Micro-Geography Matters in Jerusalem

News Abroad

Dror Wahrman is Ruth N. Halls Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Over the past couple of weeks the fate of Jerusalem emerged as the most visible hot spot in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Obama’s administration has been putting pressure on Israel to stop its construction in East Jerusalem, which is projected as the Palestinian capital in a future two-state solution.  Netanhayu, on his part, vows to continue building in Jerusalem, the eternal Jewish capital, “like all Israeli governments since 1967,” and claims not to understand what all the fuss is about.

These seemingly clear-cut statements actually mask much confusion and misinformation.  Most people outside Israel/Palestine, and even many Israelis, do not actually understand the often complicated micro-geography of what is happening on the ground.  But in this case, the micro matters.  It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and thus to a large extent the future of American relations with the Islamic world, depend on the proper understanding of local Jerusalemite geography.

To begin with, what is “Jerusalem”?  Not as obvious a question as it sounds.  When Israel conquered East Jerusalem from the Jordanians in 1967, it passed a law that unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem and reunited the divided city as its “eternal capital.”  Only that what was in fact annexed was a huge, sprawling area – 70 square kilometers! – that took a significant bite from the West Bank (The Jordanian East Jerusalem was only 6.4 square kilometers).  Its meandering boundaries made little urban or geographical sense:  the only clear logic of the hastily drawn map was to annex maximum land and minimum Palestinians.  And yet several villages, and even a large refugee camp, suddenly found themselves part of Jerusalem, to which they had never belonged before.  And now, when Israelis are reaffirming their commitment to their eternal capital, much of that outpouring of devotion is actually directed at areas that have absolutely nothing to do with the historic or holy Jerusalem; a fact that is willfully suppressed by some and no longer known to many others.

Furthermore: what is “Israeli construction in East Jerusalem,” the putative bone of contention? Once again, the answer is far from unambiguous. Soon after the Six Day War, Israel began building a series of large neighborhoods beyond the 1948-1967 border (the ‘Green Line’). Some restored a long-standing Jewish presence that was cut short during the war of 1948:  the Jewish Quarter in the Old City that was conquered by the Jordanians during the war and destroyed; the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, which actually remained in Israeli hands throughout this period, but as an isolated lifeless enclave. Some extended Jewish Jerusalem into new areas, which were either adjacent to pre-1967 Jewish neighborhoods or were on unoccupied hills further out:  French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, Giloh. By the time the peace process began with the Oslo Accords in 1993, these were already substantial neighborhoods with tens of thousands of people living in them, and thus became an inevitable factor in the negotiations. Few, even on the Palestinian side, expected these post-1967 Israeli neighborhoods to be evacuated.  This was the so-called “Consensus” – a loaded reified term in Israeli politics – that Netanyahu and the Israeli government now invoke whenever they insist that nothing has changed in 43 years of Israeli government policy in Jerusalem.

Which is, in fact, an utter misrepresentation.  Neither of the recent storms about Israeli construction in East Jerusalem is part of the urban reality encompassed in the “Consensus.”

Take Ramat Shlomo, the neighborhood in which an expansion of 1600 units was approved while Joe Biden was in Israel, a public snub that triggered the present storm over Jerusalem.  In 1993 this spot was a barren hill.  There were no buildings on it, no inhabitants, nothing.  It was a hill, moreover, that was part of the contiguous section of East Jerusalem which was likely to revert back to the Palestinian side in any plausible geographic enactment of a two-state solution with Jerusalem as capital to both.  Ramat Shlomo, like Har Homa, which was a major project of Netanyahu’s first government in the late 1990s, were last-ditch efforts to alter the map after negotiations had begun.  However their fate is decided now, it is at least questionable whether they should unthinkingly merit the same status in negotiations as those neighborhoods that had already been in place in 1993, at the ostensible beginning of the peace process.  But since these are neighborhoods in which most Israelis have never set foot, let alone foreigners, they are largely unaware of these distinctions.  The Palestinians, on the other hand, are painfully aware of them.  Their projected share of the city is a moving target, and one that is continually shrinking,

The second eye of the storm is even more pernicious.  To understand the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, you really have to go there.  You have to see for yourself these few buildings that have recently been taken over by Jewish settlers in the middle of a dense Palestinian neighborhood.  The houses are literally wrapped in Israeli flags. Everything about them cries provocation.  The Palestinian families that lived in them until their evacuation several months ago are now living in makeshift encampments opposite their former houses.  Israeli police and military are present in large numbers.  They ensure the safety of the settlers.  They harass – sometimes violently – the weekly demonstrators, Israelis and Palestinians together, who every Friday march to protest this new outrage.  But they do little to protect the Palestinian neighbors from the heckling and even violence of the newcomers.

