Yesterday Israel marked “Jerusalem Day”. Established by the government in 1968, this was supposed to become a national holiday, celebrating out return to the most sacred city for Jews and the unification of the Israeli capital. But Jerusalem is anything but unified, and Jerusalem Day is a partisan rightwing celebration, marked through provocative “heritage tours” by ultra-nationalists groups in the Arab neighborhoods, and met with indifference with the rest of the public.
Though Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, government officials and Jewish bloggers continue to speak of a united city were all citizens are equal, the truth is that Arabs in Jerusalem are not citizens not equal, and most none religious Jews who adore Jerusalem and celebrate its holiday live on the other side of the Atlantic.
While PM Netnayhu chose to carry a hard line political speech at Merkaz Harav” Yeshiva – the birthplace of the settler movement – It was Likud’s Knesset speaker Rubi Rivlin, of all people, who told it like it is, acknowledging that Jerusalem’s Arabs are greatly discriminated, and that the oaths to the “eternal capitol” are no more than empty words:
“We ill-treated Jerusalem. We ill-treated it by becoming addicted to poeticizing it. We ill-treated it by endlessly longing for a distant ‘Zion’ while Zion is alive here and now. We ill-treated it by endlessly debating its borders and outlines and not debating enough current substance and vision.
“We ill-treated it by writing checks we never cashed in. Checks such as ‘The Reunited Town,’ which, 43 years on, is hardly united.”
But you don’t really need Rivlin to know that. Some twenty years ago, Teddy Kollek, legendary mayor of Jerusalem, admitted – while still serving! – that the city never cared for it’s Arab citizens [PDF, the quote is on page 39 of the document]. His words are worth repeating, since the only thing that changed from his days is that now Israel is kicking Palestinians from their homes and constructing new neighborhoods for Jews in East Jerusalem, so that a territorial compromise would never be possible:
“We said things half-mindedly and never fulfilled them. We’ve said again and again that we will make Arabs’ rights equal those of the Jews – empty words… both [PM] Eshkol and [PM] Begin promised equal rights – both broke their promises… they [Palestinians] were and remain second and third class citizens.”
Q: And this is being said by the mayor of Jerusalem, who labored for the city’s Arab citizens, built and developed their neighborhoods?
“Nonsense! Fables! Never built nor developed! I did do something for Jewish Jerusalem in the last 25 years. But for eastern Jerusalem, what did we do? Nothing! What did I do? Schools? Nothing! Pavements? Nothing! Culture centers? Not one! We did give them sewage and improved the water supply. You know why? You think [we did it] for their own good? For their quality of life? no way! There were a few cases of Cholera and the Jews were scared that it might reach them, so we installed sewage and water.”
We also got yesterday another absurd moment regarding Jerusalem, this time from the Israeli authorities. Mordechi Vanunu, the nuclear whistleblower, was sentenced to for community work for violating his outrageous release terms (last time he was put on trail for “contacting a foreign citizens” – it happened to be his girlfriend). Vanunu asked the court to be permitted to carry out this work in East Jerusalem. The state argued that he must work “inside Israel” – ignoring the fact that we declare on a daily basis that East Jerusalem is Israel. The state won. Vanunu was sent to prison. So much for the “united city”, or for Israeli justice.
We also had this: two protesters arrested in Sheik Jerrah, for attempting to carry out a small protest against a settlers’ march in the Jerusalem neighborhood, whose residents are mostly Palestinian refugees.
And to end the day in a positive note, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke at the Irvin Moskowitz awards ceremony (honoring the US rightwing billionaire, who finance the most radical colonization attempts in Jerusalem and Hebron), and said that the city will remain under Jewish sovereignty forever, and all the talk about dividing the city are no more than “dust in the wind”. But remember, it’s the Palestinians who refuse any compromise.