Israel is using tourism and infrastructure projects in order to legitimize its illegal Jewish-only settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank and erase the Palestinian culture, warned an EU report leaked to The Guardian Thursday.
National parks and tourism projects being built by the Israeli government and private settler-run organizations have been spreading throughout occupied East Jerusalem which are being used “as a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimize and expand settlements,” the report said according to the British newspaper.
More than 130 demolitions took place in East Jerusalem, while hundreds of Palestinians were displaced last year, according to the report written by heads of EU missions in the city.
Israel has also been using a strict permit system to marginalize Palestinian residents in Jerusalem which means “the city has largely ceased to be the Palestinian economic, urban and commercial centre it used to be.”
The report identified a government-sponsored archeological park that has been constructed on the urban Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, providing tours in the ancient ruins in East Jerusalem, which is internationally-recognized as an occupied territory the Palestinians hope to be the capital of their future sovereign state. Silwan has 10,000 Palestinian residents.
“East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods,” the document warned adding that park is operated by a local settler group representing about 450 settlers and “promoting an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings.”
Another project identified by the EU officials is a cable car project that was approved by the Israeli government in May last year, which would connect West Jerusalem to the Palestinian Old City.
The document called the project, expected to be finished and operational in 2020, “highly controversial” as it will serve to consolidate the idea of “touristic settlements” with a Jewish-only narrative.
“Critics have described the project as turning the World Heritage site of Jerusalem into a commercial theme park while local Palestinian residents are absent from the narrative being promoted to the visitors,” it added.
Also such projects would lead to further insecurity and conflict within the city as such sites are either significantly close or actually within the complex of Al-aqsa mosque, considered holy by the majority Muslim Palestinian residents of the city.
The bleak report comes as the European Union allocated more than US$17 million to support Palestinian projects in occupied East Jerusalem, a 40 percent increase from the previous amount, the Palestinian state-run Wafa agency reported Thursday.
The projects are intended to preserve “the Palestinian existence and identity in the holy city,” Wafa quoted EU officials as saying.
The news comes as the West Bank and Gaza have been rocked with unrest over the past two months over the Dec. 6 decision of the U.S. administration to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, breaking with international accords stating that the fate of the city should be decided as part of a final peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.