Israel: Annexation of East Jerusalem Land Under Secret Law?

Press release
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Paris- January 26, 2005 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is dismayed by a new Israeli ruling, according to which Palestinian owners of land located in East Jerusalem have lost all rights to their holdings.

The Israeli Cabinet Minister adopted last July 8, 2004, unpublished resolutions, which put in force a previous decision made by the government to expand the powers of the Custodian of Absentee property, known as “The Absentee Property Law”, enacted in 1950.

According to this law, the property of those considered as “absentee”, defined as “ a person who at any time in the period between November 1947 and September 1948, was in any part of the land of Israel” that is outside the territory of Israel, i.e the Palestinians who became refugees either in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip or in other Arab States, was transferred to the State of Israel.

After Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, the law was changed and it was been decided that it would not apply to residents of East Jerusalem, even though they were considered absentees; thus in practice,

Palestinians holding land located within the boundaries of Jerusalem continued to enjoy the ownership of their property.

By taking this decision, particularly when it was taken in secret, to expand the application of the Absentee law, during a cabinet meeting last summer, the Government of Israel confiscated the property of thousands of residents and land owners in East Jerusalem, without notifying them that they had lost their land.

The FIDH strongly condemns this new confiscation of Palestinian land which renders effective the annexation of this part of the Palestinian territory;

The FIDH recalls that this decision not only violates the International law but is also contrary to the letter and spirit of the Road Map;

The FIDH notes that this decision to expand the expropriation of properties located in East Jerusalem was taken by the Israeli Government on July 8, 2004, the day before the International Court of Justice issued its Advisory Opinion condemning the construction of the wall in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”. Furthermore, the decision was kept secret for several months until the information was revealed by an article published in Haaretz newspaper on Friday the 21st of January, 2005.

Therefore, the FIDH believes that the coincidence between the timing of the decision and both the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the continued construction of the wall confirms that the Israeli Government was prepared not to conform to any recommendations made by the supreme international judicial body, but rather took new steps to allow the expropriation of thousands of donums of Palestinian land in order to build new settlements and to continue the construction of the separation wall around Jerusalem, which, once again, constitutes a violation of the international law of human rights and a grave breach of International Humanitarian Law by the Occupying power.

The FIDH urges the Israeli Authorities:

1) To withdraw their decision to apply the Absentee law to the Palestinian property in East Jerusalem and return the land to its owners

2) To stop the expansion of the existing settlements and the building of new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

3) To stop immediately the construction of the separation wall and conform to the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion issued on July 9, 2004 which stated that the construction of the wall on Palestinian land was illegal.

The FIDH urges the international Community, and in particular the Quartet members to take up the issue and to abide by its obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by Israel.

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