Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Palestinian Mythology: "Arab East Jerusalem"

With Jerusalem Day tomorrow I thought it was time to debunk the most commonly repeated bit of Palestinian mythology. The idea the eastern Jerusalem is an Arab city, or that Jerusalem as a whole was ever truly an Arab city, is a lie that has been repeated so many times that most of the world seems to believe it. Straight faced reporters on major networks all over the world will speak of "Arab East Jerusalem" as if it is an undisputed fact of history and of present circumstances. It isn't.

During Ottoman rule, from the late 15th through the early 20th century, Jerusalem had either a Jewish plurality or an outright Jewish majority. In 1854 Karl Marx was a reporter for the New York Daily Tribune. His article of 15 April 1854 reported the population as follows:...the sedentary population of Jerusalem numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans [Muslims] and 8,000 Jews.At the time Jerusalem was little more than the old, walled city. Jewish settlement outside the walls wasn't permitted by the Ottoman rulers until 1865. The entire Jewish population was in the old city. If we judge east and west from the 1949 armistice line (pre-1967 borders) then the entire Jewish population was in what is now referred to as "Arab East Jerusalem".

What made east Jerusalem Arab? 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation ending in 1967. In 1948 when Jordan captured the old, walled city they destroyed 58 synagogues. 58! I somehow don't think Arabs were worshiping in those synagogues. Yep, in 1948 there were still lots of Jews in "Arab East Jerusalem".

Here is a description of how Jerusalem was divided until the Six Day War written by former Israeli President Chaim Herzog in his 1982 book The Arab-Israeli Wars:...Jerusalem had been divided between two warring elements: barbed wire in profusion, fortifications, trenches and battlements cut through the city...

Mount Scopus
[was] an Israeli enclave on the site of Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital; it had been completely surrounded in 1948, but held out against all Arab attacks. The second enclave was Government House, which had been the residence of the British High Commissioner of Palestine...
So... there were Israeli and U.N. enclaves surrounded by Jordanian held territory in "Arab East Jerusalem" rather than a clean east-west, Jewish-Arab devision. Does this sound like workable, defensible borders as envisioned in UN Resolution 242? Not to me, it doesn't.

Yes, the majority of the eastern part of the city today is Arab. That's true, in part, because Jerusalem has grown and swallowed up several Arab villages and, in part, through natural population growth in the Arab community. There are also a number of Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.

It may be possible, someday, after a period of peace, to separate Arab areas that aren't part of the historical city and place them under Arab rule. Right now, though, I don't see this is practical. I do not support dividing the city again and I do not accept the idea that any part of Jerusalem is intrinsically Arab and must be ceded.

If you, like I, support keeping Jerusalem united you may wish to visit OneJerusalem.org. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. To me, that is something to celebrate and cherish.

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Unknown said...

wat were the names of the arab towns that Jerusalem merged with?
Thankyou I found your facts to be informative. It is amazing how much of what we consider to be objective news is not. I know people who were living in Israel in 1948... I keep on hearing conflicting stories in the media of what actually happened.

Caitlyn Martin said...

If you go back 150 years or so Jerusalem was little more than the walled Old City. Many Arab neighborhoods, even ones well within the modern city (i.e.: Safwan) were once separate Arab villages. A-Tor would be another example.

Think about Abu Dis which is on the periphery of Jerusalem. It was within the municipal boundaries of the city until Ehud Barak decided to turn it over to Palestinian Authority control. Both the Palestinians and the Barak government bent over backwards to claim Abu Dis wasn't really Jerusalem at all. Prime Minister Barak didn't want to be accused of dividing the city again and Yasser Arafat wanted to make sure that Abu Dis wasn't all the Palestinians would get.

Re: 1948 -- Israel declared independence on 15 May. The Arabs attacked Israel. Prime Minister Ben Gurion's new government begged the Palestinian Arabs to stay. The Arab League and Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini told them to leave and return once the Jews were driven into the sea. Roughly 70% of the Palestinians who fled never saw an Israeli soldier but they left anyway. Did they fear what Jewish rule would mean to them? Undoubtedly, but they were not forced out.

Having said that there is no doubt that some right-wing groups did intimidate or force Arabs from their homes. This was the minority of Palestinian refugees but it did happen.

Caitlyn Martin said...
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