November 13, 2001

Amnesty Official Takes on Public Debate of Israel

Print More

Marty Rosenbluth, an Amnesty International American specialist on Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority presented his 1994 award-winning film, “Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone,” yesterday afternoon in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall.

Following the film, Rosenbluth took questions from over 100 students, faculty and local activists in attendance.

Rosenbluth lived in the West Bank from 1985 through 1992, during which time he worked with Palestinian human rights and trade union organizations. Throughout his visit, Rosenbluth witnessed numerous human rights violations committed by the Israeli government. He produced his film to “get the message out and inform people what was going on in the occupied territories,” he said.

“Jerusalem” exposes the plight of many Palestinian land and homeowners following the annexation of

Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians have had their homes and lands demolished by the Israeli government since the annexation, in an attempt to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem and make room for additional Israeli settlements.

“Palestinians often do not know when [their] houses will be demolished,” Rosenbluth said. Palestinians can not obtain building permits through the Israeli government and homes built without licenses are destroyed.

This leaves Palestinians the option of either selling their land to an Israeli or allowing it to sit undeveloped. “Is this justice? What kind of law is this?” a homeless Palestinian protested in the film. “The memories of my husband and my house are gone,” said Palestinian Na’meh Julani, as she stood in the rubble that once was her home.

Palestinians are extremely restricted as to where they can build outside of the West Bank. In fact, according to the film, Palestinians can only build on 14 percent of the land in East Jerusalem. This is mostly due to “green area” laws that reserve 40 percent of the land around Jerusalem for future Israeli building settlements. “Green area laws are a way of confiscating land without confiscating it,” Rosenbluth said.

Besides the destruction of houses, the Israeli government has also begun destroying Palestinian land. Thousands of olive trees have been bulldozed in order to make room for the construction of an Israeli superhighway that will serve Israeli settlers in occupied territories.

“Jerusalem” asserted that “Palestinians are systematically being denied entrance to the city.” Palestinians require extensive permits and documentation in order to enter Jerusalem through checkpoints. This has frustrated many Palestinians in that they “can see Jerusalem but many can not enter.”

Finally, the film discussed the difficulty of family reunification. Due to regulations, many Palestinian married couples are forced apart because Israeli laws do not allow for couples to be reunited following marriage when one spouse lives in Jerusalem and the other in the West Bank. The reunification process for couples is tedious and often results in denial of visits or limited visiting time.

Following the film, Rosenbluth remarked that his video is “more current now than when we made it.”

Fielding questions from the audience, Rosenbluth noted that “we need to tell both Palestinians and Israelis to work towards eliminating human rights atrocities.” The most important thing we can do is “ask that universal standards be applied universally,” he said.

“You can not justify political violence to support your ends,” Rosenbluth remarked.

Rosenbluth further suggested that audience members “write to the U.S. government that has consistently condemned Israeli human rights violations in which American weapons have been used.”

“Education is also very important,” Rosenbluth said. “In the United States, these issues are not really talked about,” he added.

Rosenbluth suggested that we have forums and debates over this issue in order to “listen to each other and hear what each other are saying,” he said.

“It’s a slow process,” Rosenbluth concluded. “You have to get involved, you have to take responsibility, you have to start talking, or we will get nowhere.”

Archived article by Marc Zawel