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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

The Jerusalem Question: Part 3

By Habib Siddiqui

With the defeat of the Turkish Army during the World War I (1914-18), British General Edmund Allenby took control over Jerusalem. Upon entering the city on 11 December 1917, he declared, "Now the Crusades come to an end."

The British Mandate Period:

As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of the end, i.e., marshalling of a neo-crusade against Muslims by using Israel as a ‘rampart’ in the Muslim heartland.

In 1917, Britain issued the infamous Balfour Declaration promising the Zionists establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. The Declaration was criminal to the core as historian Arthur Koestler so aptly described: “One nation solemnly promised to give to a second nation the country of a third nation.” [30] With that goal in mind, during the devious British Mandate (1917-47), Jews were pumped into Palestine from all over Europe.

Despite such Jewish influx, according to a census taken by the British on 31 December 1922, there were altogether 83,000 Jews in Palestine out of a total population of 757,000 of which 663,000 were Muslims. [31] That is, the Jewish population was only 11%.

In 1935, when the Palestinian Arabs rose in revolt against further Jewish immigration, there were 370,000 Jews out of a total population of 1,366,670, i.e., 3 out of 4 were Arabs. [32] During partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of the total land in Palestine. [33] Yet when on November 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem in an international zone, 56% of the total area was allotted to the Jewish state. As was expected, Arabs (except for King Abdullah of Transjordan) rejected the plan and a fight for territories broke out in which armed Jewish terrorist gangs massacred unarmed Palestinians in several villages. [34] At that time, in Old (East) Jerusalem Jews owned less than 1% of land. Their ownership of properties in the New (West) city was 26%. [35]

In recent years, the issue surrounding pre-1948 demographics of Jerusalem has become a hot item. Zionist historiographers (e.g., Ben Arieh, Gilbert and others) have been trying to prove a Jewish majority in Jerusalem before the partition. This myth has no support and is debunked by the available late Ottoman-era statistics and (for the later period) by examining the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality as drawn by the British Mandatory authorities. [36]

In this regard, it is worth quoting what pre-eminent demographer Justin McCarthy had clearly pointed out, “Ottoman statistics are the best source on Ottoman population.” [37] The Ottoman data on Jerusalem show that in 1871-2, the Jewish population of Jerusalem was a quarter of the total population living in Jerusalem. In 1895, when the city’s population was about 43,000, the entire Jewish population could not have been more than a third (i.e., 14,500). In 1912 – the last Ottoman statistics – show that Jerusalem had a total population of 60,000 of which nearly 25,000 were Jews. [38]

According to Professor Walid Khalidi the international zone comprising “Mandatory municipal Jerusalem” in addition to some 20 surrounding Arab villages had a slight majority of Arab population who numbered 105,000 while the Jewish population was just under 100,000. [39] Academic research works by Salim Tamari (director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies and a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Birzeit University) and others present a similar picture. They point out how Zionist historiographers deliberately avoided accounting for Arab neighborhoods in their demographic studies of Jerusalem while concentrating mostly on Jewish suburbs.

Upon reviewing the literature on the selective demographics of Mandate Jerusalem, British historian Michael Dumper attributes two major reasons for these population discrepancies. [40] First, estimates counted Jewish migrants who arrived in Jerusalem before 1946 and later moved to Tel Aviv and other localities. Second, while excluding Palestinians who were working in the city but living in its rural periphery (the daytime population such as the commuting workers from Lifta and Deir Yasin), they included Jewish residents living in suburban areas such as Beit Vegan, Ramat Rahel, and Meqor Hayim. The latter were incorporated within the municipal population through a process he refers to as "demographic gerrymandering.” [41]

Professor Tamari’s studies on Jerusalem’s western villages, for instance, show that once the rural neighborhoods are introduced, the picture regarding demographics and land composition change dramatically. “Extrapolations from 1945 Mandatory statistics,” Professor Tamari says, “show that the Jerusalem sub-district contained slightly over a quarter of a million inhabitants of whom 59.6% were Arabs and 40.4% were Jewish. In the western Jerusalem areas that came under Israeli control after the war (251,945 dunums) 91.8% (231,446) dunums were Arab owned, 2.7% were Jewish owned, and the rest were public lands.” [42]

The Israeli Period:

