Arab Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Harim Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary)

Walid Khalidi on Jerusalem:

Israel has already surrounded East Jerusalem with concentric rings of colonies on West Bank territory outside but contiguous to the municipal borders of the city. The plan, already well advanced, is to integrate these colonies with united municipal Jerusalem in order to create Greater or Metropolitan Jerusalem. A great advantage and indeed the prime objective of this strategy for Israel is that the more Palestinian territory that is alienated from the West Bank in the name of Metropolitan Jerusalem, the less the physical, political, and psychological space that will be left for the Palestinians there in the West Bank. One can count on Netanyahu to carry this strategy to its very farthest extent. 

The area of David’s ancient capital per se constitutes less than 1 per cent of today’s so-called united Jerusalem. No religious, historical, economic, or security considerations informs the extended municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem, much less those of Metropolitan Likudist Jerusalem. What does inform them is ruthless gerrymandering in the service of solipsistic nationalism and a spirit of defiance of world opinion. 

The following remarks were presented by the Institute for Palestine Studies’ General Secretary Walid Khalidi at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies’ symposium on “Arab Jerusalem.” Khalidi’s description of Israeli exclusivist ambitions over Jerusalem were remarkably prescient and his words are even timelier today. Below is an abridged version of the presentation and the full remarks may be read here.

* * *

. . . Today, the basic concept that seems to inform all discussion on Jerusalem is that of the “unity of Jerusalem.” In principle, the concept sounds worthy of the Golden City and its ecumenical significance to humanity.

On closer scrutiny, however, a different reality emerges. Sixty-six per cent of so-called “united Jerusalem” is territory seized by force in 1967. Of that, 5 per cent is what had been the Jordanian municipality of Jerusalem and 61 per cent is West Bank territory annexed into the Jordanian municipal area. Before 1948, Jewish land ownership in that 66 per cent was less than 3 per cent. Even the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was Jewish primarily in tenancy; most of the quarter belonged to old Jerusalem families as waqf(Islamic endowments).

As for the remaining 34 per cent of “united Jerusalem” that is today’s West Jerusalem, Jewish-owned property there before 1948 did not exceed 20 per cent overall; the rest belonged to Christian and Muslim Palestinians and to international Christian bodies. This sector contained the most affluent Palestinian residential quarters as well as most of the Palestinian commercial sector.

This West Jerusalem also included the lands of the occupied or destroyed villages of Dayr Yasin, Lifta, Ayn Karem, Maliha, Romema, Shayka Badr, and Khallat al-Tarha. Most of the Israeli government buildings in this area, including the Knesset, are built on Palestinian land. Thus, the great bulk of “united Jerusalem” is, quite simply, conquered and arbitrarily expropriated land. 

In terms of the population in this “united Jerusalem,” some 170,000 Jews now live in settlements established in those parts of Jerusalem seized in 1967, whereas only about 3,000 Jews had lived in those same areas prior to 1948. In contrast, to this day virtually no Palestinians are allowed to live in West Jerusalem, whereas more than 35,000 fled or were expelled from that part of the city during the 1948 fighting and thereafter. This figure includes the inhabitants of the villages just mentioned, which were incorporated in the West Jerusalem city limits after 1948.

Nor are the current municipal borders of Jerusalem the limit of Israel’s ambitions for Jerusalem. Israel has already surrounded East Jerusalem with concentric rings of colonies on West Bank territory outside but contiguous to the municipal borders of the city. The plan, already well advanced, is to integrate these colonies with united municipal Jerusalem in order to create Greater or Metropolitan Jerusalem. Under Likud, this plan will be pressed forward at an even more frenetic pace than under the Labor government. The resultant Metropolitan Jerusalem will cover twice the surface area of present-day municipal “united Jerusalem.” A great advantage and indeed the prime objective of this strategy for Israel is that the more Palestinian territory that is alienated from the West Bank in the name of Metropolitan Jerusalem, the less the physical, political, and psychological space that will be left for the Palestinians there in the West Bank. One can count on Netanyahu to carry this strategy to its very farthest extent. . . .

The area of David’s ancient capital per se constitutes less than 1 per cent of today’s so-called united Jerusalem. No religious, historical, economic, or security considerations informs the extended municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem, much less those of Metropolitan Likudist Jerusalem. What does inform them is ruthless gerrymandering in the service of solipsistic nationalism and a spirit of defiance of world opinion. . . .

The proposition of a clash of civilizations, far from being the latest in prognostication, is old hat. Remember Rudyard Kipling with his “East is East and West is West and ne’er the Twain shall meet”? But the proposition itself is not harmless old hat. It is tendentiously deterministic and ominous in its self-fulling potential. Its deepest flaw is that it abolishes human initiative. That is why a viable solution for Jerusalem must steal the thunder of all irredentists – of Crusades and proxy-Crusades, of jihads and counter-jihads.

That is why all those committed to an honourable and peaceful solution must band together to stop in their tracks the forces of fundamentalism – Muslim, Christian, and Jewish – slouching towards their rendezvous in Jerusalem. . . .


The February Special Focus – Arab Jerusalem of the Journal of Palestine Studies highlights a series of articles from the Journal as well as from the Jerusalem Quarterly, the only journal exclusively dedicated to the city’s history, political status, and future. Selected are contributions from, inter alia, Edward Said, Ian S. Lustick, and Rashid Khalidi on Jerusalem’s Arab heritage and fate under Israeli occupation. All photographs are from Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians, 1876-1948, by Walid Khalidi.

 

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