Culture, Global, Israel, Politics, Religion


jewish_arab_coexistence_2Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Gavriel Meir-Levi who has served in the IDF and is active in American politics. He is currently involved in creating social media for a State Senate campaign and completing his forthcoming memoir OBAMADOX about working on the Obama Campaign. He loves iPhone Apps.
Today, as many Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the (conquest) reunification of (East) Jerusalem, it might seem ironic to look at the current situation in East Jerusalem as an opportunity for peace. Many esteemed figures such as Elie Wiesel have proposed that the issue of East Jerusalem should be pushed off in to the future as far as possible, while on the other end of the spectrum Ed Koch offers us his recent comparison of Jerusalem to a New York City with East Jerusalem as its “Arab Borough.” I leave it to you the reader to figure out if he means Queens or Staten Island.
The above notwithstanding, I believe the idea of looking at East Jerusalem with a fresh pair of eyes has a lot of merit. Rather than forcing the East Jerusalem Arabs to pick sides in which at least some would opt to stick with Israel, why not grant them citizenship in BOTH the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? In stead of being at the center of a tug-of-war they could be a magnificent bridge between East and West.

A first step could be East Jerusalem residents voting in Jerusalem municipal elections as well as national Israeli elections, thereby finally receiving the public services from Israel they so need and deserve. At the same time, they could cast their votes as Palestinians and be allowed to take part in the unfolding drama of the Palestinian story with a mayor of their own. They would essentially be dual-nationals voting in two different states, not unlike the way as an Israeli-American I can vote both here and in Israel.
Slowly nurtured economic ties with the West Bank and the Arab World could lead to increased trade and foreign investment – imagine train service from East Jerusalem to Amman, Ramallah and Riyadh. Political self-determination could eventually allow East Jerusalem to become either fully Palestinian or Israeli, or to become a liminal Hong Kong-like gateway that is at once BOTH Israeli and Palestinian, yet neither.
Granting East Jerusalem independence would create a tremendous amount of goodwill towards Israel both from Washington and the Arab World and would give the citizens of East Jerusalem the dignity of citizenship and democratic representation they have never had as permanent residents, neither in Israel nor in the Palestinian Authority. And it would slowly create what both sides so desperately need: common ground.
I could not find any polling on the political preferences of East Jerusalem residents, but according to a recent Palestinian poll, 52% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza agreed on the establishment of a Palestinian State within the total area of the 1967 borders yet only 21% supported making Jerusalem as the capital of two states: Palestine and Israel. Could this mean that the majority of Palestinians prefer Ramallah as their capital?
While Jerusalem should never be divided – be it by wall or policy, it definitely ought to be shared. What better day to share a gift than on the very day you received it? So let us hope to wish ALL the people of Jerusalem a Happy Jerusalem Day, from the West out to the East for though we are in the West, our hearts are in the East.

10 thoughts on “HAPPY (EAST) JERUSALEM DAY

  1. Why shouldn’t Jerusalem be divided by policy? The current bounderies of municipal Jerusalem were created in 67. What makes this particular map sacrosanct?
    I do like this suggestion about dual nationals, I’ve never seen it proposed before.

  2. Yeah, when we talk about “East Jerusalem”, we’re talking about at least 4 different things:
    1) the Old City
    2) Arab neighborhoods outside of the Old City that were historically part of the city of Jerusalem and ended up on the east side of the border in 1948
    3) Arab villages (north, south, and east of historic Jerusalem) that were never considered part of “Jerusalem” (THE ETERNAL UNDIVIDED CAPITAL OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE) until they were annexed in 1967
    4) Jewish neighborhoods (north, south, and east of historic Jerusalem) built after 1967

  3. East Jerusalem residents were granted the right to naturalize as Israeli citizens when Israel annexed the area forty years ago, but only about five percent have done so. Why should those numbers shift now?

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone!
    Chorus – Thansk for the compliment re: dual nationals. Re: “divided by policy,” I didn’t mean visa vis the map, just that even without walls or barbed wire the city could (and often is) divided by laws, housing regulation, zoning ordinances, etc. I agree with you and with
    BZ – that yes, the current municipality borders are a far cry from the “Eternal Heart of the Jewish People” that Elie Weisel so eloquently describes.
    Panam – the dual national issue will (’tis hoped) address your point Panam. The main reasons East Jerusalem residents do not apply for Israeli citizenship is that a) many if not all identify very strongly with the Palestinian cause and b) there is a lot of political pressure on them not to become “traitors” to that cause.
    Allowing them to be citizens of BOTH Israel and the Palestinian Authority would allow them to identify themselves as both Palestinians – and therefore not traitors, and Israelis – and therefore party to all of the benefits that Israeli citizenship confers; political representation, health insurance, unemployment insurance, freedom of travel, freedom to live wherever they want and not have their citizenship revoked (that’s a big one) and the like.

  5. At the same time, they could cast their votes as Palestinians and be allowed to take part in the unfolding drama of the Palestinian story with a mayor of their own. They would essentially be dual-nationals voting in two different states, not unlike the way as an Israeli-American I can vote both here and in Israel.
    This same process, btw., could be applied to many other Palestinian communities, which currently hug the Green Line on the Israeli side–both in the north and in the south. This could be part of the gradual transfer of these areas from Israel to Palestine.

  6. I’m glad you agree that the map is arbitrary, but you didn’t answer my question. In the post you say that Jerusalem should not be divided. Why not? Especially if you conceed as BZ often points out, that Jerusalem is not unitary to begin with?

  7. Just to be clear, I agree that Jerusalem should not be divided by unilateral Israeli policy. But why not divide Jerusalem in a policy negotiated as part of ending the occupation?

  8. Hi Chorus, thanks for the clarification. If what you mean by “dividing” is redrawing the municipal lines in some way then I would ask you to please explain what your proposal is, especially in light of the categories mentioned by BZ above. As I said, the current municipal lines reflect little more than the fact that they are the current municipal lines.
    What I was referring to when I said “divided… by wall” is a situation in which a wall or a series of checkpoints or a fence or barbed wire (or some other mechanism) literally divides the Jewish and Arab populations of the city. This, in addition to being both politically and demographically close to impossible, would be a disaster for all sides – Israeli, Palestinian and most of all the East Jerusalem Arabs who would be even more “trapped” between this tug of war.
    It also all but ignores the fact that many East Jerusalem residents do not want this, even though many of them strongly identify with the Palestinian cause and consider themselves Palestinian. As mentioned in the post, there’s no reliable polling data on this (at least none that I could find), but by giving the East Jerusalemites dual citizenship and their own democratically elected Mayor and a separate municipal authority (which they probably would not want initially but may choose for themselves down the road once their economy is up and running on an independent footing), you are essentially giving them the independence and “academic space” necessary to figure things out for themselves.
    This is what I believe they both want and need and, as argued in the post, turns East Jerusalem into a synthesizing bridge between the two sides. Think of Hegel’s thesis (Jerusalem is all ours), antithesis (Israel has no claim to any part of post 67 Jerusalem) and sythesis (Jerusalem can be shared). As mentioned, there is polling data that seems to indicate that a vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip DO NOT want Jerusalem as their capital – presumably because they don’t want to share their capital with the very state that has made their lives so miserable. Again, better polling data would be helpful here. I am just looking at the numbers and doing my best to reach an understanding.
    However, if for some strange reason the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza decide that they want their capital to be in Jerusalem, I have no problem with that. And if the now-independent citizens of East Jerusalem (as proposed) decide that they do not want the Palestinian Capital to be in their neighborhood (and many do not) then I would have no issue setting the Palestinian Parliament up in WEST Jerusalem right next door to (or down the street from… or one neighborhood over from) the American Embassy to Israel, which presumably would then be moved Jerusalem to confer international legitimacy upon the whole arrangement.
    But don’t kid yourself. Sticking up a wall (or fence or checkpoint) and putting up an “occupation over” sign on it would not be good for anyone, even if it might win a couple of Nobel prizes. Our goal must be peace for both sides, not just ending the occupation. Contrary to much accepted wisdom, good fences do not in fact make good neighbors. Good neighbors make good neighbors.
    I believe that East Jerusalem presents us with an opportunity for a real grassroots based peace initiative which would break the current impasse, not by dividing but by sharing and living and exercising sovereignty together. There is no other way.
    I am not saying that my position is the last word on the matter but I hope it has at least been clarified.

  9. What Torah sources are you using to back up your arguments of dividing Jerusalem? Don’t you realize that the Land belongs to G-d leased to the Jewish people? Don’t you see that Arabs are supporting terrorists in their cause? You quote Rav Joseph Soloveitchik, zt’l at the bottom of this page. He would not agree with the viewpoint of this blog.

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