75% of east Jerusalem residents live below poverty line, says NGO

Mayor Barkat says new municipal budget will address foundering conditions in city’s Arab communities.

East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, October 21 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, October 21
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A report released Tuesday by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel states that the poverty level among Arab residents of east Jerusalem is presently a whopping 75 percent.
The 21-page report, titled “East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures 2015,” presents a troubling overview of Arab life in the capital, representing 37% of Jerusalem’s population.
According to the report, 33% of Arab students in east Jerusalem do not graduate from high school; only 64% of Arab households are properly connected to the city’s water infrastructure; only 7% of postal workers operating in Jerusalem provide services to Arab neighborhoods; and 39% of houses are built without permits.
The report added that urban development in the eastern portion of the capital is minimal, resulting in large-scale road and sidewalk deterioration.
Additionally, it stated that during rioting in Arab neighborhoods last summer, five children lost sight in one eye due to sponge-tipped bullets, including one six-year-old.
In a statement, ACRI said the report is indicative of “the severe violations of human rights suffered by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.”
The facts in this report are based on the official figures of the Jerusalem Municipality, Israel Police, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and other official agencies, ACRI claimed.
“Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Municipality published a five-year plan to promote economic growth for the city,” the statement continued. “During this period, will the authorities change their approach and invest the necessary efforts and resources into east Jerusalem, so that by 2020 we can finally publish a more positive set of statistics?” While the municipality did not provide comment on Wednesday regarding ACRI’s claims, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has repeatedly stated that the capital’s NIS 6.7 billion budget will be spent “honestly and fairly” among all the city’s neighborhoods.
During a press conference at city hall earlier this year, Barkat said that an additional NIS 300m. of outside capital has been allocated specifically for east Jerusalem.
Of that, he said NIS 100m. will go toward security, while NIS 200m. will be allocated to “infrastructure and catch-up in education and job creation.”
An additional NIS 350m. is earmarked for “boosting culture and tourism” there, he added.
Moreover, Barkat said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has allocated an additional NIS 770m. to the municipality’s coffers to help improve living conditions in east Jerusalem.
“A majority of that money we’ve solicited, convinced the national government that we need to invest in east Jerusalem,” he said.
Ultimately, Barkat claimed that increased municipal spending will be felt throughout the capital.
“All residents of the city of Jerusalem will feel the growth of the budget,” he claimed. “So I’m very optimistic and I believe Jerusalem has a bright future ahead of it.”
The mayor will present his five-year master plan for investment in the city later this month.