The Judaisation of Jerusalem has occupied a prominent place in the Arab and Muslim media recently, and is the focus of many statements made by officials and heads of state on the grounds that the city’s future concerns those who care about Islamic and Christian holy sites there. Recent conferences in Doha and Beirut released statements confirming Jerusalem’s Arab identity and the need to protect the holy places as well as cultural and historical monuments which characterise the city.
While this powerful rhetoric in defence of Jerusalem was being uttered, Israeli bulldozers were creating new roads in the city and preparing the ground for the construction of more housing units for illegal Jewish settlers; Israel was proceeding apace with its Judaisation policy.
We often hear from Arab leaders and the Arab media that there is a Zionist conspiracy for the Judaisation of Jerusalem; this is usually followed by harsh criticism of Zionism, and Israel and its supporters, without knowing the exact details of the plot. It is believed that there is a behind-the-scenes conspiracy, but Israel is not Judaising Jerusalem behind closed doors or in secret; Israel’s moves are plain for all to see, with no need for long explanations. Israel confiscates Palestinian land and demolishes Palestinian homes in full view of the world and the media; the evidence has been available for many years in books, magazines, newspapers and television programmes.
Plans for the Judaisation process for the city of Jerusalem go way back to 1918 when Britain’s General Edmund Allenby summoned engineer William McLean to develop a plan for the city’s re-organisation. In 1919, the British Mandate authorities and nascent Zionist movement asked Patrick Geddes to develop a masterplan for Jerusalem. Developments took place up until 1949 and again in 1967 until today.
It is important to note that Israel’s plans are published and can be viewed by the public, but it seems that the Arabs do not like to read and think that they will liberate Jerusalem through frequent speeches. Israel’s plans regarding the old city and its surroundings are clear, and include the details of residential areas, streets, tourist attractions, public institutions, markets and parks, car parks, hotels, schools, arenas, etc. It is also clear with respect to residential areas for Arabs, and the direct vicinity of the old city including the old Muslim cemetery and Silwan. That is, they do not leave anything for the media to discover and reveal; there’s nothing new that has not been disclosed in advance.
Although the Israeli plans are published and detailed, Palestinian and Arab leaders are only provoked into “action” when the Israeli and Western Media talk about the implementation of new projects in the holy city. For example, it is clear that Israel drafted plans to demolish homes in Silwan a long time ago but Palestinian and Arab responses only appeared when the Israeli bulldozers did. This was also the case with Jabal Abu Ghneim (now known as the Har Homa illegal settlement), which is shown in Israeli drawings as a settlement/”neighbourhood of Jerusalem”, but the Arab leaders only expressed concerns after Israel began preparing the ground to build housing units.
The influence of the media in publicising Israel’s Judaisation policy becomes clear when people see housing units being built in many of the settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank quietly and without any noise. These units do not raise any concerns among Arab or Palestinian leaders, or in the Arab and Palestinian media, even though they are clear to everyone and passersby can see them getting bigger day by day. This leads me to ask if such leaders would do or say anything at all if Israel implemented its plans with no media coverage. I think not. Arab and Palestinian leaders only take action to defend Jerusalem out of embarrassment and not through any motivation to save the city. If the opposite was true, would we only hear their outrage after Israeli projects begin?
Since 1948, Arab action regarding East Jerusalem has focused on the following issues:
a) Under Jordanian rule, the Jerusalem municipality developed two plans for the eastern sector of the city in 1962 and 1965, in which they identified residential and industrial areas but the city was taken over by Israel in 1967.
b) Since 1967, Arabs have been submitting complaints to the UN against Israel in East Jerusalem, and a number of non-binding resolutions have been issued by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, which call upon Israel not to change the character of the holy city and to stop all procedures it’s carrying out in this regard. Israel has ignored these and continued to implement its plans in full view of the world, and the Arabs still insist on going to the UN. For example, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has expressed his intention to go the UN to have the Judaisation of Jerusalem stopped.
c) Palestinian Arabs have tried to implement housing projects in East Jerusalem post-1967, such as the Nusseibeh project, but they have usually not proceeded because of Israel’s actions and its assault on Palestinian housing.
d) Arab efforts have focused largely on words of condemnation and denunciation of the Judaisation policy Israel has adopted, and to allocate some funds to support the people of Jerusalem. Some of these funds have already been distributed and invested in a proper manner.
