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Postcard from Arab East Jerusalem

July 19, 2011 – 1:16 pm82 Comments

A photo from the Sheikh Jarrah protest

By Liam Getreu

While in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, I decided to go to East Jerusalem properly for the first time, and posted this originally on my blog. While my Jewish education was occasionally punctured by more honest accounts of Israel, overwhelmingly the narrative and issues I discovered below were missing from my ten years in a Jewish day school – it was all land of milk and honey, all the time, something consistent with all my peers’ experiences. It is integral that in supporting Israel from Australia to be the best democratic home of the Jewish people it can be, we understand the issues that face all of Israel’s citizens on the ground, including Palestinians in east Jerusalem, something I had never before been given the chance to do. Next time you’re in Israel, I can’t recommend highly enough going to see what I saw with a group like Ir Amim; it will provide a very strong, realistic understanding of just one terrible situation in Israel, and how important it is for us, as Australian Jews, to support efforts to correct it.

I had a very busy day that Friday in Jerusalem – not only did I go to check out the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity protests, but I also went on a tour of east Jerusalem neighbourhoods with Ir Amim.

First, a bit of background: As I’ve written here countless times, the nature of a divided or shared, or a united Jerusalem is frequently cited as one of the main stumbling blocks to peace. Palestinians demand that they have east Jerusalem as their capital, whereas the current government of Israel wants to keep the land it conquered from the Jordanians in 1967 as Israel’s ‘eternal, undivided city’

More and more, however, it is increasingly untenable for Israel to sustain such a demand. Whether we like it or not, Jerusalem retains significance for the Palestinian people, which is no more or less legitimate than our claim of significance of the city. We are in no place to judge, or compare who ‘wants’ the city more – this is counterproductive and a zero-sum game. We must accept the current reality of the city, and the aspirations of both people, and share the city between Israel, the state of the Jewish people, and a future state for the Palestinian people.

It is in some way from that position that Ir Amim comes, the organisation describing itself as committed to “an equitable and stable Jerusalem with an agreed political future”. Ir Amim investigates and researches the reailty on the ground in Israel – for example, the inequity in the resources provided to the paving and re-paving of roads in neighbourhoods in Palestinian east Jerusalem as opposed to Jewish communities. Given that Israel annexed east Jerusalem and includes it in its territory to this day, it stands to reason that the division of resources should be fair and equitable.

The tour I went on visited various Jewish neighbourhoods1 over the green line in east Jerusalem, including Gilo and Har Homa.2 We also visited Palestinian neighbourhoods over the green line in Jerusalem, including Beit Safafa, Sheikh Jarrah, Jalal Mukaba and Abu Dis.

The difference between the Palestinian and Jewish neighbourhoods is stark, impossible not to notice, and even harder to dismiss. While Jewish neighbourhoods have municipality provided swimming pools, well-paved roads and lots of schools, the case is the diametric opposite for Palestinians. In Jerusalem, despite west Jerusalem Jewish suburbs of Malcha and Rehavya being under the same municipal jurisdiction as east Jerusalem Palestinian neighbourhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and Abu Dis, and Palestinians making up almost 35 per cent of the entire population of the city, only around 10 per cent of municipal funds are directed to them.3 When Israel claims to be all embracing of its Arab minority, where equality supposedly not only written in law but also evident on the ground, this is surely unfair, unjust and wrong.

In my opinion the most clear and alarming difference is in education of Palestinian youth in east Jerusalem. Ir Amim has commissioned many reports on the matter and has concluded that there is vast inequality. While Israeli law entitled all Palestinians in east Jerusalem to free, public education (something the vast majority want, because private education is so expensive), a shortage of more than 1,000 classrooms makes it impossible for them to receive their rightful benefits. As it stands, because there is that huge gap, and because many Palestinians can’t afford education or the schools run by UNRWA are too full, there are more six per cent of Palestinian children who are unable to attend a school.

For all the talk of a defunct and hostile Arab school system, where textbooks preach antisemitism and the destruction of Israel, here Israel is, with a chance to educate Palestinian children along pluralist and tolerant lines, and the opportunity is ignored. It is at best negligent and at worst criminal. If education is the key to a lasting peace, where both Jews and Palestinians are taught mutual respect and tolerance, then Israel is failing itself here.

It is a crying shame that when Israeli politicians speak of an undivided Jerusalem the reality on the ground is that the municipality and the state are dividing it already – not necessarily geographically, but ethnically, dividing services unequally and ruining chances of a credible labelling in the international arena of Israel as free, democratic and equal for all its citiens.

After the excellent Ir Amim tour I had a break (a smoked salmon sandwich at Aroma on Hillel St, naturally) and then went to join the weekly demonstration by the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. The demonstration is in protest against civil inequality and the occupation, but has stemmed for a particular situation in Sheikh Jarrah, where Jews are allowed to claim properties they lost when Jordan took over east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1948, while Palestinians are unable to do the same to properties lost in either 1948 or 1967.

It is atrocious that Israel allows such blatant inequality and discrimination. In Sheikh Jarrah and many other neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem, Jews are now using Ottoman deeds to re-claim their properties. For the most part I don’t have a problem with that – if there is a genuine consensus on the need to re-settle all refugees from the ’48 and ’67 wars in their original homes then fine. However, if Jews are going to be able to do that, then there must be the same opportunity afforded Palestinians who lost their homes using the same type of documents. Allow both or allow neither, but allowing only one is racist.

The demonstrations, which targets the mostly religious settlers occupying the homes of former residents, occur weekly and seem to aim to raise awareness, build a community of Israelis and Palestinians, together, against the occupation, and to try (however in vain it probably is) to convince the settlers to move out. They marched through the neighbourhood and shouted chants, like the most poignant, “1, 2, 3, 4 Occupation no more / 5, 6, 7, 8 Stop the settlers, stop the hate”. Even as the settlers tried to drown out their shouts with religious music on big speakers, it was as if the power the demonstrators gained from pursuing a noble cause managed to overcome it all.

The protests have been joined by public intellectuals, academics and writers in the past, including Bernard Avishai, Peter Beinart and David Grossman – while regrettably they are not part of the mainstream Israeli psyche, they are well on their way. After all, it is only so long that Israelis can go on, increasingly isolated from the world and not looking internally at their own problems, seeking to solve them to re-gain the moral high ground.

Many will criticise what some members of SJSM have said, or what they stand for, or other initiatives they have joined. Indeed, while some there who would prefer an Israel with no Jewish character and only a single secular, democratic state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, there are far more who are campaigning for a two-state solution. You cannot delegitimise an entire organisation or an entire political movement based on the political affiliations, or the Facebook friends of some of its members, as some have tried to do.

That Friday was enlightening – I did not realise the strength of the new Israeli left, a movement that centres around organisations like SJSM and blogs like 972 magazine. I had not understood the extent of the inequality in east Jerusalem, something that I refuse to stand for, something runs contrary to the intentions of the founders of Israel and of central elements to Jewish faith and culture. The next time you’re in Israel I can’t stress enough how worthwhile these tours are, and how great it is to be involved in the New Israel Fund, an organisation that supports SJSM and Ir Amim in the work they do.

Liam Getreu is a graduate of Bialik College and Habonim Dror and is a former chairperson of the Australian Zionist Youth Council and the Australasian Union of Jewish Students. He is a director of New Israel Fund Australia. These are his personal views.

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  • TheSadducee says:

    Just go back to the 1947 Partition Plan with regards to Jerusalem – the city is administered by the UN as a separate territory so that equality of access and preservation of religious sites for all 3 monotheisms occurs.
    Simplest answer to this problem.

  • Wolf says:

    I must respectfully disagree with you on many points, below are a few;

    a) You claim that there is “inequity in the resources provided to the paving and re-paving of roads in neighbourhoods in Palestinian east Jerusalem as opposed to Jewish communities”, and that “Palestinians making up almost 35 per cent of the entire population of the city, only around 10 per cent of municipal funds are directed to them”. I see two major faults with these comments. Firstly, from where are these figures? Secondly, if you venture into the Yehuda/Shomron area you’ll notice many nice two story arab buildings… from arabs that don’t pay taxes! That’s right, only a portion of the ‘Palestinians’ are paying any tax, many aren’t because it is not safe for the tax man to enforce! Therefore is it any surprise that more tax money is directed towards the people that actually pay tax?

    b) You comment that “It is atrocious that Israel allows such blatant inequality and discrimination”, um do the words ‘constant existential threat’ mean anything to you? The arabs are treated as well as we can treat them with our limitted resources. Israel is a poor country and one must be resourceful with what we have. Let me remind you that if the arabs were peaceful decent human beings en masse, if they didn’t teach virulent Jew hatred in their schools, and encourage terrorism then there wouldn’t be a need for such high security. In fact more money would be spent for everyone to enjoy (Jews and Arabs!).

    c) Like so many people associated with the NIF, you seem to be of the belief that a two state solution (divided Jerusalem for starters!) is a viable agreed upon step towards lasting peace. However you fail to take into account that the arabs that support this solution are not the mainstream… in fact they are the fringe element of arab society. Both mainstream democratic parties in Gaza are internationally renowned terrorist organizations, and both parties are in no way interested in recognizing any sort of Israel divided or not.

    I’d further like to state that I applaud the reasons and basic rationale of NIF. True freedom, democracy, human and civil rights for Arabs and Jews alike, a peaceful arab culture. It is a beautiful concept and one I hope to live to see. However, the means for achieving this goal, as stated, is unrealistic at best, and dangerously delusional at worst. I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know NIF doesn’t appear to have them.

  • Vanessa Steinberg says:

    Get a job!

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Liam, your position seems to be that Jewish property owners should be denied their rights as some sort of moral penalty for rights which were lost by Palestinian landholders. Surely you can see that this is unjust. Furthermore, the whole issue has been litigated at length, all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. Have you anything to say about the actual issue, other than that you think the outcome is racist?

  • leedsiy says:

    @ Vanessa
    HA HA I have to agree with you, wholeheartedly!

  • Ari Briggs says:

    Some of your statements are factually incorrect some just naive. Such as #1 “I decided to go to East Jerusalem properly for the first time” You spent all of a day checking out East Jerusalem “properly”. If you want to be a serious analyst, a day is not enough. Also spending that day with Ir Amim and then SJS, organisations with specific agendas is not enough to get a proper view.

    #2 “Jerusalem retains significance for the Palestinian people, which is no more or less legitimate than our claim of significance of the city” You can’t be serious? 19 years under Jordanian rule vs. 3000 years (since King David’s time, 3500 since the Abraham/Isaac incident) of significance to Jews.

    #3 “the tour I went on visited various Jewish neighbourhoods, over the green line in east Jerusalem, including Gilo and Har Homa” Gilo and Har Homa are in South Jerusalem not East Jerusalem as it is mistakenly called by most of the media and experts like yourself. The fact is Jordan had control over South, East and North Jerusalem for 19 years, from 1948-1967.

    #4 “Bernard Avishai, Peter Beinart and David Grossman – while regrettably they are not part of the mainstream Israeli psyche, they are well on their way” Each and every poll, plus the last 3 elections, show that the psyche of the above people is getting further away from the large majority of Israeli’s. Do you really think if you say it enough times it will miraculously become true?

    #5 “New Israel Fund, an organisation that supports SJSM” Support for SJSM by NIF is a big black mark on what otherwise are noble intentions and actions.

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    Dear Ari, Ms Leeds, Joe,Vanessa, Wolf and Mr Sadducee
    I think that Liam has done a very good job in describing many of the difficulties and manifest injustices in the manner in which East Jerusalem has been administered.

    Justice, in the end, makes Israel stronger not weaker.

    Manifestly, we have not lived up to the promises of the declaration of Independence.. and this is a problem not only for the Arabs who feel discriminated against and disenfranchised but also for us.

    That they are Arabs and that they do not want to be Zionists does not abrogate our responsibility to provide quality schools, playgrounds, building permits, pavements, repair of sanitation facilities and communal facilities.

    Remember after all, these are people who live in areas that have been unilaterally annexed into Jerusalem and the State of Israel.

    That we have annexed the areas in which they live and yet we deny them full citizens rights is another major problem that is related to the issues that Liam has seen and described.

    Prof. Nathan Cherny
    Shaare Zedek Medical Center , Jerusalem
    (ex Melbourne)

    PS It is not clear why corespondents in this site do not identify themselves. As a reader it leaves the impression of not wanting to take personal responsibility for opinions expressed.

  • Ari Briggs says:

    Dear Prof. Nathan, I never said Israel was perfect, perfection in my mind does not exist. I believe we have been doing a hell of a good job in trying to live up to the promises in the decl. of Independence, of course taking into account the difficulties we have had to face since that decl. was signed. Is there still work to be done, for sure, does bashing Israel help, hell no.
    As a doctor serving in an Israeli hospital you are aware of the amazing job Israeli doctors do to mend Arabs as well as Jews in Israel. I am sure you are also aware of the demand for private care from the many Arabs elsewhere in the ME.
    Certainly you are also aware of what Israel has accomplished since 1948- how Israeli Arabs have a higher standard of living than any other Arab and Muslim country in the world.
    I am sure you are aware that not 1 single university was allowed during the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria but today there are 7. Overall today Arabs living in Judea & Samaria have a literacy rate of 92.4% (the highest in the ME) compared to rich Saudi Arabia’s 78.8%.
    And thus for good reason, you are also very aware, that in each and every poll, the majority of Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to live in the Jewish state and not a Palestinian one.
    As I said, we still have a way to go, but to let Liam get away with an Israel bashing that we do not deserve is not right!!

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Liam – good piece.

    I went on an Ir Amim tour too.

    I wont go into the substance of what was covered, you have addressed a lot of it.

    I went with an Israeli group (luckily my Hebrew is pretty good) and one of the most interesting things was the response of the Israelis, who did not seem particularly left leaning to me. They were profoundly shocked by the information provided – hence my impression that they weren’t highly political because I was not shocked – I knew a lot of the stuff covered. They asked lots of question and disagreed with a few factual issues but mainly had no better information than was provided.

    Similarly when I discussed the tour and what had been covered with friends in the following days and weeks, people were generally shocked but not able to dispute the core facts about educational disparity for Israelis and Palestinians within Jerusalem and disparities in municipal spending generally, and that the government supports (including but not only through the provision of private security) Jewish communities who want to live in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, among people who are generally not eligible for Israeli citizenship.

    It was interesting because it demonstrates that Ari right – its a minority of Israelis who feel strongly about this stuff. But not because the majority are so knowledgable. For understandable reasons, people are tired of politics, tired of being empathetic, tired of being asked to feel well disposed to Palestinians given the experience of violence.

    But it doesn’t mean that their lack of interest and concern is good for Israel or is principled. It has often been the cases that people just go along with injustice and with shortsightedness

  • Mandi Katz says:

    its late – to tired to be doing this.

    when I said “educational disparity for Israelis and Palestinians within Jerusalem”, I meant between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians – whether or not they are Israeli citizens.

    People may not realise that most Palestinian living in East Jerusalem have the status of residents (get health insurance , pay taxes etc) but are not citizens. They are of course therefore unrepresented in Israel’s democracy. They may apply for citizenship and many do, but not aways successfully.

    That is why there is so much anger that so many Israelis assert that all Jerusalem is part of sovereign Israel but simultaneously insist that people living there, who were born there, whose parents, grandparents were born there, should not have the right to be citizens of Israel.

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    I see that you are a great defender of Israel and I can appreciate with Israel being subjected to so many unfair attacks by people who REALLY are hstile, it is easy to get into a defensive mindset.

    Not all criticism, however, is with malice and, indeed, some is made with love and out of genuane concern

    As an Israeli I share the concens that Liam raises and I dont think that that Liam loves Israel any less than you.

    Allowing problems and injustices such as those thathe describes to fester without redress, harms Israel.

    Indeed, standing silent and not discussing problems and not adressing substantial problems , or brushng under the carpet only harms in the long run.

    With regards and respect

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Wolf – I meant to say that if you wish to read further about East Jerusalem, there is a lot of information on and linked to Ir Amim’s site:


    Ari is correct – it does have a political agenda, It’s very hard to find information that is gathered by truly neutral bodies. But I’m sure you are capable of working out what is fact, and what is interpretation.

    As Nathan says, there are plenty of people and organisations that are very hateful in the way they talk about Israel and the discussions they promote and allow. They tend to distort and exaggerate facts. Ir Amim is not like that.

    And Ari, you are absolutely right. There is a huge amount for people who care about Israel and support it, to be proud of and to admire and celebrate. The status of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which is the subject of this article, is not one of those things.

  • Wolf says:


    I respectfully disagree with you. The crux of my argument (qouted from above) is that the NIF, seems to be of the belief that a two state solution is a viable agreed upon step towards lasting peace. However it fails to take into account that the arabs that support this solution are not the mainstream… in fact they are the fringe element of arab society.
    Both mainstream democratic parties in Gaza are internationally renowned terrorist organizations, and both parties are in no way interested in recognizing any sort of Israel divided or not.

    I’d further like to state that I applaud the reasons and basic rationale of NIF. True freedom, democracy, human and civil rights for Arabs and Jews alike, a peaceful arab culture. It is a beautiful concept and one I hope to live to see. However, the means for achieving this goal, as stated, is unrealistic at best, and dangerously delusional at worst. I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know NIF doesn’t appear to have them.

