Friday, February 17, 2012

On Israeli closures of Palestinian Institutions in East Jerusalem

In the past year or so Israel has shut down a dozen some institutions in East Jerusalem, including parks, NGOs, research centers and other facets of civil society.  The purported reason is that they accept money from Hamas.

The battle continues to keep these NGOs open, as the Meyzan Institute for Human Rights in Nazareth has just filed a petition to the high court in Israel to keep the "Institute for the Development of Jerusalem," which was closed down in October 2011.

I have to say, Israel is really shooting itself in the foot here by shutting down the apparati, the foundations, the skeleton, the basis of democratic and pluralistic society in East Jerusalem.  Shutting down these institutions means fewer young people will have opportunities to work in NGO work in the city. In feeds into anti-Israel propaganda, by providing groups like HAMAS with precisely the ammunition they need to convince youngsters that Israel seeks to push Arabs out of Jerusalem and control everything for themselves.  Indirectly, the Israeli injunction cuts more Arab East Jerusalemites off from important public services.  

Let's assume they are receiving Hamas money for the money.  The idea that Israel can somehow defeat Hamas by shutting down these NGO is so shockingly stupid that you have to wonder what Israel policy makers could possibly thinking.  To "defeat Hamas"?  Well, it is precisely BECAUSE of this NGO, and many others like it, that Palestinians in East Jerusalem have forums and institutions to advocate for human rights, reject of violence, demand the fair application of international law and promote an agenda that embraces non-violent resistance. 

In fact, if Israel ACTUALLY wanted to sideline Hamas, it would provide funding for dozens more NGOs in East Jerusalem, rather than shutting down the few that exist.  This would ultimately lay the foreground of a civil, democratic society, committed to peaceful, non-violent engagement with the Jerusalem municipality and Israel.  

Alas, Israelis fails to realize what is in their own best interest.  Perhaps Israeli politicians' real incentive here has nothing to do with Hamas and everything to do with pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.  After all, Abbas just rejected meetings with Netanyahu recently because Jerusalem's status as eternally belonging to Israel was basically made a precondition for talks by Netanyahu.  This is one more tragic stone that Israel is building of its own grave.  

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