Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Medad, Amirav & Abu-Zayed

From a report on the panel discussion I participated in:-

“When Israel annexed east Jerusalem, they annexed the land and the buildings, but they did not annex the Palestinians,” says Ziad AbuZayyad, a former Palestinian minister, columnist for the Al-Quds daily, and co-founder of the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics.

Jerusalem’s Jordanian years were “a golden period,” the 67-year-old writer says. Since then, Israel has introduced what he calls “nightmare” bureaucratic measures involving documents and other procedures that he says are intended to discourage Palestinians from living in Jerusalem. The most recent example, he says, was the wall that Israel built around some Palestinian neighbourhoods to prevent terrorist attacks.

“I do not deny that there are security problems,” AbuZayyad says, but argues that such measures are largely designed to harass and humiliate Palestinians. The result is a bizarre situation where drug use and crime are increasing among young Palestinians, even as more of them are going to mosques where such behaviour is condemned, he says.

Moshe Amirav, a paratrooper who in 1967 helped liberate Judaism’s most sacred site, the Western Wall, has written a new book called the Jerusalem Syndrome: Israeli Unification Policy Delusions. The book proposes that Israelis control traditionally Jewish areas of West Jerusalem, Palestinians control traditionally Muslim and Christian areas of East Jerusalem, and that the Old City be internationalized.

“What is Jerusalem?” asks Amirav, a professor of public policy who was former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s adviser on Jerusalem “In my opinion it is only the Holy City. And that one square kilometre belongs to God and all the crazy people like me who believe in Jerusalem. The place that signifies humanity should be outside politics.”

Amirav’s ideas are heretical to Yisrael Medad, secretary of the El Har Hashem Association, which supports Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. Recalling the years when Jews could not pray at the Western Wall, he argues that if Israel does not retain control of the entire city, it would harm his ability “to feel myself a Jew.”

“Where are my rights?” he demands. “How can you expect me to get involved with this?”

About two-thirds of Jerusalem’s 720,000 residents today are Jewish. The rest are Palestinians, among them 10,000 Christians.

The Jewish population declined by nearly 11,000 last year. If this trend is not reversed, or Jerusalem’s borders are not somehow redrawn, Muslims, who tend to have large families, are expected to outnumber Jews in about 25 years.

“Many Israelis are running away already,” says author Amirav, citing the city’s economy, pricey real estate and uncertain future.

Medad, for his part, is more skeptical. “I am not saying that I am not concerned,” he says, but adds that equally dark demographic predictions have been wrong before.

AbuZayyad, notes that many Israelis worry that a majority of Jerusalem’s population will soon be Arab. “What they have to worry about is a majority of Arabs - from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.”

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