  • Reality Check says:

    Nathan Cherny, finally a voice, and mind, of reason. I loves you baby.

  • Ari Briggs says:

    Mandi, I took a look at the Ir Amim website and found it to be very discriminatory and divisive. To illustrate what I mean I used the term Jews instead of settlers and white anglo saxons instead of Palestinians and gave it an Australian feel. As an example in the report on the New Settlement in Musrara it would read as “New Settlement in Armadale”: Rumors have recently been circulating among the white anglo saxon residents of the neighborhood about the Jews future plans. According to one, they are going to fill the neighborhood’s alleys with security cameras; according to another, they are also going to install an electric gate at the only entrance to the neighborhood, so that only its registered tenants will be allowed to be in it. Even if there is no way to verify the veracity of these fears, their very existence indicates the atmosphere of tension and intimidation created in white anglo saxon Armadale as a result of the Jews’ presence in it.

    Then there is the Ir Amim Protests Possible Changes in Textbooks article. Here Ir Amim is protesting ISrael’s wanting to replace books used in certain schood in Jerusalem that define Israel as a “thieving conqueror,” and the only map of “Palestine” in these textbooks eliminates the state of Israel, while labeling Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheva, and the entire Galilee and Negev as Palestinian cities. Now it is clear to me why Israel would want a new curriculum here but Ir Amim says that making any such change would harm the heritage, identity and culture of tens of thousands of children.

    Seems to me that Ir Amim is promoting separation, discrimination and divisiveness instead of integration and coexistence.

    Why is it that people hold Israel to a standard never applied to other nations?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Ari

    I would like to ask two questions so I can understand your comments a little better.

    1. what is the political metaphor that you are using when you reframe the report as a conflict over neighbourhoods between Jews and Anglo Saxons in NSW?

    Context matters. Without context of course it sounds racist because it is just randomly uses ethnic divisions with no background and history. if you took a description of any political commentary about one setting, with its history and complexity, and just randomly substituted ethnic groups from another place, it would sound bizarre and racist, as your example does.

    Perhaps I have missed how Jews in NSW are in a similar position in relation to Anglo Saxons, as settlers in EJ (electorally represented and supported by the state) are to Palestinians in EJ (native and governed without consent).

    2. Are you able to give me to a link to the discussion about text books. I looked for it and couldnt find it. I’m interested to see the context. thanks very much.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Mandi, here’s a political metaphor for you.

    Some aborigines return to their homeland after a lengthy period of dispossession. They’re persecuted and driven off time and again but they always strive to return – they even scrape together enough money to buy a few patches of unprepossessing land that they hope to live on. After decades of struggle and a whole lot of international pressure the courts rule that they are actually entitled to any parts of their homeland that have not been legally alienated.

    A dispute arises concerning one property that they had purchased, but from which they were driven off by the local government. They produce the original bill of sale but they’re mocked – the sale took place a hundred years ago! How can they expect anyone to respect it?

    A lot of people stand up for the evicted squatters and point out that they’re not wealthy (which is true) and that it’s fundamentally unfair that native title doesn’t apply to squatters. The supporters march up and down near the contested site and call for the aborigines to be thrown out. The aborigines try to explain that this isn’t a dispute about native title but nobody wants to listen.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I can only repeat my first post – go back to the ’47 Partition Plan and have Jerusalem administered by the UN – this way both parties are sacrificing control and can have their capitals located to less sensitive locations (eg. Tel Aviv, Ramallah).

    The issues of refugees for Jerusalem can be administered by a UN commission overseen by European nations with appropriate relocation/compensation provided where appropriate.

    All the rest of the discussion is not going to achieve a lasting and viable outcome – you can’t seriously suggest dividing the city into 2 separate zones of control like between 48 and 67 – which was a disaster btw, as a long-term solution which will lead to peace.

  • Sam says:

    The sadd

    Without even touching on Jewish historical connections to Jerusalem, the UN is incredibly flawed and ineffective.
    There has been instances when one side has warned the UN to remove all their personnel in advance of a major aggressive action and they meekly complied. This example is not describing an event in Israel.

  • TheSadducee says:


    The UN may be flawed and inneffective – so are the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

    The problem with Jerusalem is that both sides claim a historical/theological attachment to the city and both sides are not prepared to submit to the other’s claims in this regard. Short of submission or mutual agreement (neither of which are eventuating) there can only be domination of one sides position over the other. This leads to injustice and further hostility.

    Although the UN is flawed in many regards (and don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly not ignorant of their failures), a properly effected administration could be a successful compromise – both sides give up their claims to domination of the territory, both sides agree that their capitals are located elsewhere, both sides (and Christians) have their significant locations protected and open for visitations (which is great for tourism), people living in the city can choose where they want to live and which citizenship they retain when they move from the city (in the interim they have a special class of citizenship related specifically to the city itself).

    I personally think this is the best solution for Jerusalem – anything short of this I suspect is doomed to failure.

    And incidentally, East Jerusalem is regarded by the majority of the international community as occupied territory – how long do you think that situation can last before Israel is forced to abandon it? After having spent enormous amounts of resources/lives/effort – this would be folly in the extreme sense.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I am amazed, always amazed how people will go to any length to deny that Palestinian life has any validity or reality. It is there, it is real, it is different, it is not Israel. It is Palestinian life in Jerusalem. Get used to it. ‘We’ don’t have usufruct.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Is that comment directed to me or other posters? I don’t think my proposition denies any validity to either party and their aspirations.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I’m not sure that Larry is using “usufruct” correctly; it means something like “the right to enjoy the benefits of something (e.g., land) without owning it”. If that is what he meant then I’m quite surprised. I thought that Larry agreed with Liam’s article, but I understand Liam’s position to be that Palestinians have a usufructory right to occupy land which they do not own.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I was referring in a pompous way to colonialism.

  • TheSadducee says:


    How about internationalising Jerusalem similar to what was called for in the 47 UN Partition Plan?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Internationalization is always a possibility if both sides agree.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I suspect that my position is considerably more radical than yours then Larry.

    I suggest that it (the internationalisation) should be enforced by the international community because neither side is going to willingly relinquish their claims for control and diminish the conflict with regards to this location.

    Tours of E. Jerusalem with advocacy groups just isn’t going to resolve this problem nor is well intentioned discussions and token activism.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I’m surprised to see normal people calling for the imposition of a reactionary clericalist agenda against the wishes of the indigenous inhabitants. Internationalisation was only on the table in 1947 because the Vatican pushed for it in order to secure control over Catholic church-owned properties in Jerusalem. Even that “special regime” was only supposed to “remain in force in the first instance for a period of ten years…. The residents of the City shall be then free to express by means of a referendum their wishes as to possible modifications of regime of the City.”

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Joe – no argument on the hitorical and emotional connection of Jews to Jerusalem. But there were and are other people living in East Jeruslema who have a perfeclty legitimate claim to be there. If we were talking about two ethnic groups with competing claims to East Jerusalem but living as citizens with full equality at law, that would be one dicsusion. But we all know thats not the discussion.

    The Sheikh Jarrah situation which I think is what your metaphor is about is more complex than a nice fuzzy story allows. Where is the line in your story which refers to the laws in Israel whch in many cases prevent Palestinians relyng on pre 1948 title to land.

    that the land is “legally alienated”?

    Here’s what legally alienated actually means- an amendment of the 1948 Absentee Property Law in 1970 means that Palestinian landowners who were physically present in East Jerusalem at the time of the annexation of East Jeruslem are not be considered absentees under that Act. Where Palestinian landowners who were not in the annexed territory at the time their property is considered to have been abandoned which gave the state a right to the land regardless of what the title says. But the same law allows Jews to claim their property on the basis of title held prior to 1948, regardless of absence.

    In Israel as in Australia courts are bound by the laws of Parliament, and the court had to recognise the pre 1948 title belonging to Jews even though it cannot recongise pre 1948 title belonging to Palestinians. Its nasty but undeniable – there are blatantly discriminatory laws on the books.

    So no it’s not about native title, its about different laws for Jews than for Palestinians.

    I don’t have full answers to any of this. I entered this discussion to comment on the important role Ir Amim plays in educating Israleis about the issues and for its lawful advocating against this sort of disparity. The woman who led the group I was on was asked by someone about what the answer is and she said I dont know, but I do this because I think more Israelis need the facts so they can join us in banging our heads on this stuff.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    sorry about punctuation.I have now edited this para as It was hard to understand.

