The Israeli Association for Civil Rights stated in a report published on Sunday that 84% percent of the Palestinian children of Jerusalem live below the poverty line.’Jerusalem Day’ 2012 was the 45th anniversary of the annexation of East Jerusalem. It was marked by ceremonial marches by Israelis in various parts of Jerusalem including the Old City. On the same day the Organization for Civil Rights, in a new report, painted a tragic image of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.
According to the report the city’s Palestinians, who total approximately 360,000 and 38% of the total population of the city, showed the highest levels of deprivation since the occupation of the city in 1967.
In 2011, the most recent year, 84% of Palestinian children and 86% of the total population lived below the poverty line. The figures for 2006 were 73% of children and 64% of the total population of East Jerusalem.
The report shows that the main reason for the high level of poverty is the high levels of unemployment among the residents of East Jerusalem, where the rate was 40% among men and 85% among Palestinian women.
The report also states that the neglect of the Israeli authorities is a key element in the sharp rise in the proportion of poverty in the East of the city. For example, there is only one industrial area in East Jerusalem. It is in the al-Joz valley and even that is at risk of disappearing due to the expansion of the main street leading to the Western Wall and the sites surrounding the Old City.
A further reason for the increased level of poverty is the Separation Wall which cuts East Jerusalem off from its hinterland of West Bank villages. In the words of the Report, ‘We have turned the city of Jerusalem from its central location which provided services and business to the population of local West Bank villages, into an isolated city which is inaccessible to the population of these villages.’ For instance, those from all over the West Bank who used to go to Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque would also take the opportunity to shop. They can no longer go there.
Another explanation of poverty in the city is the collapse of the education system. There is a lack of money, and a serious shortage of classrooms which results in overcrowding. This results in about 40% of students not completing twelfth grade and so very few apply for the Israeli matriculation exam. Consequently the majority of students study according to the Palestinian curriculum, few go on to further education, and few young Palestinians are engaged in the Jerusalem labour market.
The report refers also to the high tension between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem. This constitutes a barrier to Palestinians finding jobs in the West of the city.
The report noted that the great needs of the Palestinian population in the East Jerusalem received no response from the Israeli authorities. For instance, there are only three offices for social affairs and aid in East Jerusalem compared to 18 offices in the West of the city.