The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,
but because of the people who don't do anything about it
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Ten measures descended on the world
Ten measures descended on the world
17 April 2005
“Ten measures of beauty descended on the world - nine were taken by Jerusalem, one by the rest of the world. There is no beauty like the beauty of Jerusalem.” (Babylonian Talmud, Kidushin, 49:2). The writers of that text that was formulated in such a sweeping way did not foresee the great ugliness of the behaviour of the makers of Israeli policy in Jerusalem. Instead of “for the Torah will go forth from Zion” (Isaiah 2:3), we are witnesses to the reality of “for wickedness, abuse and stubbornness will go forth from Zion”.
Israel’s policy towards Jerusalem, like towards the rest of the country, can be summarized in the racist equation: more Israeli territory and fewer Palestinians. And all this under the cloak of the laundering of the words “Jewish and democratic”. In Jerusalem they did this by physically separating the city from the other parts of the West Bank, while also annexing it to Israel.
After the war Israel annexed the entire Eastern city, and some of the villages of the periphery, and in total about 70 thousand dunams were annexed to the municipal territory of Jerusalem.
The Israeli appetite for annexation is insatiable: the means are not always legitimate, actions in the dead of night, far from the public eye and without transparency. Everything is kosher for the purpose of controlling Palestinian property in East Jerusalem. Real-estate sharks join in the festivities, also civil servants, NGOs, people from the Finance Ministry and also Border Guard police (see Meron Rappaport: “A dunam here and a dunam there” Haaretz supplement, 4/3/2005).
Recently the government of Israel approved the construction of 3,500 apartments near Maale Adumim. The purpose of this massive construction is to link Maale Adumim with Jerusalem by frustrating any possibility of future territorial contiguity for the Palestinian State. The Sharon-Labour government is disengaging and annexing, disengaging and weeping,* shedding crocodile tears.
Everyone takes the name of Jerusalem in vain when they say that Jerusalem is “a city knit together”** Knit together? After the Berlin Wall fell, walls and fences were set up around the capital of Israel: a separation barrier. The route of the separation barrier more or less follows the borders of the expanded and annexed municipal boundaries of the city. Until the beginning of the construction of the separation fence, there was almost no logic to the municipal boundaries of the city.
The route of the barrier separates Palestinians living on both sides of the fence. The barrier acutely affects villages and towns near the eastern border of the city: a-Ram, Anata, Dahiyat al-Barid, Hizma, al-Azariya, Abu Dis, Sawahrat al-Sharqiya, Sheikh Saad. They cut between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian surroundings. This is a disengagement that is a serious blow to the fabric of life of Palestinian Jerusalemites. This is not statistics; it is the lives of about 70 thousand people. “A city knit together” separates people from their communities and annexes lands.
Israel is creating a choke-ring around Palestinian residents of the city. A ring that is continuing to tighten. A Palestinian who wants to build a house is caught by a bureaucratic octopus, planning barriers and judicial obstacles and any attempt to get a building permit becomes a mission nearly impossible. The Jerusalem municipality and the Ministry of the Interior present nearly insurmountable difficulties. The demand for housing continues to grow because of natural population increase and to that we must add the separation barrier, which compels many Palestinians to cross over into the municipal territory of Jerusalem. The demand for housing increases, the supply of building permits decreases.
The government imposes requirements that are impossible for the public to fulfill. The numbers cry out to the heavens: in 2003 1,376 houses were built without permits and only 59 with permits! (“Policy Demolishes” [mediniut horeset], Sept. 2004, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
In 2004, up to September, 114 houses were destroyed in East Jerusalem, of which 93 were destroyed by the Jerusalem municipality and 21 by the Ministry of the Interior (“Policy Demolishes”).
With the goal of maintaining the Jewish majority in Jerusalem at any cost the government of Israel does not shy away from any means. Every ruse and trick is completely kosher, also racist laws. Apparently inspired by dark regimes from the past, Israel has invented the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), 5763/2003. This racist law forbids Israelis who have married residents of the Occupied Territories, or who will marry them in the future, from living with them within the borders of the State. It is understood when they say “Israelis” in this case, they mean the Palestinian [Arab] citizens or residents of the State of Israel. Couples who choose to live in Israel (to this end East Jerusalem is considered part of Israel in the law) are violating the law. The law also affects children of residents of East Jerusalem who were born in the Occupied Territories and prevents their being registered as residents of Israel.
Recently in Jerusalem a new “Yad Vashem” museum has been inaugurated, but apparently the stewards of the State have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing, and without hesitation raised their hands in favour of a law to break up families, expel people from their homes and separate children from their parents, all because of their descent.
It is generally thought that the Palestinian population in Jerusalem evades municipal taxes, but that is not the case. The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem pay municipal taxes like their Jewish neighbours, and for them it is a crucial matter because it constitutes proof of their being residents of the city, with the rights of residents of Israel. But they do not receive the same services that Jews receive. There are places where the only service Palestinians receive is the demolition of houses.
