Pax Christi, the International Catholic peace movement with more than 100 member
organisations active worldwide, urges the Human Rights Council’s attention for the numerous
and disastrous violations of human rights in Jerusalem. Recently, political tension in the city
has increased. Under increased international pressure on Israel to halt its policies to change
the permanent status of the city and that violate international law, Israel has reacted in
defiance and recently the city witnessed a new wave of violations of human rights and
international humanitarian law. Jerusalem, city of two peoples and three religions, is one of
the keys to a just and lasting peace. Due to its special status, violations in the city do not only
affect its residents but the global community at large.

Special status
In UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, the international community decided that
Jerusalem should have special status and a “corpus separatum” was designated for the whole
area of greater Jerusalem that would be under UN trusteeship. 1 However, after the war of
1948, Jerusalem became divided between the Western part that was controlled by Israel and
the Eastern part that was controlled by Jordan. In the war of 1967, Israel occupied the Arabic
Eastern part of Jerusalem, together with the rest of the Western side of the Jordan River.
Israel claimed Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel and annexed the city, contrary to
international law. The international community and Pax Christi International do not recognize
the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem. The international community considers East Jerusalem
occupied territory and therefore international humanitarian law is applicable in addition to
international human rights law.

UNGA Resolution 181 reflected the special circumstances in the city that are defined by two
dimensions, religious and political. On the political level, two nationalities, Israeli and
Palestinian, are present and have political rights in the city. On the religious level: three
religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have religious rights, and require from both political
entities to guarantee free access to the respective holy places, for all believers, local and
universal. Exclusivism from any side, political or religious, will harm the unique identity of the
city and the harmony among all those who are concerned, all its sons and daughters.

Jerusalem cannot be merely Israeli or merely Palestinian, neither merely Muslim or Christian
or Jewish. It should be shared by all.

Since 1967, Israel has built vast Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land,
including the Eastern part of Jerusalem. These settlements violate the Fourth Geneva
Convention that prohibits the Occupying Power to transfer its population into occupied

The Israeli E-1 plan that connects the very large Ma’aleh Adumim settlement to
Jerusalem cuts the West Bank in two and has completed the encirclement of East Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities restrict access to Jerusalem to Palestinians from the West Bank and the
movement between the north and south of the West Bank. The city is no longer the heart of
Palestinian political, economic and cultural life. In spite of international pressure, the
Jerusalem municipality has over the past months approved plans to construct new housing
units in Pisgat Zeev settlement and hotel rooms and housing units in East Talpiot.3

In recent months tensions have risen in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood where
settlers are engaged in a campaign to evict the Palestinian inhabitants. Israeli, Palestinian and
international peace activists demonstrating against this violence have been stopped and more
than 120 demonstrators have been arrested by the police. On 4 July 2010, a group of more
than 40 leading Israeli jurists, academics, authors, and politicians called in a letter upon the
Attorney General of Israel to investigate suspected misconduct on the part of the Jerusalem
police in Sheikh Jarrah. According to them, “The events of recent months in East Jerusalem
clearly reveal that the District Police has been acting illegally and in violation of decisions by
the courts when the latter are not to their liking. For example, despite repeated rulings by the
courts to the effect that the protest vigils in the neighbourhood are legal, in practice the
police close off the neighbourhood to activists from the left while at the same time allowing
right-wing activists to carry out provocative, and at times violent, political actions on a wide

The separation barrier
In its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled
that “The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied
Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem and its associated regime, and
are contrary to international law” and that it should be dismantled.5 Until today, construction
continues. The separation barrier divides people from their workplaces, farmhouses from
their land, and villages from sources of water. The wall has seriously harmed the Palestinian
economy and has de facto meant the annexation of more land, often the most fertile areas.
Religious places such as Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are separated from Jerusalem
by this wall. For Christians, the town of Bethlehem is inextricably linked to Jerusalem. Walls
now divide Jerusalem and separate it from its natural hinterland.

Home demolitions

The Israeli Jerusalem municipality rarely grants building permits to Palestinians and therefore
many houses are constructed without a license. Under this claim that they are unlicensed,
houses in East Jerusalem are being demolished. On Tuesday, July 13 the Jerusalem
Municipality demolished six structures in East Jerusalem: two houses that were under
construction and a warehouse in Issawiyya neighbourhood, two populated houses in Jabal
Mukabber neighbourhood and another house in Beit Hanina neighbourhood. It should be
marked that this is the first time in about eight months that the municipality has demolished
houses in East Jerusalem.6

Residency rights under threat

Since 1967, Palestinian Jerusalemites have the status of permanent foreign residents in the
city. This status can be revoked by the Israeli authorities under certain circumstances. Israeli
Haaretz newspaper recently described it as follows: “Citizens of Israel can leave the country
for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity. But
when it comes to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel applies draconian regulations
whose covert intent is to bring about the expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible from
their home city.”7 Palestinian Jerusalemites do not have political institutions to refer to since
Orient House was closed by the Israeli authorities. Israeli efforts to deny Palestinians political
presence in Jerusalem were again illustrated by the Israeli High Court decision in June 2010 to
revoke the residency rights of three Jerusalemite Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative
Council and to deport them.

Jerusalem has a special status, given its pluralistic and religious importance. The ongoing
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the city threaten its peaceful
future. To reach a peaceful future, the five components of the city (three religions and two
peoples) must be taken into consideration and given satisfaction, and due respect guaranteed
to national or religious differences.

Because of the universal significance of Jerusalem, the international community, including the
UN Human Rights Council, ought to be engaged in the stability and permanence of this status.
Jerusalem is too valuable to be solely dependent on municipal or national political authorities,
whoever they may be. Experience shows that an international guarantee is necessary.

Therefore its unique status that distinguishes it from all cities of the world needs to be

Pax Christi International calls on the Human Rights Council to:

  • Appoint a Special Rapporteur for Jerusalem. Given Jerusalem’s importance for
    Muslims, Jews and Christians around the world and the serious threat ongoing
    violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the city pose to the
    possibility of reaching a just and lasting peace for the city, it is important that a special
    monitoring mechanism for violations of international law is adopted. This could be a
    Special Rapporteur or another independent and public monitoring and reporting
  • To adopt a resolution calling on all members of the UN to guarantee that they will not
    contribute to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in East
    Jerusalem, e.g. through investment in companies involved in construction of
    settlements or demolition of houses in East Jerusalem.


1] Read United Nations Resolutions on Jerusalem nr. 181 of 1948; nr. 242 of 1967; and nr. 478 of 1980:

2] Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to Civilian Persons in Time of War, article

3] According to Ir Amim, “New comstruction in Pisgat Zeev and East Talpiot”, http://www.iramim. accessed 24 July 2010.

4] English translation of the letter, accessible on

5] Press release ICJ, 9 July 2004, http://www.icjcij.

6] According to Ir Amim, “House Demolitions”, http://www.iramim., accessed 24 July 2010.

7] “The Silent Expulsion” in Haaretz, 22 June 2010,


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