April 23, 2009
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Tuesday accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" policies in annexed east Jerusalem, where the municipality plans to tear down almost 90 Arab homes.
"I believe the Israeli government is carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians here in east Jerusalem," said Maguire, who won the 1976 Nobel prize for her efforts at reaching a peaceful solution to the violence in Northern Ireland.
"I believe the Israeli government policies are against international law, against human rights, against the dignity of the Palestinian people," she said at a news conference.
It was held in a protest tent erected by residents of east Jerusalem's Silwan neighbourhood where 88 Arab homes are under demolition orders.
The Israeli authorities say the houses were built or extended without the necessary construction permits. Palestinians say the planned demolitions aim at forcing them out of east Jerusalem.
If the demolition orders are carried out 1,500 people would be left homeless in one of the largest forced evictions since Israel occupied mostly Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and later annexed it.
Israel considers Jerusalem to be its eternal and undivided capital, while Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future state.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says that since 2004 the Israeli authorities have torn down more than 400 homes in east Jerusalem.