İstanbul Kültür University

Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem debated at UN forum | Today's Zaman

Participants in a United Nations public forum that took place in İstanbul on Thursday voiced heavy criticism of Israel’s illegal takeover of land in Jerusalem and the ensuing violations of the rights of indigenous Muslim and Christian communities.

A wide array of high-profile invitees comprising diplomats, civil society representatives and academics took part in the UN Public Forum in Support of the Palestinian People, co-organized by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Global Political Trends Center (GPOT), yesterday. Muslim, Christian and Jewish participants strongly condemned the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, which began as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967 and has persisted ever since despite all regional, international and unilateral reactions. The head of the delegation from the UN committee, Zahir Tanin, made the opening speech, drawing attention to Israel’s strategy of removing the non-Jewish character of the city, which is a holy place for all three monotheistic religions. He said Israel has built more than 50,000 homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem since 1967, whereas there are only 600 Palestinian homes in the area. He elaborated on the reasons for the critical approach to Israel’s strategy. “Because of Israeli restrictions, Palestinian Muslims and Christians are losing access to the historical mosques and churches to which they are emotionally attached,” he said, adding that all actions aimed at altering the legal status and physical and demographic character of Jerusalem “constitute violations of international law and must be ceased and rescinded.” In that regard, Phyllis Bennis, a Jewish fellow from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, underlined the importance of civil society in pressuring governments to act responsibly and said international law needs defenders since governments do not always do the right thing. “Turkey, however, is sort of an exception in the last years,” she added, referring to the country’s “affirmative foreign policy not only in the Israeli-Palestinian issue but a set of other issues as well.” Daphna Golan-Agnon from the Hebrew University said most Israelis are not as critical as a 6-year-old child about the human rights violations they witness every day in Jerusalem. “Naming, shaming and blaming are not enough. We should have a vision for peace in Jerusalem,” she said, calling for a stronger and collective bottom-up reaction to Israeli policies. A Christian Jerusalemite, Fadwa Khader, who is also the director-general of the Sunflower Association for Human and Environment Protection, Jerusalem, and whose 17-year-old son was killed by Israeli troops in 2001 said, “The Israeli aggression over 60 years is more than enough.” She concluded that it was extremely meaningful that they had raised their voices in İstanbul for justice.

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