Judaizing Jerusalem – by Stephen Lendman
The Middle East Monitor (MEM) covers significant regional issues and events through its weekly newspaper and reports like Samira Quraishy’s September 2009 Briefing Paper titled, “The Judaization of Jerusalem,” discussing Israel’s “escalating campaign of land seizures, house demolitions and eviction(s) of Palestinians.”
Israeli scholars agree, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Professor Oren Yiftachel, in a 1999 paper titled “Ethnocracy: the Politics of Judaizing Israel/Palestine,” saying Israel is an ethnocratic regime “enhanc(ing) a rule by, and for, a specific ethnos, and a dominance of ethnicity over citizenship (by) facilitat(ing) the expansion of one ethnic group over contested territory or polity.” It evolved around “the central Zionist (uni-ethnic) project of Judaizing and de-Arabising Israel/Palestine, (and as a consequence undermining) equal citizenship and popular sovereignty,” reserving it solely for Jews, exposing the myth of a democratic nation.
Hebrew University Professor Moshe Ma’oz, Ankara’s Bilkent University Professor Jeremy Salt, Professor Norman Finkelstein, Professor James Petras, and many other scholars agree that Israel pursued this policy since 1967, planning it decades earlier, based on the Zionist notion of dispossessing Arabs to make greater Israel an exclusive Jewish state.
Jerusalem is its epicenter, a religiously important city for Christians, Muslims and Jews, today the scene of epic injustice and discrimination of its Palestinian residents.
For Zionists, the city is politically important, as its historic capital, national and religious center, as well as the symbol of Judaism’s revival and prominence. For Christians, it’s where Jesus lived and died, and for Muslims it’s their third holiest site (the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque) after Mecca’s Sacred Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.
After its 1967 annexation, East Jerusalem underwent legal and bureaucratic changes to its physical, cultural and spiritual character under Israel’s Judaization plan. Settlements were established and expanded, at the expense of land expropriations, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and other draconian measures to transform the city to an entirely Jewish one. As a result, Palestinian culture and religious heritage are threatened by the establishment of “facts on the ground,” a process begun after the city’s annexation that continues relentlessly to this day.
At the time, official annexation would have caused rupture or confrontation with the international community, because of the city’s symbolic, religious and historic importance. In addition, international laws would have been hard to get around besides ideological differences among Israeli officials. Further, direct annexation would have forced the government to make all city inhabitants citizens, contrary to the plan to Judaize the entire city
On the Six Day War’s final day, Israeli leaders ordered the demolition of the Old City’s Moroccan Quarter, allowing for easier access to the Western Wall. It left 650 residents homeless, many others killed, two mosques destroyed along with other religious and cultural sites, and set the tone for what continued.
Under military occupation, Israel transformed Jerusalem from a multi-cultural, multi-religious city into a predominantly Jewish one under exclusive Israeli control toward the final goal of making the entire city exclusively Jewish – meaning Arabs had to go, voluntarily, by dispossessions, or other means.
Thereafter, Israel manipulated city demographics in its favor toward establishing a Greater Jerusalem by reinforced municipal boundaries – separating Jerusalem from the West Bank by land seizures, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and a matrix of restrictions over Palestinian residents in the Old City as well as 64 additional square kilometers from surrounding West Bank areas, affecting 28 villages inside the new municipal boundary. As a result, the demographic balance shifted markedly to one predominantly Jewish.
On July 30, 1980, the Knesset introduced the Jerusalem Law, officially annexing the city as Israel’s unified capital – a ceremonial move as East Jerusalem residents were already under military occupation rule.
Yet on March 1, 1980, UN Security Council Resolution 465 declared that:
“all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation….and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development (and) have been established in breach of international law.”
Throughout its history, Israel routinely defied all UN resolutions and court rulings against its interests, knowing it can get away with it, always with Washington’s backing. Instead, it’s intensified efforts to annex East Jerusalem through continued settlement expansions on expropriated land. For the West Bank, E. Jerusalem and Golan combined, they’re home for a 500,000 Jewish population, growing at around 4 – 6% yearly.
Extremist groups spearhead it, supported generously by Washington, the Jewish diaspora, and others, contributing billions of dollars annually for Israeli occupation, militarism, and settlement expansions.
Through 2009, settlements covered over one-third of East Jerusalem land, and another 30% is designated as “unplanned area” where little or no development is allowed.
