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Let's not forget that East Jerusalem Palestinians are stateless

Two of Haaretz’s biggest names claim the violence in Jerusalem reveals the failure of  ‘bi-nationalism.’ Perhaps they have forgotten that over 300,000 residents there live under occupation, rather than in any type of sovereign state.

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The stabbing of an Israeli soldier in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba and the killing of two Palestinian demonstrators in demonstrations held in Gaza and the West Bank were just the latest events in the downward spiral of violence across Israel/Palestine.

Earlier this week, Haaretz published two different op-eds claiming that that very violence is both the result and the harbinger of the “bi-national state” Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against, yet has done very little to avoid.

According to columnist Ari Shavit, the right wing’s inability to bring about a two-state solution has led us into a one-state “quagmire” the akin to Syria or Iraq:

Ostensibly, even the right-wing and the lunatics should have seen what is happening in Syria and what is happening in Iraq and understood that in the current Middle East there is no chance for a bi-national or multi-national entity. But the zealots on the one hand and the blind on the other refused to see. They blathered their blatherings about the supposed alternative to the two-state solution.

Shavit claims that should Israelis fail to hear the “horrific wakeup call,” and start actively working toward two states, the country will sink into “hatred, paranoia and bloodshed.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid writes that four-and-a-half years after Netanyahu was quoted saying that a binational state would be a “disaster for Israel” in a closed meeting, Israeli citizens are now getting “a little taste of what is to come if, instead of breaking apart into two states, the Israelis and Palestinians continue to move toward a single state.”

The problem with Shavit and Barak’s arguments isn’t that they prefer a two-state solution over a bi-national state, but that they pretend as if the two-state solution were ever actually implemented in the first place.

There is no better time to hammer home the fact: Palestinians in East Jerusalem are a stateless people. This has been the case since June 7, 1967, when East Jerusalem was captured by the Israeli army. This reunification — or annexation — is considered illegal under international law, and Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem is not recognized by a single member of the international community.

Here are some more facts about the city Israel considers its “undivided capital,” with statistics provided by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Ir Amim, and B’Tselem, respectively, about the city:

That means that although some of them hold blue IDs, very few of the 300,200 residents of East Jerusalem have been granted Israeli citizenship. This means that Palestinians hold “permanent residency” in the city, but cannot vote in national elections.

Israel youth walk in Jerusalem's old city, as they take part in the flags march, to celebrate 48 years for the occupation of East Jerusalem May 17, 2015.

Israel youth walk in Jerusalem’s Old City, as they take part in the ‘March of the Flags,’ marking 48 years since the capture of East Jerusalem, May 17, 2015. (photo: Activestills.org)

But just how permanent is that residency? Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency status of more than 14,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The revocation is part of Israel’s overall policy in East Jerusalem, which is geared towards the political goal of maintaining a “demographic balance” in Jerusalem. To that end, ongoing efforts are made to expand the Jewish population in the city and reduce its Palestinian population. In 2014, Israeli authorities revoked the residency of 107 Palestinians, including 12 minors.

Three-quarters of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents live below the poverty line, including 83.9 percent of children. Palestinian students are also affected by the conditions in the eastern part of the city. Forty-three percent of classrooms are inadequate, there is a need for at least 100 more, and there is a 33-percent dropout rate among 12th graders.

Since 1967, approximately 26,300 dunams (6,500 acres) of land have been expropriated by Israel in order to build government offices and Jewish residential neighborhoods.

An Israeli Policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

An Israeli Policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

Between 2011-14, authorities demolished 302 structures in East Jerusalem (98 in 2014 alone), displacing 208 residents from their homes. The rate of such incidents has increased since the return of punitive home demolitions last year.

More than a quarter of them live in neighborhoods that are cut off by the Israeli separation barrier. The neighborhoods on the other side of the wall — Ras Khamis, Ras Shehada, Dahiyat A-Salam and Shuafat refugee camp — are worst-hit by the discriminatory provision of municipal services and basic utilities.

Settler organizations such as Ateret Cohanim purchase properties in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, taking legal action in order to evict the Palestinian owners of those buildings.

The list of unequal treatment goes on and on.

Shavit and Ravid may be right about the fact that the current violence is the result of Netanyahu’s refusal to reach a compromise and partition the land. But by doing so, they completely elide the fact that East Jerusalem is occupied territory, treating it instead as the capital of just another failed state, a la Iraq or Syria.

As my colleague Mya Guarnieri wrote, under a bi-national state, Palestinians would not be deprived of their civil and human rights, as they are today. It seems that both Shavit and Ravid have mistaken a pseudo bi-nationalism for something more akin to apartheid.

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    1. Ben

      Nehemia Shtrasler: “As soon as the Six-Day War was over Moshe Dayan appointed a committee to set Jerusalem’s borders. He did not appoint urban, historic and geographic experts but three generals who were deputies only to God – Chaim Herzog, Shlomo Lahat and Rehavam Zeevi. They drafted an insane map, following which Israel annexed to Jerusalem not only the Old City within the walls, and not only the Jordanian part of the city outside the walls (6,000 dunams), but another 64,000 dunams – expansive West Bank territories which had never been part of Jerusalem in history. They consisted of 28 villages whose population today numbers 330,000 – all of whom have blue (Israeli) ID cards and make up 35 percent of the city’s population. This is a certain recipe for an explosion.

      Israel’s discrimination against them cries out to heaven. The Arab neighborhoods close to the western city are shabby and neglected due to the city’s failure to allocate resources to them. But this is nothing compared to the further neighborhoods that have no local leadership or government, no municipal supervision, no police, no sanitation services, no sewage system, no roads and no construction laws.
      As far as Netanyahu, Elkin and Erdan are concerned, this is OK. The Arabs aren’t human beings anyway, and should be grateful for being allowed to breathe.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Interesting and mind expanding statement by Richard Flantz, above:
      “I agree with your concluding paragraph, but need to add that (imho) there can be a just binational state in Palestine (Eretz-Yisrael) only if this state is not called Israel but Palestine (EY), as during the Mandate years, & if it guarantees equal rights to all its citizens & cultural autonomy to its two national entities: Arab Palestinians & Hebrew Palestinians. I do think it’s by now incumbent on Israeli Jews to renounce the narrative of the “Israeli’ legend & admit that they are in fact Palestinians too, who until now, in the name of their legend, have continued to dispossess & abuse (& much more & much worse) their Arab countrymen.”

      Reply to Comment