' I said that we
are a women's association and that we are working with
women, with gender issues. [The police officer] said,
`No, you are doing activities for the Popular Front
[for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP]," Maslamani
explained.

"As always, they have a lot of reasons to close any
association, to stop anyone who is working in
Jerusalem. They continue their policy to make Jerusalem
empty of the Palestinian people. This is their policy.
That's why they closed the association," she said.

Maslamani said that the closure has already had a
negative impact on the Palestinian women and children
who take courses through the association.

"This is really a problem because we now have women who
are taking computer courses, and other courses. These
women feel that they have a purpose and that they can
do anything," she said, adding that she feared the one-
month closure order would be arbitrarily extended.

"The most dangerous thing is that the Palestinian
people can't live or do what is right for them. This is
our right, to continue our lives in Jerusalem, as all
women and people in the world."

History of closures in Jerusalem

According to the Civic Coalition for Defending
Palestinians' Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), since
August 2001, the Israeli authorities have closed
approximately 28 organizations serving the Palestinian
community in Jerusalem, including the Orient House, the
Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) former
headquarters in the city, the Jerusalem Chamber of
Commerce and the Arab Studies Society.

In 2009, the Israeli authorities also banned numerous
Palestinian cultural and educational events scheduled
to celebrate the declaration of Jerusalem as the
"Capital of Arab Culture" for that year.

"The closure of these and other Palestinian
institutions are part of a broader policy through which
the Israeli authorities seek to stifle Palestinian
development in Jerusalem and increase the strength of
Israel's occupation over East Jerusalem," explained
Shtayyeh. "These closures relate to the overarching
policy that includes violations of housing rights,
revocation of residency, and ultimately results in the
forced displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem."

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have
residency rights, not full Israeli citizenship, since
they refused to take Israeli passports on principle
shortly after Israel began occupying the West Bank and
Gaza Strip in 1967.

As such, Palestinian Jerusalemites have the right to
live and work in Israel yet are denied other provisions
that come with full Israeli citizenship. For instance,
unlike citizenship, permanent residency is only passed
on to a person's children if certain conditions are
met, including most notably proving that one's "center
of life" is in Jerusalem.

Since 1967, it is estimated that more than 14,000
identification cards have been revoked from Palestinian
Jerusalemites, who have thereby lost their residency
rights and the ability to live in the city.

Widespread attack on human rights groups

The Jerusalem-area closures come as the Israeli
parliament, the Knesset, is expected to pass two new
bills that would make it harder for human rights groups
in the country to receive funding from foreign
governments.

On 13 November, the Israeli Ministerial Committee on
Legislation voted in favor of two new bills. The first,
officially known as the Associations Law (Amendment -
Banning Foreign Diplomatic Entities' Support of
Political Associations in Israel), would bar human
rights groups from receiving donations of more than
20,000 NIS (roughly $5,400) from foreign state
entities.

The second bill, an amendment to the Israeli Income Tax
Order, would make funding from foreign state entities
to Israeli nongovernmental organizations subject to a
45 percent taxation rate. This is more than three times
more than the taxation rate incurred by private
organizations.

On 10 November, 18 human rights groups in Israel,
including Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority
Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
and the Arab Association for Human rights, released a
statement condemning the bills.

"This is not the first time Knesset members target
foreign funding as a way to silence civil society and
human rights organizations. The bills are a part of a
calculated policy to silence voices of dissent and
criticism and go hand in hand with attempts to restrict
Israel's judicial system, media outlets and activists,"
the statement reads ("NGOs in Israel: Urgent call
regarding severely restrictive funding bills," 10
November 2011).

"A vibrant civil society is an essential part of a
healthy democracy," the statement adds. "These
organizations promote transparency, public debate and
accountability regarding government policy, and ensure
essential protection of more vulnerable communities."

According to the Mossawa Center, a group representing
Palestinians in Israel, the bills would have the
biggest impact on organizations working for the rights
of Israel's Palestinian citizens.

"Many Israeli NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] do
not receive funding from the Israeli government because
of their work with the Palestinian Arab minority. They
are forced to rely on foreign state entities, like the
EU and European government-sponsored organizations, for
a majority of their funding," Mossawa explained in a
statement ("The Mossawa Center calls on the
international community to condemn bills that restrict
funding for human rights organizations in Israel," 16
November 2011 [PDF]).

"While the NGO bills directly hinder the ability of
Arab and human rights NGOs to operate independently
within Israel, right-wing organizations that violate
international law by supporting settlements in the West
Bank are not limited in the proposed legislation,"
Mossawa adds. "Most right-wing organizations are funded
by the state and/or foreign private donations, which
the bills' sponsors do not consider foreign
interference. It is clear that the proposed legislation
would conceal the state's human rights violations and
advance the government's right-wing agenda without
impediment."

Protected under international law

In Jerusalem, CCDPRJ's Rashad Shtayyeh explained that
"East Jerusalem is incontrovertibly recognized under
international law as an integral part of the occupied
Palestinian territory over which the Palestinian people
are entitled to exercise their right to self-
determination."

Indeed, the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "Protected
persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect
for their persons, their honor, their family rights,
their religious convictions and practices, and their
manners and customs."

Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights also stipulates that "All
peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue
of that right they freely determine their political
status and freely pursue their economic, social and
cultural development."

In his email to The Electronic Intifada, Shtayyeh
explained that these protected rights - as well as
freedom of expression, association and peaceful
assembly - are regularly denied to Palestinians in East
Jerusalem.

"We call upon the international Community, the United
Nations and the European Union to take responsibility
to uphold their obligations towards the protected
persons under occupation in Jerusalem," he said. "We
demand that the international community obliges the
Israeli government to refrain from closing the
Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem."

___________________________________________

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