The conspiracy of the Western powers in collusion with the Zionists, the terrorism inflicted upon the Arab inhabitants, the foolishness of the local leaders, and the incompetence or indifference of others – all these led to the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 when on that day the Jewish settlers declared independence. The massacre of Arab residents of Deir Yasin, Qibya and Kafr al-Qasim that followed were only the preludes to Israel’s genocide of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatilla, Tyre and Sidon, Nablus, Jenin and of ongoing atrocities in Gaza, West Bank and Southern Lebanon. [43]

Soon after the unilateral declaration, in a subsequent war with neighboring Arab states, Israel captured 78% of the original Palestine by annexing territories set for the Arab Palestinian state, leaving only East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Arab hands. This cataclysmic event forced 750,000 Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere.

As to its impact on Jerusalem, Professor Tamari writes, “During the war of 1948, particularly during the months of April-May, about 25-30,000 Palestinians were displaced from the urban suburbs of Jerusalem. In addition, the bulk of the village population (23,649 rural inhabitants) was also expelled. These included the population of the two largest villages in the Jerusalem sub-district, Ain Karim and Lifta, and virtually all the rural habitations west of the city (except for Abu Ghosh and Beit Safafa). Altogether 36 villages and hamlets were destroyed, or – as was the case with Lifta and Ain Karim – were physically left intact but their Palestinian inhabitants removed. Most of the displaced persons eventually found refuge in the Old City and its northern Arab suburbs (Shu’fat, Beit Hanina, Ram), and in the refugee camps of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Today the refugee population originating from the Jerusalem district is estimated to be 380,000.” [44]

In July 1949, the Israeli government declared West Jerusalem "territory occupied by the State of Israel", and all Arab lands and businesses were confiscated under the Absentee Property Regulations of 1948. Most of the urban refugee property in Jerusalem was sold to Israelis and squatters. Refugee-lands outside the urban center were mostly sold to a specially established Government Development Authority which in turn sold them to the Jewish National Fund or to cooperative agricultural settlements. Soon, Israel began to transfer its government offices to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Government employees were housed in abandoned refugee property. [45]

On 13 December 1949, the Israeli government declared Jerusalem as its capital, which was later passed as a resolution in the Knesset on January 23, 1950.

On June 5-10, 1967 Israel launched an offensive against neighboring Arab states and captured East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, plus the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Most Jews celebrated the event as a liberation of the city; a new Israeli holiday was created, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), and the popular Hebrew song, "Jerusalem of Gold" (Yerushalayim shel zahav), became popular in celebration.

Between 1949 and 1967 scores of Palestinian towns and more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israel. In the first flush of victory in the 1967 war, Ben Gurion wanted the magnificent walls built by the Ottomans that surround the “Old City” destroyed because they were such a powerful reminder of the Islamic character of the city. Most of the Israeli government buildings in Jerusalem including the Knesset are built on Palestinian-owned land.

In defiance of the international community, Israel wasted no time in declaring the city of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital. This meant that it extended its law to East Jerusalem and claimed it as part of Israel, a move that no country in the world recognized, including up until recently the US, citing international law which states that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Teddy Kollek, the mayor of the contested city, said in 1968: "The object is to ensure that all of Jerusalem remains forever a part of Israel. If this city is to be our capital, then we have to make it an integral part of our country, and we need Jewish inhabitants to do that."

In 1980, Israel formalized its annexation of the eastern half of the city when it passed the Jerusalem Law, claiming that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel".

In the 1967 census, the Israeli authorities registered 66,000 Palestinian residents (44,000 residing in the area known before the 1967 war as East Jerusalem; and 22,000, in the West Bank area annexed to Jerusalem after the war). Only a few hundred Jews were living in East Jerusalem at that time.

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), since annexation of East Jerusalem, have embarked on a “Judaization” policy that entails constricting building permits to local Arabs to build houses on their ancestral land, withdrawing residency permits, demolishing Palestinian homes and mosques, and building illegal settlements. One of the first moves was to demolish the Maghariba quarter in order to enlarge the prayer area next to the Wailing Wall. One hundred and twenty-five Arab houses were destroyed in the process. Jerusalem Palestinians are considered as foreign residents. The policy of the Interior Ministry towards them – endorsed on 30 December 1996 by the Israeli Supreme Court – is too severe and arbitrary (especially since 1994). In 30 years (1967-97), an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem lost their right of residency in the city. These include, for example, Jerusalem Palestinians who lived for over seven years outside the city limits. During the first two weeks of January 1997 alone, 233 Palestinian residents in Jerusalem were issued with expulsion orders. Palestinian refugees from camps located within the limits of Greater Jerusalem (the Shufat and Kalandia camps) have absolutely no political rights. [46]

Since its occupation, Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian-owned homes. Last year, some 88 homes were destroyed, leaving 295 people without shelter. Over the past decade, more than 2,600 people have been rendered homeless after their houses were demolished. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency status of 14,595 Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinian holders of the Jerusalem IDs live under the constant threat of residency revocation.