Sheikh Jarrah also includes the Shepherd Hotel Compound, where the approval of twenty settler units was announced on the day Netanyahu was in Washington, and thus got some press attention.  It is actually but one of several such projects recently gaining ground but not always noticed by the press, including the six-story “Beit Yehonatan” in the large Palestinian village of Silwan, and a new settlement in the Palestinian village E-Tur on top of the Mount of Olives.  These are completely different types of construction projects.  They are hardly a response to natural urban growth, like Ramat Shlomo or the other large neighborhoods.  Rather, they are small Israeli beachheads in the middle of well established and densely built Palestinian neighborhoods.  They are ideologically driven and populated by settlers of the most aggressive type, whose behavior grates even many in the broader settler communities (Recently the small settler community in Sheikh Jarrah was filmed singing songs of praise for Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish terrorist who killed dozens of Muslims during prayer in Hebron in 1994; and singing so loudly that their Palestinian neighbors could not but hear every word).  The goals of these small settler enclaves is to proclaim Jewish superiority everywhere, while disrupting the tissue of co-existence that depends on leaving Palestinians spaces of their own.

In every case the government and the municipality – currently run by a right-wing mayor, Nir Barkat, who seems all too eager to stoke any fire that comes his way – put forth arguments that supposedly justify the invasion.  Some are legal arguments about ownership, sometimes going back eighty years (as in the case of Sheikh Jarrah) and sometimes based on a recent purchase (as in the case of the Shepherd Hotel).  Some are historical arguments, mobilizing traditional Jewish associations of those particular spots – partly true, partly invented or stretched – to buttress a claim from times immemorial.  But the goal, the methods, and the consequences are always the same:  an intrusive encroachment into Palestinian space, eyesore houses emblazoned with Israeli flags, aggressive settlers that often seek confrontation with the neighboring Palestinians, and a permanent disruptive presence of Israeli military and police that inevitably follow the settlers.  That the legal argument is but a veneer is demonstrated by the fact that ever since the incongruous high-rise intrusion into the Palestinian village of Silwan, named by the settlers “Yehonatan House,” was declared by Israeli courts illegal and due for immediate demolition, Jerusalem’s mayor has openly defied this ruling.

In terms of sheer damage to co-existence in a complicated city, therefore, twenty units in Sheikh Jarrah sow more immediate hatred than 1600 units in Ramat Shlomo.  To present such aggressive acts as a continuation of the policies of Israeli governments over 43 years is simply untrue.  Until recently, Israeli governments carefully avoided such conflicts, and thus allowed Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Holy City to remain surprisingly resilient in the face of many challenges during the first generation after 1967.  Efforts to disrupt this pattern began by individuals and small groups, often with private American funding.  Their intensification over the last decade and a half has largely flown under the radar, despite being a development with momentous consequences (much greater, say, than those of the settlement ‘outposts’ that have received so much attention).  Their protestations of innocence notwithstanding, the support for this game-changing policy from Netanyahu’s government together with the zealous mayor of Jerusalem is unprecedented.

I grew up in a divided Jerusalem.  I know full well why such an urban reality cannot and should not return.  I then spent many years as a tour guide in Jerusalem, and have a deep investment in its 3000 years of history, with its rich cultural and religious associations.  Until recently, I have also believed that, despite the overblown rhetoric that Jerusalem inevitably elicits, the actual political problem it posits can lend itself to a reasonable solution.  That Jerusalem is not in truth “united” is what makes such a solution possible.  It has clearly Jewish parts and clearly Arab parts, and those function well independently of each other.  Jews and Arabs mingle but can also retreat to their own space.  An operational modus vivendi, in other words, already exists.  Jerusalem’s overload of holiness is centered in a very small area in and around the Old City:  several reasonable solutions for this “holy basin” have been suggested, combining pragmatic arrangements on the ground with creative fudging of the ultimate sovereignty which can be left in the hands of God.  And as for the symbols of real national sovereignty, if you actually mark on a map the Israeli “capitol hill,” that is the hill that houses the Knesset, the main Government Ministries and the Supreme Court, and then the Palestinian projected “capitol hill” in Abu Dis, a township on the Mount of Olives, you will discover that they are more or less equidistant from the holy places in the Old City.  A perfect geographic basis for a balanced urban compromise.

