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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Holy Land: Northern Bethlehem officially annexed by Israel
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¬†Eyewitness report from Open Bethlehem campaign. On 1st September the Israeli army announced the transfer of the Rachel's Tomb neighbourhood to the Israeli civilian authority of Jerusalem. For individual Bethlehemites, this has been a harrowing experience. The eighteen-foot walls now reach deep into our city, surrounding the concrete bunker that Israel has built to encase the Ottoman-era shrine. All Bethlehemites mourn with the local families and shopkeepers who have lost their homes and livelihoods in Bethlehem's northern quarter. From an Israeli perspective, northern Bethlehem is no longer a military occupied zone but, rather, a part of Israeli Jerusalem. Since 1967, when the Israeli occupation of modern-day Palestine began, the municipal borders of Jerusalem have been redrawn several times to make a city some ten-times the size of that in Ottoman or British times. The ranks of pre-fabricated concrete blocks that form the current conurbation no longer bear any resemblance to the historic city; not in geography and certainly not in beauty. Successive Israeli law-makers have expressed their indifference to ancient Jerusalem in their pursuit of a larger and mono-ethnic city: "To me, houses inhabited by Jews and Jewish children playing in the streets are more beautiful than bare hills; at any rate, this is more important than anything else." [cf. 'City of Stone' by Meron Benvenista, ex-deputy mayor of Israeli Jerusalem]. All previous extensions to Jerusalem's boundaries were approved by the Israeli parliament. The seizure of Northern Bethlehem is different ≠ no approval was sought. It is a central tenet of Israeli nationalist politics that Jerusalem is unified and indivisible, and hence any re-definition of what constitutes the 'whole' city has been the subject of an Israeli national debate. Today, even this one-sided check on Israel's sweeping land-theft has been discarded. The dispossession of Palestinian property-owners and their families, Christians and Muslims alike, is now undertaken by soldiers and bureaucrats outside of any scrutiny. For more information see the Open Bethlehem website: http://www.openbethlehem.org/
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