East Jerusalem's Palestinians Were Born to a Reality of Occupation

East Jerusalem isn’t cut off from the rest of the city; its residents see very well how city hall grants all the benefits to their Jewish neighbors.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
Emil Salman

During the civil war in Russia, Vladimir Mikhailovitch Golitsyn, the last mayor of Moscow under the Czars, wrote: “Who is to blame that the Russian people, the peasant and the proletarian, proved to be barbarians? Who, if not all of us?’’ (From Douglas Smith’s book “Former People: The Last Days Of The Russian Aristocracy.”)

“We, the people of the present century, are paying for the sins of our forefathers, and particularly for the institution of serfdom, with all its horrors and perversion,” wrote Golitsyn, adding that the nobility too were barbarians at heart and he did not know which were worse, the barbaric masses or the petty tyranny of the aristocracy and the lords who saw themselves as the salt of the earth.

What a small world, here too we have been blessed with the same sort of salt.

As opposed to Golitsyn, though, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, does not ask himself if he contributed to the descent into violence. After all, he participated enthusiastically in turning the eastern part of the city into a sort of Israeli Soweto, with a draconian regime of fines, municipal inspectors who function as prison wardens, and municipal services that are appropriate to the Middle Ages. And East Jerusalem is not cut off from the rest of the city; its residents see very well how city hall grants all the benefits to their Jewish neighbors.

On the other hand, why should we expect Barkat to spend time on soul searching and take account of the Palestinian residents of the city, when the political system across the generations never has? After all, the great majority of Arabs in Jerusalem were born into the reality of occupation. They suckled on occupied education, occupied abuse, and yes, occupation favors too. And look at the result: The anger of the “robbed Cossack” that Golda Meir aimed at the Palestinians – “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons” – the Palestinians aim back at the occupiers. They will not forgive them for turning their lives into hell, so much so that they choose suicide while harming the innocent; they prefer death over the paradise that the occupier promises them.

In the first days of the occupation the Jews celebrated in song and dance the “liberation” of East Jerusalem, and the Palestinians watched the horrifying show through the slits in the window shutters. The first generation of the occupied was in shock; the first generation of occupiers still tried occasionally to paint a smile on the harsh reality. The present generation of occupiers declares without embarrassment that its goal is to change the face of the city. And one particular grain of the salt of the earth, Naftali Bennett is his name, takes pride in the operation of taking over houses in Silwan, whose methods are more appropriate for the Mafia than for a civilized government.

This is the “petty tyranny” that Golitsyn wrote about: To weave a web of laws, ordinances and stratagems in order to change the face of the city, to make the lives of Arabs insufferable, until they take their belongings and leave. And all this is happening beneath the blood-curdling smile of Bennett, man of salt.

After every murderous terror attack they come with claims against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. What chutzpah! Does Abbas sneak mystical settlers into Silwan? Does he destroy houses? Set up roadblocks? At the time, when things heated up after the kidnapping of Nachshon Waxman, Yitzhak Rabin courageously said that the kidnapping happened in the area under Israeli sovereignty, and we should not complain to Arafat.

In his book, “Jerusalem: The Biography,” Simon Sebag Montefiore writes that Mordechai Gur, who commanded the paratroopers who launched the capture of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, did not know how to reach the Western Wall, but an old Arab man showed him the Mugrabi Gate. Later they rewarded the old man by destroying the entire Mugrabi neighborhood.

That is how they are turning the site, which was marginal in the national conflict, into the new “foundation of our existence.” Allah yester, God protect us.