On the slope of Jewish democracy
Even if the most sophisticated and user-friendly crossing point ever is built in the wall, experience teaches that thousands of people will be violently cut off from their families and friends on the other side of the wall, from opportunities for earning a livelihood and for study, from cultural and religious institutions, from day camps for children.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not dividing Jerusalem. Neither is Minister Haim Ramon. They have simply found a faster and more efficient way than those tried before to get rid of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem - after the process of robbing them of their lands for the benefit of the Jewish residents has been exhausted.
At the beginning of last week, the government decided to speed up the construction of the separation fence in the Jerusalem area, which will also surround and imprison the residents of three East Jerusalem neighborhoods: the Shoafat refugee camp, and the Salaam and Dar Khamis neighborhoods in Anata. For more than a year and a half from the time the route was set, the state was in no hurry to build, and it delayed replying to the petitions filed by attorney Danny Seideman on behalf of neighborhood residents. Now, when all the spotlights are on the incidents surrounding the disengagement, the state is rushing to construct a concrete wall and watchtowers, which have cut off the residents from their city and their entire way of life.
The Ministry of Defense has promised that the route was determined according to security considerations alone and that it took into consideration the overall interests of the residents. But Haim Ramon said last week on Israel Radio, without mincing words, "[The decision of] the government reinforces the security of Jerusalem, and also makes it more Jewish. The government is bringing security to the city and will also make Jerusalem the capital of a Jewish and democratic State of Israel." In other words: Clear demographic considerations are determining the route - as much land as possible in the hands of Israel, as few Arabs as possible.
The residents of these neighborhoods are not the first or the only Palestinians whom Israel has imprisoned behind fences, border crossings and a bureaucratic network of permits, in order to maintain the territorial achievements of the 1967 Six-Day War. It has become a common "solution" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But here we are talking about people with Israeli ID cards. Their predecessors to such imprisonment were the residents of Kafr Akab and Samir Amis, two villages south of Ramallah that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967.
The government has promised that it will quickly do something it has not done for 37 years in East Jerusalem: Within a few months, it will build an improved system of services that will make it unnecessary for people to come to the city center. This promise demonstrates what the government ministers think of the High Court justices, who are supposed to discuss the petition against the present route: Now, they think in the government, a year after the sword of the International Court of Justice in The Hague stopped dangling over their heads, they can sell any explanation or promise to the High Court.
The government now believes that the High Court judges are an inseparable part of their Jewish-democratic society. And this society has never been upset by the regime of structural discrimination that has made the East Jerusalem neighborhoods poverty-stricken, overcrowded and neglected.
Jewish-democratic society did not get very upset when Israeli governments and the Jerusalem Municipality expropriated large uninhabited Palestinian areas in order to built spacious neighborhoods for Jews only. At the same time, new administrative regulations prevented the Palestinians from building within the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, their city. Thus, they were impelled to build without permits, or to live outside the municipal boundaries. This structural discrimination was an undeclared but transparent means of chasing as many Palestinians as possible out of the "united" city.
In 1995-1996, the Interior Ministry began the policy of "quiet transfer": the wholesale cancellation of the residency of Jerusalemites who had been abroad for years or forced to live outside the municipal boundaries. At that time, the interior minister was Haim Ramon.
That was when the Israeli government began openly violating the promise made to the Palestinians when they - and their lands - were annexed to the Israeli capital. This was a promise that they, as Jerusalemites who had not chosen to live inside Israel's borders, but whom Israel had decided to annex, would enjoy the rights of residents, and that their status as Jerusalemites would be respected. The policy of quiet transfer was a partial failure, thanks to the joint struggle by Israelis, Palestinians and the international community, and mainly because many of the Palestinians decided to return to live in terribly crowded conditions, within the boundaries of Jerusalem.
Thus they built their homes at the edges of the Shoafat refugee camp, and in the Salaam - peace - neighborhood of Anata. Without planning, without infrastructure, without permits, without services, among piles of garbage, a short distance from the green gardens and the wide roads of the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev, which is built on lands stolen from Anata, Shoafat and Hizmeh.
Now comes another stage - under the guise of security considerations - of the march down the slippery slope of nationalist discrimination, which is "amending" what the "quiet transfer" did not succeed in doing. Even if the government builds beautiful schools and clinics in Anata within two months, the wall will create a huge prison, within walking distance of the glory of Jewish culture - the Hebrew University.
Even if the most sophisticated and user-friendly crossing point ever is built in the wall, experience teaches that thousands of people will be violently cut off from their families and friends on the other side of the wall, from opportunities for earning a livelihood and for study, from cultural and religious institutions, from day camps for children. Without being moved from their homes, they will be expelled from their city. All for the sake of a Jewish-democratic capital.