Categorized | Lurie_J_Zel, Middle East

Votes, not knives, answer to Jerusalem Arabs’ problems

By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida — The quarter million Palestinians in the current boundaries of East  Jerusalem cannot vote in the national elections, because they are not  the citizens of the state of Israel. They are permanent residents of Jerusalem who have the right to vote in the Jerusalem municipal elections. The majority have never exercised this mandate.

Unfortunately, the next election in Jerusalem will be 2018, three years  from now. So, most of this column is about the past and the future, not  the present violence and stabbings with kitchen knives.

The residents of East Jerusalem have not voted in past elections because the late Yasser Arafat preferred “armed revolution” to voting.

I happened to be a guest in the American Colony Hotel which lies on the edge of East Jerusalem’s business district many years ago on Election  Day. The late Teddy Kollek needed 20,000 votes in East Jerusalem for his reelection as mayor of Jerusalem, a post that he had held for many years. I walked out of the hotel in the morning and asked a nearby shopkeeper for directions to their nearest voting booth. “I have no idea,” he replied. “We are not voting until we can vote for our own national government.”

Teddy Kollek garnered a meager 5,000 votes in East Jerusalem and lost the election to a right-winger.

As I revealed in this column in 2009, East Jerusalem was enlarged by 1100% from six square kilometers to 70 square kilometers after the Six Day War.  The Israeli geographers thought that they were delineating the boundaries of the state of Israel. The Israel army had overrun the Jordanian West Bank and East Jerusalem in the Six Day War.  The Israelis were ready to negotiate the return of the West Bank to King Hussein of Jordan if he called.

King Hussein never called. The West Bank had probably been a burden to him, but he maintained control of the Temple Mount known to the Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Yasser Arafat is gone, but the tradition of not voting has been maintained in East Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem under Jordan was six square kilometers; one square kilometer lies within the Old City walls. In the center is the Temple Mount, which by agreement with Jordan, remains under Jordanian rule. It
is the third holiest city for the Muslims. Its Western wall which was called the Wailing Wall for 2,000 years, is the holiest site in the Jewish religion. Israeli police in the IDF are in charge of security.

For decades, the police have respected the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and refrained from entering it with their boots on. Recently, the police chased an Arab miscreant into the mosque and Arab politicians and some journalists pounced on the “dirty Israeli boots” that defiled the mosque.

One additional fact is important.  Abu Dis was the eastern section of East Jerusalem under Jordan.  The Israeli geographers excluded Abu Dis in a vain effort to keep the Muslim population low. Almost a decade ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a former mayor of Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had 42 talks outlining  a “final solution.”  Olmert offered Abu Dis as the capital of the Palestinian state. The talks ended with the indictment of Olmert for past sins.

How did East Jerusalem become a hotbed of violence, stabbings, and killings?   It began in the early 1920’s when Sir Herbert Samuel, the 1st British High Commissioner for Palestine, appointed Haj Amin el-Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem.  Haj Amin used Jewish-Arab friction on the Temple Mount, abetted by the Jewish Revisionists, to incite the Arabs against their Jewish neighbors.  Thus we had pogroms in Hebron and Safed in 1929, when I was attending high school in Haifa, and country-wide in 1936, when I was a cub reporter on the Palestine Post.

In 1967, the Israeli geographers formed the enlarged East Jerusalem 12 times by annexing a score of Arab farming communities surrounding East Jerusalem. Overnight, they became part of “Holy Jerusalem,” never to be
divided again.

The annexation of enlarged East Jerusalem to the state of Israel has never been recognized by the international community.  All embassies  are in the Tel Aviv area. The US Department of State maintained two consulates in East Jerusalem and in West Jerusalem before 1967, and both have been maintained ever since.

Israeli governments, both under Labor and Likud, have vigorously attempted to Judaize the enlarged East Jerusalem.  West Jerusalem is only 38 square kilometers, a bit more than half of enlarged East Jerusalem. The agricultural land of the farming villages was expropriated and sparkling new Jewish settlements with various tax
advantages were built. For instance, French Hill was built on East Issawiye’s farmland. On a recent visit to a French Hill café, I could find no one who knew that they were sitting on East Issawiye’s vegetable garden. Most of them had never visited their Arab neighbor.

Jerusalem’s right-wing municipality has continually discriminated against the Arabs in East Jerusalem, in their schools, and other services. Almost half of them live under the poverty line. I believe that if the Arabs exercised their mandate and placed counselors in the Jerusalem municipal counsel, this discrimination would be eased.
Judaizing means making it almost impossible for an East Jerusalem Arab to enlarge his house or build a new one.  Since 1967, 40% of the two-story homes in East Jerusalem have been built without permits. There is also the policy of cancelling the residents’ permits of Jerusalemites who have lived abroad for many years.  These
cancellations average about 5,000 a year, so an Arab  born in Jerusalem who has lived in the United States for 10 years needs a tourist visa to attend the funeral of his grandfather.

The friction over the Temple Mount has steadily increased. Israel’s efforts to quell it by sending in another additional police battalion and piling concrete barriers at the entrances of the Arab villages have backfired.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s numerous statements that Israel will not change the status quo on the Temple Mount are not believed by the Palestinians because of his long record of attacks on the Arabs. As this column was going to press, Secretary of State John Kerry had negotiated an agreement between Netanyahu and King Hussein to install cameras on the Temple Mount which they believed would calm the situation. However, the Palestinian Authority announced its opposition to the plan.

The agreement has served to publicize the pinpricks of the organizations which sit in East Jerusalem, making the clothing worn by  the temple priests or Kohanim 2,000 years ago as specified in the  Bible. They study the sacrifices described in the Bible. They are ready to rebuild the Temple of Solomon.

One must distinguish between East Jerusalem Arabs, the Israeli Arabs who vote in the national elections, and the bulk of the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza who have lived under the occupation since 1967.
The Israeli Arabs were divided among Nationalists, Islamists, and middle of the roaders.  Most of them never bothered to vote until the 2014 national elections, when they united and presented 1 Arab list. They elected 13 Arab seats, and are now the third largest party in the Knesset.

Do they make a difference?  I believe they do.  For instance, when  New York City Mayor de Blasio visited Israel recently, the Ministry of Education introduced him to the Jewish and Arab parents of the pupils in the Max
Rayne Hand in Hand school.  According to a report in the New York Times, he  heard a vivid description of life in East Jerusalem by a resident  parent.  This would not have happened a few years ago when the seven Jewish
Arab bilingual schools in Israel were more or less hidden from American tourists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the son of a prominent revisionist family which was in Israel before the state, has given up trying to steer a path between  those who want peace and those who want to expand the Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the few who dream of rebuilding the Temple.  He told his cabinet recently, “The occupation will continue for the foreseeable future.”

So, for the foreseeable future, the violence, the stabbings, and the demolition of housing will continue.  In 2018, when the next municipal elections are scheduled in Jerusalem, there might be a change.

Lurie, a centenarian, is a freelance writer living in retirement in Delray Beach, Florida.  He may be contacted via [email protected]com

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