Israel is seeking to turn Arab Jerusalem into a ghetto: Azmi Bishara
Leading Palestinian and Arab intellectual Dr. Azmi Bishara has accused Israel of attempting to turn East Jerusalem into an Arab "ghetto" amid a threatened eviction of Palestinians to make way for Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Dr. Bishara, a Palestinian former member of the Knesset who now heads the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, told The New Arab’s affiliate channel Syria TV that since 1968, Israel had built a group of settlements in East Jerusalem designed to surround Palestinian neighbourhoods of the city, such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
Over 200,000 Israelis live in settlements built illegally in the east of the city since the 1967 Arab-Israeli, such as Gilo, Neve Yaakov, and Pisgat Ze’ev.
Dr. Bishara added that settler organizations had adopted a long-term strategy over the past 50 years "in order to take over the maximum possible number of Arab houses" in areas such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan "through cheating".
A total of 28 Palestinian families, comprising approximately 500 individuals, face eviction from Sheikh Jarrah after Israeli settler groups claimed ownership of their homes.
This was based on a dubious assertion that they belonged to Jews before the 1948 establishment of Israel, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their lands by Zionist militias.
Dr. Bishara said that the Israeli settler groups were using a mixture of methods to take control of Palestinian homes and areas - confiscating land through the Israeli state, operating covertly through estate agents, and employing documents from before 1948 to their advantage.
He said that Israel's ultimate aim was to "change Arab [East] Jerusalem from a city which can be the capital of Palestine into an isolated Arab neighbourhood within a Jewish city – a ghetto", adding that this was a "systematic plan".
The settler groups, he said were financed by pro-Israel American donors and supported by Israel's right-wing government, adding that Israeli law had been "designed to confiscate the land of Arabs".
Dr. Bishara added that Israel's recent normalisation agreements with Arab countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco had emboldened it to take more aggressive action in Jerusalem.
He mentioned a 2017 Arabic-language tweet by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Arab public opinion, rather than Arab leaders was "the greatest obstacle" to peace.
"Every time Arab governments move in the direction of Israel and normalisation, the gap between these governments and their peoples grows," Dr. Bishara said.
He added that public opinion in the Arab world supported Palestinians not because they were Israel's victims, but because they stood up for their rights.