This "policy of Judaization," which has been conducted openly by the Israeli government to reduce the Arab presence in Jerusalem, is starting to bear fruit. While in 1990, there was still a majority of 150,000 Palestinians against 120,000 Jews in the eastern part of the city, the ratio has been reversed to the benefit of the latter. In 1993, East Jerusalem counted 155,000 Palestinian Arabs against 160,000 Israeli Jews. Some 250,000 Israelis lived in West Jerusalem. [47]

On 19 April 1999, an inter-ministerial committee on Jerusalem recommended that Israel needs to build 116,000 new housing units in the city for Jews by 2020 to maintain a 70/30 percent Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This would signify an annual rate of 5,500. Figures published on 28 May 2003 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics showed that Jerusalem’s population reached 683,000, of which sixty-six percent was Jewish. Of the 32 percent of the population who were Arabs, 94% were Muslim and 6% were Christians. [48] In 2004, the Jewish population in Jerusalem was estimated at 464,000 out of a total population of 692,000. [49]

The illegal Israeli settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem have expanded rapidly, in violation of all international laws. Between 1967 and 2003, 35% of the land in East Jerusalem was expropriated for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and attendant facilities. Of the more than 38,500 houses built on expropriated land, as of 2003, none was constructed for Arabs. As a result of such settlement policies, by 2003, there were over 43,000 homes in Jewish neighborhoods and only 28,000 in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. [53]

The Jewish settler population in East Jerusalem has also multiplied accordingly. In 2000, it was estimated to be close to 180,000. [50] In 2003, 217,000 Palestinians shared East Jerusalem with 200,000 Jewish settlers. Of these, 66,500 were in the Greater Jerusalem area of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar Elite, Har Adar, Efrat and part of the Etzion Bloc. [52] Today, 86 percent of East Jerusalem is under direct control of the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers. Around 200,000 settlers live in settlements that have been mostly built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian property.

Worse still, Israel has constructed a wall to separate Jewish illegal settlements from Palestinian neighborhoods. This apartheid wall, which Israel started building in 2002, snakes through the West Bank territory, dividing villages, encircling towns and splitting families from each other.

It has also impacted Palestinian Jerusalemites: more than 140,000 residents living in Jerusalem neighborhoods are disconnected from the rest of the city and as a result, suffer from a severe lack of basic services and infrastructure. [For instance, more than 40% of Palestinians living inside Jerusalem are not connected to city’s official water grid.]

Moreover, Israeli lawmakers are now making moves to annex three large settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank to the Israeli-defined boundaries of Jerusalem.

The so-called "Greater Jerusalem bill" would see the addition of 140,000 Jewish Israelis who live in these settlements to the population of Jerusalem, to ensure a Jewish majority in the city. With the approval of new construction permits for Jewish settlements, the demography of Jerusalem in its 50th anniversary of statehood and beyond is bound to change steadily.

The Israeli government has succeeded in applying Jerusalem’s religious symbolism to vast areas that have nothing to do with historic Jerusalem. So, e.g., over half of what we call Jerusalem today was not part of the city pre-1967, but were parts of Bethlehem and 28 other West Bank towns.

In today’s Israel, even the dead are not safe from desecration. For example, during Olmert’s tenure as the mayor of Jerusalem, Islamic burial places in West Jerusalem ‘Ma’man Allah’ (or colloquially Mamilla), measuring some 250,000 square meters, were turned into building plots. The Sheraton Plaza Hotel, Supersol supermarket, Beit Argon building and the adjacent car parking lot are all built on this Islamic Waqf owned land which was used by Muslims as their burial place in Jerusalem until 1948. What remains of this Muslim cemetery is being used as an open park, courtesy of Jerusalem mayors.

