"If I Forget Thee, Umm Touba…"
IN ONE of the most beautiful songs in the Bible, the poet vows: "If
I forget thee, O Jerusalem, / Let my right hand forget her cunning. / If I do
not remember thee, / Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; / If I
For some reason, the poet did not write: "If I forget thee, O Umm Touba!" nor "If I forget thee, O Sur Baher!" nor "If I forget thee, O Jabal Mukaber!" nor even "If I forget thee, O Ein Karem!"
A fact that should be remembered in any discussion about
The planners of this map, including the late General Rehavam
Ze'evi, nicknamed "Gandhi", the most far-right
officer in the Israeli army, had a simple purpose: to annex to
In order to achieve this, the planners were compelled to add some nearby Arab villages. Not only the Arab neighborhoods near the Old City, like the Mount of Olives, Silwan and Ras-al-Amud, but also villages located at some distance - such as Umm Touba, Sur Baher and Jabal Mukaber in the east, Beit Hanina and Kafr Aka in the north, Sharafat and Beit Safafa in the south.
The demographic phantom that haunted "Gandhi" then is now pursuing
us through the streets of
UNTIL THE 1949 war,
The demographic map of
We took the Arab bus from
At the entrance of
Thus I became acquainted with the Arab neighborhoods, among them elegant quarters
like Talbieh and Bakaa,
which became the centers of Jewish Jerusalem after the 1948 war. In that war,
the inhabitants fled/were driven to East Jerusalem and settled there - until
these neighborhoods, too, were conquered by the Israeli army and annexed to
THE ANNEXATION of
If the government had indeed intended to "unite" the city, they would have accompanied the annexation with some immediate measures, such as conferring automatic citizenship on all the Arab inhabitants and returning their "abandoned" properties in West Jerusalem (or, at least, paying compensation.)
But the government did not dream of doing so. The inhabitants were not
awarded citizenship, which would have given them the same rights as the Arab
True, in theory an Arab Jerusalemite can apply for Israeli citizenship, but such an application is subject to the arbitrary decision of hostile bureaucrats. And the government, of course, relies on the Arabs not to do so, since that would mean recognizing the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation.
THE TRUTH is that
The Arab inhabitants have the right to vote for the municipality. But only a handful - city employees and those dependent on government favors - exercise this right, because this, too, means recognition of the occupation.
In practice, the
It is not an exaggeration to say that the elected democratic mayor of
West Jerusalem is also the military governor of
Since 1967, all mayors have seen their job in this light. Together with all the arms of government, they see to it that Arabs living outside the city do not return to it, and that Arabs living in the city move out of it. A thousand and one tricks, large and small, are employed to this end, from the almost total refusal of building permits for rapidly growing Arab families, to the cancellation of residency rights for people who spend some time abroad or in the West Bank.
The contact between Arab Jerusalemites and the inhabitants of the
Arab residents have to pay all municipal taxes, but receive in return only a fraction of the municipal services, both in quality and in quantity. The schools lack hundreds of classrooms, and their standard is inferior to the private Islamic schools. Trash removal and other services are beneath contempt. Public gardens, youth clubs, gardening - cannot even be mentioned. The inhabitants of Kafr Akab, located beyond the Kalandia checkpoint, pay municipal taxes and receive no services at all - the municipality says that its employees are afraid to go there.
THE JEWISH public is not interested in all this. They don't know - and don't want to know - what is going on in the Arab neighborhoods, some hundreds of meters from their homes.
So they are surprised, surprised and shocked, by the ungratefulness of
the Arab inhabitants. A young man from Sur Baher recently
shot pupils of a religious seminary in
The attackers were ordinary young men, not particularly religious. It seems than none of them was a member of any organization. Apparently, a young man just gets up one fine morning and decides that he has enough. He then carries out an attack all by himself, with any instrument at hand - a pistol bought with his own money, in the first instance, or a bulldozer he drives at work, in the two others.
If this is indeed the case, a question presents itself: why is this being done by Jerusalemites? First, because they have the opportunity. A person who drives a bulldozer at a building site in West Jerusalem can just crash into a passing bus in the next street. The driver of a heavy truck can run over people. It is relatively easy to carry out a shooting attack, like the recent event at the Lion's Gate, the perpetrators of which were not caught. No intelligence service can prevent this, if the attacker has no partners and is not a member of any organization.
From the utterances of the commentators this week, one can gather that
they cannot even imagine the anger that accumulates in the mind of a young Arab
One of the main contributing factors for the stirring up of hatred is the demolition of "illegal" homes of Arab residents, who are quite unable to build "legally". The dimension of official stupidity is attested to by the demand of the Shin-Bet chief, voiced this week again, to destroy the homes of the attackers' families, for the sake of "deterrence". Apparently he has not heard about the dozens of studies and the accumulated experience, which prove that every destroyed home becomes an incubator for new hate-driven avengers.
This week's attack is especially instructive. It is quite unclear what actually happened: did Ghassan Abu-Tir plan the attack in advance? Or was this a spontaneous decision in a moment of excitement? Was this an attack at all - or did the bulldozer driver run into a bus by accident and try, in a state of panic, to escape - running over his pursuers, becoming a target for a shooting spree by passersby and soldiers? In the atmosphere of suspicion and fear that pervades Jerusalem now, every road accident involving an Arab becomes an attack, and every Arab driver involved in an accident will in all probability be executed on the spot, without a trial. (It should be remembered that the first intifada broke out because of a road accident, in which a Jewish driver ran over some Arabs.)
AND AGAIN there is the question: what is the solution to this complex problem, which arouses such strong emotions, feeds on deep-rooted myths and causes such moral dilemmas for millions around the world?
This week, a lot of proposals were presented, such as building a Berlin-style wall through the middle of Jerusalem (in addition to the one going around it). To punish whole families for the acts of their children, much like the Nazi "sippenhaft". To expel the families from the city or to cancel their resident status. To demolish their homes. To take away their social insurance benefits, even if they have paid for them.
All these "solutions" have one thing in common - they have been tried in the past, here and in other places, and found wanting.
Except one, clear solution: to turn East Jerusalem into the capital of the State of Palestine, to enable its inhabitants to set up their own municipality, while keeping the whole city as an urban entity united under one super-municipality in which the Arabs will be equal to the Jews. I am glad that during his visit with us this week, Barack Obama repeated almost word for word this plan, which Gush Shalom published some ten years ago in cooperation with Feisal Husseini, the late leader of the Jerusalem Arab community.
The attacks are the result of despair, frustration, hatred and the sense that there is no way out. Only a solution that will remove these feelings can bring security to both parts of Jerusalem.