A top Palestinian official for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, made a public statement on Saturday condemning Israel for the "systematic plunder of occupied Jerusalem." The statement follows the Jerusalem Municipality's recent announcement, where they declared that they would be demolishing some 200 Palestinian-owned industrial buildings in the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of east Jerusalem in order to create what they intend to call "Silicon Wadi." Tenants of these industrial buildings will be evicted by the Jerusalem Municipality before construction begins.
“Israel’s focused and systematic plunder of occupied Jerusalem persists unabated, in violation of international law and proclaimed positions of states worldwide," said Ashrawi. "In addition to a sharp increase in home demolitions and the displacement of many families in Jerusalem during the COVID-19 pandemic, the illegal Israeli 'municipality’ has unveiled its plans to demolish decades-old Palestinian industrial area in the Wadi Al-Joz neighborhood and replace it with a gentrified settler neighborhood with the flashy name of "Silicon Wadi.'"The municipality project includes plans to widen industrial, commercial and hospitality areas in east Jerusalem. In a few years time, about 200,000 square meters of industrial zones will be built, with an emphasis on hi-tech, along with 50,000 sq.m. of commercial space and another 50,000 sq.m. for hospitality services."This is an outrageous and criminal plan that will devastate 200 Palestinian businesses in the area and deprive hundreds of Palestinians of their sources of livelihood. It is a massive scheme that brings Israel’s displacement and replacement policy against the Palestinian people into sharp focus, especially in Jerusalem," Ashrawi added. "In this connection, we warn companies that they will be held legally and financially responsible for any direct or indirect engagement in this illegal enterprise, in line with international law."The "Silicon Wadi" project joins the government's five-year plan to reduce socio-economic gaps and for economic development in east Jerusalem.A statement by the Jerusalem Municipality added that this is one of the "most complicated" projects carried out in Jerusalem in the past few decades, with the aim of "bringing about change at both the municipal and national levels.""In addition to the physical mass displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem, Israel continues to enact its racist demographic engineering tactics. Namely, Israel has renewed its ban of Palestinian family reunification for the eighteenth year," Ashrawi continued. "This policy tears thousands of Palestinian families apart and imposes the impossible choice on thousands of Jerusalemites of choosing between their families and their right to live in their ancestral hometown, Jerusalem."The project aims to create about 10,000 quality employment places in east Jerusalem; strengthen trust between the population of east Jerusalem and the municipality and government; employ more east Jerusalem women; and strengthen the status of the Israeli curriculum in east Jerusalem as a key to higher education and employment, according to the municipality."These concerted illegal Israeli actions in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank continue because the international community has yet to muster the moral and political courage to make Israel bear the consequences of such grave violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute," Ashrawi explained. In addition to Ashrawi, Kamal Obeidat, chairman of east Jerusalem’s Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry also condemned the move, calling it a “racist order” to destroy the only Palestinian industrial area in east Jerusalem in order to build Israeli structures, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency. He said that it was made by recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Committee and will demolish car repair shops, restaurants and other facilities.A spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality told The Jerusalem Post that business owners in the area had agreed to the plan and would be compensated."This requires the ICC to act swiftly and to start its investigation to apply its mandate to curb Israeli violations and to bring Israel to compliance with law. Without accountability, Israel will continue to implement its colonial project of creating 'Greater Israel' on all of historical Palestine, trampling on the universal values of human rights and condemning the region to endless conflict and strife."Tzvi Joffre and Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.