Netanyahu’s government is deliberately undermining this balance and rapidly changing the urban circumstances, thus rendering a compromise less and less likely.  As it turns out, counter to Netanyahu’s claims, these actions are not in the Israeli vaunted “Consensus.” Even at this juncture when the left in Israel is unprecedently weak, many Israelis (42% according to a recent poll) oppose these new Israeli policies and support a complete freeze of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.  The U.S. should not let manipulative rhetoric about the eternal city and 3000 years of history obfuscate the actual intersection of historical and geographic facts, nor stand in the way of the policy conclusions that must be drawn from them.

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Arnold Shcherban - 4/22/2010

United Nations Security Council with its five permanent Members (US, USSR, UK, France, and China) with the right of veto has no moral credibility credibility?
Well, then its sanctions against Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and for that matter any other decisions has no moral credibility and therefore has no authority?
But Israel's bombing of Iraq's reactor and proposed bombing of the Iran's suspected nuclear facilities are absolutely morally and legally justified...
How dare you, pseudo Professor?

Elliott Aron Green - 4/18/2010

Yes, Art, it seems like Omar has a lot of misinformation which he may sincerely believe is true. The 1949 Israel-Transjordan armistice accord, signed at Rhodes with the mediation of Ralph Bunche, stipulates Jewish access to Jewish holy places and freedom of Jewish burial in the very old Jewish cemetery on ths western slope of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Qidron valley. See Article VIII, clause 2.

Sol S Shalit - 4/15/2010

Well said, acute, perceptive, on target -- and with a flourish, Mr. Kovachev.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/15/2010

I think that Umar is right about Jordan allowing the bi-weekly Israeli convoys to go to Mount Scopus. But Jordan did not allow any Jewish access to Jewish holy places under Jordanian control, despite the Rhodes armistice accord of 1949. Jordan did allow some Israeli Christians to visit Bethlehem on Christmas, and maybe the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Easter. This was a very complicated process. The pilgrims went through the Mandelbaum Gate crossing between Israeli Jerusalem and Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem. By the way, the Mandelbaum Gate crossing facility was built over the ruins of the pre-1948 Jewish neighborhood of Siebenbergen Houses, whence the Jews were ethnically cleansed by Arab irregular forces in early 1948.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/14/2010

To the best of my knowledge the armistice agreement between Jordan and Israel allowed for a weekly or biweekly ? Israeli convoy to replenish and rotate personnel at the Hebrew University whose campus, quite close to the now in the news Cheik Jarrah,was NOT occupied by Israel in 1948 and that that agreement was scrupulously observed by Jordan.
Several other clauses of that agreement were not observed by both sides mainly by Israel.
However if my memory does NOT fail me the Armistice commission registered ( 1948-1967)Israeli violations in the HUNDREDS including cross armistice borders massacres of civilians at Qibya and Nahalin etc. and of Israeli non allowance of Palestinian Christians to visit Nazareth versus only tens for Jordan
Most of Jordanian violations were about Palestinians crossing over to their homes, farms and orchards.

art eckstein - 4/13/2010

Dear Elliott,

Are you saying that Omar confidently stated something that he was too lazy to actually research about (namely the terms of the Jordanian-Israeli armistice of 1949, which he did not know about at all), and was thus completely and grotesquely WRONG in his claims on this thread about Jerusalem?

I mean--I'm shocked!

Elliott Aron Green - 4/12/2010

`Umar, I remind you that the Israel-Transjordan armistice accord made at Rhodes [1949] through the mediation of Ralph Bunche of the UN contained a provision that Jews would be able to visit Jewish holy sites in Transjordanian [later Jordanian]-held [Jordanian occupied] areas in Jerusalem and elsewhere. The Jordanians never fulfilled that clause of the armistice accords. They violated it throughout the 19 years of their occupation of parts of Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria. So whether or not you consider it fair for Jews to have access to those sites, the armistice accords stipulated the Jewish right to such access.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/12/2010

by Gesmanieh, Omar seems to be referring to what is called in English Gethsemane, derived from the Hebrew Gath Shmanim, meaning olive oil press. The Christian tradition regarding Gethsemane goes back before the Muslim-Arab conquest of the city in 638 CE. Nevertheless, the original Gath Shmanim may have been located to the south of today's Old City, outside today's Zion Gate, rather than the presently accepted location to the east of the Old City, outside Lions' Gate, and owned by the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, the olive trees on the present site seem very old. They have very thick gnarled trunks.

