Contrary to what it has done since 1967, the Israeli government has, for the first time, resorted to the use of a “carrot” instead of the usual stick as it pushes ahead with its Judaisation of occupied Jerusalem. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are being offered economic incentives, with the government approving a plan which it claims is aimed at reducing economic and social differences between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the rest of the occupied city.
The plan mentions projects to improve the economic situation in East Jerusalem and ease the housing problem, which is actually caused by the occupation authorities’ refusal to issue permits for Palestinians to build houses or improve the infrastructure. It is also expected to work on integrating Jerusalemites within the Israeli labour market.
However, when examining the plan, it is clear that it also aims to influence the mindset of Jerusalemites so that they will be more cooperative in Israel’s Judaisation of their city. At the very least, such “Israelisation” of the people is intended to discourage them from resisting such plans.
This insidious process involves changing the school curriculum in use in East Jerusalem and thus change the way that young Palestinians think. This is nothing new. As long ago as 2000, the Israelis began to censor the curriculum in East Jerusalem, screening and deleting all references to Palestine and any content addressing Israel in a negative way. The new plan’s reference to removing differences between Jerusalemites and settlers has the potential to unify the curriculum right across the occupied city in order to Israelise Palestinian minds.
The proposal to improve the economic conditions in East Jerusalem is based on the assumption that transforming their living and social conditions will discourage Jerusalemites from engaging in resistance against the occupation and will prompt a corresponding reduction in their objections to the state’s Judaisation policies. It will also, it is believed, convince Palestinians not to interfere when Jewish settlers desecrate Al-Aqsa Mosque, an increasingly common occurrence.
Discouraging resistance by Jerusalemite Palestinians is a high priority for the Israeli security services, not least because they have relatively more freedom than those living in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories to enter Israel. They are, therefore, deemed to be more of a threat to internal security.
For the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, improving the security environment in Jerusalem is very important because it helps its plans to transform the demographic balance between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in order to reach the objective of “Greater Jerusalem”. The government wants to increase the number of Jews in the Holy City to one million, including illegal settlers.
Netanyahu and his ministers believe that improved security in Jerusalem will convince more Jewish settlers who are not there for fanatical religious reasons to move to illegal settlement enclaves in East Jerusalem and encircling the city. The occupation authorities understand that resistance activities in Jerusalem deter settlers from moving there, despite official inducements for them to do so.
At the same time, the government believes that if the plan succeeds in subduing Jerusalemites and reducing their objections to the Judaisation of their city, this will improve Israel’s regional environment. There is no doubt Israel knows that its actions in occupied Jerusalem, mainly against Al-Aqsa Mosque, have the potential to damage relations with Jordan, which it regards as an important partner and the main pillar of its own national security. At the same time, any course of action that reduces the spotlight on the Judaisation measures in Jerusalem helps to create an environment that allows for more normalisation between Israel and Arab countries.
However, despite Israel’s optimism about the plan, it will not succeed. It is not the first occupying power to attempt to influence the mindset of the people under occupation through imposing a school curriculum that pushes the colonialist narrative. No such attempts have ever been successful.
Moreover, the reality of the conflict between the Palestinian people and the Israeli occupation has shown that improving the economic situation does not contribute to reducing resistance activities. On the eve of the outbreak of the first Intifada in late 1987, for example, the economic conditions in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem were excellent compared to the current state of play. Nevertheless, the Palestinians refused to coexist with the occupation and fought a seven-year uprising that transformed the conflict profoundly.
What’s more, the polarisation between the religious right and the secular forces behind Israel’s coalition government will contribute to the failure of this economic plan. Moshe Ya’alon, for example, is a candidate widely expected to become the mayor of Jerusalem and is backed by religious right-wingers; he has promised to carry out a series of crude Judaisation measures in the city detrimental, no doubt, to the Palestinian Jerusalemites. One such pledge is to impose even tougher planning restrictions on Palestinians in the city. At a stroke, he would be giving the indigenous population more reasons to resist the Israeli occupation.
This article first appeared in The New Khalij, on 11 December 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.