Palestinian youths throw stones at Israeli military vehicle in East Jerusalem
Palestinian youths throw stones at Israeli military vehicle in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, in May 2010. Photo by Archive
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Just in time for the nine days of mourning leading up to Tisha B'Av, the Jerusalem municipality has threatened to file its Master Plan for Jerusalem as reported in Haaretz on June 28. The plan includes a comprehensive development program that seems designed to undermine the Zionist enterprise and invite calls for our destruction.

Instead of reversing decades of neglect to meet the needs of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents, the plan backs up the local and national governments' apparent desire to relocate as many Arabs as possible to the margins of the municipal boundaries; to promote overcrowding in East Jerusalem in the hope that Palestinians will leave the city of their own accord, by developing new neighborhoods on the margins of the city and by making proposed construction in the heart of East Jerusalem impossible; and to accelerate evictions and house demolitions.

The Master Plan, the first in 50 years, was created by the Jerusalem municipality over the past decade, and is intended to shape the city for at least the next 25 years. The plan must be approved at the national level by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee and pass public muster before becoming official policy.

According to a report by Ir Amim, an NGO that engages in public education in order to impact policy to meet the needs of both peoples sharing Jerusalem and to minimize the damage caused by unilateral actions, population growth projections suggest the housing shortage for Arab residents will continue even if the Master Plan is implemented in full.

The plan will also present Palestinians seeking to build to meet their growing population's needs with what look to be insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles. East Jerusalemites, for example, will have difficulty proving ownership of their lands because of the absence of land registration for Palestinians with Israeli authorities. Their buildings also lack the necessary infrastructure to follow the plan's proposal to increase density by building upward - adding additional floors on tops of existing buildings.

The plan's call to displace Palestinians suggests that there are more sinister agendas than failing to prepare for the needs of Palestinian Jerusalemites adequately. The plan plays into both the settler-led campaign to rid the area around the Old City of its Arab population, and the government's efforts to make sure Jerusalem will never be the capital of a Palestinian state, despite the lip service paid to the two-state solution.

We should not reject the Jerusalem Master Plan simply because its passage may infuriate the Americans and Europeans and add to delegitimization campaigns against Israel around the world.

We should cast out this plan and its framers because it is anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist. It is the brainchild of those determined to show the world who is the boss in Jerusalem. The plan taints everything it touches, from the preservation of Jewish historic sites to calls for parklands and green spaces.

None of us yearned in our synagogues or Zionist youth movements for a Jerusalem in which poor Arab families would be kicked out of their homes to make way for a bogus tourist center, or to insert hostile Jewish settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods, or to build apartments financed by a casino tycoon half a world away.

We did not establish the first Knesset of Jewish lawmakers in history so the law could be twisted to serve the vengeful fantasies of Jewish settlers and the Arab-hating security hawks who enable them. We did not claw our way back to Jewish sovereignty so Jewish police would be ordered to bash the heads of any Jew or non-Jew who dared to protest and question the morality of aggressive actions against Palestinian residents, such as those in Sheikh Jarrah or Silwan.

I want Jerusalem to be my capital, to be recognized as our capital the world over, and I want it to remain our capital forever. But any Jew or Arab who walks the streets of Jerusalem knows that Israel already has sovereignty over Jerusalem, and has used this control to make sure the city remains as divided as ever. There is a Jewish Jerusalem and an Arab Jerusalem and all the sloganeering by our leaders and apologists will not change this reality.

We could have created a Zionist vision for our time in Jerusalem, a Jewish beacon of equality and mutual respect for all faiths and both peoples who live here. Instead, we have systematically neglected the needs of a quarter million Palestinian residents, fouled our desperate struggle for security with land grabs, and devoted vast resources to fence the local Arab population in and keep the Palestinian nation out.

As Jewish communities the world over remember Jerusalem's destruction and our expulsion from foreign lands in which we were cast as the stranger, it is time to reject the evil being done in the name of preserving our "united and eternal capital." Might pulpit rabbis use their Tisha B'Av sermons not only to remember our suffering, but to insist that we not use that suffering to justify becoming bullies ourselves, and that as Jews, we oppose expelling Palestinians from their homes?

Let us tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, and the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee that most of the Jewish people are neither settlers nor Arab-haters, and we do not share their vision. We believe we can still make Jerusalem the city of our dreams.

 

Don Futterman is the program director in Israel of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working to support civil society and democracy, immigrant absorption and education in Israel.