The Elders

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The changing face of East Jerusalem

During their trip to the Middle East in October 2010, the Elders visited East Jerusalem where they met Palestinian residents and joined a weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah.

East Jerusalem is the largely Palestinian part of the city, which Palestinians hope will one day be the capital of their future state.

On a tour of East Jerusalem, the Elders saw first-hand how its character is changing due to settlement activity.

In a meeting with Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, the Elders warned that the city’s current planning policies are a serious obstacle to the peace process.

Municipal services to Palestinian neighbourhoods are extremely poor, with schools, water services and roads receiving a fraction of the investment of the rest of the city.

The Elders visit Al Bustan in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem. Many homes here are threatened with demolition to make way for the King’s Garden Archaeological Park. Palestinian residents say they have not been consulted on the plans.

The Palestinian children in Silwan have no place to play. In an area of 55,000 people, there is not one park.

Ten year old Ahmed Siyam told the Elders that he was recently interrogated by Israeli security forces. Ahmed showed them his wounds and said soldiers had cursed and insulted him.

Jimmy Carter in discussion with the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Reuven Rivlin.

“As I said to the Speaker of the Knesset today, Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens and other minorities is very disturbing. These people have not enjoyed equal social, economic and political rights for decades. Now there are more than twenty proposed new laws that would further erode their rights.”

Mary Robinson: “All kinds of clever methods are being used to surround and squeeze the Palestinian population – tunnels, settler houses, new roads, and now tourist attractions. A solution must be found that respects the human rights of all.”

The Elders joined the weekly protest in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where a largely Israeli crowd demonstrates against the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes. Jimmy Carter told the protesters: “We have come here to add our congratulations to those Israelis and Palestinians, all of whom are trying to resolve this injustice peacefully.”

Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreement on its future will have to be at the heart of any solution. During their trip to the Middle East in October 2010, the Elders visited East Jerusalem where they were deeply concerned to see the extent of settlement expansion into Arab neighbourhoods.

They heard from Palestinian residents and activists who oppose the changing character of East Jerusalem and fear they will be evicted, deported or have their homes demolished.

The Elders also joined a weekly demonstration in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where mainly Israeli protesters gather to oppose their government’s actions.

Delegation leader Mary Robinson, together with her fellow Elders Jimmy Carter and Ela Bhatt, issued a statement warning that continued settlement expansion will make a viable two-state solution almost impossible.

Photos: Mati Milstein / Garo Nalbandian / The Elders

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