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Hebrew University
HUJ Yael Berda Delegitimizes Israel at a United Nations Meeting


Editorial Note

Dr. Yael Berda is a lawyer teaching Sociology at the Hebrew University.  Berda is also a political activist who uses her academic position to discredit Israel, a fact that IAM reported before.  In her academic writing she focuses on Israel's permit system in the West bank and East Jerusalem, portraying it a "colonial form of power". Palestinian newspaper recently wrote she is convinced that the "security restrictions on Palestinians have nothing to do with security issues." For her, it’s racial segregation. 

Berda has participated in June, at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, titled "the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem.” Invited by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an inter-governmental organization with 57 member states.  The participants looked for ways of “Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem,” under Palestinian control.  The meeting criticized Israel’s policies and measures "aiming to change the character of Jerusalem".  Other speakers included Ambassador Cheikh Niang, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; ASG Samir Bakr, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine and Al-Quds Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Ms. Carla Khijoyan, Program Executive for the Middle East; WCC Min. Ahmad Majdalani, Minister of Social Affairs of the State of Palestine; among others.

Berda's speech presented a very dire picture of East Jerusalem under Israel, blaming Israel alone. For Berda, it is Israel's "colonial control" and the residents are “under constant threat of violence". According to her, city tax is part of the "bureaucracy of the occupation", which is "an effective tool against Palestinians". She coined it "colonial bureaucracy" and "racial hierarchy." Berda absolves all Palestinian violence and blames Israel for "rampant arrests," where "youth might find themselves detained." The essence of her talk was that the Jerusalem Municipality, which collects high taxes, gives almost nothing in return, only the security forces are visible. For Berda, the "regime" separates between Palestinians and Palestinians, evidence the regime is not dedicated to security provisions but to other "colonial goals". For her, most of these activities are on administrative bases, such as the court orders and demolitions orders, that can be stopped with political pressure. “It can be incredibly affective if the administration has an active opposition,” she urged the audience. 

Just before Rosh Hashana, on Saturday morning of September 28, Berda will speak at the University of Basel in a conference "Comparing Colonialism: Beyond European Exceptionalism" Her talk is "Bureaucratic Tools of Emergency and Citizenship in the Colonial Past and Present: Israel/Palestine and India." Berda investigates the bureaucratic classification of population, based on the "practices of identification, registration, mapping and zoning" and questions "how colonial practices, designed to control subjugated populations, have become organizing principles of the modern state". She will be discussing the "administrative colonial legacies" of the historical colonial rule, with the rise of contemporary colonial forms of power." In particular, Berda will focus on "Israel's military government over the Palestinians 1949-1966 in 'security zones', and its practices of population classification", comparing with "classification practices of Palestinians in Israel's contemporary military rule over the Occupied West Bank." 

Similarly, in 2017, Berda was invited to deliver a lecture at Harvard University on Israel's anti-terrorism law. Berda discussed "the colonial origins of these security laws and their relation to citizenship." Berda provided an alternative analysis of the ways the anti-terrorism bill uses the emergency laws by the British Empire. According to Berda, this "legal toolkit" produced a triple bind between security, loyalty, and identity through bureaucratic means. Berda argued that the British colonial roots of security practices, which focus on "population management and its classification as loyal to the state, or suspicious," have formed the boundaries of citizenship. For Berda, the "institutionalization of British colonial emergency laws... deeply impacted the scope and authority of executive power to justify consistent violation to civil rights." by the contemporary state.

Berda, however, does not consider terrorism against civilians to be a major factor for instilling security measures. 

Like many of her political comradery, she remade herself an expert on Israeli history.   In the spring, she will be teaching a course at India's Jindal Global University on "State and Society from Mandate Palestine to Present day Israel." Berda is often invited to speak at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.  Given her written record, it is not hard to imagine that her message would be stridently anti-Israel. 

Barda's activist career included Machsom Watch and often represented members of the organization International Solidarity Movement (ISM, aka PalSolidarity).  In 2004, Berda represented Ewa Jasiewicz, a British-Polish journalist who was detained at Ben Gurion Airport upon arrival, because in 2002, the journalist lived and worked in the West Bank city of Jenin. In an email published by the ISM, the journalist told a story of the son of the family she stayed with, who opened fire on Israelis a few months earlier. The journalist wrote: "I don’t get why activists can’t go and do the Knesset or something, or do a sophisticated politician bump-off like the PFLP?”  These are the types Berda represented. 

In 2005, after newspapers charged Berda with waging a war against Israel’s secret service she went to the United States for two months.  As a lawyer, Berda represented more than two hundred Palestinians trying to obtain labor permits to enter Israel. 

Like her other radical peers, Berda receives a salary from the Hebrew University, that is, from the Israeli taxpayer. Even a casual perusal of her activities indicates that she spends an inordinate part of her time traveling and giving talks to delegitimize Israel.   

The university authorities are custodians of the public money that enables them to thrive.  The question is whether in the case of Yael Barda the HUJ has been a responsible custodian.




  International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, 27-28 June 2019, United Nations Office at Geneva  


The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), with support from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),  convened the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem “Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem” on 27-28 June 2019 at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

The Conference addressed the issue of Israel’s policies and measures aimed at changing the character of Jerusalem, which have significant political, legal and socio-economic ramifications, including the threat of derailing prospects for a peaceful solution to the Question of Palestine. The Conference sought to formulate concrete actionable recommendations and ways forward among the relevant stakeholders for the preservation of a City, considered sacred by three religions.

The Conference brought together Palestinian, Israeli and international experts, representatives of the diplomatic community and civil society to discuss viable and practical strategies to (1) stem efforts to alter the demography and character of the City, (2) provide viable alternatives that preserve the religious and cultural character of the City, and (3) ensure that all its Palestinian inhabitants enjoy their inalienable rights.


Mr. Philippe Baudin-Auliac, Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations
Amb. Cheikh Niang, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (EnglishFrench)
ASG Samir Bakr, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine and Al-Quds Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Ms. Carla Khijoyan, Programme Executive for the Middle East, WCC
Min. Ahmad Majdalani, Minister of Social Affairs of the State of Palestine


The legal status of Jerusalem under International Law and in the context of a final peace settlement
Min. Ahmad Majdalani, Minister of Social Affairs of the State of Palestine
Ms. Yael Berda, Assistant Professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mr. Mohannad Gbara, Palestinian lawyer based in Jerusalem


Challenges to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Jerusalem
Mr. Nazmi Al Jubeh, Associate Professor of History and Archaeology, Birzeit University
Ms. Yudith Oppenheimer, Executive Director, Ir Amim
Mr. Wasfi Kailani, Director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa
Ms. Shadia Touqan, Director of the Arab Regional Center for World Heritage


Jerusalem: Holy to the three monotheistic religions
Mr. Bernard Sabella,  Former member of the PLC, sociologist and Executive Secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees
Mr. Mustafa Abu Sway, Professor of Islamic Studies at Al-Quds University and Member of the Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem
Ms. Leah Shakdiel, Representative of Oz V’Shalom and Rabbis for Human Rights
Mr. David Wildman, Executive Secretary for Human Rights & Racial Justice, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church


Ways forward to preserve the character of the Sacred City
Mr. Ammar Hijazi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs, State of Palestine
Mr. Khaldun Bshara, Director, RIWAQ – Center for Architectural Conservation
Mr. Yonathan Mizrahi , Founder and Director of Emek Shaveh
Mr. Geoffrey Aronson, Fellow, Middle East Institute


Google Translate: Yael Barda, a sociologist and an Israeli lawyer, is convinced that security restrictions on Palestinians have nothing to do with security issues.
ياعيل بردا، مختصة اجتماعية، ومحامية إسرائيلية مقتنعة أن لا علاقة لعمليات المنع الأمني على الفلسطينيين بالقضايا الأمنية، بل هي جزء من آلية إسرائيلية للسيطرة على الفلسطينيين، وجزء من البيروقراطية الاستعمارية التي تضر أيضاً بمواطني الدولة.