Alongside its Judaisation policy, Israel has worked on putting the Palestinians in an insecure position on the economic, housing and physical levels. Taxes have been imposed which are disproportionate to income levels, and the Palestinians are pressured economically to join the Israeli work force and become dependent on the occupation to earn a living. They are tying their children’s economic future to Israel, which has prevented them from restoring their homes and imposed very strict rules on building permits, whether for adding rooms to existing buildings, or building new ones. Israel does not hesitate to demolish their homes, whether licensed since the Jordanian era, or unlicensed by the Jerusalem municipality, which carries out the state’s Judaisation policy. Israel also went after people for political and security reasons, and arrested many under “administrative detention”, tightening searches and creating an atmosphere of terror.
Israel is interested in maintaining this uncertainty for the Palestinian population in the hope that they will leave voluntarily (“silent transfer”), and many have done so. They have been unable to bear the constant pressure, and have preferred to move to other parts of the occupied West Bank; others have moved overseas.
At the same time, Israel is working to provide security for Jews in order to encourage them to live in Jerusalem, both East and West, and to stay there without any thoughts of leaving. Thus, it has worked consistently to provide work for all those of working age, and has provided them with housing in the illegal settlements on very easy financial terms.
This issue is the precise point illustrating that the Israelis are going too far and the Arabs not far enough. Israel understands the importance of the security issue so it has made the Palestinians insecure and strengthened security for the Jews. The Palestinians, meanwhile, have been led to believe that they can relax under occupation and not put the Israelis under any kind of pressure to make most think twice before moving into East Jerusalem. Many Arabs thought that the solution to the problems of the people of Jerusalem was money but did not realise that cash can be drained into Israeli coffers through Tel Aviv’s fiscal policies and taxes. Arab funds have helped the people of Jerusalem to a certain degree, but they’ve also boosted the Israeli treasury.
It is important to strengthen the patriotic spirit of the people of Jerusalem by raising their sense of belonging and loyalty, and guiding individuals and groups towards economic resistance, the rejection of normalisation in very abnormal circumstances, and standing up to Judaisation. This does not mean that the people of Jerusalem are not patriotic, but that programmes promoting national consciousness should be put in place by the PLO and Palestinian factions; this would raise the sense of security among Palestinians, and reduce it for Israelis. Arab policies must be aimed against Israeli security policies.
Unfortunately, the focus on money has led to financial corruption, harming the people of Jerusalem and their city’s case. It is also regrettable that some leaders who are supposed to defend Jerusalem have already recognised Israel and normalised relations; they set a bad example of patriotism.
Jerusalem cannot be saved by money alone; it needs the people. If they are patriotically, psychologically and ideologically sound, then funds will strengthen their position. But if they are incapable, then all the funds in the world will not help them; only people can keep a cause alive. It is no secret to most Palestinians that the goal of the Israelis, and those Arabs and Palestinians who collaborate with them, is to conquer Palestine and transform Palestinians into consumers without any real human existence.
Due to the inability of the Arabs and Palestinians to confront Israel in a way that its leaders understand, it will continue the Judaisation of Jerusalem with total indifference to Arab conferences and statements. The President of the Palestinian Authority will have no option but to run to the United Nations and to urge Arabs to visit Jerusalem, with an Israeli permit to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli guns. When Israel refuses the permits and uses the guns, what worth then for a prayer in Al-Aqsa being rewarded so much more than in other mosques?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.