This may be a journalistic hunch, but I have a feeling that we are about to witness an explosion in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this time again over Jerusalem.
In 2000, a Palestinian-Israeli human rights film festival took place in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Nazareth. The concluding event, during which the name of the winning film was to be announced, was scheduled for Ramallah. It never happened, as protesters against Israeli-Palestinian normalization marched towards the location of the event and forced its cancellation.
The reason I relate this story is that this week, two similar events were canceled. For more than two years, Israeli and Palestinian peace activists have been working on an interesting concept: a Palestinian-Israeli confederation.
The idea was translated into a draft constitution and elections were to be held for parliament and co-presidents earlier this month.
Candidates and other speakers were scheduled to meet the public in three events, in Jerusalem’s Ambassador Hotel, at Talitha Kumi School in Beit Jala (the only location legally accessible to West Bank Palestinians and Israelis) and in Haifa. Sari Nusseibeh and Yael Dayyan were among the speakers. The first two events never happened as a result of consistent and angry protest by Palestinians.
Another similar events was canceled this week. The Palestinian Israeli Journal had scheduled a conference at the Galaxy Hotel, in East Jerusalem, to launch its latest issue, titled “The impact of the Arab Spring on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
In responding to inquiries, the founders of the organization noted the tremendous amount of pressure by Palestinian groups opposed to “normalization” on the hotel owners after a Facebook group called for its boycott.
Palestinian anger at the lack of progress in peace talks should not be belittled. A look at what happened in the last few months in terms of hardening of official Palestinian position and reaction to Israel’s attempts to change the infrastructure at the entrance of Al-Aqsa Mosque are indications of the severity of the situation.
The lack of progress in the peace talks, the total incompetence of the US in moving the process forward and the Arab Spring have no doubt contributed to this feeling of helplessness and the need to reject any perceived superficial attempt at making peace while the occupation goes on unabated.
Perhaps the most disturbing problem for Palestinian Jerusalemites today is the deterioration of their status and the feeling that no one cares about them.
While politicians at all levels give lip service to Jerusalem and Jerusalemites, the reality is very different. Israel’s concrete wall, coupled with continuous Jewish-only settlement buildings have brought the people of the city to the brink of explosion.
East Jerusalem lacks any form of local leadership. Israel has barred the creation of indigenous national institutions, contrary to international law and written commitments by previous Israeli governments. The Orient House, which stood as a symbolic Palestinian reference point, continues to be closed by court order.
The chamber of commerce has been also shut down and barred from holding any public event or elections. Even cultural and sports activities are barred if the Israelis suspect that they are in any way connected to Palestinian nationalism.
Last spring, a local football team was barred from holding a ceremony after winning the Palestinian football tournament, under the guise that it was a Palestinian Authority event. Israel bars the Palestinian Authority from any public activity in Jerusalem.
The day-to-day life of Jerusalemites is also a source of anger. On the one hand, the Ramallah-based leadership is prevented from involvement, on the other, the Israeli government and the West Jerusalem municipality show little interest in the quarter of a million Palestinian Arabs.
Zoning plans for East Jerusalem neighborhoods continue to collect dust, while large Jewish settlements are being built without restrictions. And when a Palestinian family decides to expand its home or build a small family home on its property, Israeli bulldozers come rolling in to demolish them under the pretext that they are built without permits.
Social, commercial and cultural issues are also suffering. With the wall barring the usual movement of people from the surrounding towns and villages, the center of Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Some say it has been on autopilot for so long that they are bracing for the day this plane will crash.
In 2000, Palestinian anger at the provocative visit by Ariel Sharon sparked the second Intifada. The Al-Aqsa Intifada was very violent and bloody, causing deaths, injuries and destruction. It also pushed all parties to harden their positions.
In some ways, that second Intifada ended with the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, came in with a new anti-violence policy and has been trying hard for years to walk this peaceful walk, tightening security and ending incitement to violence.
But as Abbas prepares to exit the political scene and not run for office in the May elections, the region is bracing for what will happen next.
No one wants another round of violence, but at the same time, no one will accept the continuation of humiliation and denial. Clearly Palestinians insist that they will not tolerate continued military occupation, isolation and rejection of their national rights.
Addressing these issues may help avoid another undesired round of expression of anger and its consequences.
You sound like a man who has theoretical knowledge of the situation, somewhat distorted by your own prejudices but perhaps knowledgeable all the same. As noted, east Jerusalem is in a flux. Here's what you didn't write, perhaps because you are ignorant of the situation: This region cannot be administered by any Palestinian authority because it is considered part of Israel by the Israeli government. On the other hand, so friends and business contacts tell me as well as information I've gleaned from Ynet and JPost, Israeli services such as garbage pick-up, social welfare, fire engines and ambulance and other medical services do not dare enter Arab pockets for (well founded) fear of violence (against them) unless accompanied by the IDF. There are occasional glimpses of terrible threats and actual injury and humiliation to Jewish residents and tourists who have wandered unknowingly into Arab areas. In plain words, it's simply not safe.
It reminds me of the way the USA used to be re black areas of cities such as Boston (Roxbury) when I first moved to the United States (Cambridge). All major cities had "no go" areas for Whites. This situation has changed significantly but only decades after a successful civil rights movement. What would it take in Israel? I've been to Jerusalem. The city cannot be easily divided, especially (I'm told) with the advent of the new city train system. As long as Hamas insists on its major principle to violently destroy the nation state of Israel and Fatah to do it as well but slice by slice, the current Israeli government will not dare give up any more land. The last time, when they moved out of Gaza, they were met, and continue to be met, with rockets and mortars. It also appears to have been an unhappy and unhealthy situation to have given up the Sinai after winning it in the Yom Kippur War in order to further a peace treaty with Egypt, one which is sure to break down with the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists into power. The ideological principles of such groups as al-Queda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, Hamas and Hezbollah, etc., precludes negotiating a successful peace traty with the state of Israel and its Jewish citizenry. For such groups and movements (and believe me, from my experiences in Lebanon, I know), social benefits for the people whom they purport to represent are quite secondary to the ideological prerequisites to which they hold fast. In other words, the Arab citizenry (as usual) is sacrificed for power or the Islamic "higher good". Israel cannot be expected to fall into the trap of giving up land, especially land which contains such rich history for them, in return for a false peace.
So, I do not see a ready solution for this situation but I think Mr. Kuttab has expressed only one point of view, basically blaming Israeli authorities. His approach is simple but, I think, not viable and does not, as they say, meet "facts on the ground."
"Silwan man who stoned Jewish vehicle gets four years", an article in Ynet by Aviad Glickman. This article just came out in Ynet. Silwan is an Arab village very close to the Old City (heart of Jerusalem). A Jewish man drove into Silwan by mistake. He was accompanied by his child, a daughter. His vehicle was "stoned mercilessly" in an apparent ambush. This is an example of why state service's are poor in the Arab areas of Jerusalem. It is utterly dangerous. This is an illustration of what I meant in my previous comment. It is also an illustration of either Mr. Kuttab' ignorance or of what he deliberately left out in a piece of blatant Arab propaganda, a very distorted picture which he set out to paint. I searched and found the original piece in Maan. Waleed Hammad, of mepeace, did not let us know where he found this article. Maan is a Palestinian news outlet which consistently distorts material either through what it leaves out or for what it chooses to illustrate. Unlike Ynet, for instance, an Israeli news outlet which publishes pieces which are quite critical both of the Palestinian administration as well as the Israeli, Maan always puts Israel in a bad light. Readers must be aware of such matters which are, in fact, intentional distortions.
The issue about Jerusalem has to be dealt with realistically from the point of view of a nation-state. When you go to the Western Wall, you can hear the muezzin at the Dome of the Rock. How are you going to draw an international border between the two? Simple you cannot. So does that mean Palestinians are barred from the Dome of the Rock? If there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians, then it should not be. So we know that we cannot divide Jerusalem by historical and religious principles. What about internationalizing Jerusalem? After World War I, the League of Nations tried to handle political hotspots by making them "free cities." They tried this with Danzig and Trieste. It still led to confrontation. Both Germany and Poland thought they had right to Danzig, and both Italy and Yugoslavia thought they had right to Trieste. After World War II, Danzig went to Poland, and Trieste went to Italy. Internationalizing a city did not work after World War I, and these cities came under the control of a single nation-state after World War II. So Jerusalem cannot be divided, and it cannot be internationalized. The only alternative is for Jerusalem to belong to one nation-state. Yes that means Israel. If the Palestinian Authority now has their capital at Ramallah, then the only alternative is to keep at Ramallah. But the issue of Jerusalem just cannot be tabled. If there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians then there will be no reason why Palestinians can have free access to the Dome of the Rock. So I will leave this issue up to others to give their input on what needs to be done about Jerusalem. Can you see a way of dividing the city, or internationalizing it? This is the challenge of trying to get two people to share a land the same size as the State of New Jersey.
This issues discussed in this video need to be considered by everyone who is interested in supporting a peaceful future for Jerusalem.
I do not see how peace can be achieved without justice. The discontent of aggrieved Palestinians is one cause of the conflict. The other cause is the unwillingness of Israelis to give up illegally acquired land.
I have seen the housing around the Western Wall, that was built after 1967. There is a city ordinance that states the housing has to be done in Jerusalem sandstone, in order to resemble the surrounding architecture. As for land ownership, that sometimes can take on such convoluted terms. Because many times it is referring to absentee landlords. Owners who have legal ownership over the land, but who do not live on it. So when you mention land acquired illegally, who originally owned it, and was it taken from them by Israel's military conquest? Because if that is the case, then it is the laws of land ownership first under Jordanian law, then Israeli. Or was there deeds of land ownership that were just disregarded by Israeli authorities? So we use to identify the justice at stake here.
We see these maps from 1946, but we have to address the here and now. Israel was not a nation in 1946. The maps provided by the Foundation for Middle East Peace deals more with the present, and how a two-state solution can be formulated. Israel is here, it is going to stay, so that leaves the issue with the West Bank. That goes back to the original question, either Israel removes all the settlers back to the pre-1967 border, or lets them stay and become citizens of Palestine. But with Jerusalem, I still do not see how an international border can be drawn through it. It seems Jerusalem is going to have to be a left alone issue. That means the focus will have to be on the West Bank. There is no longer any Israeli presence in Gaza, so it is questions about how to develop Gaza's economy.
Why is it not possible to draw a border through Jerusalem?
What you know about the city, where would you be placing it? Before 1967, the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. Jordan basically had control over the Old City. The Old City is divided up into four quarters: Arab, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian. When you get to the boundaries between the Arab and Jewish quarters, then the Western Wall is right beneath the Dome of the Rock, you would be basically separating an area only a few feet apart from each other. Israel says it will always have possession of the Western Wall. Both Jewish and Arab sources have tried to minimize the importance of both the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. So unless somebody has an idea, about how to divide the city. But from I know about the city from being there, is not possible to divided it.
There was a border, Sussan. After the war in 1967, however, Israel took over what had been in Jordanian hands. Before then, you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of buildings on the Jewish side where Jordanian soldiers used to shoot at civilians. It was a very dangerous area. If you would actually go for a visit, you would see that the city is now more integrated than it had been and some of the former areas in and around the Old City are no longer as dangerous. Nonetheless, Israeli Jews have a distinct memory about the dangers when Arab forces had control. There are two further situations which you ought to know about and compute: 1) There are unintegrated Arab quarters of the city where no Jew dares to tread. These areas are about as dangerous for Jews in Jerusalem as Black areas of major cities in the USA such as Harlem in NYC or Roxbury in Boston used to be for Whites. I expect, given the status quo, that it will take another generation before these problems are sorted out. 2) Before Israel took control of the Old City, Jordan, as an occupying force, did not take care of ancient Jewish religious sites either by allowing them to fall into disrepair or by explicitly vandalizing them. So, Israeli Jews would be hesitant to ever give up control to Arabs after having wrested the Old City from Jordan. On the other hand, Arab holy sites as well as Christian sites are very well maintained by Israeli authorities. There are no explicit prohibitions regarding Muslim attendance at prayer although there are immediate repercussions when Muslims riot while at the top of the Western Wall, i.e., throwing rocks down at Jewish worshippers. In principle, however, unlike Jordan when it occupied the Old City, Israel not only permits but puts forth very positive effort in keeping sites in repair and allowing members of all religious faiths to gather in prayer.
Ghazi, let’s be honest, Jordanian soldiers are no more likely to shoot at civilians than are Israeli soldiers.
Israelis have memories – real and imagined - of many dangers. The ones that they have incurred within the Holy Land are all memories that Jews themselves are responsible for. It is high time Jews accept their responsibility for having earned the justifiable wrath of Arabs by evicting those Arabs from their lands and houses.
Jews have long coveted Jerusalem. That does not mean they have a right to steal the place for those who actually built and own the houses and buildings of Jerusalem.
There will be serious problems until Israelis agree to make an honest and fair peace deal with the traditional inhabitants of the area.
BTW, I am wondering what the ancient Jewish holy sites where that were neglected and vandalized by the Jordanians.
Upon its capture by the Arab Legion, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Fifty-eight synagogues--some hundreds of years old--were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished to make way for a highway to the hotel. The Western Wall became a slum area.
The most notable was the Hurva - It would have been almost 200 years old today - huge impressive synagogue that explosive were placed inside residents were told to leave and it was blown to peices... Israel recently rebuilt it - and had to deal with teh sheer nerve of teh Arabs who protested its rebuilding...
Arabs cannot be trusted with holy sites - the proof is in teh pudding