Comparing Colonialism 
Beyond European Exceptionalism 
September 26–28 2019 
University of Basel Petersgraben 27, 4051 Basel
Saturday, September 28 9:30 a.m.–10:15 a.m.
Lecture hall, Musicology
10:15 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Bureaucratic Tools of Emergency and Citizenship in the Colonial Past and Present: Israel/Palestine and India
Yael Berda (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Investigation of bureaucratic repertoires of classification of population, well studied practices of identification, registration, mapping and zoning, demand a discussion on the how colonial practices, designed to control subjugated populations, have become organizing principles of the modern state, that draw the boundaries of political membership and participation.
Focusing on administrative colonial legacies facilitates an analysis of the impact of historical colonial rule, with the rise of contemporary colonial forms of power.  Rather than investigating continuity and change, the paper underscores how colonial bureaucratic practices, were embedded in the organizing principles of the modern state.  The paper examines Israel's military government over the Palestinians 1949-1966 in "security zones", and its practices of population classification, with classification practices of Palestinians in Israel's contemporary military rule over the Occupied West Bank.  Against the backdrop of a permit system in India's border with Pakistan after partition, we understand how mundane colonial practices of monitoring movement, became the administrative boundaries of citizenship.

O.P. Jindal Global University Sonipat Haryana

State and Society from Mandate Palestine to Present day Israel
Course Code M.A.(DLB)0439
School JSIA
Course Instructor Yael Berda
Course Timings Thursday 6pm to 9pm
Credits 2
Cross Listed (Y/N) Y
Classroom 56
Jindal Global University



How Security Laws Make Citizenship: The Institutional Legacies of the British Empire in Anti-Terror Laws in Israel and India


Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The CES Colonial Encounters & Divergent Trajectories in the Mediterranean Study Group

Yael BerdaYael Berda
Academy Scholar, Harvard Academy for International & Regional Studies, WCFIA, Harvard University; Asst Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Hebrew University

[Previous title: Imperial legacies of suspicion: Making 'loyal' administrators and citizens in Israel/Palestine and India – the first decade]

Abstract: The proliferation of anti-terrorism and counter insurgency laws are often embedded within the contemporary discourse of “the global war on Terror” and practices of homeland security. Security laws are rarely viewed as the sites in which state bureaucracies participated in the construction of citizenship and loyalty to the state. Yet, as these laws define security threats, they also define the limits of legitimate political opposition. Last year, Israel introduced an anti-terrorism law, a process that offers an opportunity to challenge the contemporary discourse by offering an alternative legal history about the colonial origins of these security laws and their relation to citizenship. In this paper, Dr. Berda discloses an alternative analysis of the ways the anti-terrorism bill encapsulates the use of emergency laws in the British Empire. She argues that this legal toolkit enshrines a triple bind between security, loyalty and identity, which the state fashions through bureaucratic means. Through a comparative study security laws in Israel and India, she shows how the British colonial roots of security practices, focused on population management and its classification as loyal to the state, or suspicious, formed the boundaries of citizenship after independence. She argues that the institutionalization of British colonial emergency laws, which occurred differently in Israel and India, deeply impacted the scope and authority of executive power to justify consistent violation to civil rights.   

Dr. Yael Berda is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, Hebrew University, and an Academy Scholar, the Harvard Academy for International & Regional Studies, WCFIA. She received her PhD from Princeton University; MA from Tel Aviv University and  LLB from Hebrew University faculty of Law. Berda was a practicing Human Rights lawyer, representing in military, district and Supreme courts in Israel. Her second book Living Emergency: Israel's permit regime in the West Bank is forthcoming in November 2017 (Stanford University Press): http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=25698. At Harvard, Berda is working on a book manuscript entitled: "The File and the Checkpoint: the Administrative memory of the British Empire in Israel, India & Cyprus". Her other research projects are about the construction of loyalty of civil servants in Israel and India, the use of emergency laws to shape political economy of colonial states, and colonial legacies of law and administration that shape contemporary homeland security practices in postcolonial states. Berda publishes, teaches and speaks on the intersections of sociology of law, bureaucracy and the state, race and racism and sociology of empires here: https://scholars.huji.ac.il/yaelberda/home.

