The concept of “Our Jerusalem” underwent a revolutionary change at the end of the 19th century. Until then, conquerors came from outside, one after another, fought over the right to control the city and struggled to determine that it belonged to them. New historical research shows that at the end of the 19th century, it was to the residents of the city and their children, who identified themselves as locals, that the city belonged. The rise of a local patriotic nationalism with Jerusalem at its center occurred before the arrival of Zionism and is connected to the modernization that affected the country. Contrary to the Zionist claim that the Zionist immigrants, together with the British, brought modernization to Jerusalem, the research shows that it was an organic local development which preceded them. The residents of Jerusalem, from all religions, had a place in this new identity.
The British colonial authorities usually cooperated with the Zionists, but in the Jerusalem Municipality they created a parity-based administration which did not reflect the Jewish demographic majority. The British used techniques of division and categorization according to religious groups and regions in order to stabilize the city and to not grant to either of the two national groups the sense that the city belonged only to them.
The 1948 War Dealt a Blow to Jerusalem
The Zionist-Palestinian conflict in 1948 dealt a severe blow to the city. The division in 1949 between Israel and Jordan created two peripheral border cities which suffered from similar difficulties. Jordanian Jerusalem received refugees from Israeli Jerusalem and immigrants from the Hebron area. Israel settled immigrants from the countries of the Middle East and North Africa in West Jerusalem and other borders areas alongside refugees from the Holocaust and the countries of Eastern Europe. The lofty symbolic standing of the two Jerusalems was very far removed from the difficult social and economic reality on both sides.
Israel’s overwhelming victory in the 1967 war placed Israeli Jerusalem in a position of superiority. Since then, Israel has been acting to shape Jerusalem as its place alone. In the first years after the war, Israel turned East Jerusalem into a hybrid area which contains components of the State of Israel alongside components of the West Bank. Israel annexed East Jerusalem and, from the point of view of Israeli law, detached it from the West Bank. But in a number of other ways, East Jerusalem remained part of the West Bank — for example, from a social point of view and marital connections, in the educational system and the curriculum, in the organization of the religious establishment and the transportation and communication systems. The policy was to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank while at the same time not integrating it into Israel.
The Jerusalem Municipality during the tenure of Mayor Teddy Kollek successfully maneuvered between the different hybrid components of the Eastern half of the city as long as there was respect for the Palestinian residents’ own identity while maintaining West Jerusalem as an Israeli city; Israel’s policy of territorial expansionism into the West Bank and Jerusalem was restrained under the Labor Alignment government; and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem did not revolt (until the First Intifada of 1987). None of these three components exist anymore. Today Palestinian Jerusalem is more similar to the West Bank than to Israel, the Jewish Israeli Jerusalem is becoming a hybrid area and processes are being developed there similar to those in mixed cities within the State of Israel.
The genetic code of the expansion of Jerusalem and that of the settlements are identical: There is an ethnic territorial expansion with the aim of enabling the Jewish nation to gain control over an area where Palestinians live and to bring them and the world to recognize that this is an irreversible reality. To that end, Israel uses practices which combine military conquest, colonialism and “separate but not equal” segregation. This is the reality in which a Jewish Israeli collective lives in the same area as a Palestinian collective. Israel is defining the Palestinians not only geographically, but also in terms of access to physical and symbolic resources. And the political and legal status of the Palestinians is inferior to that of the Jewish collective.
Urban Settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank
Urban settlements (called “new neighborhoods” by Israelis) began in East Jerusalem with the establishment of French Hill, Ramot, Gilo and Armon Hanatziv, and modern roads were paved that connect them to the center of the Jewish city. In these settlements, and in Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Yaakov, which came after them, lives a population from a variety of ethnic and class backgrounds. From Jerusalem, the urban settlements expanded into the West Bank in the form of Ma’ale Adumim, Efrat, Ariel and the ultraorthodox cities of Kiryat Sefer and Beitar Illit. Modern infrastructure was built that connected them to the heart of the country. The composition of the population in the West Bank’s urban settlements is similar to the settlements in East Jerusalem, and part of their residents arrived from Jerusalem. This refers to middle class people from all segments of Israeli society. From the Israeli point of view, in both instances, there is a “national consensus” that they are a part of Israel and not of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
There are many similarities between the unauthorized outpost settlements in the West Bank and the areas where the settlers live in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. A similar educational, religious and social background connects the settlers in the outposts and those in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In both of those areas, the settlers coordinate their activities with only some of the state institutions, and they are characterized by a political ideological activism which defines itself as a Jewish messianic avant-garde. They are unlike the post-1967 urban settlements, which cannot be built without the full involvement of the state from the very beginning, and whose population is much more diversified.
The building of the Separation Wall cut off tens of thousands of Palestinians from the city, and those areas became ungovernable. They are formally annexed to the State of Israel but, in actuality, they are outside of it. In some of these areas the Palestinian Authority (PA) provides them with services, but it’s not present beyond that. Periodically the Israeli army and police enter the area. These incursions are a matter of routine in the West Bank but occur only infrequently in East Jerusalem. In other words, these Palestinian neighborhoods are today a hybrid area within the West Bank, although they are formally annexed into Israel.
The migration of Palestinians from Jerusalem and the West Bank is similar in character. It includes highly educated Christians with human and cultural capital that helps them to be absorbed in their new country. At the same time, the Palestinian identity of those who remain in their country is reinforced. The pressure of Israeli expansionism pushes more Palestinian towards Islam as a source of hope and identity. It should be recalled that in the election of 2006, Hamas received the majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Jerusalem area and in a majority of the districts of the West Bank.
Survival in the Field, Passive Resistance and Sporadic Violence
The genetic code of the Palestinian reaction to the Israeli expansionism and political and legal superiority is identical in Jerusalem and in the West Bank: survival in the field, passive resistance to Israeli control and sporadic violence. In the defined places and times the Palestinians carry out a civil strike (for example in Bil’in and Nil’in in the West Bank and in Wadi Helweh and Silwan in Jerusalem). Violent protests are a sporadic and unorganized phenomenon with similar characteristics in Jerusalem and in the West Bank: stabbing and running over civilians and soldiers, and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at settlers, soldiers and police at checkpoints. The residents of East Jerusalem are confronting the Israeli limitations on their freedom of expression in a similar way critics of the Abbas regime confront the restrictions imposed on them. In both areas political arrests are carried out against critics of the regime.
Jerusalem under Israel has become the largest city in the state, in terms of both territory and population. Never before in the history of the city has it been so big and with such a large population. However, the expansion of Jerusalem since 1967 into areas of the West Bank has become a heavy burden. This expansionism has destroyed the old city center, which had grown organically with the modernization that occurred at the end of the 19th century, and the establishment of the Separation Wall in East Jerusalem has cut it off from the West Bank periphery and destroyed the Palestinian city center. The expansion of Jerusalem has not been good for the economy of the city; the expansion consumed national resources and left the western part of the city behind. The Jewish residents of Jerusalem are economically and socially better off than the Palestinians residents, but the level of poverty among them is relatively higher than in the other cities of Israel.
Mutual Dependency Between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem
There is a mutual dependency between the Palestinians and Jews of Jerusalem. West Jerusalem is dependent upon the Palestinians, who are 40% of the people employed in that part of the city. The Palestinians are dependent for their livelihoods on sources of income which are found in West Jerusalem, even though the labor market is hierarchal and the Jews benefit from a higher status and income. This is a mixed labor force, unlike the neighborhoods where those workers live and the centers of commerce and entertainment, which remain separate. This segregated status quo, however, is being broken through. In the wake of the mixed labor market, more and more Palestinians from East Jerusalem are coming to the centers of commerce and entertainment in West Jerusalem and are using the public facilities of the settlements in East Jerusalem. Palestinians from the eastern part of the city and Palestinian citizens of Israel have moved to live in some of the settlements in the north of the city.