In the year 2001 the High Court of Justice ruled that the municipality of Jerusalem must build 245 classrooms in the Arab sector of the city within four years. According to the findings of the “City of Peoples” association only two classrooms were built. See “They’re Taking Their Time” (“Loqhim et ha-Zman” - “Kol ha-‘Ir”, 25 March 2005).
About a third of the residents of Jerusalem are Palestinians. Of the development budget of the Jerusalem municipality for the year 1999, less than 10% was allotted to Palestinian neighbourhoods. There are entire Palestinian neighbourhoods with no connection to the sewage system, and no paved roads and sidewalks. Nearly 90% of the sewage pipes, paved roads and sidewalks in Jerusalem are in the western part of the city. In the west of the city there are 1,000 public gardens, in Palestinian neighbourhoods there are 45, in the west of the city there are 36 swimming pools, in the Palestinian neighbourhoods there is not even one; in west Jerusalem there are 26 libraries, in the Palestinian neighbourhoods there are two; in the west of the city there are 531 sports facilities; in the Palestinian neighbourhoods there are 33.
Everyone who visits the office of the Ministry of the Interior in the east of the city is guaranteed to see a tragic scene. The wait can last for entire days; the line is crowded and packed. Procedures can take months to be dealt with. Well-known in the Jewish treasury of idioms is the saying: “It is hard to be a Jew”; the idiom must be updated as: “To be a Palestinian in Jerusalem is seven times harder.”
On paper, the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have rights by virtue of their being residents of the city. In practice, the rights of the Palestinians evaporate. By virtue of being a resident of Israel a person is entitled to health insurance and social rights. The National Insurance Institute, in all that relates to the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, serves as an instrument to control the demographic balance and not as a body for the advancement of social policy. The Institute raises obstacles to claims submitted by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Long investigations and many obstacles create a situation in which the social rights of Palestinian residents of the city are seriously compromised. The realm of medical insurance is also harmed. In the estimation of the Physicians for Human Rights organization (
In the pastoral village of al-Walajeh (see my article `The Vanished Village` - Heb.: `ha-Kfar ha-Ne`elam`, Hagada Hasmalit 25 Nov. 2004), near the zoo, they “copied” the zoo policy – and to hell with the little difference that in Walajeh the cages hold people!
Israel annexed one neighbourhood from the village to the jurisdiction zone of the municipality of Jerusalem but `forgot` to provide [Israeli] ID cards to its residents. The neighbourhood`s residents are `illegal residents` in their homes. The residents receive water, electricity and other municipal services from the West Bank. The Jerusalem municipality provides only demolition services.
Also in the village of A-Nu’man they annexed the land and neglected the people (on A-Nu’man, see the Betselem report, “Nu’man, East Jerusalem, life under the threat of expulsion” Sept. 2003:
The residents of A-Nu’man are illegal residents in their homes. They are not allowed to stay in the places that have been annexed to Jerusalem. The route of the separation barrier, the expansion of the Har Homa settlement and the network of security roads lock them in their village with no possibility of going to the West Bank. The lack of Israeli ID cards prevents the residents from going to Jerusalem.
The boxed-in village residents thirst for freedom but also for water. In recent years the main water pipe of the village was sealed. Now they have laid a 2.5-centimetre-wide pipe that is barely able to meet the water needs of A-Nu’man (see Niv Hakhlili, “If there’s no water”, Kol Ha-‘Ir, 4/2002/1 - Hebrew).
A-Nu’man has become in effect a prison for its residents. Their crime: to live in their village. There is an advantage to sitting in a [real] prison: the State provides water to the inmates.
The village of Sheikh Saad that is on the eastern margins of Jerusalem and built in full urban contiguity with the neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber, in East Jerusalem. The village is built on a hill about 650 metres high. Because of the hard topography, the village can be reached only from the west, through Jabal Mukaber (in the municipal territory of Jerusalem). The separation barrier will block entrance and exit from the village from East Jerusalem. The tough topography prevents movement from the village to the West Bank. The 2,000 residents who remain in the village are imprisoned in Sheikh Saad without any way to get to Jerusalem or the West Bank (see “Facing the abyss”, a report from Betselem, February 2004 www.btselem.org/Download/200402_Sheikh_Saed_Eng.rtf ). A reality hard for anyone with a conscience to digest, a situation of “Can’t vomit and can’t swallow.”
Ten measures of wisdom in the world, nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. Ten measures of Torah in the world, nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world. (Avot DeRabbi Natan, Schechter edition, version B)
In politics there are no measures of beauty and no measures of wisdom. Reality suggests that there is an upper Jerusalem and especially a lower Jerusalem. In the closing prayer of Yom Kippur: “I see every city built on its site – while the city of God is cast down to the depths of the abyss.”
“How long shall the wicked exult”. ***
[Reuven Abergil is a veteran member of the Black Panthers:
Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall
* An ironic reference to the Israeli tendency to “shoot and weep” – i.e. to seek to have it both ways: to enjoy the benefits of being an oppressor and at the same time to solicit sympathy for the damage to one’s beautiful soul that comes from being an oppressor – trans.
** “Jerusalem built up, a city knit together”: Psalms 122:3
*** Psalms 94:3
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