Former Israeli Army General Shlomo Lahat, who was Governor of Eastern Jerusalem immediately after the occupation in 1967 admits he carried out a policy to evacuate Palestinians who lived in the Old City into areas outside the Old City walls. In a letter to Jerusalem council member, published Today by Jerusalem Weekly Magazine Kol Ha’ir, Lahat wrote: “In the power of my authority as Military of Jerusalem, immediately after the city was liberated in 1967, I gave orders that Arab inhabitants be evacuated from the Western Wall area and from the Jewish quarter in the Old City. They were given, in agreement, alternative housing in Jerusalem and its environs.” Lahat also confirms that he had promised the evacuated that their rights will not be affected after they are resettled.
Not many tourists to Jerusalem are aware that a whole Palestinian neighborhood used to stand in the area that is now a wide plaza next to the Wailing Wall, and over part of which now stand houses for Jews. Nor do guides tell the tourists that many Arab Palestinians had lived in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City even before 1948, but were evicted in 1967 and not allowed even to purchase a home there afterward.
The admission emerged from the sad case of Omar Qwasma, a Palestinian who was moved by Israeli authorities in 1967 from his home in the Old City of Jerusalem to the village of Al-'Azariya. Three years ago Qwasma’s rights for as a victim of a terrorist attack were withdrawn by the Israeli National Insurance Institute, on the pretext that he does not reside inside Jerusalem city limits.
Since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, Israeli government began a “quiet cleansing” policy, revoking Palestinian residents of Jerusalem their resident status, striving for an all Jewish city even in those areas that remained Arab after 1948. Qwasma now becomes a victim of Israeli ethnic cleansing policy for the second time.
With the help of council member Meir Margalit, Qwasma approached Lahat, who also wrote: “I remember in certainty that the evacuated inhabitants were promised that no harm will come to them, and that their rights will not be affected.” In spite of this promise, Qwasma, whose son was killed by a terrorist bomb on an Israeli bus in 1996, was told by Israeli National Insurance Institute that his right for a bereft parent’s allowance, as well as all social rights such as an old age allowance, medical insurance, and welfare were removed because the house he lives in, in Al-A’zariya stands outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits.
Avraham Mana’a, who handles Eastern Jerusalem cases in the National Insurance Institute wrote to him in response that if he moved to live back inside the municipal limits of Jerusalem, “We would be able to renew his insurance with the National Insurance.”