HEBRON REFLECTION: Jerusalem forty years later--unified or occupied?

14 June 2007
HEBRON REFLECTION: Jerusalem forty years later--unified or occupied?

by Eileen Hanson

Recently, I was in Jerusalem, for a couple of days of rest. That week,
Israel celebrated "Jerusalem Day", commemorating "Forty years of

It is forty years since the 1967 (Six-Day) War, during which Israel
conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Sinai.
Israel has continued to occupy East Jerusalem ever since 1967. Initially,
Israel annexed East Jerusalem by simply extending the municipal boundaries
for Israeli West Jerusalem. They then declared a united Jerusalem as
Israel's eternal capital. No other country has been willing to recognize
this annexation diplomatically. Almost all countries currently maintain
their official embassies in Tel Aviv, the internationally recognized capitol
of Israel.

In the first night after taking over East Jerusalem, Israeli contractors
began tearing out buildings in the Arab neighborhood just adjacent to the
Western Wall. By the next day, Israeli Army bulldozers were busy demolishing
the homes in the Old City's Mugrabhi. Residents of these homes were given
just minutes to evacuate. At first they refused to leave. But when the
bulldozer crashed into the first house, crushing the inhabitants, the others
fled immediately. One hundred thirty-five families were left homeless in a
matter of hours.

I am glad, even grateful, that Jews can now visit the Western Wall--the last
remaining part of the Second Temple. But the vast plaza that stretches out
in front of it still calls out with the voices of the families whose homes
were destroyed, whose neighborhood ruined without discussion or delay.

In the coming weeks, Israel will continue to celebrate anniversaries of the
1967 War. In many ways, for Israelis, these events are equal in importance
to the celebrations of independence in 1948. The victory in the Six Day War
represents Israel's overcoming any national feelings of self-doubt or
inferiority. For Palestinians, it represents the start of what has become
forty years of foreign military occupation and continual loss of territory.

The armistice of the 1948 War established what is known as the Green Line
between the State of Israel and the West Bank. However, since 1967, Israel
has continued to seize land to build settlements on the Palestinian side of
the armistice line. These settlements are a clear violation of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, which specifically prohibits an occupying force from
settling its own civilian population within occupied territory. The Israeli
settlement enclaves within Palestinian territory, and the numerous
"Israeli-only" roads that connect them, now present a major obstacle to the
establishment of a viable Palestinian state along side Israel. The
Separation Barrier Israel has erected continues to confiscate land deep
inside the West Bank, further diminishing what territory is left to

I hope one day that this land heal from the scars and wounds of the conflict
and this occupation. It is a terrible thing to see the walls and checkpoints
and barbed wire slicing through the land, separating people. I hope one day
this land will see a peace worth celebrating.