Central Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP Hugh O'Donnell is currently in Jerusalem as part of a delegation led by Gerald Kaufman MP. Here he writes about what he's seen today.
So we come to the end of day one here in Jerusalem, and what an eye opener it has been!! Of course most people know about the issues in Gaza, BUT THE REALITIES OF DAY TO DAY LIFE IN AN OCCUPIED CITY LIKE JERUSALEM ALL TOO OFTEN PASS US BY. As well as the usual round of handshakes, speeches and rhetoric we actually had the chance to see the more subtle acts of occupation in the city itself and they are pretty scary.
I had wrongly assumed that the settlements were taking place in rural or semi rural communities but what's happening here in East Jerusalem is much more deadly than that and often means trying to change the demographic of the city by illegally taking over or demolishing houses owned and occupied by Palestinians, often for hundreds of years. The best example is in Benton where they are attempting to demolish 88 homes of 123 families comprising almost 1500 souls and replacing them with apartments for less that half that number of Israelis, all to undermine the Clinton protocol to have the different communities be governed by their own choice of politicians-change the demgraphic and you change the power base. Gerrymandering of the worst kind in my view.
I also discovered that the Palestinians are 'residents' and not citizens, despite paying their taxes and obeying the laws of Israel, if they leave to go to work somewhere else they can be refused the right to come back to their own homes. Many families are split up this way, and of course when they go the houses are occupied by Israeli settlers and.....well you get the picture!!!
This is just a shocking state of affairs and an outrageous way for a so called liberal democracy to behave-it's cleansing by any definition you like.