Jerusalem Review: Escalating Tensions At Hands of Israeli Right-Wing

(Photo Credit: Abed al Hashlamoun/EPA)

In this ancient city that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Israeli state is pursuing a discriminatory policy of “Judaization.”

For starters, Palestinians face housing discrimination: one third of their eastern half has been designation as park space to preclude Arab development, and it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to secure permits to expand or build homes elsewhere. When they build illegally, their homes are inevitably demolished. Israel presents these home demolitions as law enforcement without a political agenda. Meanwhile, illegal Jewish building in Jerusalem and the West Bank exceeds the Palestinian rate. Those homes, however, are nearly always retroactively legalized. Furthermore, East Jerusalem is ringed by illegal Jewish-only settlements and, in recent years, the sudden arrival of Jewish settlers – often in the middle of the night under heavy Israeli armed escort – within Palestinian communities has grown increasingly common:

Car-parks and conservation areas, rich with Israeli symbols, are sprouting across East Jerusalem. Settlers with state protection are opening religious schools there. Scarcely a week passes without an Israeli newspaper heralding new Jewish housing units being built in Arab districts. Israeli archaeologists are scraping away the eastern parts of the city’s Arab surface in search of a Jewish past. [The Economist]

It is grossly ironic that building by Palestinians on their own private lands is deemed illegal while Israeli settlements grow unchecked even though they are illegal under international law, condemned by the United Nations, and recognized by no nation other than Israel (even the U.S. withholds legal endorsement).

East Jerusalem Palestinians face attendant discrimination in budget allocations from everything from education and services to health care and roads. New roads that are constructed in the greater Jerusalem area are barred to Palestinian access and serve to divide Palestinian communities. Moreover, as the Economist reports:

Further impeding access [to Jerusalem], traffic lights flick green only briefly for cars from Palestinian districts while staying green for cars from Jewish settlements for minutes.

Israel’s Separation Barrier places 100,000 Palestinians (roughly a third of the city’s Arab population) on the West Bank side of the Wall. Technically still Jerusalemites, these Palestinians are cut off from the rest of the city and must pass an inspection point before entering what might now be called Jerusalem “proper.” Prior to the wall’s construction, Jerusalem’s municipality assured these residents that they’ll still receive municipal services. Not surprisingly, they are now effectively outside of the city’s remit. The city council has neglected basic services (forcing resident to set up their own institutions) and has even asked the IDF to take over (something which the generals have thus far avoided). Palestinians are not fooled and believe it will only be a matter of time before Israel declares their communities outside of the “center of life” of Jerusalem and revokes their residency cards; all part of an official policy to change the city’s demographics from 60% to 70% Jewish, as outlined in the council’s Jerusalem Master Plan 2000.

Israel’s creation of the “center of life” criteria has meant that Israeli municipal authorities may revoke Palestinian residency rights in Jerusalem without even perfunctory due process. While Jews from around the world can become Jerusalem residents anytime they so desire, a Palestinian with ancient roots in the city who travels abroad for an extended period could easily face residency revocation and be forced to choose either staying abroad or relocating to the West Bank.

Within the Old City, the Jewish Quarter incessantly encroaches on the Christian, Muslim and Armenian Quarters, appropriating more and more property. Israeli police routinely escort Jewish fundamentalist into the Noble Sanctuary, the third holiest site in Islam, where they call for the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque to be destroyed and replaced by the Third Temple to hasten the return of the Messiah. Some of these Temple revanchists seek confrontation with local Palestinians, with their leaders openly stating that a strategy of unceasing provocation would serve their interests. Sectarian violence would provide the ideal cover in the name of security: Israel would declare that it it left with no option but to protect Jewish visitors to the Sanctuary and establish a separate zone for Jewish visitors that would be off-limits to Muslims. Indeed, there is a precedent: After a Jewish fundamentalist stormed into Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, revered by Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and slaughtered dozens of Muslims, Israel responded by expanding the area off-limits to the Palestinians and established separate visitation days for Muslims and Jews (the far-right Kach movement of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane was also banned). Today’s fundamentalists would welcome any action that would force the Israel government to give them routine access to the Sanctuary (or part of it), which could serve as a stepping stone toward “reclaiming” all of the original Temple grounds.