There seems to be a contradiction between the Christian tradition placing the site of the Last Supper [Coenaculum] outside of today's Zion Gate [Bab Sahyun, in Arabic] on the south, whereas the accepted location of Jesus' Via Dolorosa begins on the street coming in to the Old City from the Lions Gate on the east.

Be that as it may, the Zion Gate is named after a Byzantine church called Nea Sion which once stood close to that gate. Nea Sion means New Zion. So Omar's ostensible Christian partners in defining the city, as in We base our case on EVERY THING that makes Jerusalem what it truly is:Arab/Moslem-Christian, in fact related the city to its Jewish past by naming a church Nea Sion.

Furthermore, the Dome of the Rock does not express an original, Muslim/Arab architectural style but rather a Byzantine style. The octagonal plan of the Dome of the Rock [kubbat al-Sahra] was modelled on that of the pre-Islamic Kathisma church rediscoverd not long ago by Israeli archeologists just south of Jerusalem.

I must admit that the two main synagogues in the pre-1948, pre-Arab Legion destruction, in the Old City, the Hurva and the Tif'eret Yisrael, were also built after a basically Byzantine design, not after an Arab-Muslim design, God forbid, nor a Western Gothic design. The Hurva has recently been rebuilt and rededicated which prompted an Arab "human rights" group based in Gaza to call the rebuilding a "war crime" [I kid you not].

Furthermore, the Temple Mount below the surface is still the artificial platform built by the ancient Jews, last expanded by King Herod of Judea.
The mountain under the Temple Mount platform is the original Mount Zion. Today's Mount Zion and Zion Gate [Bab Sahyun] take their name from the Nea Sion church which once stood nearby, with some remnants still in place.

Can `Umar tell us why the Christians before the Arab conquest named a church Nea Sion?? Was this not a reference to the pre-Christian Jewish/Israelite history and traditions of the city??

omar ibrahim baker - 4/12/2010

As with all other aspects of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict Israel & Co base their case on very old, archaic, uncoroborated, semi mythical and often fabricated info that are defied and belied by material facts on the ground and by solid, objectively gathered and presented data .
Foremost among the former, material facts on the ground, is the still existing Jerusalem, both the Old City and the New whose main Arab character, as in its construction/architectural style, is all too plain for everybody to see despite some 60 years of continuous Israeli effort to deface it by new construction or by the demolition of old, historical, buildings.
(One has only to compare Tel Aviv to Jerusalem re construction and architectural styles to see for himself the Arab character of Jerusalem versus the hybrid-alien, western/Jewish? styles, and character of Tel Aviv.)

Re the latter, particularly in the domains of population and land ownership, all that an objective reader has to do is refer to, among others, the KING-CRANE Commission report , British land ownership records and UN records for the pre Israel era !
(All are on the web.)

omar ibrahim baker - 4/12/2010

Elliott, you contend:
"No Jews were allowed to come to that sector of the city, not to live there, not to visit there, not to go any Jewish historical sites or religious sites there. "
Do I have to remind you that during that period a STATE OF WAR existed between Jordan and Israel and that, as is always the case when a state of war exists , no communication or travel between the two warring sides is allowed?
That Arabs, particularly hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, were NOT allowed by Israel , then and NOW, neither to return to nor to visit their birth places, homes, shops, workshops, offices, schools etc etc ?
You are certainly aware of that but attempt to exploit the presumed ignorance of others.
That is cheap but not atypical!

Re "legacy" you base your case on a single quotation dating several thousands year back.
We base our case on EVERY THING that makes Jerusalem what it truly is:Arab/Moslem-Christian, and still is standing in Jerusalem today for all to see: the Old City and its ramparts, the DOME of the ROCK, the AL AKSA MOSQUE, the HOLY SEPULCHRE, The Gesmanieh all erected during the recent , 1500 years old, Arab and/or Moslem rule PLUS innumerable other public and private edifices.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/12/2010

Arnold, do you really think that any UN body has any moral credibility? In fact, the General Assembly is dominated by the OIC [organization of the Islamic conference] which has, by the way, issued its own anti-human rights "Declaration of Human Rights in Islam." Read it sometime. It rejects human equality and the rights of non-Muslims in a rather subtle way. But not too subtle, not even for you.

The Security Council, my dear Marxist-Leninist enemy of bourgeois law, is run by the empires. Or haven't you noticed? Can a red blooded, true blue Marxist-Leninist rely on a Security Council resolution? For shame, Arnold.

As to international law, I have explained before that Jerusalem was recognized as part of the Jewish National Home by San Remo [1920], endorsed by the League of Nations [1922], confirmed by the UN [1945]. When the resolution that you referred to was passed circa 1980, it was a manifestation of overwhelming Arab/Muslim influence over the UN and the open Judeophobia of the powers dominating the Security Council. But they could not legislate away the Jewish National Home status of the city ex post facto. So that resolution had no legal basis as well as no moral basis.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/12/2010

Well, Omar, it's nice that you brought up "historical legacy." The city was most glorious during Jewish rule and Jewish habitation. Pliny the Elder called the ancient Jewish Jerusalem: The most illustrious city of the East by far, not merely of Judea.

It was the Jews, if I may show my pride, that made Jerusalem meaningful and glorious in world history.
Omar, when you speak of historical legacy, you are playing the wrong card.

Besides that, in the 19 years of Arab [Jordanian] rule over eastern parts of Jerusalem captured in the Arab effort to thwart Israel's independence, those parts were subject to a racist, religiously bigoted Judenrein or apartheid regime. No Jews were allowed to come to that sector of the city, not to live there, not to visit there, not to go any Jewish historical sites or religious sites there. The foremost Jewish religious site in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount, usurped long ago by Arab/Muslims.

Peter Kovachev - 4/12/2010

Well, Messrs Green, Shalit and Mutik did the hard work here in exposing the lack of substance behind this sorry pseudo-academic concoction by yet another anti-Israel Israeli academic. Thank you gentlemen; the life-or-death importance of simple, truthful facts in such times is underrated. O, and thanks too to Arnie and Omar for loyally serving as the forum's ever-present cathedral gargoyles to remind everyone which side is the creepy and demented one. Memento dementate.

This leaves me free to entertain with my familiar rhetorical commentary from the (still cold) Great White North.

First, the bad. It is a bad, sad and shameful reality that so many Israeli academics abroad, such as Dror Wahrman here, feel that promoting the division and the guaranteed destruction of Israel's capital, not to mention the planned ethnic cleansing against their own people, while purveying intellectual amunition to their deadly enemies is the price they must pay for social and professional acceptance in the non-Jewish world. Echoes of John Murray Cuddihy's fascinating observations and conclusions in his *The Ordeal of Civility*? Perhaps. Whatever. When the fate of the Jewish state is so imperilled as it is now, academic wafflings over "micro-geographies" or the plight of the ambitious academic parvenus become silly luxuries.

The good news is that the familiar clump of Israeli academics and activists suffering from what a teacher of mine called the "hofjuden (court-Jew)complex" appears to have reached its quantitative and qualitative high-water mark. No amount of posturing, honours and verbiage can hide the fact that they are in reality a small collection of unsavoury cranks. Fortunately, an increasing number of young Israelis, academics and lay people, are rejecting the tired and fraudulent Leftist "narratives" and reaffirming Israel's prime Zionist principles. My teacher was partially wrong, or too kind, though; the hofjuden of old Europe may have profited from their relationships with the authorities, but when push came to shove, they usually tried to protect their communities and Jews in general. Unlike the recent crop of soul-less ghouls, most would have rather died before publicly advising naive or hostile powers on how to weaken and harm their own people.

The other good news item is that the Obamis' silly trick of sending the Vice-Buffoon to make a bigger buffoon of himself and then to issue a non-ending stream of hostility and transparent lies in what is most likely a stupid attempt ("smart diplomacy"?) to topple Bibi's coalition is backfiring. Chicago Ward goonery fails on the interantional stage. Majorities of Americans, Australians, Canadians and even a smagrowing number of Europeans, are now quietly but firmply, supportive of Israel. The good thing is that they are ever-more interested in the real issues regarding the little Jewish state, the disputed territories and Jerusalem. And this majority, judging by recent trends, is finally onto the tired crypto-Marxist convolutions of the craven mercenaries and shallow opportunists, and would rather hear from self-respecting Israelis, diaspora Jews and credible academics.

So, chins up folks, whether Jew or non-Jew, visit beautiful Israel and visit often. Those of you planning a Bat or Bar Mitzvah can think of doing it in Jerusalem...at dawn, with the warming sun painting the stones of the Kotel a bright pink. While there, do what some Canadian Jews have started doing: Don't buy into the "land for peace" piffle, buy a piece of Jerusalem land instead, singly or in groups, and keep the dream real.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/9/2010

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that declared the so-called Jerusalem law passed by Israel in 1980, i.e. changing of Jerusalem status to Israel's "complete and unified" capital, "a violation of international law" and requested all member states to withdraw all remaining embassies from the city.
Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations and related bodies.
Any other country in the region would be slammed with severe sanctions and more (if you know what I mean) for such outright violation of international law and essentially ignoring numerous UN requests for remedy for decades(!), but not Israel, who is kept above the law by another and the greatest of all violator of international laws and champion of double standards - USA - that blocks all attempts to even tangentially sanction Israeli Zionist governments in the UN Security Council for many decades.
That's a holy truth and our chorus of Zionists (not mentioning the entire world) knows this too well, but they will never publicly acknowledge the reality which is nothing less than actuality.
Instead they continue to forward a sophistry of facts and lies, that through sometimes does relate to the situation in question, but does not remedy the core of violations of the international agreements and resolutions made in the past; on the contrary it provides the "justification" for those violations.

omar ibrahim baker - 4/9/2010

A detailed, updated, well researched and seemingly well intentioned view of Jerusalem, correctly perceived by the author as the essence of Palestine.
Nit pickings and slanted presentation of minutiae , as for Greens', notwithstanding Jerusalem and lands in Jerusalem is neither primarily a question of land "legal" ownership (that British cadastral records can, as for the REST of Palestine, settle as far as pre 1948 Israeli conquest) nor a vague, undefined and an uncorroborated "consensus".
It is first and foremost a question of a HISTORICAL LEGACY that encompass not only mosques and churches BUT equally Jerusalemites of centuries long ownership and residence therein and a HISTORICAL SYMBOLand HERITAGE that distills the issue of an Arab, both Moslem and Christian, Palestine versus a Jewish “ Israel”.
“Outlying” settlements are also of cardinal importance for any potential settlement being the natural space, in the correct direction, for the normal growth of an Arab/Palestinian Jerusalem.

However the recuurence throughout of reference to the “legal” status of land ownership can NOT fail to underline the PROFANE nature of Israeli legalitism in that no mention is made , anywhere, of the farcical situation under which Arab Jerusalemites have being living since 1967.
Pre 1967 Arab Jerusalemites residing in East Jerusalem were denied access to their legitimate homes and land ownerships in WEST Jerusalem because they were “absentee” land and home owners , after the annexation, and unification, of both East and West Jerusalem these same land and home owners still residing in East Jerusalem, are still denied access to their legitimate homes and lands, for still being ABSENTEE!
That is the PROFANE world of Israeli legality and legalitisms which makes a mockery of the word and of all the concepts and principles underlying it!

Arnold Shcherban - 4/8/2010

You see, I told you: the chorus did not wait to be invited with one false crescendo after another.

Joseph Mutik - 4/6/2010

The peace process between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel is called "land for peace" which mean that in exchange for land the Arabs will return peace. The reality is that the anti Jewish hatred coming from the official Palestinian media is in rising and the US president asked only the Jews and not the Palestinians for concessions.
It's only normal, when the Palestinians don't show any inclination to peace with the Jews, for the Jews to show the Palestinians that the land isn't there forever.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/6/2010

I neglected to mention that the Shepherd Hotel was owned by the chief Arab Nazi collaborator, Haj Amin el-Husseini, whose family were major real estate owners in the Jerusalem area, also owning the Orient House Hotel, later the PLO headquarters in Jerusalem. Amin el-Husseini spent most of WW2 in the Nazi-fascist domain and collaborated in the Holocaust, urging Eastern European satellites of Nazi Germany to send Jewish children to Poland where, in his words, they would be "under active supervision." Auschwitz is located in Poland, a fact of which Husseini was aware. On the grounds of the Husseini connection to the Shepherd Hotel, the property's use for Jewish dwellings is right and proper.

For more on the "Palestine" notion, see:


On the international law status of Jerusalem see:


Sol S Shalit - 4/5/2010

With such an academic-sounding headline as “Micro-Geography Matters in Jerusalem”, coupled with its author (Dror Wahrman) as a History Professor, you would expect to read a detached, objective account of the matter. You would be wrong. I have nothing against academics; I’m a retired economics professor myself. However, Mr. Wahrman is an academic with an agenda, a leftist, Israel-bashing agenda that he has amply demonstrated in public writing (e.g. “Is Israel Falling Apart?” [2007]). To fortify his credibility, Mr. Wahrman found it necessary to add:

“I grew up in a divided Jerusalem. I know full well why such an urban reality cannot and should not return. I then spent many years as a tour guide in Jerusalem, and have a deep investment in its 3000 years of history, with its rich cultural and religious associations.”

Don’t be fooled. Mr. Wahrman is a youngster, born long after the establishment of Israel. I, too, grew up in Jerusalem, before the establishment of Israel, and was there in during the siege of Jerusalem. Wahrman characterizes the situation in Sheikh Jarrah as “pernicious”, but he has no idea what he is talking about. He was never there before 1947 in order to pass judgment; he wasn’t even born. And apparently, he has not read enough history on the presence of Jews there. I was personally there many times when both Arabs and Jews lived there; for me as a boy, it was just a short walk from my own Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Israel. Our Jewish milkmen and our Jewish gym teacher, to mention a few, lived there. These facts go unmentioned in order to create an “occupation” scenario.

But the facts are:

1. The 'disputed' Jerusalem area of Sheikh Jarrah lies between the always-Jewish neighborhood of Beit Israel and the always-Jewish neighborhood of Mount Scopus (the site of the Hebrew University).

2. Sheikh Jarrah was mixed before 1947; both Jews and Arabs lived there. The Jews were driven out after 1948 when Jordan conquered the place and held it till 1967.

3. Sheikh Jarrah had the dubious distinction of being the notorious site where in 1948 a convoy of unarmed Jewish doctors and nurses going from Jerusalem to Mount Scopus was butchered to death by Arabs to the last person (about 100 killed), even before the war had started -- all while the British watched. Unfortunately, as a twelve-year old boy, I had to watch it helplessly in horror from our neighbor’s roof.

4. Mount Scopus has always been, and is still today, the site of the Hebrew University large campus, and Israel has a legitimate and profound interest to keep the area not isolated from center Jerusalem, and prevent reoccurring of the 1948 atrocity. Having Jews return there and build there is amply justified.

Elliott Aron Green - 4/5/2010

There is nothing wrong with Prof Wahrman's article except some half-dozen errors, some more blatant than others, plus some faulty and offensive reasoning.

Since he is an 18th century specialist, he might verify my assertion of the likelihood that even in that period Muslims were a minority in Jerusalem, outnumbered by Jews and Christians together [see the populations estimates for ca. 1806 in Yehoshua ben-Arieh's book on the Old City of Jerusalem in the 19th century]. Now, Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since 1853 [Karl Marx, New York Tribune, 15 April 1854; Cesar Famin, L'Histoire de la rivalite et du protectorat des Eglises chretiennes en Orient, 1853], if not earlier. And have been the largest ethnic-religious group in the city since 1839. It is true that then the Old City was the whole city, but the surrounding villages then had a very meager population, the population of the whole country between the Jordan & the Med then being estimated at some 200,000 to 250,000.

Also in the 18th century, there was no people called or calling itself Palestinian nor was there any region or district of the Ottoman or the previous Mamluk empire that was called "Palestine" or "Filastin."

Now Wahrman chooses to write of something called a "peace process." I don't know when Wahrman left Jerusalem but I have been living here since years before Oslo. I would say that most Jerusalemites would agree that there has been no phenomenon taking place here since 1993 that deserves to be called "a peace process." Arab terrorism accelerated when the Oslo accords were announced, even before Sept 13, 1993. If the US administration were truly interested in promoting peace it would try to manage the conflict rather than "solve" it since there seems to be no realistic, humane solution.

Now, as said, Jerusalem has had an absolute Jewish majority for more than 150 years. Moreover, Jerusalem became important for the world, for Christians & Muslims, because of Jewish history and religious facts here. The population of the city is growing among both Jews and Arabs. Before Oslo, many Arabs had moved out of the city for more spacious homes in the suburbs. However, Oslo and its product, the Palestinian Authority, induced many Arabs with ID cards citing a Jerusalem residence moved back because they did not want to live under Arafat rule. Further, many Arabs began applying for Israeli citizenship for the same reason. Long lines of Arabs were in place at the Interior Ministry offices in eastern Jerusalem for several years in order to apply for citizenship.

Another fact that does not cross Wahrman's mind is that Jews were buying much real estate in areas outside the Old City during Ottoman times [before 1917]. Har Homah was built mainly on Jewish-owned real estate. The Shimon haTsadiq Quarter, that Wahrman incorrectly subsumes within the Arab Muslim Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood [see these as distinct, if adjacent, areas in Dan Bahat's Jerusalem historical atlas] was purchased jointly by the Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jewish communal bodies ca. 1889, not 80 years ago as Wahrman claims. Tiny homes were built on the ca. 18 dunam [4.5 acre] plot for poor Jews. The reason for the purchase, which Wahrman gives no hint of, was the traditional tomb of Simon the Just [Shim`on haTsadiq] located there. Besides the tiny homes, most of the plot was not developed but was used for families to camp on during regular Jewish pilgrimages to the site. All but one of the Jewish families fled Shimon haTsadiq on the night of 29 December 1947. The remaining family fled on 7 or 8 January 1948 (exactly which day is missing from a diary shown me by a family member). Hence, Shimon haTsadiq became the first neighborhood in the country from which the population was driven out and did not return after the War. Jews had likewise fled south Tel Aviv in December 1947, but returned after the War, whereas Shimon haTsadiq remained under Arab control, as did several nearby Jewish quarters which thereby became part of what Arab spokesmen now call "traditionally Arab east Jerusalem," an apartheid, Judenrein zone for 19 years [1948 to 1967], an ethnically cleansed area since Jews were not allowed into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for any purpose. For more on Shimon haTsadiq and surroundings, see link:

In 1955/1956, Jordan built homes for Arabs on the Shimon haTsadiq plot. The courts recognized the rights of the original owners years ago. The Arab tenants were not required to leave but just to pay rent to the owners. Most of them did so. The families evicted refused to pay rent. They are consciously taking part in a political show, a manipulation which has successfully produced the results that we have seen, such as Prof. Wahrman's claims. They have other places to live but choose to take part in mendacious political theater.

The history is clear although not known to everyone, apparently not even to Prof. Wahrman. The international legal status too is not universally known, although often misrepresented. Jerusalem was part of the Jewish National Home juridically set up by the international community in 1920 [San Remo], endorsed by the League of Nations [1922]. If Britain had not violated its mandate to settle Jews on the land and to allow Jewish immigration --severely restricting Jewish immigration through the illegal 1939 "White Paper on Palestine" [when the Jews most needed a home]-- then it is likely that Jews would have been much more numerous in Jerusalem and throughout the country than they were on 29 November 1947 when the UN General Assembly recommended partition of the country. Since Wahrman complains that Israel enlarged the boundaries of Jordanian Jerusalem and even mandatory Jerusalem, he ought to know that the UN GA enlarged Jerusalem a great deal in its recommended boundaries for an internationally governed Jerusalem enclave. This proposed enclave included Gilo, Har Homa, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Shimon haTsadiq, Silwan village, etc. Not included in the proposed enclave were two Jewish farming villages then north of Jerusalem, Neveh Ya`aqov & `Atarot. Their inhabitants fled for their lives early in the war.

As to Netanyahu's policy, it is as his government says, the policy of Israeli govts since Levi Eshkol in 1967, through Golda Meir, Yits'haq Rabin, etc. Shimon haTsadiq is on the old road to Mount Scopus, as is the Shepherd Hotel. Therefore they are of strategic import for safeguarding the Israeli institutions on Mount Scopus, the university and the hospital. They are also quite close to several Israeli govt ministries in the area between Mount Scopus & the 1949-1967 armistice line [Israel had no borders before 1967]. They are not "in the middle of a dense Palestinian neighborhood" as Wahrman claims. Besides the nearby Israeli govt buildings, there are large, prosperous Arab homes and foreign diplomatic premises in the area [such as the EU compound]. The British consulate nearby made sure to object to Jewish habitation and construction in the area.

The Oslo accords did not require Israel to stop building homes for Jews in areas beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All Israeli govts since 1967 have done so.

Wahrman incorrectly refers to parts of "East Jerusalem" as being "likely to revert back to the Palestinian side" in a "peace settlement." However, never in history did "Palestinians" [local Arabs] control any part of Jerusalem in the sense of sovereignty. After the Roman Empire suppressed Jewish sovereignty, Jerusalem passed to the East Roman [Byzantine] Empire, the various Arab empires ruling from Damascus and Cairo, etc, the Crusaders [when the city was both Judenrein and without Muslims], the Mamluk, Ottoman and British empires, and then the Jordanian kingdom before Israel took all of the city in 1967. "Reverting" to "the palestinian side" is simply incorrect.

The way that Wahrman writes of Jews moving into places where he does not want them to be --"an intrusive encroachment into Palestinian space"-- plus other references in his article make me think that he sides with the British consulate's efforts to promote apartheid in Jerusalem, as the British mandatory govt made it difficult for Jews to build on Jewish-owned land around Jerusalem before 29 November 1947. I find that offensive.

Arnold Shcherban - 4/5/2010

Thank you, Mr. Zohar.
You are one a few honest Jewish voices among the radical Zionist lying chorus.

David Zohar - 4/5/2010

As a Jerusalem resident of many years-and an Israeli Jew- I concur with the descriptions and solutions offered above.