    Here’s what legally alienated actually means- an amendment of the 1948 Absentee Property Law in 1970 means that Palestinian landowners who were physically present in East Jerusalem at the time of the annexation of East Jeruslem are not be considered absentees under that Act. Where Palestinian landowners were not in the annexed territory at the time of annexation, their property is considered to have been abandoned. This gave the state a right to the land regardless of what the title says. But the same law allows Jews to claim their property on the basis of title held prior to 1948, regardless of absence.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Mandi, I think you’re comparing apples with oranges. My understanding is that the Israeli and Jordanian Custodians of Absentee Property usually sold off or otherwise transferred their holdings to new owners. Once property has been sold or transferred the new owners have a property right in it. As it happened, the Sheikh Jarrah properties in question were not sold by the Jordanian custodian and the Jewish owners of those properties were able to reclaim them when Israel captured the area in 1967. This is in marked contrast to other Jewish property which remains in Arab hands today.

    None the less, if the Israeli custodian presently holds any property owned by Arabs resident in Israel then I would absolutely support their right to claim it.

  • Ari Briggs says:

    #1 The political metaphor I use for investigating bigotry and discrimination is a well known political science tool to expose certain parties being held to a higher or different standards than normally accepted. I hope you would agree racism or bigotry is a no go whatever the history or context.

    #2 You asked for references on PA textboks used in Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods. There are numerous reports that can be found on the internet such as http://www.pmw.org.il/main.aspx?fi=91&doc_id=5203. Of course Hillary Clinton made statements in 2007 condeming these same textbooks.
    How easily our memories fade and organisations try to plant new ones.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Joe – we’re saying the same thing but seeing it differently. The specific properties under discussion in Sheikh Jarrah (you didnt confirm that thats what your story was about) are not the subject of disputed claims. The properties may well not have been sold off by the Jordanian custodians although I dont imagine that issue was before the court.

    The point is that Israeli law extinguishes the tile of Palestinians who left in 48 and in 67, but doesnt extinguish the title of Jews held before 48 regardless of absence from the area in the intervening period .In one case a Palestinian family involved, ownership of property elsewhere in Israel prior to 1948 but would have no right to claim that property because of the law. Yes, to the victor go the spoils. Thats war. I understand.

    Im saying that morally its now nasty for Jews to claim land using a law which treats the Jewish citizens of the country more favourably than non Jewish residents of the country, even if it does relate to land abandoned in circumstances of war.

    Particularly because the conduct has the clear political goal of entrenching Jewish communities into East Jerusalem to make it harder for East Jerusalem to be the subject of negotiations. Under international lawn the final status of Jerusalem is still to be determined.

    It also inflames tensions in East Jerusalem, not least because there is such clear disparity in quality of housing available to Jews and Palestinians, in beyond the green line Jerusalem.

    We clearly see this ethics and politics here here very differently. I would suggest people read widely to make up their own minds.

    heres my suggested start – I imagine you have others.


  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ari – I didn’t ask for a reading list about text books in East Jerusalem. I know there are very serious issues.

    In the post before your last you made a comment about information that Ir Amim provides, and said its inflammatory. I asked you about that specific comment. Can you please tell me where I can read the specific information you referred to.

    As to political science, well its not a science.It doesn’t have immutable laws and principles like biology or chemistry. It’s an art and if the tactic doesn’t make sense (either generally or because of the way you have applied it here), it doesn’t wash with me, however many people use the tactic.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ari – apologies. you didn’t say inflammatory. You said divisive and discriminatory.

  • Andrew Wirth says:

    Liam and Mandi- just catching up with this thread- not sure I am clear about the thrust of the arguments – Is jerusalem being discussed here as a special case in relation to legal and moral issues around abandoned land and Palestinian rights, or is it just illustrative and do you intend that the logic of the arguments here could and should be applied to abandoned Palestinian land West of the green line? (I admit the technical legal issues around property rights in this setting is something I need to know more about)

  • TheSadducee says:

    Thanks for the helpful response Joe in Australia!

    Of course, the internationalisation needs to be exactly as formulated in the 47 plan! No reasonable and sensible person would suggest modifying the conditions to respond to the dramatically different circumstances that exist today, would they?

    I am not advocating a reactionary clericalist regime (btw, isn’t that the current Palestinian government’s situation?) taking over Jerusalem – I’m advocating a UN internationalised city based on the UN’s Charter of human rights etc without Vatican administration – it strikes me as the only way to separate the parties’ claims effectively, sort them out, and get them to live together without conflict.

    I haven’t seen a viable alternative offered which will not continue the occupation and violent reaction to it.

  • ariel says:


    I head the Mayor of Jerusalem on BBC last week asked: a) why, after 2.5 years in the job he hadn’t fixed all the problems in eastern Jerusalem; and b) why Palestinians make up 35% of Jerusalem’s population but only receive 10% of the budget.

    His answers:
    a) Fixing infrastructure (and the other) problems takes decades, not 2.5 years;

    b) Jerusalem budget operates similar to other cities [I haven’t checked which, but we can do so -ariel] in that it feeds back to residents a proportion of the budget commensurate to what they pay in coucil taxes. In this case, it appears that Palestinians tend to avoid paying their taxes (only 10%) so they only receive 10% of the budget.

    Just because a city is psuedo divided, does not mean this cannot be remedied, but it will take time. Cutting and running from the problem acheives nothing for Israel and Jerusalem and even less for Palestinians who will end up with even less should they become part of the Palestinian state.


    You write “People may not realise that most Palestinian living in East Jerusalem have the status of residents (get health insurance , pay taxes etc) but are not citizens. They are of course therefore unrepresented in Israel’s democracy. They may apply for citizenship and many do, but not aways successfully.”

    However, you neglect to note that they are considered citizens of the PA and Israel (under Ariel Sharon!) allowed them to vote in the last PA elections in 2006 in which they voted for…you know whom with a Captial-H (not making excuses, just a bit of history).

    So they are permanent residents of Israel, but citizens of the PA. Their future citizenship status will be determined once the borders of the two states – leaving Jerusalem in Israel! – will be decided.

    I think then there should be quid pro quo: Israelis who refuse to leave far flung settlements and cross the border into Israel should be able to remain citizens of Israel, but permanent residents of Palestine.

    To all:
    There has never been a divided city which worked, but of course the world thinks it will work for Jerusalem for some reason. For a city to thrive, it must be open and inclusive for ALL residents and tourists to come and see it.
    As the current mayor says, Jerusalem should reclaim its status of a beacon of light for the whole world to come to worship/medidate/study/interact/etc. Not have a border fence with Passport checks running straight through it. Only the status quo of Israel administering the city can this be guaranteed (obviously with improved services to the Palestinian residents).

  • Wolf says:

    Well said Ariel

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Malki, can you provide a reference for your claim that “Israeli law extinguishes the tile of Palestinians who left in 48 and in 67, but doesnt extinguish the title of Jews held before 48 regardless of absence from the area in the intervening period”?

    I’m certainly no expert on Israeli law, but I suspect that if there were such a law then it would be notorious – and I’ve found no mention of it.

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    I find it curious that Prof. Cherney states that Israel “[denies East Jerusalem Arab residents] full citizens rights”
    while omitting that Israel offered them citizenship, but they turned it down. Arab residents of “East Jerusalem” do however, get all medical care, ambulance services, etc. that a civil society provides, while ducking their tax payments as a matter of course.

    Internationalizing Jerusalem is just another form of European colonization. The Vatican as well as other European powers wanted to control Jerusalem.

    “East Jerusalem” is not Palestinian. In every Ottoman census the majority of Jerusalem was Jewish. The Mufti-led pogroms from 1936-1939 drove out Jews from some neighborhoods [Shimon HaTzeddik, renamed Sheik Jarrah]; the Jordanians drove out Jews who had lived in the Old City for centuries in 1948 and replaced them with Jordanians. Until 1948, the Old City was majority Jewish. Why shouldn’t we keep Jerusalem? It was never “Palestinian” and never important to the Arab polity until Israel made it our capital.

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    when I became a citizen of Israel, the was no request of me that I renounce all other aleigences including my australian citizenship. Indeed, I dont know of any Jew whose Israeli citizenship rights were predicated on such a demand…. do you??

    In contrast, for the Arabs living in the sections of East Jerusalem that were annexed, therioffer of citizenship was conditional upon the renouncing all other aleigences and citizenships.

    This is a discriminatory assymetry that does not stand up to the litmus test of Justice.

    As per Tax Evasion, Sarah give me a break. Most of the Esast Jerusalem redidents are salaried and their taxes are deducted automatically.

    The whole enterprise of cash business to evade taxes has been mastered by Israeli’s in all sectors.. let alone the whoe world of Harredim (who refer to northern Jerusalem and Bnei Brak as the “Autonomia”).

