By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz – 3 May 2010
[IOA Editor: The original header of this article in the Haaretz English website was “Stolen Jerusalem Day,” while the Haaretz Hebrew website calls it “Robbed Jerusalem Day.”]
If everything goes as expected next week, with the beginning of proximity talks, thousands of Jews will be marking 43 years since the “unification of Jerusalem.” The politicians will certainly not miss the festive opportunity to express their great love for “our united capital for all eternity.”
At that same hour, the police will continue to question municipal leaders who, while singing songs of praise to Jerusalem, lent a hand to the construction of the monstrous Holyland complex. You don’t need judges in Jerusalem to know that a serious crime was committed against the city with the Holyland. But corruption on the hill in West Jerusalem is nothing compared to the theft of land, identity rape, and the body of lies and criminal discrimination against 270,000 residents of the eastern part of the city.
Although these despicable acts have been going on in broad daylight for years, the public and the media don’t find them interesting. After all, it’s about Arabs. If not for the “unfortunate timing” of the U.S. vice-presidential visit, who would have cared about 1,600 housing units at Ramat Shlomo? Did anyone investigate why, over the opposition of the Israel Lands Administration representative, the District Planning and Building Committee rezoned the land from open space to land for construction? Who knows how many apartments the Housing and Construction Ministry built for young couples from East Jerusalem, which, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is no different than North Tel Aviv?
A reminder: Since 1967, Israel has expropriated 35 percent of the area of East Jerusalem (around 24 square kilometers). New Jewish neighborhoods were built on those lands, with 50,000 housing units.
Hundreds of developers and contractors (and public employees?) continue to get rich from this construction. How many neighborhoods were built during that time for Arab-Israeli residents? Zero. When was the last time the government supported the construction of 600 apartments in an Arab neighborhood? Thirty years ago. Most of the lands left in the hands of Palestinians (about 45 square kilometers) have been declared “green areas.” Lacking a comprehensive master plan for Jerusalem because of intentional political foot-dragging, building permits cannot be issued for areas outside the densely built-up Palestinian neighborhoods.
And after all that, people on the right dare to complain that Arabs are building without permits, while attempts are being made to “expel” Jews from Beit Yonatan, a large building without a permit that their friends stuck like a bone in the throat of a Palestinian neighborhood. The prime minister is also peddling the line that “a Palestinian from East Jerusalem can build anywhere in the city.” It’s hard to believe that Netanyahu, who was born in Jerusalem, doesn’t know that only Israeli citizens or those entitled to Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return have access to ILA property (93 percent of the land in Israel).
Not only are Arabs from East Jerusalem not allowed to buy the homes in Talbiyeh (whose name has been officially changed to Komemiyut) where they were born 63 years ago; the law doesn’t permit them to build a home on one-third of the land of East Jerusalem – the area that was expropriated from Palestinians after 1967. In contrast, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who demanded that U.S. President Barack Obama leave Jerusalem alone, is welcome to purchase a vacation apartment in the new Jewish housing project in Sheikh Jarrah.
While children in West Jerusalem schools are celebrating “Jerusalem Day,” thousands of children in East Jerusalem will stay home or crowd into rickety schoolrooms. The education minister and the mayor, who will praise the “unification of Jerusalem,” are among those continually defaulting on the pledge to the High Court of Justice to build some 250 of the more than 1,000 classrooms that are lacking in the city.
And people who disregard Israel’s High Court will have no trouble ignoring agreements with foreigners. Who remembers that according to phase one of the road map that the Israeli government was to reopen the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and other shuttered Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, pledging that they would operate based on previous agreements?
“For Zion’s sake will I not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her triumph go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a torch that burneth, and the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory,” wrote the prophet Isaiah. It’s hard to believe that proximity talks will bring peace into closer proximity between Israel and the Palestinians. But if they help replace baseless, sickly sweet declarations with just a little more justice and wisdom emanating from Jerusalem, as the prophet envisioned, that will be enough.