Remember how the pro-Israeli propagandists have been telling us forever that Jerusalem is now “unified”, and that adherents of all religions have “equal rights” and “equal access” there?
These claims are deeply mendacious. Jerusalem has been “unified” since 1967 only in the sense that that was the year that the Israeli military occupied the eastern portion of the city and brought it, like West Jerusalem, under the de facto control of the Israeli national and municipal authorities.
No other government in the world recognizes the legitimacy of the unilateral Anschluss (annexation) of East Jerusalem that the Israeli Knesset enacted that year. From the international-law point of view, Jerusalem is not in any sense “unified”.
And it is not “unified” in any socioeconomic sense, either. For 42 years now, municipal and other social services have been offered to the city’s residents in a way that has discriminated very deeply, and on a systematic basis, against those 30% of them who are Palestinians, whether Muslim or Christian.
And so, today, we come to an article in Haaretz that tells us:
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday rejected municipal recommendations and cut funding for a toddler health-care center in East Jerusalem, while approving aid to a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood.
The funds would have gone to opening a branch of the “Drop of Milk” (Tipat Halav) program, which provides prenatal and toddler health-care services in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Last year, authorities from the Jerusalem municipal offices recommended to the mayor to open the aid center in Silwan, which would service around 100,000 residents.
Authorities also recommended opening a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood that is home to around 7,000 residents.
During discussions on the 2010 budget, Barkat decided to cut the aid that would open the center in Silwan while simultaneously approving the aid to open the same center in a Jewish neighborhood.
… Like other health services in Jerusalem, including toddler care, there is a wide gap in services provided to residents in East and West Jerusalem.
Other Jerusalem areas under public jurisdiction contain a total of 25 ‘Drop of Milk’ centers, while East Jerusalem, with its 250,000 residents, is home to just four Drop of Milk centers.
Various good Israeli NGOs like Ir Amim or the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have done good work in documenting and, on occasion, protesting the systematic anti-Palestinian discrimination that’s embedded so deeply in the practice of the Israeli authorities (national and municipal) inside Jerusalem. But some of the Jewish Israelis who work with these organizations see the “problem” in the city as only one of the civil rights of non-Jewish people within a Jerusalem jurisdiction that these Israelis still judge to have been quite appropriately expanded by the Anschluss/annexation measure of 1967. They do not see it as a problem also of Israel’s continuing occupation of East Jerusalem, which is the way the city’s Palestinians and just about the whole of the rest of the world outside Israel (and some portions of the US body politic) still see it today.
Now it is true that within the area that became Israel in 1948, there is systematic and continuing discrimination against that portion of the citizenry– some 20% or so– who are Palestinian Arabs indigenous to those areas. For those ethnic-Palestinians who are residents of Israel proper, and who therefore also have Israeli citizenship, fighting for equal civil, political, social, and economic rights within the Israeli political system is very analogous to such fights by discriminated-against minorities anywhere in the world.
But Jerusalem’s 250,000 Palestinians are in a different situation. They are not “citizens” of Israel; and the vast majority of them have no desire to gain such citizenship. They see themselves the way international law sees them: as residents of a territory that has been ruled under belligerent military occupation for more than 40 years now; and they urgently need to see the end of that hostile, military-enforced occupation.
And of course, they do not see the 200,000 Jewish Israeli citizens who have been implanted amongst them as “fellow citizens” with whom they would like to have fraternal relations based on inclusiveness and political equality. They see them as colonial settlers who have been quite illegally implanted into occupied east Jerusalem over the course of the past 42 years. And they see these settlers, and the Israeli authorities who stand behind them, as having quite illegally and unjustly expropriated the Palestinian land and resources that are now used to sustain the settler communities.
So yes, we should certainly protest when social services or municipal services are distributed between East Jerusalem’s settlers and its rightful, indigenous Palestinian residents in a way that is highly discriminatory. But we should not blind ourselves to the much deeper and more momentous injustice of continuing military occupation that underlies all these many instances of discrimination within East Jerusalem.
Ending the occupation– of East Jerusalem, as of all of the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories– is what needs to happen. And fast!