Dr. Rami M. Nasrallah, who has conducted many research projects on Jerusalem, made a PowerPoint presentation, with several illustrative maps. In 1967, Israel annexed 70 square kilometers, including villages, to West Jerusalem. Palestinians within the new boundary were offered permanent residency status, but not citizenship. In post-1967 Jerusalem, Israel has limited Palestinian development by confiscating East Jerusalem land for Jewish settlements and for “green areas.” Palestinian construction and economic development are severely hampered. Only 14% of East Jerusalem’s land area consists of Palestinian neighborhoods. Palestinians are and have been eager to work on development; for example, Al Quds International Airport was once busy with tourists. Now, however, Israel constricts Palestinian commerce and growth. Israel is also determined to limit Palestinian space and development, to fragmenting Palestinian continuity, and to maintaining Jewish territorial hegemony. The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded entirely by national park areas. The Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan is in an area that is a national park managed by an extremist Jewish religious group. Private Palestinian land has been expropriated for the purpose of an archaeological park allegedly comprising Biblical sites. There is no integrity or transparency regarding Israeli archaeological findings. The population of Silwan is 20,000, and the people need public spaces. Palestinians are building the Silwan-Al Bustan Park, which provides activities for the youth. The European Union is supporting this intervention. Interventions are needed to work on other projects, promote Palestinian community resilience, and support the image of Jerusalem as a multi-cultural, global hub.
During the Q&A segment, several points were raised, including the following: East Jerusalem is still the largest Palestinian city, with 400,000 inhabitants. The Palestinian Authority has no evident plans for Jerusalem. However, Israel’s policy is clear. According to a 1994 law, there can be no public Palestinian functions in East Jerusalem. Israel allows no official Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and therefore its civil society organizations face major hurdles or are leaving. While the American administration has changed, the most that can be expected from the Biden Administration is a re-opening of the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the issue of Jerusalem has been postponed until final status negotiations occur, which leaves Palestinians in limbo until such time arrives.
The symposium concluded with a few remarks. Dr. Imam Abu Sway mentioned that the representative of the European Union in Jerusalem recently spoke about prosperity and democracy. What he should speak about is justice for Palestinians. This would require courage. Dr. Nasrallah asked that we maintain the image of Jerusalem as the capital of two states. Jerusalem has been waiting for a just resolution for the past 25 years. Stop waiting. Protect the city from a religious war. If a religious war starts, no one will be able to halt it. Dr. Sarsar called for a new approach, one that enables the building of an inclusive city. Through empathy and generosity of spirit, through dignity and humanity, fair and realistic solutions for Jerusalem can be found.