On the edge: On international pressure on Israel

On the edge: On international pressure on Israel: There must be international pressure on Israel to treat Palestinians with dignity

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The ongoing violence in Jerusalem is a culmination of the tensions building up since the start of Ramzan in mid-April. When Israeli police set up barricades at the Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the occupied Old City, preventing Palestinians from gathering there, it led to clashes. Last week, close to a scheduled Israeli Supreme Court hearing on the eviction of Palestinian families in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, tensions escalated. Israeli police entered the Haram al-Sharif compound (Noble Sanctuary), which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, to disperse the protesters, injuring hundreds of Palestinians. A Jewish settlement agency has issued eviction notices to Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, claiming that their houses sit on land purchased by Jewish agencies in the late 19th century (when historic Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire). Arab families have been living in Sheikh Jarrah for generations. The Israeli Supreme Court postponed the hearing on Monday on the advice of the government. Despite the volatile situation, the Israeli authorities gave permission to the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March, traditionally taken out by Zionist youth through the Muslim Quarter of East Jerusalem to mark the city’s capture by the Israelis. More violence broke out ahead of the march on Monday morning.

Jerusalem has been at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel, which captured the western part of the city in the 1948 first Arab-Israel war and the eastern half in the 1967 Six-Day War, claims sovereignty over the whole city whereas the Palestinians say East Jerusalem should be the capital of their future state. Most countries have not recognised Israel’s claim over the city and are of the view that its status should be resolved as part of a final Israel-Palestine settlement. Israel’s tactic till now has been to hold on to the status quo through force. A peace process is non-existent and the Palestinians are divided and weak. With carte blanche from the Trump administration, Israel expanded its settlements and extended repression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The move to evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem is seen as an attempt to forcibly expand Jewish settlements in the Arab neighbourhoods of the Old City.

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Israel’s actions have triggered condemnations from across the world, but it is unlikely to mend its ways. The international community, which largely overlooked Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians, should pressure Tel Aviv to at least treat the Palestinians with dignity, if not to ease the yoke of the occupation. U.S. President Joe Biden has said that America’s commitment to human rights would be at the centre of his foreign policy. In West Asia, he faces a reality check.