East Jerusalem impoverished by Israeli policy

A new UN report dispassionately provides blunt evidence of the harm Israel's policies do, systematically, to the people of East Jerusalem.

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More than 80 per cent of the Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live in poverty, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said last week.

The 61-page report, entitled The Palestinian Economy in East Jerusalem, dispassionately provides blunt evidence of the harm Israel's policies do, systematically, to the people who live there. This kind of evidence will fuel the worldwide "BDS" movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel, says the report, pursues "a policy of physical, political and economic segregation" of East Jerusalem, which is kept distinct from the rest of Israel and from the other occupied Palestinian territories as well. This is accomplished by the towering "separation" wall the Israelis have built - it cuts 55,000 East Jerusalem residents off from the city centre - and by laws and regulations that stifle commerce and development.

The report says the area's economy has been left "to fend for itself in a developmental limbo, severed from Palestinian Authority jurisdiction and subordinated to the Jewish population imperatives and settlement strategies of Israeli municipal and state authorities".

In dry diplomatic language, the report lays bare the cruelty at the heart of Israel's occupation. Not content with merely ruling the city, "Israeli authorities have transformed the city's demography, physical features and historic character" by means of "measures inconsistent with the city's status under international law and contrary to UN resolutions".

Meanwhile Jewish settlements continue to grow. East Jerusalem is home to about 265,000 Palestinian Muslims and Christians and fully 201,000 Jews. And income levels differ dramatically. There are poor Jews in East Jerusalem, too, to be sure, but under all of the several systems used to calculate poverty rates, Palestinians are seen to be far worse off.

Last week Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world's best-known living scientist, withdrew from a high-profile May conference in Israel, in support of BDS and to protest against the mistreatment of Palestinians. Such high-profile solidarity, along with the precise, quantified, footnoted detail of reports such as this one from UNCTAD, has the potential to intensify dramatically the BDS movement.

World public opinion is the ultimate weapon in the fight to end Israel's shameful policies. These two developments last week can only add to the moral stature of BDS, an increasingly potent tactic against Israel's abuses.