Did a bit of traveling. I tagged along with a bunch of older Swedes from The Swedish Christian Study Group on a tour of Jerusalem run by ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. I think that ICAHD does a very effective job of presenting the dramatic disparities between Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The other thing they do pretty well is to show how planned the disparities are. So I want to talk about that a little bit.
You can see in the picture below the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank, although really it is more the appropriation wall because what has ended up on the “Israel” side is a substantial amount of land, though not as many people (but we’ll talk about that later) that according to 1948 UN maps is absolutely not part of Israel. So back to the picture, look for a little house standing alone right next to the wall? Israel had planned for that house to be on the other side, part of Abu Dis rather then Jerusalem but a right-wing Jewish group bought the house, Israel re-routed the wall and now provides the two family settlement with its very on checkpoint and security curtsey of the state. Now just so we don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just an example of a government caving to religious extremists lets put this in context.
One of the biggest “obstacles” to a two state solution is Jerusalem, I put obstacles in quotation marks because for something to be an obstacle it actual has to stand in the way of something you wish to achieve and I don’t think Israel in any way wishes to achieve a viable Palestinian state any time soon. Now this is in reference to talks over a two state solution, which, regardless of past feasibility is no longer, a possibility, when demographics, economics and justice are considered, in my uninformed and others very informed opinions. But I think it is worth talking through this example to fully understand a) Israel’s disingenuous participation in any action to resolve the issue of Palestine and b) how Israel has since its inception as an idea in the nineteen teens been very consistent in working towards the creation of the largest Zionist state possible with the least number of non-Jews.
So anyway the two big “obstacles” to a two state solution were always Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. So Jerusalem, how could there be two states when this one place was so important to both groups of people? The UN had suggested that Jerusalem be an “international city”, administered by the UN which is pretty ridiculous so lets kind of forget about that for now. So how could two states share one city? Actually for a long time it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. When you looked at a map ten years back or so the city was pretty split into Jewish and Palestinian sections, it was pretty clear where the boundaries between the communities were. So anyway when this was pointed out to Israeli authorities they were like ‘you know, you’re absolutely right, we’ve got to do something about that’ and they promptly started promoting and supporting Jewish settlements, like the little house above, in the heart of Muslim Palestinian communities. In fact there is now kind of a ring around the old city of Jerusalem of such settlements and while communities in Arab East Jerusalem can get no building permits, I mean zero, none, absolutely no chance of a building permit, have few school, terrible roads, lack basic sanitation services, sewage and waterlines, these settlements are beautiful, sport parks and public swimming pools and can get whatever building permits they like.
Additionally, and I haven’t had a chance to research this as much as I would like so I’m going by what I’ve heard here; Tel Aviv had always been the defacto capital for Jews and Jerusalem the center of Muslim cultural life and commerce. Even today, young Jews want to move to Tel Aviv where everything is happening and Palestinians want to get to Jerusalem (on the Palestinian side this certainly seems true all the young people I’ve hung out with talk of Jerusalem the same way my friends talk about Brooklyn). So Israel has a very hard time maintaining what they call the “demographic balance”, read not too many non-Jews, of Jerusalem.
Pretty terrifying language from a community that knows what kind of evil banal language can be a cover for. But the parallels here between past and present, victim and victimizer are so obvious that you would think is was a brilliant Ursula K. Le Guin science fiction satire, except, unfortunately like many of our best current events satires it is so very real and so very horrific that we (and by we I mean the we of the demographic I come from western, white, middle class which is such a very tiny we but is the we who is probably reading this) like to pretend it is not really happening.
So anyway I have a lot more to talk at you about East Jerusalem but I think there is a limit to how much blog you can read in one sitting so I’ll leave off with the heavy stuff there. On a lighter note the weather is beautiful here, I’ve learned to make Arabic coffee without it boiling over and at the center we are preparing for the arrival of what has consistently been described to me as ‘500 Italians’, I am skeptical but curious. This Friday I’m looking forward to a picnic with food in the nearby village, because picnic here has nothing to do with food and is just an outing something I only learned recently, before that I just thought everyone here really liked eating food outside on a blanket…
Tours run on scooters by right-wing groups, they don't show them East Jerusalem