This mixing demonstrates the total bankruptcy of an ethnic separation policy, as well as the argument that the city belongs only to the Jews. It creates a strong and viral reaction on the part of racist Jews. A similar phenomenon occurs in the West Bank, where there is a bi-national reality, which leads extremist Jews to carry out religious, racist, nationalist crimes. A similar phenomenon occurred in the 2000s in the mixed cities of Israel (Jaffa, Ramla, Lod and Akko), which were converted from Arab cities to mixed cities.
The expansion of Jerusalem did not, however, rescue it from being a border city characterized by a national-religious confrontation. Like in every border city, Jerusalem suffers from a tremendous gap between the emotional nationalist rhetoric and elevated symbolic standing and the binational reality that exists in the streets. The West Bank does not have a similar symbolic standing, but it, too, contains a tremendous gap between rhetoric and reality. The PA presents itself as if it were a state; however, in reality, it is a regime with severely limited authority functioning under the auspices of Israel.
The Hybridization of Jerusalem
The Palestinian survival strategy succeeded to seriously disrupt the Israeli project of trying to gain absolute control of Jerusalem. With a Palestinian population of almost 40% in Jerusalem, the city doesn’t “belong” to Israel but rather is bi-national. It was reported recently that Israel is considering resolving this problem by expanding Jewish Jerusalem and reducing the number of Palestinians. This will be achieved by the geographic and demographic expansion of Jerusalem: the inclusion of settler neighborhoods near the city within the metropolitan administration without formal annexation. And at the same time, Palestinian areas which were cut off by the Separation Wall would be removed from Jerusalem, and they would be placed under the authority of the local councils under the auspices of the military authorities. Instead of admitting the failure of its project, Israel wants to expand the geographic and “demographic engineering” of Jerusalem and to deepen a regime of “separate but not equal” that exists in that city and in the West Bank.
It is important to note that the hybridization of Jerusalem is not multicultural and equal but ethnic and hierarchal. The Jewish collective preserves by force its privileges and discriminates against the Palestinian collective, whose number is almost equal to that of the Jews. This is not only the reality of Jerusalem: Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there is a very similar demographic balance. Israel is aware of this and is afraid of its repercussions, but it is trapped in the entanglement that it has created. It refuses to give up on its privileges and is turning to more intensive use of force, yet it frequently underestimates the severity of the problem or denies it.
Sharpening of Religious Ethnic Identities
The challenges to the regime of geographical separation and the demographic pressures are pushing the Israelis and the Palestinians to sharpen their religious ethnic identities. The “Jewish” argument is used by the government in order to maintain “its Jerusalem” and to formulate legal proposals that give preference to the Jewish identity of the state over its democratic character. The strengthening of the national religious identity on both sides places the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif at the symbolic and political center of the conflict. Jewish groups are acting to change the separation between the Muslim prayer area on the Temple Mount and the Jewish area at the Western Wall that was determined in 1967. The social, educational and world-view background of these groups is similar to that of the settlers in the outposts of the West Bank and that of the settlers in the Muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem (and in the mixed cities of Israel). In all of these places, there is a partial cooperation with the Israeli establishment. Confronting the Jewish extremists on the Temple Mount are the Islamic activists from East Jerusalem and from Israel in order to protest. The Islamic movement in Israel has emphasized is opposition to Israeli steps on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif at the center of its activity since 2000, and the government of Israel declared the movement illegal in 2015.
A Major Change in Direction Is Necessary
The processes that Jerusalem has been going though in the past 50 years have severely hurt the city. A major change in direction is necessary based upon the following principles: Instead of being expanded, the city should be geographically reduced or contracted, and its residents must be accorded equal rights and status. Jerusalem within its reduced borders should be a city based on equality for all of its Israeli and Palestinian residents. The neighborhoods which will be separated from Jerusalem should have their own independent standing or be attached to a local authority, either in Israel or Palestine or under some joint framework.