Amid the escalating violence of recent days, Israel’s response, predictably, has been to indulge Jewish far-right nationalists and fundamentalists and double-down on its violence against Palestinians, restricting Palestinian movement rather than the Israelis instigators. Those fundamentalist are hoping, as in Hebron, to be rewarded for their violence. Regrettably, baring an international commitment to preserve Christian and Muslim patrimony in Jerusalem, they will likely see their messianic vision at least partially fulfilled—in large part because they have sympathizers in the government and armed forces.

Below we provide a media roundup on the present situation in Jerusalem along with in-depth reportage from our very own Jerusalem Quarterly (JQ), the only publication dedicated to the historical and contemporary study of Jerusalem. In addition, we also provide a resource and further reading section, along with analyses from Senior Fellow Rashid Khalidi and Institute for Palestine Studies General Secretary Walid Khalidi. The recent media reports convey the policy of clamping down on Palestinians while excusing Israeli perpetrators while the JQ articles provide the necessary context to make sense of a conflict often mistakenly reported as a “cycle of violence” rather than a settler-colonial state actively occupying and repressing the indigenous population, and the latter’s desperate efforts to hold their ground.

Press Accounts

Day After Stabbing Attacks, Palestinians Barred From Jerusalem’s Old City for Two Days, Nir Hasson, Yaniv Kubovich, Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Ha’arezt – 4 October

The day after a pair of Jerusalem stabbing attacks left two dead and three wounded, Israel Police decided Sunday to bar Palestinians from entering Jerusalem’s Old City for 48 hours.

In an unprecedented move, entry into the Old City will be permitted only for “Israeli citizens, Old City residents, tourists, Old City business owners and pupils learning there,” according to a police statement. 

The decision was made “in the wake of the security situation in Jerusalem and the serious terror attack in the Old City” and after “a long series of consultations among politicians, police and other security forces.

Jerusalem at a breaking point, Omar Robert Hamilton, Mondoweiss– 5 October

(Photo Credit: EPA)

When you live in Jerusalem, the Noble Sanctuary is exactly that. It is a shield from the daily humiliations of occupation, it is the center of traditional life in the city, it is the psycho-social heart. It is the one place that Israel does not own.

And so it is under attack. Every day groups of settlers are given armed escorts through its gardens, Israeli soldiers loll on the grass and receive lectures from officers while access to Palestinian residents and worshipers is regularly restricted. At the entrance used for the settlers, the police have dozens of riot shields lined up in preparation for the next clash.

The violence, of course, is not concentrated in Jerusalem. Across the West Bank settlers are on the attack. There have been 395 Palestinians injured in the last 24 hours and the Red Crescent has declared a state of emergency after at least 14 ambulance crews were attacked. In Jerusalem a mob tore through the city looking for Arabs, going so far as to stop a tram and ‘check’ everyone on it. The rampage ended with the death of a young Palestinian man whose family say had gone out for a jog. [And today a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was reportedly killed by Israeli forces in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.]

Video: Death-chanting Israeli mob rejoices as Palestinian teen is executed, Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 4 October 

Amid increasing violence in occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, Israeli forces executed a Palestinian youth in cold blood early on Sunday morning.

Israeli forces have declared that the Old City of Jerusalem will be open only to Jews and foreign tourists for the next 48 hours. No Palestinians except residents will be allowed in.

In a further escalation, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli education minister who openly boasts about how many Arabs he has killed, announced he plans to spend Sunday night’s Jewish holiday of Simhat Torah in the Old City.

Bennett heads the Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party whose senior member, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, has openly called for genocide of Palestinians.

More Than 100 Palestinians Reported Wounded as Clashes Erupt in Jerusalem, Atoosa Moinzadeh, Vice News – 4 October 

(Photo Credit: Abed al Hashlamoun/EPA)
(Photo Credit: Abed al Hashlamoun/EPA)

Clashes erupted on Sunday between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces across the West Bank, with more than 100 Palestinians reported wounded after a violent stretch in Jerusalem that included a pair of stabbings that targeted Israelis.

Palestinians took to the streets to protest a ban on entering Jerusalem’s Old City imposed by Israeli authorities after a pair of stabbing attacks left two ultra-Orthodox men dead and three others wounded. Soldiers reportedly dispersed the demonstrators with teargas, stun grenades, and live ammunition.

