The Old City of Jerusalem
Once Israel took over the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, including its Old City, Israeli leaders have set plans to decide on the fate of the Moghrabi Quarter that separated the Western (Wailing) Wall from the ‘Jewish Quarter,’ and the future of the Haram al-Sharif, the area where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located. A decision was made to raze the Moghrabi Quarter to the ground.
At 6pm on 10 June 1967, four hours after signing the ceasefire that ended the Six Day War, the destruction began. Within hours, the Quarter with its mosques, houses, architectural sites, the Moroccan heritage and the dreams of its inhabitants disappeared. This has resulted in the displacement of about 650 people and the murder of three women under the rubble; this was followed by a process of forcible ethnic displacement of Palestinian owners of houses in the ‘Jewish Quarter.’
By April, 1968, the Israeli authorities seized 30 hectares of the Old City land under the pretext of it being ‘public good’, and for the rebuilding of the ‘Jewish Quarter.’ To do so, Israel used a 1943 British Mandate law, in addition to the Israeli law on Absentee Property. Only Jewish settlers benefited from the enforcement of these laws. Palestinians are always treated as the excluded presence under the Israeli apartheid regime.
The cable car project in concert with the imminent forcible takeovers of Palestinian homes and the expansion of settler outposts in the areas surrounding the Old City, including Silwan, Al-Tur, Ras Al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah, will create a ‘settlement ring’ that tightens Israeli control over the Old City and change its Palestinian-Arab face – from a Palestinian inhabited area to Jewish-Israeli touristic sites and national parks.
Settlement expansion in the Old City never comes to a halt. Government-backed settler groups like Ateret Cohanim increase the number of Jewish settlers there through the gradual takeover of Palestinian homes, shops and quarters. Currently, there are settler outposts in many parts of the Old City. In addition to controlling the southern quarters of the Old City, including the area on which the Morocco Quarter was once based, settler outposts also exist in Bab Hatta, Al-Sa’diyya Quarter, Bab Al-Wad Road, Bab Al-Silsileh (the Chain Gate), Qubbat Al-Khalidya, among other areas.
Like other areas where Jewish settlers live in what were once Palestinian-owned homes, Palestinians of the Old City suffer the harassment of bigoted Jewish settlers almost on a daily basis. For instance, during 2018, UN OCHA has documented about 137 incidents of settler-related violence against Palestinians there. These assaults include casualties and property damage.
The Cable Car – An Apartheid Project
The cable car project, approved by the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Planning, Construction, Land and Housing, is aimed at connecting West Jerusalem and the Old City. While the Israeli authorities claim that the project seeks to find a relief to the traffic congestion through the possibility to ferry 3, 000 Israeli settlers and tourists per hour, using 73 carriages with three stops, the cable car is mainly a project to tighten Israeli control over Silwan and the Old City.
In addition to its apartheid and settler colonial purposes, the project is expected to make the lives of Palestinians unbearable because of the high levels of noise – yet another tool to create a coercive environment along with the violence of the Israeli occupation and settlers. It will also cause the destruction of the landscape and archaeological sites in the area and will further obstruct the view of the Gehenna valley and the Old City walls, which are classified as one of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger.