News You Really Need To See: “Rage in Jerusalem”

“Rage in Jerusalem”

London Review of Books, November 21, 2014

What the government of Israel calls its eternal, undivided capital is among the most precarious, divided cities in the world.  When it conquered the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank – both administered by Jordan – in 1967, Israel expanded the city’s municipal boundaries threefold.  As a result, approximately 37 per cent of Jerusalem’s current residents are Palestinian.  They have separate buses, schools, health facilities, commercial centres, and speak a different language.  In their neighbourhoods, Israeli settlers and border police are frequently pelted with stones, while Palestinians have on several occasions recently been beaten by Jewish nationalist youths in the western half of the city.  Balloons equipped with cameras hover above East Jerusalem, maintaining surveillance over the Palestinian population.  Most Israelis have never visited and don’t even know the names of the Palestinian areas their government insists on calling its own. Municipal workers come to these neighbourhoods with police escorts. …  All Jerusalemites pay taxes, but the proportion of the municipal budget allocated to the roughly 300,000 Palestinian residents of a city with a population of 815,000 doesn’t exceed 10 per cent. Service provision is grossly unequal.  In the East, there are five benefit offices compared to the West’s 18; four health centres for mothers and babies compared to the West’s 25; and 11 mail carriers compared to the West’s 133.  Roads are mostly in disrepair and often too narrow to accommodate garbage trucks, forcing Palestinians to burn rubbish outside their homes. … More than three-quarters of the city’s Palestinians live below the poverty line. Since 1967 no new Palestinian neighbourhoods have been established in the city, while Jewish settlements surrounding existing Palestinian areas have mushroomed.  Restrictive zoning prevents Palestinians from building legally.  Israel has designated 52 per cent of land in East Jerusalem as unavailable for development and 35 per cent for Jewish settlements, leaving the Palestinian population with only 13 per cent, most of which is already built on.  Those with growing families are forced to choose between building illegally and leaving the city.  Roughly a third of them decide to build, meaning that 93,000 residents are under constant threat of their homes being demolished. … These neighbourhoods have become a no man’s land where criminals can escape from both Israel and the PA. … Palestinians in general feel disconnected from their political leaders, but the sense of abandonment is particularly acute in Jerusalem, where the PA is strictly forbidden from acting and to which Ramallah, like most of the Arab world, devotes many lofty words but very few deeds. … All four of Jerusalem’s representatives in the Palestinian parliament – all of them members of Hamas, elected in 2006 – have been deported. … The notion that Abbas has incited them to protest is laughable to Palestinians in Jerusalem. When permitted entry to the city, his representatives and associates have been verbally and physically attacked by Palestinian residents.”

Quickie Analysis: A long quote, yes, but an excellent article laying out, in concrete terms, some of the long-standing grievances the residents of East Jerusalem have with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

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