Sponsors: Center for European Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Contact: Liz Flanagan


Detained British reporter's case heard  

Dan Izenberg, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 23, 2004


A British journalist who has been detained at Ben Gurion Airport since her arrival on August 11 said on Monday she came here to write about the Israeli peace movement so that the world would see something other than photos of Israeli soldiers.

The journalist, Ewa Jasiewicz, spoke during her appeal against the government's decision to bar her from entering Israel on the grounds that she posed a security threat. Her lawyer, Yael Berda, charged that the accusation was baseless and that Jasiewicz had simply angered Israeli authorities during a visit in 2002 by demanding that the army investigate an incident in which a 14-year-old Palestinian was shot and wounded by soldiers in Nablus.

During that same visit, Jasiewicz participated in activities of the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group fighting against the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza in non-violent ways. Jasiewicz participated in IMS activities aimed at preventing the IDF from demolishing Palestinian houses, building the security fence and blocking off Palestinian access to roads in the West Bank.

Berda also charged that the Interior Ministry, which was the government institution which officially denied Jasiewicz entry, was acting blindly on the instructions of the Shin Bet.

This is Jasiewicz's third visit to Israel and the territories. Last year, she came here on a passport bearing a different name for fear that the authorities might stop her from entering because of her actions the previous year. When she came this year, she at first denied to interrogators at the airport that she had entered Israel in 2003.

During the hearing, Berda questioned a Shin Bet representative known as "Tomer," who told the court that "the IMS has not been declared a terrorist organization but we are concerned that activists of the organization, because of their very close ties with terrorist activities, consciously or unconsciously help terrorist actions."

Jasiewicz told the court she had interviewed terrorists as part of her journalistic work, but maintained that she had not been duped into helping them. "I am a professional journalist and I know when people are being manipulated and no on can do that to me," she said. "I know myself. My agenda is no secret. I am against racism and fascism and in favor of peace."

The court will decide on Jasiewicz's appeal on Wednesday. Last week, the court allowed the British journalist to leave the Ben Gurion Airport detention area while the hearing was proceeding. This time, however Judge Drora Pilpel refused a similar request by Berda, and Jasiewicz returned to the Ben Gurion detention area until the decision is handed down.  



Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2005, pages 46-47

Israeli Human Rights Lawyer Defends Activists in Tradition of Langer, Tsemel
By Pat McDonnell Twair
twair 38
Israeli human rights attorney Yael Berda (staff photo S. Twair).

ISRAELI HUMAN RIGHTS attorney Yael Berda spent the months of November and December in the U.S. waiting for tempers to cool down at home after newspaper headlines charged she was waging war on Israel’s secret service.

At age 28, the feisty barrister is dubbed an incarnation of attorneys Felicia Langer and Lea Tsemel, who represented Palestinian prisoners and were assaulted and reviled as traitors by the Israeli right.

Thanks to the Internet, Berda connected with friends in the U.S. During her visit she addressed a convention of the National Lawyer’s Guild, the University of California at San Francisco Law School, Liberty Hill Foundation of Los Angeles and roughly 12 other organizations on the West Coast.

Over the past year, Berda told a group of Jewish liberals, Israel has denied entry to 70 International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers.

“The official line is that these internationals who want to demonstrate against the wall are security threats who possibly aid terrorists,” Berda said. “In truth, the Sharon government sees ISM volunteers as media threats. Their presence and arrests or injuries (brought on by Israeli troops and settlers) wake up the general population to the wall.”