In 2009, OCHA reported that Palestinian construction is allowed only in 13% of East Jerusalem, provided required permits are issued. Because of the bureaucratic nightmare getting them, a huge housing shortage exists, exacerbated by regular home demolitions to provide more space for Jews.
Religious, cultural and archeological sites aren’t spared either to accommodate them, Silwan a notable example. Occupied in 1967, Judaizing followed to change its religious and demographic character, an initiative promoted by ELAD (the Hebrew acronym for the City of David), a Jewish organization wanting full control of the area, using extremist measures to achieve it, including excavations destroying priceless antiquities.
Ones below the Al-Aqsa Mosque continue. Others also to control the town through more land ownership, Palestinian dispossessions, and destruction of Islamic and Christian heritage sites.
In 2004, 88 Al Bustan neighborhood homes were demolished to create King’s Garden, an archeological park located where King David established his kingdom.
Islamic cemetery excavations also aroused anger, including converting Bab al-Rahmad into recreational biblical gardens. So far, the cemetery has lost 1,800 square meters on which new burials are prohibited, a portion already converted into a park.
Ma’man Allah Cemetery is Jerusalem’s largest, reputed to hold the remains of important Islamic figures, including Companions of Prophet Muhammad and Muslim intellects and soldiers who fought the Crusaders.
Yet Israel intends a Museum of Tolerance there, turning it into a large excavation site, over 300 skeletons removed, contrary to international law. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, they were desecrated – dumped into a single mass grave.
Worse still may await the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of excavations under and around it, weakening its foundation, threatening its existence. In 2007, Israel began excavating a pathway from the Western Wall to the compound, sparking Muslim outrage.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock Restoration Committee, established in 1956 to restore it and other Jerusalem holy sites, warned that further excavations would imperil the structural integrity, most seriously by the western tunnel (one of 60) near the Mosque.
Deputy Committee head, Ra’if Najm also said chemicals used to break up rocks are causing more damage. As a result, the Security Council and UNESCO demanded that Israel comply with international law, halting further excavations and related operations. Israel didn’t respond.
Other excavations in the Old City and Silwan have also been damaging, Adnan Al-Hussaini, special PA adviser on Jerusalem Affairs warning that Israel is destroying Islamic antiquities, “replacing them with other ones.”
PA legislator Hatem Abdul Qader threatened an International Court of Justice (ICJ) lawsuit to stop the looting. In early 2009, an Umayyad-era artifact was stolen, an ancient stone, transferred to the Knesset’s courtyard, Israel blocking demands to return it.
The Separation Wall, checkpoints, and other restrictions have also been devastating, impeding Palestinian access to, in and around Jerusalem. Yet prohibiting them from worshipping at Al-Aqsa and nearby mosques violates Fourth Geneva, Christians wanting access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious sites also affected.
The extremist Netanyahu government exacerbates the problem, Palestine’s Chief Justice, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Al-Tamimi, expressing deep concern about outlandish racist policies threatening “to cancel Arab identity.”
On March 28, 2010, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that he urged Palestinians “to exert more efforts and unite in order to protect the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque (by) defy(ing Jewish extremists) attempts to storm the holy shrine,” adding that Judaizing has been ongoing since 1967, in calling for efforts to stop it.
PA Authority under Fatah
Shortly after assuming office, Abdul Qader, PA Minister for Jerusalem, resigned in protest, saying inadequate funding defends Palestinian interests in the city – for law suits, against land confiscations, home demolitions, Israeli security force and settler violence, and the destruction of the city’s religious, historical, cultural and demographic character.
Throughout 43 years of colonization, displacement, land seizures, and East Jerusalem annexation, Judaization continues relentlessly to establish irreversible “facts on the ground (to) cancel Arab identity” by making the entire city exclusively Jewish along with the West Bank’s most valued areas.
MEM supports efforts to stop it and demands accountability. “The Israeli authorities and settlers who impede the civil liberties of the rightful Palestinian owners should be brought (before) an open and fair court of law,” to halt Israeli lawlessness, ensure holy, historic Muslim sites are protected, preserved and restored, and to defend their right to a sovereign state, East Jerusalem its capital, or a one-state solution for all.
Israel will react violently, viciously, and illegally against it, its customary behavior as a rapacious occupier, defying the rule of law in pursuit of a Greater Israel and regional dominance, partnered with Washington in its global imperial agenda, threatening all humanity unless stopped.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.