Jerusalem Quarterly

Jerusalem: Five Decades of Subjection and Marginalization, Nazmi Jubeh – Jerusalem Quarterly 62 (Spring 2015) 

For over a year, Jerusalem has occupied a good share of the news. Since the murder of sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July 2014, 47 militant action in various forms has been taking place in the different quarters of the city, despite the concentrated use of the numerous instruments of suppression that has extended to most neighborhoods and led to mass arrests that included children under the age of ten. These detentions continue at an increasing rate, so that not a day passes without mass arrests that sweep up women gathered in al-Aqsa mosque, youth leaders, and the families of fighters, including minors. So far the Israeli occupiers have failed to take complete control of Jerusalem. A series of security and political meetings have been held to that end, and measures taken that violate international law, including firing live bullets at people setting off firecrackers. Israeli news media talk incessantly about the situation, as if there were anything surprising in it, and proposing new forms of suppression that Israeli official agencies have started to discuss. Israeli leaders have loudly threatened the people of Jerusalem with collective punishment, which in fact has become a tangible, lived reality. Among such punishments are: accelerating the pattern of demolishing homes built without permits; arresting the families of stone-throwing children; demolishing the homes of those who launch guerrilla operations in Jerusalem; restricting the conditions for passing through the checkpoints between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, through which nearly 100,000 residents of Jerusalem pass daily, so that these conditions have become more humiliating than before; giving traffic police a free hand to torment Jerusalem drivers for the most trivial reasons or for no reason at all; launching a vicious tax campaign in which the departments of the ministry of finance and the municipality conspire; and revoking the identity cards of Jerusalem residents and denying them their human and natural right to live in their city, the city of their ancestors.

Haunted by Our Breathing, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian & Sarah Ihmoud – Jerusalem Quarterly 59 (Summer 2014)

It is silenced screaming and pain that turned the streets of Jerusalem into storytellers. As Old City shop owner Abu Ayman explained: “They [the Israeli government] did not leave any breathing space, be it their economic strangulation, their police, the soldiers and their rifles, their secret police, their checkpoints, their settlers, their youth that turned the Old City into their playground, and we are their targets … My neighbor died yesterday, and I could not even go to the funeral, as they blocked off the entire area. As you see, we are silenced, our burdens are more than we can carry … So, we stopped even daring to speak. But maybe soon they will also start punishing us for our silence, for even breathing.” […] 

Amidst the continuous injustices, Israeli media, security, social, and psychological analysts, including some academic colleagues, overwhelmingly seek to explain the torture and burning of a Palestinian child’s body and the outbreaks of racial panics and hysteria among civil/settler society as a “new level of escalation,” a shocking aberration by a few Jewish extremists in an otherwise democratic society. As if racial terror against Palestinian natives is not formative of the settler-colonial “Jewish state” and the cultural imaginaries of settler identity. The arrests, beatings, torture, and killings of Palestinian bodies are ongoing, laboring in the effort to terrify Palestinian natives away from their homes and land, a sociocide that profoundly resonates with historical and continuous criminalities and colonial violence since the Nakba. The nature of Israeli settler colonial power requires the everyday exercise of terror against the native Palestinian Other, whose very presence haunts the colonial imagination. Indeed, it is haunted by our breathing

Pockets of Lawlessness in the “Oasis of Justice”, Candace Graf – Jerusalem Quarterly 58 (Spring 2014)

Kufr ‘Aqab is a neighborhood on the outskirts of municipal Jerusalem, left on the West Bank side of the city by the separation wall. The skyline is packed with high-rise monstrosities, trash covers the streets, and there is not a tree in sight. Cut out of Jerusalem yet still under its jurisdiction, the village reeks of neglect and disorder. Israeli city officials acknowledge that the decades of neglect in Kufr ‘Aqab have only intensified after the construction of the wall, and Kufr ‘Aqab is left in no man’s land. The separation wall in Jerusalem has made manifest the message that Israel has been sending the Palestinians of Jerusalem for years: you do not belong here. […] By cutting out these densely populated neighborhoods, Israel is furthering its demographic aim of maintaining a Jewish majority. […] 

The Jerusalem Master Plan of 2000 reiterated Israel’s demographic objective of preserving the Jewish majority.12 The plan seeks to preserve the ratio of 70 percent Jewish and 30 percent Arab, but predicts that by 2020 the ratio will most likely be 60 percent Jewish and 40 percent Arab. This alarming trend is of much concern to Israel: “In order to prevent the occurrence of those scenarios, or worse ones, far reaching changes are needed in the way of dealing with the central variables affecting the immigration/emigration balances and the gaps in birth rates, which ultimately create the demographic balance.” By building new Jewish neighborhoods and keeping Arab birthrates lower, Israel hopes to maintain its demographic goal. This objective is hard to attain, and the separation wall in Jerusalem provided Israel with a unique opportunity to solidify its Jewish majority.