    Finally, Sarah, I wishe we could have a united Jerudalem, as I also wih for many unnatainable things, such as wealth or the prosect of seeing great grandchildren.

    But, to me, the hope of striving for a peace that will allow me and my children to get out of this awful endless cycle of enmity and hostility, is a priority above that.. and I REALLY dont wnat to be a ruler over an disefachantised people, denied full rights and equality with a different set of national and cultural asprations.

    I am quite happy to live next to them and coopererate with them as joint custodians of this precious city in which I work.

    All the best


  • Sarah Netofi says:


    Like you, I live in Jerusalem. I have no idea where you get the idea that most people in East Jerusalem are salaried and therefore their taxes are deducted automatically. They’re not — cab drivers, shop owners, garage owners and mechanics and architects, businessmen, etc. are not frequently NOT salaried and work as what we would call “independent contractors” in English; and you know as well as I do that many take their money “black” (under the table) and fail to report it as income tax. Furthermore, you know as well as I do that the Arab communities throughout Israel, including Jerusalem, go out of their way to avoid paying property taxes as an act of “resistance” and to not be seen as collaborators — as well as put the difference in their pockets. Arab townships have gone into receivership because the Arab mayor refused to enforce the tax laws and collect property taxes from his own hamula (clan). You are either poorly informed for an Israeli or you are deliberately misleading the readers in this thread.

    You made aliyah to Israel from a non-hostile nation that was not at war with Israel. The Arab residents of the Jordanian-occupied sector of Jerusalem are in a different category. Many are in-migrants from Jordan and had family and clan ties to a country which maintained a state of war with Israel. All were educated in the highly antiSemitic Jordanian educational system and extemist youth groups. To ask people of a hostile polity to accept citizenship and the rights and privileges that go with it, including renunciation of allegience to nations or proto-nations calling for Israel’s destruction, is not unreasonable or unfair.

    I am quite happy to live next to a peaceful Palestinian state which has renounced violence and terrorism, agreed to an end-of-conflict solution, and acknowledges Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people instead of reserving the right for further “resistance” in the name of Greater Palestine, as Abbas said recently.

    I am not willing to divide Jerusalem. It was never “Palestinian” and prior to 1948 was majority Jewish in and around the Old City. If the Palestinians want to rail against Jewish settlements over the armistice line, including those that were Jewish townships BEFORE 1948, then we have every right to disupte the Jordanian Arab settlement of what were Jewish neighborhoods in and around the Old City. Dividing the city simply means continued tensions and conflict. The Palestinians are on record as saying that their new state will be Jew-free, meaning no Jews can live in and around the Old City. You proposal to divide Jerusalem is unworkable.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Sarah. thanks for participating in this discussion. Appreciate the opportunity to hear from a Jeruslem resident.

    When you describe “Arab residents of the Jordanian-occupied sector of Jerusalem” as ” in-migrants from Jordan”, are you talking about people who have migrated to Jerusalem in recent years, or to people who were Jordanian residents in 67?

    Genuine question because to have been educated in Jordan people would have to be in their late 50s and early 60s (at least) which is only a small part of the population.

    I imagine that you are aware of the schooling crisis in East Jerusalem and the fact that only 50% of kids in East Jeruslam attend municipal schools because there aren’t enough municipal funded classrooms despite court orders to build more. Others attend private schools and 5% are not in any school system.
    Do you not see the poor attitudes to Israel and Jews among the younger population as a reflection of the lack responsible spending in East Jerusalem by successive Israeli governments.

    Every country has populations that do not pay as much tax as other population groups. Im not defending tax avoidance or arguing that it doesn’t happen but how is it in Israel’s interest to ‘punish’ poor populations by not providing adequate schooling ?

  • TheSadducee says:

    “Internationalizing Jerusalem is just another form of European colonization.”

    -because the current alternative has worked marvellously hasn’t it?

    I hate to say but an international Jerusalem would be better for anyone living there than living under the current and ongoing conflict zone irrespective of which group/s controls the city.

  • ariel says:

    There is much spin here about the taxes paid by Jerusalem residents.

    These “taxes” are not income taxes, which Nathan rightly says are deducted by employers (although Israel has a large Schwarz economy like most Mediterranean countries, which is why the Greek government has no money).

    What we are referring to when we use the word “taxes” in this thread are what are known in Australia as “Council Rates” or in Israel as “Arnona”.

    It is these payments which only 10% of East Jerusalem residents actually pay. So those areas get back 10% of the council’s budget.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Ariel, why do you think “an international Jerusalem would be better for anyone living there than living under the current and ongoing conflict zone”? Jerusalem isn’t a conflict zone; it’s more peaceful than the capital cities of any of Israel’s neighbours. Furthermore, can you think of any internationally-administered areas that are actually peaceful? I can’t.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Oops, that should have been directed at theSadducee, not Ariel.

  • Sam says:

    I have recently returned from a trip to Israel. Regarding Jerusalem, I cannot have as much insight as a permanent resident but the Old City and New City seem to work quite well for all ethnic groups. I actually felt much safer at night in many areas of Jerusalem than in the main entertainment precinct (Northbridge),in Perth.
    The Sadd. has claimed that the current alternative is not working marvelleously, however it is easily possible for the living conditions to become much worse, which I strongly suspect would occur with Internationalization.
    As a serious question to you, as you keep coming back to your preference for a pre 1947 UN sanctioned mandate; if Britain was agreeable to becoming the overall administrator for Jerusalum right now, would you prefer that to the status quo since 1967?

  • TheSadducee says:


    It is a low-intensity conflict zone with periodic outbreaks of medium to high intensity violence. There is a constant state of tension due to the conflict which leads to disorder (people throwing stones off the Temple Mount at the people below) to significant violence (bus stop bombing earlier this year).

    The UN administration of East Timor was certainly better than what it experienced before i.e. Indonesian administration. Although problematic, the UN administration of Kosovo has certainly been better for the majority population than Serb administration was.

    But irrespective of those examples, due to the importance of Jerusalem, there would have to be a more rigorous administration to ensure that it works.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I wouldn’t object to the UK administering Jerusalem if it imposed a legal system which matched their own with ensured rights for all etc and proposed dual-citizenship for permanent inhabitants (i.e. Israeli/Palestinian and Jerusalem inhabitant status – the last to be lost when moving from the city). Municipal taxation could be divided appropriately and collected fairly from all inhabitants.

    What is the alternative? Having a significant minority who declines active involvement, declines to pay taxation etc and is generally hostile to the administration?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Sarah’s comments reminded me that I hadn’t responded to a couple of comments addressed to me.

    Andrew to answer your question, my comments don’t have any agenda except to raise awareness about current property ownership and status of residents of East Jerusalem and the disparity in the law which applies. As a result of laws enacted after wars, there is a present and ongoing legal basis for Jews to assert ownership on the basis of title to property owned prior to 48 and abandoned as a result of war, whereas Palestinians cannot claim ownership on the basis of title to property owned prior to 1948 or 1967 and abandoned as a result of war.

    Reliance on those disparities continues today and often with financial support of Jews in the Diaspora. People need to be informed about what their support for a current position actually entails.

    Joe – you questioned what law operates in a discriminatory way.

    It is the cumulative effect of a number of laws.

    Israel’s Absentee Property Law Act of 1950 provided for the transfer of property of absentee owners (as defined in the Act to refer to people living in Arab countries or the land of Israel but out of the state of Israel, at the time of the creation of the state) to the Israeli state Custodian. The intention of the 1950 Law was to transfer land abandoned in war to the state. A similar law was enacted by Jordan. In both cases state Custodians took custody of the vacated land – in Israel’s case it was sold or transferred to the Israel Land Administration’s Development Authority and from there to the Housing Ministry or other parties.

    Post 67, Israel’s Absentee Property Law was amended (in 1970) to apply to property where the owner was an absentee in 1967. The definition of absentee was that anyone present in East Jerusalem when it came under Israel’s control was not an absentee. But people then living (even temporarily) beyond the boundaries of what became municipal Jerusalem – including in the WB – and who owned property in East Jerusalem are considered absentees under the Law.

    In that way title to land owned by Palestinians who were absent from their property in 1948 or 1967 has been extinguished.

    Title to land owned by Jews was never extinguished because Jews were never deemed by law to have abandoned land in that way. That is how Jews have been able to re-establish occupation rights on the basis of pre 48 title.

    The 1950 law was enacted create a functioning state and was then described as an emergency measure. It’s not all pretty but it’s history. Its the current political approach to the law that can be influenced and that’s the focus of an organisation like Ir Amim.

    Post 67 the state rarely applied the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem properties. That policy changed by the late 70s and the law has been used extensively in recent years.

    As to your last comment in your comment to me Joe – that if there was such a discriminatory law, you would know about it. I never knew about it either until I started reading broadly. But this has been the subject of international scrutiny. An Israeli parliamentary committee, the Klugman Committee, under Rabin’s government, looked at it and was critical of the operation of the law. In 2005, the Attorney General Meni Mazuz was highly critical of the ongoing application of the Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem. And the discriminatory aspect is what draws Israelis to Sheikh Jarrah each Friday to protest.

  • Andrew Wirth says:

    hi mandi – still not clear – is there a legal distinction between extinguishment of palestinian title to abandoned property in jerusalem and abandoned property elsewhere in israel

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Andrew – no there isn’t. But it’s brought into to sharp relief in East Jerusalem is that the 67 war brought back to Israel people who had been deemed to have abandoned property in 48.

    Four families at the centre of the Sheikh Jarrah issue, were 1948 refugees who relocated to Jordan and took possession of properties in East Jerusalem with permission of Jordanian authorities .

    So they face the possibility of losing their homes on the basis of Ottoman title based claims made by Jewish organisations (but not the original Jewish families who owned the properties) but they cant make similar claims on their family’s property in Israel because of this law.

    But you raise a difficult point because there are other cases of families who lost land in 48 but remained in Israel so the situation there is very similar. There is a family in Ramle defending an eviction action but thats not based on a title based claim of a Jewish organisation; the dispute there is about unauthorised renovations on public housing. The family involved did own property in Lod but were resettled in Ramle in public housing.


  • Andrew Wirth says:

    mandi, is continued residence in israel of displaced palestinians material to title claims (compared to having been displaced outside israel)?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Continued residence is not the test. As I understand it, the 1950 Law turns on absenteeism (being out of Israel) as at November 1947. The 1970 Law turns on absenteeism (being out of East Jerusalem) at the time of annexation of East Jerusalem.

    Given the political context, its implicit that most people who were absent from their properties in November 1947 within the meaning of the Law have not subsequently been resident in Israel.

  • Andrew Wirth says:

    got it, thanks ( I was just picking up on your highlighting families displaced in 48 but remaining in Israel)

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Right – in the case of the family in Ramle as described halfway through that Haaretz articIe, I read somewhere that they left Lod trying to get to Jordan but were turned back. Im not sure why they were deemed to have been out of Israel but I have only read a couple of articles (as distinct from proper reports with proper citations) on that dispute so I don’t really know that much about it.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sam says — “I cannot have as much insight as a permanent resident but the Old City and New City seem to work quite well for all ethnic groups”

    Hello? Ask that of any Palestinian in East Jerusalem, particularly in divided villages such as Abu Dis.

    I am simply amazed at the justifications of occupation and deliberate policies of exclusion as a result of the unification of Jerusalem by people such as Sara Netofi.

    To a blanket claim of anti-Semitism as the justification for a policy of exclusion is simply preposterous. Read for example, anything by Joharah Baker @ http://www.miftah.org/ concerning the dreadful state of civil rights for Palestinians in J/m. This piece by her is particularly poignant. http://tiny.cc/0tjc0. He anger is not anti-Semitic. It is about equal rights and respectd. What do you want, a permanent second rate non-citizen class to colonize and deracinate? It all raises that dreadful term, ‘ethnic cleansing’, which used to be called, more abstractly in Ivrit ‘transfer’.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Larry, I totally acknowledge that the process for registering as a non-citizen permanent resident described in your second link seems excessively difficult. But where you see it as evidence of racism, I see it as Israel encouraging people to become citizens. If you look at the way other countries treat permanent residents you’ll see that it can be even more time-consuming in those places: at least these residents can apply from within Israel.

    My question is, if they want to be permanent residents of Israel, why don’t they take up Israeli citizenship? Do they think that with an Israeli passport they’ll lose the ability to enter Arab countries? Are they in fear of reprisals by Palestinian militants? Do they receive outside entitlements that they would lose? Are they making a political stand?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    They won’t become citizens because it makes permanent their de facto second class status and creates further legal separation from their own families. Until full equality of all people is recognized in an Israeli constitution which does not privilege any community or religion they won’t. Israeli is in the situation of wanting to impose a dominant ethno–cultural privilege over what is in reality a multi-ethnic population. It has been the contradiction since day one. Even Ruth Gavison, one of the most sophisticated defenders of constitutional rights for all, when push comes to shove, says that the Jewish homeland comes first.

    Before you all start slagging off at me, I think my position should be made clear again–I’m not against a Jewish presence, I support Jewish culture and life in Israel –it’s a fact, but the are too many contradictions and inequities that have to be corrected with it wanting to maintain a privileged status if the state wants to be called democratic.

  • Sam says:


    You said: “I think my position should be made clear again–I’m not against a Jewish presence, I support Jewish culture and life in Israel”.

    That is very generous of you; maybe you can say to the Australian government ” I don’t really have a problem with people of caucasian descent living in Australia, but only if they should have no priveleges.

    I could say something but I am a bit lost for words. My wife on reading your post put it succintly; Larry go fxxk yourself!
    I have thought of something finally.
    Larry, go to Syria, and declare that you love them even though you are jewish, and you want to join Hamas/Hizbollah.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sam, thank you for sharing your thoughts and those of your wife with me in the most positive, thoughtful, and supportive fashion.

    Despite your response, remember that it is a question that is at the core of the future of Israel as a democracy, as a state for all its people, and not just some. And it is a similar question that has been applied to Australia–we don’t have an immigration policy based on the colour of your skin or your religion, or ethic background and there is a linked struggle for a pluralistic society. If there is one thing I think we have achieved by and large, despite problems which happen with every new group, it is multiculturalism and a generally shared civic culture.

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    Sam I think that your last comment was way out of line.

    Moderator, are you awake??

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    Sorry, bogged down for the last couple of days.

    Mandi, the school system in East Jerusalem is a disgrace, apart from taxes and other excuses. Successive Israeli governments simply did not want to or know how to handle the political hot potato that is the Arab school system.

    Most people of western extraction recognize that integrated schooling is the basis of a solid civil society. Here there is no such thing. It’s not just Arab schools v Jewish schools — it is public v private, semi-private, unrecognized schools; democratic schools versus ultra-Orthodox schools. Then there are Arab schools that are mostly Moslem and Arab schools that are Christian.

    How does the Israeli government handle the issue of Arab schools where Kurds and Christians in the middle east have demanded autonomy and insisted on the right to their own school systems where their children can learn their language, history, songs etc? Israel permits the Arab communities to educate Arab children in Arabic and in East Jerusalem, using the Jordanian texts, objectionable as they are.

    There are several disadvantages to this. The first is that you have children who haven’t sufficient Hebrew fluency to get into college here and then get their M.Sci in Jordan….and then return and can’t teach or do research because their Hebrew isn’t good enough. I sat next to a man on the bus one day who was going to ulpan. He’d grown up in East Jerusalem and told me he was going to ulpan because although he spoke some Hebrew and some English, he had followed the path of Arab education in getting his M.Sc in engineering—but did college and graduate work in Jordan and now couldn’t pass the civil service exam in Hebrew. What a waste!

    But you need to balance that against the parents’ desire to not see their own language and culture assimilated into the majority culture, and also balance it against the difficulty children have learning in a language not their mother tongue.

    The use of Jordanian textbooks, which are highly racist and antiSemitic is also problematic because it further segregates the societies of this city.

    The long-range solution to the city of Jerusalem is just that–long-range. But the immediate need for classrooms, labs, computers and decent education should be addressed immediately. Why isn’t it? No guts in government–whatever the municipality does will engender controversy, so it does nothing. The Portfolio for East Jerusalem has just gone to Meretz, and that council member is an old radical who doesn’t care who he offends, and wants to address the classroom shortages now, so maybe something good will come about.

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    @Sadducee — “I wouldn’t object to the UK administering Jerusalem…” You wouldn’t be British by any chance? :-)

  • Sam says:


    Larry is not that thin skinned, and he is very capable of a making an equally cutting riposte. Did you interpret my comment on the basis of the explicit meaning or the underlying one?
    This website encourages robust debate, which is why it is such a fantastic asset.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sam, your answer to Nathan still provides no answer as to your (typically) anonymous remarks directed in my direction.

  • Sam says:


    Other commentors have stated that for some individuals there are sound reasons for remaining anonymous. My reason is extremely sound and entirely reasonable as well. I will not elaborate further.

    Sorry you did’t get it before; but the intended meaning (sarcasm intended),is entirely to do with how you might be perceived by those organizations, rather than the probabibility that you might seriously put in a written application.

  • Morry says:

    There are huge problems with this article of Liam’s. The first is not just that the information was sourced from a group that advocates a specific position, but that Ir Amim’s points were never checked. This is not objective, but advocacy.