Pausing for emphasis, she continued: “It sounds nuts, but most Israelis have not been aware of the wall. The media didn’t cover it. Then, on Dec. 26, 2003, a young Israeli just released from the army, Gil Naamati, joined a protest at the wall and was shot by Israeli soldiers. Suddenly, the people realized something involving a wall was going on in the West Bank.”

Berda—who received her license to practice law in June 2003—has been handling many of the ISM cases, sometimes with the expert counsel of Tsemel.

As an intern with Israel’s pre-eminent human rights attorney, Avigdol Feldman, Berda worked on the parole hearing for Mordecai Vanunu. The whistle blower on Israel’s arsenal of nuclear bombs, she argued, no longer was a danger after 18 years in prison.

Berda’s activism began at Hebrew University, where she founded Mahapach, Israel’s largest grassroots movement geared to enable disempowered Jewish and Palestinian communities to unite. She wrote a column on politics and culture for Kol Hair (Haaretz’s Jerusalem newspaper) and is a commentator on Israel’s Channel 10 “Politics Plus.”

Her American mother, Berda explained, raised her from the age of 3 to believe that her opinions were as valid as anyone else’s. Her father, a Tunisian who was born in France and grew up in Casablanca, immigrated to Israel as a committed Zionist and socialist. “He had the notion Israel was one big kibbutz,” Berda said with a smile. “He is a political Jew but not a believer.”

Her parents succeeded in instilling individualism in all their children. Berda’s younger sister is a travel writer and was the runner-up in the Miss Israel 2000 contest. Another sister is an artist.

“I’m not a Zionist—which today means you want a theocracy run by Jews,” Berda said. “I’d like to live in a world where Jews are safe everywhere. But why is it Palestinians must speak Hebrew, but we Jews don’t know Arabic? I am seriously studying Arabic these days.”

The blonde barrister is proud of her paternal Sephardic heritage, and repeatedly insists that the Mizrahi/Sephardic legacy must become a part of Israeli identity.

“If we want to survive, we must realize we are in the Middle East,” she maintained. “Israeli politics are dominated by Western attitudes. Only now are we reclaiming our Eastern identity.”

Berda’s profile became too public with her Supreme Court defense of Ewa Jasciewicz, a correspondent for Britain’s Red Pepper magazine who was detained Aug. 31 when she arrived at Israel’s Ben—Gurion Airport.

The secret service insisted the evidence against Jasciewicz was classified. The case was critical in that it could have set a precedent for banning working journalists from entering the West Bank.

The District Court at first found the evidence against Jasciewicz insufficient. A second judge reversed the decision, however, stating that, while the journalist did not pose a security threat, her naiveté and ideological beliefs against racism left her open to manipulation by the Palestinians.

Jasciewicz argued that she was denied entry because in September 2002 she had witnessed a soldier kill 14-year-old Baha al-Bahesh and reported it.

Berda demanded to see the evidence against her client. The secret service agreed, but insisted its agents would testify only from behind a curtain.

“Can you imagine, they would only be interrogated behind a curtain?” she scoffed. “I notified the media of this ridiculous situation. The secret service protested that I was not being professional to notify the media. I let them know it wasn’t too mature to hide behind a curtain.”

At the last minute, Berda and Tsemel took the case to the Supreme Court, but withdrew it after the hearing because a precedent would be set if they lost, and Supreme Court decisions cannot be appealed.

In another case, Berda wrote the petition to overturn the ban against actor Mohammed Bakri’s documentary “Jenin, Jenin.” It screened only three times in Israel before the film board decreed it a piece of propaganda that would upset the Israelis and lead them to think their soldiers intentionally commit war crimes.

The Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 11 that banning the film infringed on freedom of expression.

During her visit to Los Angeles, Berda was barraged with questions when she was hosted at a dinner with members of Women in Black and the Palestine Aid Society.

It was refreshing to hear her views, they told her, but how many Israelis are like-minded?

