The Center for Regional Studies (CIRS) at Qatar Foundation’s Georgetown University – School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) recently hosted Micha Kurz at their Monthly Dialogue Series public lecture, where he delivered a lecture titled ‘Mobilizing Communities in Occupied Jerusalem’.
Kurz, a former IDF soldier who is the co founder of Grassroots Jerusalem, an online platform that connects urban and human rights activists and organizations in Jerusalem, discussed the current demographic situation of this ancient city in terms of recent political events stemming from the creation of Israel. He then detailed the socio economic impact on Palestinian communities in light of the ongoing struggle to establish a majority benchmark of Jewish citizens.
“When we discuss Jerusalem or Palestine, we don’t often use terms like employment, dropout rates, or what the Occupation really means. So I want to focus on that so we can understand what we are talking about,” he said.
Kurz demonstrated how the strategy of instituting checkpoints, then building a wall, have effectively cut off the old inner city, and economic center, from the suburbs, where displaced Jerusalemite Palestinians had been relocated.
Combined with Israeli law that punishes Jerusalem’s Palestinian citizens by revoking their residency permit if they are gone for more than three years, the impact on Palestinians has been massive, he explained.
“Students can’t go to school, consumers can’t do business, and over 5,000 Palestinian businesses have shut down. Unemployment is at its peak - a 75 percent poverty rate in East Jerusalem alone.”
Kurz concluded that it is imperative the central business district be opened back up to the Palestinian people, saying “This all has to do with politics. While everyone discusses the two state solution, peace, dialogue, and coexistence, what we should be talking about is human rights and justice.”
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