Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Closure of Ras Khamis checkpoint impedes freedom of movement further

By Ana Thorne - October 03, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [settlement construction] [Settlers] [Jerusalem] [Shuafat refugee camp]

Ramallah – On Wednesday, September 19th, the Israeli authorities closed down the Ras Khamis checkpoint, which serves 65,000 Palestinians and is one of the only two entrances to the Shuafat refugee camp.

The Shuafat refugee camp is already enclosed on three sides by the Apartheid Wall, even though it is actually a part of the Jerusalem Municipality. The closure will force people to walk the extra two kilometers to exit the other remaining crossing leading to Shuafat.

Established on December 11, 20011, the Ras Khamis checkpoint cut off the Shuafat refugee camp, Ras Khamis, and al-Salam suburbs from Jerusalem. The Ras Khamis neighborhood will be isolated from the city with the closure of the Ras Khamis checkpoint and force it residents, around 10,000, to cross the main Shuafat checkpoint instead.

The population of these three areas is expected to be 50,000, and according to The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) it is likely that the Israeli authorities will withdraw the Jerusalem ID cards from the inhabitants and substitute them with West Bank ID cards.

Starting from the beginning of September, the Israelis already started to seal off the checkpoint, and the last days up to the completion soldiers secured the workers and did not hesitate to suppress protests from the residents. Where the checkpoint was situated before, a new section of the Apartheid Wall will be built.

In cooperation with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the residents have advocated to the Israeli High Court (the same court that set the terms for the closure) who in turn have promised an expansion of the main Shuafat checkpoint to include four lanes for vehicles and eight lanes for pedestrians.

Furthermore, the checkpoint will be open 24 hours a day. According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the Defense Ministry has stated that the Ras Khamis checkpoint originally only served as a temporary checkpoint and the Shuafat main checkpoint will be built according to high standards so it can handle the movement of all the people that have to pass through every day.

to act as a state above law, and to commit more violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including efforts to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem

This argument and the promises of expansion are doubtful and the transfer of commuters through only one checkpoint is doomed to chaos. The Israeli announcement by the Jerusalem Development Company Moriah of the establishment of a bridge between the settlement visiting center of David Town next to the Palestinian village Silwan (south of the old city of East Jerusalem) and the tunnel of al-Buraq Wall and through Wadi Hilweh is not at all furthering the case in a good direction.

It is obvious that the Israelis do not care for improving a checkpoint mainly used by Palestinians. A year ago, Wadi Hilweh had a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court stating that there should not be made any changes on the main road of the village. The Israelis have not complied with this court ruling, as the Israel Municipality of Jerusalem has declared that they want to change the road.

PCHR strongly emphasizes the need for the international community to intervene with Israel’s plans and stop the settlements from grabbing more land from the Palestinians. They believe that the absence of the international community’s reaction and lack of vigor is encouraging Israel “… to act as a state above law, and to commit more violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including efforts to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.”

The shutdown of the Ras Khamis checkpoint will affect thousands of people; students, employees, families, and workers who have been crossing through the crowded checkpoint daily.

Al Haq’s fieldworker in Bethlehem Omran Resheq commented on the case and said that “…the Israelis have announced that they will complete the closure and construction of the wall where the checkpoint used to be, despite the strong resistance from the many people who will be affected by this decision.”

It is hard not to see the closure as a continuing effort from the Israeli government’s policy to Judaize and erase any Palestinian identity occupied in East Jerusalem.

Another example is the increased numbers of house evictions in the old city of Jerusalem. Haartez highlights in an article from May 2012 how the Absentee Property Law is used to secure the evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem:

According to the law, it is enough to prove that a property owner was residing in an enemy country – including any Arab country or the West Bank – at the time East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in 1967 for them to lose their rights to the property.

The absurdity is that in many cases the authorities never check whether the houses were actually absent in 1967 or not. Palestinians do not know that they have been declared “absent” until Israeli soldiers and the new Jewish settlers arrive at the house in the middle of the night, forcing the family to leave their homes.

Unfortunately, the policy of Jewish settler expansion in Jerusalem has been an ongoing and unstoppable occurrence. The use of unchecked and unreliable affidavits to evict Palestinians from their homes, and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem suburbs and towns to the West Bank only serves to capture more of the sensitive areas of East Jerusalem.

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