Quick Facts: East Jerusalem

June 16, 2024
Quick Facts: East Jerusalem

A boy walking in front of the ruins of a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem destroyed by Israel because it was built without a permit, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

Legal status of Jerusalem

  • Prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948, Jerusalem was a unified city in Palestine home to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan calling for the establishment of separate Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, Jerusalem was to be governed by a special international regime administered by the UN. After Israel was established on 78% of Palestine and the mass expulsion of a majority of indigenous Palestinians, the western part of Jerusalem came under Israeli control and the eastern part under Jordanian control.
  • Since 1948, the United Nations and international community have not recognized the sovereignty of any country to any part of Jerusalem in the absence of a final peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.
  • Since 1967, the eastern portion of Jerusalem, including the Old City and its historic Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holy sites, has been under Israeli military occupation and is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law, not legally part of Israel, and one territorial unit with the West Bank.
  • After it occupied East Jerusalem, Israel massively expanded the municipal boundaries of the city into the West Bank and annexed it in a move that has been repeatedly rejected as illegal by the UN, including several Security Council resolutions.

Israeli policy in occupied East Jerusalem

  • Since militarily occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has worked to restrict and reduce its Palestinian population while increasing its Jewish population, part of a plan to cement control over the entire city. As noted by the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report: “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.” Or, as noted by B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: “[Israel] has treated the Palestinian residents of the city as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area.”
  • This process of reducing the Palestinian population and increasing the Jewish population, called “Judaization,” involves:
    • Restricting the ability of Palestinians to build or expand homes in East Jerusalem by making it almost impossible for them to obtain construction permits.
    • Destroying Palestinian homes, businesses, and other structures that are built without permits.
    • Aggressively encouraging Jewish settlers to move to East Jerusalem in violation of international law, often forcing Palestinians out their homes in the process.
    • Building a wall on occupied Palestinian land, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in a 2004 advisory opinion, that cuts Palestinian neighborhoods off from the city and severs it geographically from the West Bank.
    • Systematically discriminating against Palestinian neighborhoods when it comes to municipal planning and the allocation of funding and services, starving them of resources.
    • Revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians who stay outside the city for seven years or more to study or work, or who are unable to prove that their “center of life” is Jerusalem.

Israel’s denial of Palestinian freedom of worship in East Jerusalem

  • Israel frequently denies Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem access to the venerated Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex and Christian holy sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and denies millions of Muslim and Christian Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, occupied Gaza, and the diaspora, the right to visit East Jerusalem and worship at its holy sites.

Messianic Jewish extremists working to take over the Noble Sanctuary

  • Since the early 2000s, a once marginal group of messianic Jewish extremists has been growing and become increasingly mainstream in Israel, ramping up tensions in East Jerusalem and beyond with their encroachments in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex, the third holiest site in Islam, which they want to take control of and replace with a Jewish temple. With funding and other support from Israel’s government, the so-called Temple Mount movement threatens to ignite a major religious conflagration.

East Jerusalem: By the numbers (2024)

More than 350,000: Number of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

Approximately 230,000: Number of Israeli settlers living illegally in 14 settlements on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.

35%: Amount of East Jerusalem land covered by illegal Israeli settlements

13%: Amount of East Jerusalem land that Israel has zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up.

More than 17,200 acres: Amount of Palestinian land in the West Bank illegally annexed to East Jerusalem by Israel after it occupied the city in 1967.

More than 14,600: Number of Palestinian Jerusalemites who have had their residency rights revoked by Israel since 1967.

Approximately 1,000: Number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem threatened with being forced out of their homes by settler organizations and Israel’s government. 

Approximately 5,000: Number of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israel in East Jerusalem since 1967 because they were built without construction permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

At least 33%: Percentage of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem built without construction permits from Israel and threatened with destruction as a result.  

More than 5 million: Number of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza who are not allowed to enter Jerusalem without difficult to obtain permission from Israel’s occupying army.

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