“I’d guess that 10 percent of the population share my global left views,” Berda replied, “but I can assure you that 70 percent of Israelis want an end to the occupation.”

Asked if she put any credence into rumors of a pending civil war in Israel, she responded: “I’m cautious about entering into civil war conversations. There are so many factions. It might come from the settlers, who account for only 3 percent of the population, but they are vocal and rich. They get so much money from the Christian right, including the Feast of Tabernacles and the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

With regard to the right of return, Berda noted, “It’s easier to talk about Jerusalem than the right of return. Actually, it’s a no-go in Israeli society. Reparations receive a broader ear.”

As for divestment, Berda said she is all for boycotting military aid and corporations such as Caterpillar, General Electric, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “But if there were a total divestment,” she cautioned, “it is the poor and the workers who will be hurt.”

In her assessment, social services in Israel and the U.S. deteriorated after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“We had a good system of schools, medical care, public transportation,” she recalled. “These social laws were incredible, but they aren’t implemented because they aren’t funded. Now there is only lip service to these needs. Political discourse is diminished to 30-second sound bites. Those in charge are only interested in maintaining their power and money. Knesset members no longer observe the law, they’re not even there most of the time.”

“Many of my friends have gone to the other side for money,” she added. “Lawyers are making a lot of money off the occupation, such as charging $3,000 to obtain identity cards.”

Berda also is co-founder of the Legal Collective for the Protection of Political Activists and was collecting funds in the U.S. to help pay for the defense of Israeli activists, ISM volunteers and Palestinians.

Her first book of poetry, Planet Israel, will be published in the summer of 2005. A piece she wrote on Oct. 30 while in California reflects her concern for the contrast between the Arab and Israeli worlds:

I would always wake at four before
The dew.

The potent sound of the
Muezzin told of the dawn
Rising anew

All was right with the world
With three more hours to sleep
Until after the dew
And again the day awoke in Hebrew.

Pat McDonnell Twair is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles.


Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem
27-28 June 2019
Geneva, Palais des Nations
The International Conference on “Preserving the cultural and religious character of
Jerusalem” was convened in Geneva on 27 and 28 June 2019, under the auspices of the
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), in
collaboration with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Ahead of the Conference, on
26 June, the Committee held bilateral meetings with the President of the Human Rights Council
and Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Coly
Seck; the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet; and the President of
the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr. Peter Maurer.
The Conference brought together Palestinian, Israeli and international experts,
representatives of the diplomatic community and civil society to address the issue of Israel’s
policies and measures aimed at changing the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem, which
have significant political, legal and socio-economic ramifications, including the threat of
derailing prospects for a peaceful solution to the Question of Palestine. Participants sought to
discuss viable strategies to stem efforts to alter the demography and character of the City; and
ensure that all its Palestinian inhabitants enjoy their inalienable rights.
At the opening, Mr. Philippe Baudin-Auliac, Chief of Political Affairs and Partnership
Section in the office of the Director-General, delivered a statement on behalf of Mr. Michael
Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, representing Secretary-
General António Guterres. He recalled that the Question of Palestine has lost none of its urgency
and that any idea falling short of the parameters set out in relevant United Nations resolutions
will stand no chance of success. The statement quoted the Secretary-General, who reiterated that
there was “no plan B” to the two-State solution. Accordingly, Jerusalem was a key final status
issue and without a solution of its status, no Israeli-Palestinian agreement was possible. Both
parties were called to implement their bilateral agreements and avoid taking unilateral action that
undermined the two-State solution. Measures aimed at changing East Jerusalem’s demographic
composition, character and status were a violation of international law and of UN resolutions.
Moreover, the statement called for an “immediate halt to the Israeli authorities’ destruction of
Palestinian-owned property in East Jerusalem;” and on Israeli authorities to refrain from passing
legislation that redraws the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem.
In his opening statement the Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Cheikh Niang
(Senegal), said that “the international community’s pledges to the Palestinian people […] must
be respected,” in reference to the two-State solution based on the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem
as the capital of the State of Palestine and negotiated outcomes for all final status issues. He
warned against the expansion of settlements throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, slowly
“eating away” the land of the State of Palestine; and against formal annexation, in contravention
with Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). He called on all Member States to comply with
Security Council resolution 476 (1980) and to refrain from establishing diplomatic mission in
Jerusalem. He warned that the legislation redrawing the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem
risked excluding an estimated 120,000 Palestinians from the City and absorbing some 140,000
Jewish settlers into it. Most importantly, the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem must be
respected, and their preservation was the international community’s shared responsibility. The
Chair welcomed recent statements made in that regards by world leaders including the King of
Morocco, the King of Jordan and His Holiness Pope Francis.
The representative of the State of Palestine, Minister of Social Affairs and senior
member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Ahmad Majdalani
stated, in reference to the so-called economic workshop held in Bahrain on 26 June, that
Palestinians did not need an economic solution that would perpetuate occupation but their right
to self-determination. He claimed that the cause of Palestinians was not “for sale” and that the
workshop had been a “resounding failure” due to the absence of a legitimate Palestinian
representation. The political track should be the foundation of a solution while the economic
track would be its support. The State of Palestine believed, in his view, that security needs
should be addressed for both sides. Moreover, the security needs of an occupying party should
not be equated with those of the occupied one. Minister Majdalani also spoke about applying
international law without double standards. The State of Palestine believed that protection of the
peace process and stability of the region required “speedy measures”, including and foremost the
recognition of the State of Palestine, on the premise of saving the two-State solution. The
collapse of the latter would bear grave consequences for the entire region.
Assistant Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Samir
Bakr, delivered a message from the Secretary General of the organization reaffirming that all
measures by any party aimed at forcibly altering the legal, historical, cultural and political status
of occupied Jerusalem, including attempts to relocate diplomatic missions were “blatant
violations of international law.” The OIC believed that Israeli violations against Christians and
Muslim holy places in East Jerusalem were deliberate attempts to undermine the international
community’s efforts to engender inter-religious and inter-cultural tolerance, peaceful
cohabitation and coexistence among diverse civilizations. The OIC warned that such violations
would engulf a solvable political conflict into a global religious one with unpredictable
repercussions on peace and security in an already volatile region. He referred to the collective
punishment imposed by Israel through the holding of tax revenues and the exacerbation of the
financial and economic crisis endured by the Palestinian people. He underlined that addressing
the dire economic situation of Palestinians should not overshadow the core political issue, which
remains the Israeli occupation and its ramifications.
The representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Programme
Executive for the Middle East Carla Khijoyan spoke of the organization’s commitment to the
cause of Jerusalem. She underlined how the global Christian fellowship shared a profound