Most Arab homes in East Jerusalem are built illegally due to a lack of urban planning and access to permits. […] However, when it comes to areas under its jurisdiction on the other side of the wall, there are very few restrictions: “Palestinians believe Israel is turning a blind eye to the hundreds of cheap wildcat apartments being built there, hoping the abundant housing will lure the city’s Arabs to the other side of the barrier. They fear Israel will one day make the barrier the new municipal line to cement a Jewish majority in the city.” […] 

On 24 July 2012, the municipality director-general, Yossi Heiman, asked the Israel Defense Force’s Civil Administration to take responsibility for the residents who live east of the fence, including for their sanitation needs and the monitoring of construction. The meeting between the IDF and Heiman concluded with a decision to present a plan to the government. While the municipality said there were no plans to de jure adjust the borders, the switch would de facto change the borders and leave the Jerusalem residents without their residency permits. This is all in the name of improving the quality of life for residents who live on the other side of the wall, but that argument falls apart quickly when examining demographic considerations and the trend of revoking residency permits.


For Palestinian Children of East Jerusalem, the Exception is the Rule, Defense for Children International. 

Today, in theory, the Israeli Youth Law provides special safeguards and protections to children in conflict with the law during the whole process — arrest, transfer, interrogation and court appearances. These protections include: the use of arrest as a last resort, advance notice before questioning takes place, minimal use of restraints, and the presence of a legal guardian or adult family member during questioning.

Since January 2015, Israeli police’s poor implementation of the law has been depriving Palestinian children in East Jerusalem of their rights during the arrest and interrogation processes, DCIP research reveals. The primary vehicle for this is the overuse of exceptions in the absence of the necessary accompanying circumstances. In other words, for East Jerusalem children, exceptions have become the rule.

East Jerusalem, B’Tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli authorities have promoted the twofold goal of expanding the city’s Jewish population and reducing its Palestinian population. Various steps have been adopted to achieve this objective, including the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, land appropriation, and discriminatory policies on planning and construction and budget allotment. Furthermore, although the annexation of East Jerusalem and its residents was a decision made by Israel and not by the people who live there, Israeli authorities treat East Jerusalem Palestinians as if they had made a voluntary decision to immigrate to Israel. Therefore, the authorities void Palestinians’ residency status and social benefits if they do not meet the restrictive criteria originally formulated for foreign residents.

Analyses and Commentary

IPS Senior Fellow and Journal of Palestine Studies Prof. Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University) recently spoke to HuffPost Live on Jerusalem (view at hyperlink).

IPS co-founder and General Secretary Walid Khalidi was the keynote speakers at the United Nations’ special commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 30 November 2009:


Further Reading in Journal of Palestine Studies


(click on the link to read the full-length article)

Salvage or Plunder? Israel’s “Collection” of Private Palestinian Libraries in West Jerusalem
Author: Gish Amit
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Summer 2011), pp. 6-23

Yerushalayim and al-Quds: Political Catechism and Political Realities
Author: Ian S. Lustick
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 5-21

The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50
Author: Nathan Krystall
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Winter, 1998), pp. 5-22

The Status Quo Solution for Jerusalem
Author: Chad F. Emmett
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter, 1997), pp. 16-28

Israeli Settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem
Author: Michael Dumper
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Summer, 1992), pp. 32-53

From Palestinian to Israeli: Jerusalem 1948-1982
Author: Ibrahim Mattar
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Summer, 1983), pp. 57-63

The Status of Jerusalem under International Law and United Nations Resolutions
Henry Cattan
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Spring, 1981), pp. 3-15

Wall Politics: Zionist and Palestinian Strategies in Jerusalem, 1928
Author: Mary Ellen Lundsten
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Autumn, 1978), pp. 3-27

The Fall of Jerusalem, 1967
Author: S. Abdullah Schleifer
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 68-86

By Khelil Bouarrouj.

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