Ir Amim: Mid-Year Accomplishments

August 2016
This year Ir Amim made new inroads toward its ultimate goal of rerouting the nationalist Jerusalem Day Flag Parade. Traditionally, in order to enable this volatile celebration of the "reunification" of Jerusalem, Palestinians are advised by the Police to shutter their shops and stay inside an hour before until an hour after the parade.  Ir Amim conducted a robust public campaign, launched by a survey documenting that the majority of Jerusalemites opposed routing the march through the Muslim Quarter on the eve of Ramadan; that survey and multiple videos and graphics on its special mini-site activated roughly 1,500 Israelis to lobby the authorities to reroute the parade. As a result, the Police imposed an earlier closure on entry to the Muslim Quarter, reinforced by the High Court's response to Ir Amim’s urgent petition, in which it mandated a time for marchers to be out of the Muslim Quarter.  Though the Court stopped short of rerouting the parade, Ir Amim’s comprehensive strategy ensured that it passed without event and that Muslim worshippers were able to welcome Ramadan in peace. 
Despite intensive Temple movement activity – more than 1,000 Jewish visitors entered the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif (about 200/day) during the week of Pesach and at least 40 activists committed to overturning the status quo on the Mount were removed by the Police after attempting to pray – the Compound remained calm.  The pivotal factor: security forces refrained from imposing sweeping age or gender based collective restrictions on Muslim worshippers' access to the Compound.  We credit Ir Amim’s concerted campaign to expose the direct relationship between collective restrictions and the escalation of tensions on the Mount/Haram, and advocate against their imposition, as playing a major role in averting the violence repeatedly witnessed over the last several years.
The recent uptick in private settlement activity around the Historic Basin – including a major settler campaign to evict 100 families from the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan – has become a priority on Ir Amim’s agenda.  We are conducting intensive advocacy to elevate the issue in the local and international discourse, stressing the importance of treating this “silent” settlement activity with the same degree of vigilance as large scale Israeli settlement. Not only do these activities accelerate Palestinian displacement from the city; the consolidation of Israeli control around the Historic Basin violates opening conditions for a political resolution on the status of Jerusalem.  Ir Amim’s advocacy recently resulted in the British Foreign Office condemning the mounting trend, hopefully spurring a wider international response.  In addition, several partners in the City Council have submitted an appeal against the recent permit approval of a new 4-story settler building based on regulatory violations uncovered by Ir Amim’s monitoring. 
Ir Amim’s latest policy paper, Jerusalem: Present Home and Future Capital of Two Peoples, continues to gain wide exposure both locally and internationally. The paper promotes concrete, proactive ideas for managing our city – now and toward a political resolution – and restoring its stability while at the same time demonstrating the political hazards of recently promoted unilateral proposals that would detach most of Palestinian Jerusalem from the city but for areas around the Historic Basin. Ir Amim has played a moderating influence in that sphere as well: a widely respected body of former high ranking military and security figures changed its stance after intensive consultation with policy makers, experts and opinion shapers, including Ir Amim.  
Ir Amim celebrated a new milestone, wrapping up its 5th course on East Jerusalem for young West Jerusalem based leaders and activists, this time with representatives from the progressive Haredi community, a new audience that has taken a long and concerted effort to cultivate.  Feedback from an evaluation survey was tremendously encouraging, including responses demonstrating that acquiring a professional understanding of developments in East Jerusalem helped to reformulate positions on the city, common interests between Haredim and Palestinians and the idea that observing and becoming familiar with the suffering of Palestinians in East Jerusalem is an incentive to action.
After a two and a half-year campaign spearheaded by Ir Amim and local residents, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services opened Kufr Aqab’s first fire station, located near the Qalandia checkpoint. The station, equipped with two fire trucks, is the first to be opened in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Separation Barrier. Since the Barrier was built over a decade ago, the city has all but completely abdicated its responsibility for serving the neighborhoods beyond the Barrier, including ensuring access to urgent rescue services. In addition to the fire station, Ir Amim has also helped facilitate placement of a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance to service the area, and led a successful petition together with Kufr Aqab residents to improve road maintenance and infrastructure.