Jerusalem blog - Day 3
In our meetings today with President Abbas and with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, they tell us of the initiative of going to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital
Palestinians see this as a natural step following a year in which a growing number of individuals countries have recognised the Palestinian state.
In the absence of successful negotiations or any sense that the Israeli governement is serious about wanting to find a solution, Palestinians are pursuing this diplomatic strategy through the multilateral UN process.
It is not sure yet exactly what form this approach to the UN will take but thins may be clearer after a number of meetings this week.
For us today's programme of meetings in Palestine began with an international conference in Jerusalem, jointly organised by our group in the European Parliament entitled ' Towards a Palestinian State along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital'
Time and again in the conference, speakers highlighted how all Israeli policies on Jerusalem are now directed towards cancelling and minimising the presence of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The 181km of the cement separation wall isolates Palestinians from each other, education policies aim to write Palestinian history out of the curriculum, and planning laws and residency laws are brought to play to push Palestinians outside of the city.
Israelis are given incentives to come and live in Jerusalem, thus growing the Israeli population, but the growth or even the maintenance of the Palestinian population is stunted as Palestinians are constantly refused planning permission to enlarge their homes or to build new ones.
Palestinians therefore face two harsh options. They can stay in Jerusalem,
build homes without planning permission and face the prospect of demolition, or they can go to live outside Jerusalem and lose their right to travel back to Jerusalem without a special visa.
Residency status is a huge question for Jerusalemites. The Secretary General of Trocaire's sister organisation in Jerusalem tells me she can trace her family back Jerusalem to the 12th century. But she is a classified as a 'resident' of Jerusalem not a 'citizen'. Yet any Jewish person who comes to live in Jerusalem today from anywhere in the world will be classified as a 'citizen'.
The difference in the rights of 'citizen' and 'residents' is very stark. A lot of people tell us stories of having to go through a difficult visa process, just in order for man and wife to be together in Jerusalem.
We later get a sense first hand of what this means to them when we see the checkpoints through which they have to pass even to go to Ramallah which is less than 20 minutes drive up the road otherwise.
Another common theme throughout the day is the fact that European governments were content to let Israel dictate which EU citizens could get on a plane in a European city and moreover that EU governments didn't even condemn the arrest and deportation of the EU citizens who did make it through to Israel and Palestine in order to protest peacefully or to monitor the situation with regard to human rights.
What strikes me most when I come here and strikes me again today is the resilience and dignity of the Palestinians in the face of all of the pressure and oppression
Today we had lunch with Hanan Ashrawi, Mustafa Barghouti and a number of other PLC members, we had dinner in a local community where they laid on a meal, a concert and a display of traditional dancing and we met with Prime Minister Fayyad and President Abbas, as well having as our conference opened by the Governor of Jerusalem.
Throughout the day we meet with people who in spite of everything can still keep up their spirit and their hopes, and who have maintained their love of life and their sense of humour as well as an ability to make welcome once again those of us who have come from Europe to talk with them in spite of their overwhelming sense that the international community does not play fair with them or protect them in the way that international law dictates that it should.
And finally in respect of the resilience and dignity of the Palestinian people, our delegations lays a wreath at the grave of former President Yasser Arafat.