Moreover, Palestinians in Jerusalem are required to pay taxes, such as the national insurance tax, for services they barely receive. This is in contravention of international law, which considers East Jerusalem as occupied territory and thus, Israeli law should not be applied to the area. The Arnona municipal tax has been imposed on residents of the city since 1967. It is widely seen as a form of discrimination as it affects Palestinians disproportionally. With the rates highest for East Jerusalem, Arnona taxes can exceed the annual rent of low-income families. Businesses are also subject to Arnona taxes. The rate applicable to each business correlates with the size of the property and not its economic revenue. The system has strenuously placed pressure on Palestinians, forcing many to relocate to the occupied West Bank.

The 1993 Oslo Accord left the future of Jerusalem to be determined later through serious negotiation. At Camp David in July 2000 and later at Taba, Israeli negotiators considered allowing some sovereignty to the Palestinian state over Arab areas of East Jerusalem but no agreement was reached. The Palestinian side was ready to concede Israel’s claim to West Jerusalem of which Palestinians had privately owned 40 per cent in 1948.

The final negotiation fell flat on the status of Haram al-Sharif. [54] But more problematic was the apparent arm-twisting of the Palestinian negotiators by their US counterparts to appease the Israelis. It failed to give importance to the legal arguments, i.e., who owned/owns what property. Just because Barak “conceded” more than any other Israeli government does not mean that it was just or fair.

In the post-Clinton era, nothing significant has been done to settle Jerusalem’s long-standing problem except President Bush’s announcement of the so-called “Roadmap” for the creation of a Palestinian state, which aimed more at getting the necessary cooperation from his Arab client states before toppling Saddam than establishing the groundwork for real peace or a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. As subsequent events had proved, Bush Jr. Administration gave a Carte Blanche endorsing Israel’s war crimes inside Gaza. Between 2001 and 2008, the US vetoed 9 times in the UNSC on resolutions critical of Israel on the Palestine question.

During Obama’s presidency, no substantive initiative was undertaken either to stop Israel’s excesses and to find a solution to the crisis. His administration cast its first negative vote in the UN General Assembly in 2009 on a resolution that called for an end to the 22-day Israeli attack on Gaza. It cast its first veto in the Security Council on 18 February 2011 to block a resolution denouncing Israel’s settlement policy as an illegal obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East. Not only that, the US voted against a UNGA resolution that called on Israel to cease obstructing the movement and access of personnel, vehicles and assets of the Agency of the United Nations Relief and Works for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). In 2012, it also opposed and attempted to block Palestine's upgraded UN status at every step. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, described all efforts to hold Israel accountable for its criminal actions and to abide by the international treaties, charters and conventions to which it is bound as "anti-Israel crap."

In 2014, the world witnessed the murder of more than a thousand unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. The Obama administration once again allowed Netanyahu’s war crimes to go unpunished. The shortly lived ad on metro buses of Boston's transit authority, the MBTA (before it was removed under pressure from pro-Israel groups and in an apparent violation of its own policies) summed up the US complicity: "Since September, 2000 Israel's Military has killed one Palestinian child every four days, using U.S. tax dollars. End U.S. support for Israeli apartheid."

Instead of disciplining Israel for its plethora of crimes, the Obama administration in September 2016 rewarded the pariah state with a whopping $38 billion military aid package, the largest given to any state anytime in US history. It was a criminal gesture, which only emboldened Israel to expand its settlement activities. The Obama administration in its last days, as if out of some moral bite of conscience, stood by as the U.N. Security Council voted in December 2016 to adopt a resolution declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem illegal and demanding a halt to their expansion. The abstention was the first time the Obama administration stepped aside and allowed the Security Council to censure Israel. Speaking after the vote, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, defended the abstention, comparing it to policies of Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to the Reagan administration. “Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermine Israel’s security, harm the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erode prospects for peace and security,” Power told the council after the vote. “We could not in good conscience veto the resolution,” Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, added.

The president-elect Donald Trump blasted the U.N. and the Obama administration after the vote. Trump tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” after the UN vote.

Surely, with Trump in the White House now, Netanyahu has a narcissist, delusional psychopath to lean on to! On December 17, 2017, a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been backed by every council member except the US, which used its veto.

As can be seen the US support inside and outside the UN has been crucial for Israel to defying world opinion, and maintaining its apartheid character.

- Asian Tribune-

The Jerusalem Question: Part 3
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