Jerusalem’s District Court will rule in the coming days whether the Jerusalem Municipality is obliged to translate into Arabic the planning documents concerning construction of a national park on land confiscated from the East Jerusalem villages of Issawiya and Mount of Olives.
Issawiya land slated for construction of an Israeli national park (Photo: Sergio Yahni, AIC)
At a hearing conducted at the District Court on Monday, legal representatives for the municipality were dismissive of a demand by the 50,000 East Jerusalem residents of Issawiya and Mount of Olives that plans which directly impact their villages and land be translated into Arabic. “This is how we always do things,” stated the Jerusalem representative, who added that translating the documents into Arabic is a costly and time-consuming procedure. Incredibly, the Jerusalem representatives added that since Issawiya and the Mount of Olives have commenced joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstrations against the national park, that the villages should manage a translation with their supporters.
“This is our land being confiscated,” said Mohammad Abu Humus of the Issawiya Follow-Up Committee, “and now Israel prevents us from understanding what will be done to us.”
Both Hebrew and Arabic are official languages of Israel and Israeli courts have upheld the state’s obligation to publish all directives, official ads and forms in Arabic, particularly in cities in which a substantial part of the population is Palestinian. The fundamental legal principle of equality before the law further necessitates equal access to information by all residents of Jerusalem, what to mention information that involves the confiscation of property from residents.
The Israeli government ordered the confiscation of 732 dunams of land from Issawiya and the Mount of Olives for construction of a “national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem”. Issawiya residents, from whom 50% of their lands have been confiscated since 1967 for construction of the French Hill settlement, say this additional confiscation will leave them no room for natural growth.
Israel’s use of national parks to push the Palestinian population out is not a new phenomenon. Already in 1986 residents of the South Hebron Hills village of Susiya were expelled from the caves in which they lived. In their place the Susiya National Park was established.
However, the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem, in the framework of which confiscation of Issawiya lands will be conducted, will impact a much larger population located throughout several East Jerusalem neighbourhoods.