    Let’s start with “Jerusalem retains significance for the Palestinian people”. How? Why? On what basis? Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, then then the Allies, and, as the result of war, Jordan finished up with it. Where exactly are “the Palestinians” in this sequence of events? They were certainly happy as Jordanians up until 1967. No demands for … well, anything. Didn’t even call themselves “Palestinians”. Certainly not a Muslim religious basis. Whilst one can accept some significancew to the Ela Aksa Mosque, a single building, Jerusalem, the city, has never held any interest in Muslim lore, until post 1967, in response to Jewish claims. It doesn’t even rate a mention in the Koran.

    Let’s move on to property … and a certain Israeli ignorance of their own history. Property laws in much of the lands that had been part of the Ottoman Empire remain Ottoman to this day, because of the complex definitions that such lands still operate under. Under these laws private title is sacrosanct, which is why the Jordanians didn’t terminate any Jewish titles. That is the reason Jews continued to own their properties into 1967, and the reason Arabs retain the 3.3% of Israel that they always owned. Let me make this clear, in 1947, according to the definitives “British Survey of Palestine”, “local Arabs” … “Palestinians and Israeli Arabs” in modern parlance, owned 3.9% of Palestine. The handful of non-Israeli Arabs who may have owned and lost property, were compensated in accordance with International law. If you’re looking for “fair” that is exactly what Holocaust survivors are offered … but there it took, not a year, but half a century. So it’s not a matter of any law “allowing Jews to reclaim their property”, they never needed to because it had always remained theirs, kept safely by a Jordanian government office. Is there really a suggestion that these people, herded out of their homes in Jerusalem and marched across into Israel should not get their homes back, when the people living in them were no more than rent-paying tenants?

    I’m not sure how many remember, but the reason citizenship for Arabs living in East Jerusalem became a matter of choice was because they balked at having it imposed. You can’t have your cake and eat it, making Israel the evil one for not imposing citizenship, or the evil one for imposing it on people who didn’t want it. If you feel it should have been imposed anyway, then put it down to a misguided effort to do the right thing.

    There is way too much wrong with this article, but let me at least note that, if this rosy for Israelis, terrible for Arab scenario, the current huge demonstrations sweeping Israel regarding housing shortages wouldn’t exist.

    Undoubtedly there are things Israel could do differently, perhaps better … certainly if you focus exclusively on these issues and assume unlimited funding to deal with the issues, but in the objective scheme of things, look at any nation in the world. Could you not make a very similar case for the second-class status of Aborigines in Australia, looking at similar issues of health, quality of life, education and longevity? Perhaps Israel is doing as well as everyone else.

  • Ittay says:

    Hi Morry,
    Jerusalem is mentioned zero times in the Torah. It is also mentioned zero times in the Quran.

    How then did the city become holy to Jews and Muslims?
    When the city is referred to in the Torah, the term “the place that God will choose” is used. There are also refrences to Zion and Moriah. Samartains later understood this reference to “the place that god will choose” to be Mount Grizim. Rabbinic Jews understand this place to be Jerusalem.

    In the chapter 17 verse 1 of the Quran it says “Glory be to Him Who took His devotee (Muhammed) one night from Masjid-al-Haram (in Makkah) to Masjid-al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), whose vicinity We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs; surely He is the One Who is the Hearer, the Observer.”

    This verse is interpreted by Islamic tafsirs (commentaries) as referring to this journey, with the term “the farthest Mosque” (al-masjid al-Aqsa) referring to the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, where the mosque stands.

    Jerusalem served as the first qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims. Whilst Muslims were in Mecca, and also for 17–18 months in Medina, Muslim prayed towards Jerusalem. Early mosques in Medina were built to face Jerusalem. In 625, The qibla was changed to the Kaaba in Mecca.

    The reason I provide these tow examples is to illustrate that both in Judaism and Islam, Jersualem became identified as a holy place after the initial revelation. In the case of Judaism, it was through the Neviim and Ketuvim, whulst in Islam in came through the hadith and latter commentaries and, particularly that of Ibn Hajar, Ibn al-Jawzî and Yusuf Ali.

    This informnation is relevant because both modern Judaism and modern Islam are entirley products of interperative traditions, with very few Jews or Muslims reading the Torah or Quran literally.

    This is why both Jews and Muslims see the city of Yerushalayim/al Quds as holy today.

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    @Ittay–you are being disingenuous. Jerusalem is mentioned zero times in the Torah, which deals with the time of Moses, because we weren’t in the Land yet; it is mentioned three times a day in Jewish daily prayer; we have prayed in the direction of Jerusalem for centuries; it is mentioned repeatedly in the Tanakh, the Talmud and later Jewish writings. Every time Jews have had sovereignty in this land, Jerusalem has been our capital; under Moslem rule, it has always been a derelict backwater.

  • Ittay says:

    Hi Sarah,
    You write “Every time Jews have had sovereignty in this land, Jerusalem has been our capital; under Moslem rule, it has always been a derelict backwater.”

    For just a few examples of when Jerusalem was far from a ‘backwater under Islamic rule’ may I encourage you to read http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=169 or look up the history of Jerusalem in the Rushadin Era under Caliph Umar, Umayyad Era under Caliph Abd-al-Malik and Fatmid, Saladin, Ayyubid dynasties.

    Furthermore, under the Ottoman Turks from 1517-1917 Jerusalem enjoyed a prosperous period of renewal and peace under Suleiman the Magnificent – including the rebuilding of magnificent walls around the Old City. Throughout much of Ottoman rule, Jerusalem remained a provincial, if religiously important center, and did not straddle the main trade route between Damascus and Cairo. The English reference book Modern history or the present state of all nations written in 1744 stated that “Jerusalem is still reckoned the capital city of Palestine”.

    When you say that Jerusalem is “mentioned three times a day in Jewish daily prayer; we have prayed in the direction of Jerusalem for centuries; it is mentioned repeatedly in the Tanakh, the Talmud and later Jewish writings.” You are absolutely correct.

    I strongly believe that Jews can affirm their connection to Yerushalyim in ways other than by delegitimizing the claim of others to it. Amos Oz said in 2010 ““I love Jerusalem even when I don’t like it, even at times when I cannot stand it. That is the situation right now. The Jerusalem of my childhood was filled with fanatics, and Jerusalem now is filled with fanatics. Then everyone was obsessed with the future; now everyone is obsessed with the past.”

    The time has come for Jews, Muslims and Christians to do what’s best for the future of Jerusalem.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ittay, your efforts to put a bit of scholarship rather than fantasy about Islam into this discussion are to be applauded.

    My only contribution to this is that I spent about a week some years ago, going around and identifying Ummayad, Ayyubid, Mameluke and other monuments in Jerusalem and taking many photos. It is a goldmine of real physical and cultural history (including for example, collections of very rare documents held by the Khalidi family who ‘only’ go back 1000 years), and it is a tragedy that in this discussion we see an extraordinary ignorance and blindness to this heritage. Don’t believe me? Get a good guidebook and do a walking tour.

    Fortunately, there are some joint efforts to share this rich heritage between all communities in recognition that it is a shared place.

    And for all the bashing of the Ottomans that goes one, we forget that it was they who welcomed the Jewish exiles from Spain and for all the so-called backwater status of Jerus, it was no better or no worse than many places in the Pale or elsewhere in feudal Europe.

    As Ittay states, It is also complete drivel to say that Jerus. is not mentioned in the Koran. It’s the same dissimulation that was also put out by Elie Weisel some time back. Jerusalem appears in other phrasis and of course, since the time of the establishment of the Koran has been a major city for Muslims.

    So we have at least 1200 years of Muslim history in Jerusalem, at least 2000 years of Christian history. It is very sad that people get the point that there are at least 3, not one exclusive communities, built all around on top of, and over each other. It’s not just about the Kotel.

    It’s no use saying who came first, because in fact, we really don’t know. Early Hebrews were certainly not the first arrivals, nor the last. The biblical text, as Ittay says, needs to be interpreted, not taken literally, and modern scholarship has give us many, though not absolute clues. Use of biblical promises to interpret modern politics leads to well..we see the situation, and a similar problem in Iran.


    Sam’s supposed sarcastic remark directed at me still makes absolutely no sense. Cloaking calling me a f*wit or someone who the Syrians might take seriously under the coward’s mantle of anonymity for reasons he does not explain is no excuse. If you are going to call be a f*wit, use your real, full name, otherwise, frankly, keep your remarks to yourself.

