Tuesday, December 8

Jerusalem - Capital of Israel and Palestine


An elderly Palestinian woman gestures as she sits with her belongings in front of a disputed house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. Jewish settlers claiming ownership forced their way into a disputed house in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, using hired guards to evict an elderly Palestinian woman and tossing the belongings of the 29 other residents into the rain, witnesses said. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

A united Jerusalem - referred to as the "eternal capital of Israel" will remain a cause of disagreement between Israel and the Palestinians until this problem is solved.

The claim that Israel's capital is a united city could not be further from the truth. One need not delve too deeply into Jerusalem’s history and its demography to realize that Jerusalem is a divided city.

Even the Jewish population is divided. The ultra-Orthodox or Haredi population live in self-imposed isolation from the secular areas. They are against any form of secular activity on Shabbat. They demonstrate against the opening of parking lots and factories such as Intel who work on Shabbat. Their weapons are stones and overturning trash cans to impose their religious will by force. Their Shabbat demonstrations end in violence. Every Shabbat there is one demonstration or another that they initiate. Surely violent demonstrations are a desecration of the Sabbath, but not in ultra-Orthodox Halacha, where this is viewed as a means to achieve a “holy end” of coercing the unfaithful to Shabbat observance.

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There is also the Orthodox - non-Orthodox divide and the non-recognition of observant Conservative and Reform Jews even resulting in desecration of their synagogues by Orthodox Jewish extremists occasionally.

Another indication of the fallacy of “united Jerusalem” is the schism between Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem and Jewish citizens. Here the situation is no better. There is terrible neglect of infrastructure and services in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem residents are required to pay taxes like all city residents. However they do not receive the same services. The Jerusalem Municipality has hardly invested in improving services for Palestinian residents. No new schools, public buildings or medical clinics have been built for Palestinians. Here there is an apartheid-like situation in the treatment meted out to Jewish and Palestinian population. Most investment goes into the city's Jewish areas.

Holding on to East Jerusalem with its impoverished Palestinian residents and stealthily depriving them of their homes in hidden transfer activities by allowing Jewish residents to confiscate Palestinian resident's homes in an attempt to live up to the fantasy of a "united city" will only exacerbate a situation which is potentially explosive. This is done by withholding permits from Palestinians to reside legally in Jerusalem. Palestinian residents are not welcome in Jerusalem. If a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem wishes to go overseas to study or lives a number of years in another country, he cannot return to his birthplace in Jerusalem. This is a legal tactic used by Israel to rid Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.

If Jerusalem is not a united city then it is a divided one. East Jerusalem demographically is not Jewish. What is Jewish about the Al Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and the various Churches in this area?

The Swedish Government has now put forth a plan to make Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine. It is a plan that recognizes Jerusalem as a divided city. It is divided between Palestinians and Israelis and even internally divided amongst the Jews. Jerusalem cannot be viewed as a united city apart from the sentiments of its unity as expressed by various Israeli governments over the years. Sentiments never express a reality.

Jerusalem has always been and always remains a divided city. Surely the time has come to realize this reality. It is divided culturally, politically, ethnically and nationally. The greatest division is between Palestinians and Israelis. This is the core of the Palestinian - Israeli Conflict. This should be the starting point of renewed negotiations not the end. The most dangerous attitude is the attitude based on religious sentiment rather than on a political reality. This applies to both Israelis and Palestinians.

1 comment:

The Old Geezer said...

interesting blog