concern for the people living in Jerusalem, particularly the indigenous Jerusalemite Christians
whose future in their own City was impaired by the prevailing occupation, creeping annexation
and unfulfilled promises of the international community. The World Council of Churches’
position was that Jerusalem could not be the exclusive possession of one faith or people over and
against another. Jerusalem had to be the city of three religions and two peoples for it to be the
city of peace. These two peoples were the guardians of its sanctity and had the responsibility to
organize their lives in the City and welcome all pilgrims from all over the world. No country
could define unilaterally the status of Jerusalem and the solution should come about through
dialogue and negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
During the first panel, themed “The legal status of Jerusalem under international law
and in the context of a final peace settlement”, speakers described Israeli practices in East
Jerusalem aimed at weakening the Palestinian presence in the City. An Israeli lawyer discussed
the dichotomy between the taxes imposed by the municipality of Jerusalem on Palestinian
residents and the quality of services they receive in return. Tax collection was presented as part
of a most effective “bureaucracy occupation”. The system of residency permits and impediments
on freedom of movements were a means to separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied
territory, she added. Speaking on Israeli infrastructure projects and on expropriations and
demolitions of Palestinian-owned lands and structures, a Palestinian lawyer explained the
evolving Israeli jurisprudence and how the High Court of Justice increasingly ruled in favour of
expropriations. The Israeli Court based its rulings on laws dating back to the pre-1967 era such
as the Absentee’s Property Law (1950) and Law on Planning and Construction (1965).
The second panel, on “Challenges to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Jerusalem”,
both Israeli and Palestinian experts in the preservation of holy sites in Jerusalem explained how
Israel was consolidating its control over the City and its surroundings and described Israel’s
determination to alter Jerusalem’s character through the destruction of old buildings and the
construction of railroads and cable cars projects. Most importantly, since 1997 Israel
systematically denied access to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), mandated to inspect the conservation of Jerusalem. In addition, Israel
continued to ignore the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of
Armed Conflict. Despite the complex and challenging situation, Palestinian residents continued
to preserve the cultural history of their City with the restoration of more than 4,000 architectural
structures. Also, they continued to represent more than 40 per cent of the Old City’s population
after 50 years of Israeli occupation. The important housing crisis in the Old City meant that 80
per cent of Palestinian inhabitants, who used to be part of the middle class, are living presently
under the poverty line – they refused to relocate as a means of resistance against Israel’s attempts
to alter the identity of the City. A Jordanian representative spoke about the main restoration
phases of Islamic cultural sites as part of the Hashemite custodianship responsibilities.
The third panel on “Jerusalem: Holy to the three monotheistic religions” discussed how
lack of freedom of worship and freedom of movement violated the basic rights of most
Palestinians. Archaeological excavations affected the Christian and Muslim quarters, changing
the character of the City. One speaker presented an understanding of Zionism which required
Jews in the holy land to respect the rights of all religions and accommodate the sovereignty of
the Palestinian people. Another speaker explained the difficulty of a pro-Israel lobby in the
United States that had elevated Israel to a domestic issue, while the question of Palestine was
considered part of the foreign affairs agenda. During the discussion a majority of those present
agreed that the paradigm of “My place is my place and yours is yours, and we should not be
praying at each other’s places” as the underlying principle for the different religions to coexist
peacefully in Jerusalem.
During the final panel on “Ways forward to preserve the character of the Sacred City”, a
Palestinian representative detailed the actions taken by the State of Palestine before international
organisations and organs, including the United Nations General Assembly, the Human Rights
Council, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. One speaker
explained how Palestinians were trying to maintain and restore the city, while another suggested
organising a round table with Palestinian, Israeli and international experts to articulate principles
for the protection and preservation of Jerusalem’s historic and sacred sites. During the ensuing
discussion, it was advocated that the preservation of the legal status of Jerusalem should be
through supporting initiatives that called for an end of occupation, ensuring accountability for the
breaking of international law and by entrenching the status of Jerusalem in international law but
not through religious narratives.
In the closing session the Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Cheikh Niang
(Senegal) thanked the Palestinian, Israeli and international experts for having outlined, during
the two-day event, the challenges in preserving the cultural and religious heritage of Jerusalem
and for having put forward suggestions for the preservation, as an important step to secure the
two-State solution. The Chair said the Conference was the sixth consecutive on Jerusalem
organized by the Committee, in collaboration with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and
highlighted its opportune timing. Ambassador Riyad Mansour (Palestine) spoke of the
strategic partnership with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the World Council of
Churches for this event and encourage more partners to rally to the cause of Jerusalem.
Ambassador Mansour recalled the message sent by the Committee during last year’s Conference
in Rabat, and according to which, unilateral decisions to move embassies to Jerusalem were
considered null and void. This year’s Conference served to send a message on the Bahrain
economic workshop held the day before, and which sought to push forward “a dead initiative” of
economic ideas.
* * *
***Note: This Summary attempts to provide an overall picture of the deliberations of the
Conference. A detailed report, including specific questions that were addressed during the
interactive discussions, will be published by the Division for Palestinian Rights in due course.

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