  • Sam says:


    Nowhere in my comments did I call you f*wit or a similar meaning name. You are confusing this with the comment made out aloud by my wife that I relayed to you which has a very different meaning. I will not discuss my anonymity further. You are pathetic that you cannot accept that. I will respect your wish for me not to criticize you in the future on this website. However in my book there is nothing worse than self-hating Jews who make what appear to be erudite (when read superficially) statements demeaning Israel in an unrealistic and strongly biased manner and thus supporting our enemies.
    Are you really serious that you have not understood the meaning of the previous three posts that I made re your posting?

    No need to respond as I am bowing out of the discussion.

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    “under the Ottoman Turks from 1517-1917 Jerusalem enjoyed a prosperous period of renewal and peace…” Under Suleiman, the walls were rebuilt, that’s true. The rest of this is fantasy. Prosperous? Hardly. Go through the guidebooks and traveler’s writings of the last few centuries and you will see that Jerusalem is repeatedly described filthy, crowded, impoverished, disease-ridden and bandit-beset, full of people living by begging and on charity. It was a backwater, and while individual families here and there endowed beautiful buildings or built mansions for themselves, it was overall poor and neglected. There was a privileged elite of courtiers to the Sublime Porte, but it was firmly under Turkish rule and a few Syrian effendi families did well, but not the populace overall. It was never a commercial or political center of any importance under Moslem rule.

    You are deliberately confusing art with centrality — Jerusalem was never of central importance to any Moslem ruler; never a major commercial center, not on major commercial pathways, not a seat of political power, etc. Pretty buildings built by an elite few do not make Jerusalem central to Islamic rule or religion.

    I’ve already got the guidebook and done the walking tour, thank you. Your accusation of being “blind to this heritage” is misplaced–I’m fully aware of the lovely architecture, beautiful buildings and the feudal system in place at the time, along with its exploitation of the general populace of Moslems, Christians and Jews. If you can’t see the distinction between Jerusalem as a holy city central to Jewish faith, commerce and polity and a backward impoverished city that was tertiary to Moslem rule and not important religiously until the Jews wanted it, then nothing will help your blindness.

  • Sarah Netofi says:

    “It is also complete drivel to say that Jerus. is not mentioned in the Koran.” Really? Point me to the verse. I have a copy of the Quran and have read it. Nowhere could I find “Jerusalem” or a city called “Al Quds.” So, show me–not metaphors, similes, allegories, allusions, deductions, and implicit references but an actual proper name.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sarah, perhaps you are more aware of the geopolitics and economy of Medieval Islam than I, but there is no doubt that in a theological sense, Jerusalem remained central. I stand corrected on Jerus’ relative affluence. As a provincial city its fortunes waxed and wanes, but it was never abandoned. In the same way that for example, Rome and its successors became central to Catholicism as centres of power moved (Avignon etc), the centre of power of the Islamic world moved Jerusalem was never on a major sea or trade route, and thus was inevitably on the margins. But in a religious sense, , but al-Quds was always that–holy. [one the history of Islamic Jerusalem, the Jerusalem in the most recent edition of Enc. Judaica]

    In some respects this is a non argument because all you are interested in is an absolute point proving that because Jerus was not THE religious centre, it was not important, rather than seeing it as part and parcel of Islamic civilization, albeit in some ways on the margins as compared to the great centres of power and creativity in Baghdad, Spain etc. The resources were there, not in Palestine. This is no reason to deny Islamic rights or presence as seems to be the politics of so many at the moment.

    On the subject of the ‘non-appearance’ of Jerus in the Kuran– that is right, it is not explicitly named, because Muhammed (or whoever edited/wrote the Kuran–the same controversies exist as with the issue of biblical text) made allusions to what was ‘known’ and obvious during the process of revelation. Much in the Kuran is like this. It is not always a literal text, but it is very clear that from the earliest days of Islam that it was a very holy place.

    For Muslims — http://tagtag.com/aqsa/the_centrality_of_al_aqsa_mosque_in_islam

    For non-Muslim scholars Jerusalem in the Kuran– I don’t like to use the word eminent, but all these scholars are, particularly Goitein, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the past century. I think the case is beyond doubt. Otherwise, why was al-Aksa or the Haram built?

    Goitein, S.D.; Grabar, O. “al- Ḳuds.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010: “Jerusalem is not mentioned expressly in the Ḳurʾān. But “the city of the sanctuary” certainly was known to the Prophet. Sūra XVII, significantly named both al-Isrāʾ and Banū Isrāʾīl , in vv. 2–8 clearly refers to the destruction of the first and second temples (called masd̲j̲id in V, 7) as crucial events in the history of the Banū Isrāʾīl. Al-masd̲j̲id al-aḳṣā in the opening verse of the Sūra is taken by the prevailing Muslim tradition as referring to the sanctuary of Jerusalem. Against this, it has been argued that there was no building on the site of the Temple at the time of the Prophet, that the Holy Land is called in the Ḳurʾān the “nearest” (XXX, 2) and not the farthest (XVII, 1), and that, in general, the verse makes the impression (and is taken thus by Islamic tradition) of an account of a nightly ascension to a heavenly sanctuary (details in the articles of Bevan, Schrieke and Horovitz, cited in miʿrād̲j̲ ). But knowledge of the state of the site of the Temple or consistency in geographical definition were outside the interests of the Prophet. It may be concluded with reasonable certainty that, at the time when XVII, 1, was combined with XVII, 2–8, the tradition identifying al-masd̲j̲id al-aḳṣā as the Temple of Jerusalem was already dominant, and that the original meaning of the verse as that of a visionary experience was connected with it in one way or another (cf. “The Jerusalem above”, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, iv, 26). The situation is similar with regard to the ḳibla, or direction of prayer (II, 136–8). Again, Jerusalem is not mentioned expressly, but the Islamic tradition that it was intended by “the first ḳibla” is no doubt genuine; since the new ḳibla , which satisfied the Prophet’s heart, was to the direction of the sanctuary of his native city, it stands to reason that the original one also was oriented to a holy city, and there was none for monotheists except Jerusalem. No “political” reasons, however, should be assumed for this change (“trying to win the Jews”, “breaking with the Jews”). One prayed towards Jerusalem because this was the direction of the People of the Book as was known in Medina. It simply was the proper thing to do. When Islam became a separate religion with Mecca as its central sanctuary, the change was natural and religiously cogent”.

    And back to Sam. It still makes no sense. Your wife’s ironic remark –again, referring to me as a F*wit or words to that effect was missed by both Nathan and myself, unless you though my statement about Jewish rights was somehow inflammatory or pretentious. The past 100 years or so is a fact and can’t be changed. I am not in favour of expelling Jews from pre-67 borders and that is why I made the statement. As for the west bank of course, I, like many Israelis, believe that the population needs to move out not just because it is a policy failure, but because it is an economic and moral drain,

    I still can’t accept your alleged requirements of anonymity either. The issues I raise are the same as those of many concern to other Israelis, deeply concerned about the country’s future. Nor I can I accept your accusation that I give succour to enemies etc, that I am self-hating etc. The self-hating script in fact got used up in many threads about a year ago. More latterly, it has been ‘delegitimizing’. But it is much the same thing–the attempt to shrug off anything except the most milk-toast criticism while continuing to engage in brutal occupationism and support of colonizers that breeds violent reactions.

    I suggest you use your own name. If I can, why can’t you, or at least have an easily identifiable pseudonym.

  • TheSadducee says:

    If you can’t even get a group of Jews and Israelis to agree about Jerusalem, how do you expect to reach an equitable agreement with the Palestinians!?!?

    Internationalise now – it is the only solution that will work going forwards.

  • Sam says:


    We will have to agree to disagree on whether you do, or do not de-legitimize Israel. Stop going on about the f*wit thing unless you can show me a quote where I said it. You are out of line with this one. I am not able to give you the reason for anonymity, but it is genuine and not really relevant. Best you just drop it. You can identify my comments from the name Sam and my unique avatar. Don’t you also have a unique avatar? So there, that wasn’t so hard!

    The Sadducee

    You think that the jews would be better of under a very similar system that existed in Palestine between 1945 and 1948? If so re-read the history and decide if you are a friend of the Jews of Israel or not.

  • Marky says:

    Larry writes “It’s no use saying who came first because we don’t really know. Early Hebrews were not the first arrivals…”

    What does it matter that there were others there before the Jews? Those others are not claiming anything. It is the Muslims-who only started about 1400 years ago as a religion-who decided it’s theirs.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I have not advocated the position that existed between 45-48 and I am aware of the history.

    I have laid out a very different framework for the administration etc. I don’t think that a modern internationalisation would be similar at all due to the completely different circumstances which exist today in 2011 and are not parallel to those of pre-1948 and hence I put aside your comment as irrelevant to my argument.

    Again I go back to the fact that the current situation is not working out and I haven’t heard an actual argument which will address the problems – do you have any real suggestions?

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