While President Clinton may issue an executive order in the coming days to exempt the State Department from sanctions for failing to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US has edged closer to recognizing Israeli control with the opening of a second Ambassadorial residence in the condominium wing of the Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem. Officially, the US has denied that the new residence is related to a change in its policy on Jerusalem, but the US Ambassador, Edward Walker, has already met with several US Jewish groups at the residence and there are signals from the Clinton Administration and Congress, including comments from US officials requesting anonymity, that more official visits may follow.
As Palestinian Human Rights organizations, we find any attempt to transfer the US Embassy or its functions to Jerusalem, whether unofficial or official, defacto or dejure, to be extremely provocative and unnecessary. It implies recognition of Israeli sovereignty, acceptance of Israeli measures, which have forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of the city over the past fifty years, and clearly prejudices any settlement on the status of Jerusalem.
The recently completed Hilton, moreover, is located in the formerly mixed neighborhood of Mamillah, now renamed the “Village of David.” This area, along with other Palestinian neighborhoods west of the Old City, was depopulated by Israeli forces in 1948. Palestinian refugees from these areas have been prevented from returning to their homes and lands, which were subsequently expropriated by the Israeli government. The proposed site for the construction of a US Embassy in Jerusalem is also known to be land expropriated from Palestinian refugees.
While the Clinton Administration has taken a clear stand against ethnic cleansing in Kosova and for the right of Kosovar refugees to return to their homes and lands, it is inconceivable that the US government would consider any move which would grant legitimacy to policies of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. These policies include the expropriation of Palestinian land, construction of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land, revocation of residency rights in the city, building restrictions, house demolitions, closure of Palestinian institutions and the 6 year old military closure which prevents West Bank/Gaza Palestinians from entering Jerusalem.
We, as Palestinian Human Rights organizations, demand that the US terminate all Embassy functions in Jerusalem and close the Ambassadorial residence in Jerusalem. There is no legitimate reason for these functions to be transferred to Jerusalem. We welcome US involvement in the negotiations but are outraged at unilateral initiatives that impair Palestinian national rights and prospects for peaceful co-existence in the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city of Jerusalem.
Lobby for Human Rights in Jerusalem
Addameer, BADIL Resource Center, Citizen’s Rights Center – Arab Thought Forum, Freedom’s Defense Center, Jerusalem Center for Women, Palestine Human Rights Information Center, Women’s Affairs Technical Committee, Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling.