Oct 27th 2015

Strangling Jerusalem

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

We have been witnessing an epidemic of violence in Jerusalem. There have been killings and near fatal attacks in Israel and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian lands, but it is Jerusalem that has been the epicenter of the violence. This tragedy has been compounded by the fact that most US analysts and political leaders have been dead wrong in their simplistic, myopic, or, at times, even bigoted assessments of what is happening and why.

For example, The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg says the violence has been caused by Palestinian “paranoia” and their refusal to acknowledge “the national and religious rights” of Jews. Bret Stephens, writing in the Wall Street Journal, accuses the Palestinians of "blood lust". For their part, Members of Congress have been jumping all over each other to see who can issue the harshest denunciations of the Palestinian Authority for incitement and/or not doing enough to control the situation.

In reality, the roots of the violence in Jerusalem are deeper and far more complex. For decades now, Israel has been strangling East Jerusalem denying its Palestinian inhabitants freedom, opportunity, dignity, and hope, with devastating impact. Before Israel closed Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank in 1994, the city had served as the hub of Palestinian life. Not only was the city important for its religious role, all of the major Palestinian economic, social, cultural, educational, medical, and service institutions were located in the city.

Jerusalem was Palestine's heart, and the flow of people in and out was its lifeblood. Jerusalem's people and its businesses and institutions were sustained by Palestinians from the West Bank who entered daily to work or shop, to visit or take advantage of the services it provided. And Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank were, in turn, nourished by all that the city had to offer. The choking impact of the closure was felt almost immediately. It became so difficult and humiliating to pass through checkpoints to get into Jerusalem, that people stopped making the effort. This was compounded by Israeli orders requiring Palestinian institutions to leave the city and reopen in Ramallah.

Israel didn't stop with closure. They also intensified the hardships faced by the Arab population of the city. Palestinian residents who couldn't find work in Jerusalem were forced to look elsewhere for employment. But when Israelis discovered that an Arab was not permanently residing in the city, they revoked his or her residency - denying their right to return to Jerusalem. 14,000 such revocation orders have been issued.

In the past several decades, Israel has also confiscated one third of Palestinian-owned land in and around Jerusalem to build Jewish-only colonies and a network of highways connecting them to Israel. These colonies now house over 200,000 Jewish settlers. At the same time, Israeli authorities in Jerusalem have routinely denied building permits to Palestinians thus forcing them to build, without permission, new housing for their growing population. The Israelis have, at will, issued demolition orders against these "illegal" homes. Thousands of such orders have been issued, and in the past decade alone more than 2,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem have been rendered homeless by demolitions.

Further compounding this state of affairs has been the effort by ultra-nationalist Israeli groups, supported by American Jewish "charities", to seize homes and properties in the heart of older Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the Old City and to populate them with extremist settlers. These seizures often occur in the dark of night under the protection of the Israeli military. In recent years 119 of these provocative "projects" have been settled by almost 2,000 hardliners. Because they are in the heart of Arab neighborhoods and are guarded by Israel forces, they result in nightmarish disruptions to daily life.

The impact this has had on East Jerusalem's Palestinian population can been seen in ways both physical and spiritual. Arab Jerusalemites have become impoverished, with three-quarters of them living below the poverty line. Unemployment is in the 40% range, with most of Palestinians from East Jerusalem only able to find menial jobs in West Jerusalem. Educated young Palestinians are given a stark choice - either accept employment as a waiter or a taxi driver or give up residency in Jerusalem to find a job in their field outside of Palestine.

This has taken a profound toll on the soul of Arab Jerusalemites, young and old. Denied dignity and hope, both despair and anger have set in. While some older Palestinians in the city have become cynical and resigned, younger Palestinians have become angry, seeking revenge. They are resentful of and feel humiliated by the settlers who have moved into their neighborhoods, closing off streets and moving about with a sense of entitlement. While Palestinian attacks on Israelis are reported in great detail, the attacks on Palestinians by settlers (140 in October, alone) have largely been ignored.

Young Palestinians see their parents in despair and know that their futures are, at best, devoid of promise for a better life. All of this has set the stage for the epidemic of violence that has now unfolded in Jerusalem.

To be sure, the provocative invasions of the Haram ash Sharif by hardline Israeli ministers and their extremist followers have aggravated the situation. But to identify the root cause of the violence as either Palestinian “incitement”, "blood lust" or "paranoia" and to ignore the profoundly unsettling existential incitement faced by Palestinians is unconscionable. 

Make no mistake, the stabbings cannot be justified and should be condemned. They accomplish nothing other than to take lives or cause bodily harm to others. But the Israeli response which has been to bring down even more harsh and repressive measures on an already much violated captive people is no solution. And neither are the lame appeals to "restore calm". More repression will not cure an ailment that has been caused by too much oppression. And "restoring calm" is embarrassingly hollow since it promises nothing more than a return to the pre-existing state of affairs than spawned the violence, in the first place.

In many ways, the tragedy unfolding in Jerusalem reminds Palestinians of what has occurred in Hebron. First, settlements and checkpoints choked off Hebron from its surroundings. Then heavily guarded compounds of fanatics entered the heart of the city, shutting down the main street killing its commerce. The final blow came after an extremist settler massacred 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron's mosque. The Israeli response was to divide the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sides. While Jews were able to enter freely, Muslims were forced to endure humiliating security before entering - with the mosque being declared closed to Muslims, whenever the Israelis decide.

Stephens, Goldberg, and company see only Israeli victims. They limit their focus to the stabbings and the rock throwing youth and blame them. But there is a deeper story and that is that these young Palestinians are also victims—of decades of oppression and the denial of hope. Until it is understood that these Palestinian lives matter and concrete steps are taken to provide them with freedom, opportunity, and hope, the tragedy will continue.    





TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "