This is the title of a must-read article by Nathan Thrall—the International Crisis Group’s resident Jerusalem analyst—in the latest issue of the London Review of Books, in which he reports on the deteriorating situation in that city and the increasing rage of its Palestinian population. No money quotes, as the piece is not long (3,000 words), so one may go here and read the whole thing.
Just three comments. First, I have been among those who reject applying the apartheid label to Israel (and certainly of Israel inside the Green Line; the issue is more complex in the occupied Palestinian territories but I will still argue that the label doesn’t apply there—at least not yet). But when it comes to Jerusalem—East and West—, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the city is indeed subject to a de facto apartheid regime, if not de jure as well. Now defenders of the Israeli position will object that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem may become Israeli citizens should they so desire—the overwhelming majority having refused the offer—and thereby enjoy theoretical equal rights with Jews. But Thrall mentions some of the hurdles East Jerusalem Palestinians face when applying for Israeli citizenship, among them a knowledge of Hebrew—which does not apply to Jewish immigrants, who receive citizenship upon arrival and regardless of language capacity—and the obligation to renounce Jordanian nationality or any other they may hold. This is new to me. If it is indeed the case—and I don’t imagine that Thrall is mistaken on the question—, this constitutes brazen discrimination against Palestinians, as there is no obligation whatever for Israeli Jews—government ministers excepted—to renounce other citizenships, at the moment of naturalization or any other in the course of their lives (and I will wager that Israel has a higher percentage of citizens who are dual—or triple or quadruple—nationals than any other country in the world).
Second, on the Israeli response to the rage in East Jerusalem—of draconian police and army repression, mass arrests and prosecutions of minors, sealing off Arab neighborhoods with concrete blocks, demolishing the homes of the families of terrorists (or anyone the Israelis deem as such; a.k.a. collective punishment), randomly spraying “skunk water” in the eastern part of the city, restricting Muslim access to the Haram al-Sharif, colonizing densely populated Arab quarters with extremist settlers, proposing new “anti-terrorism” laws that will further abuse Palestinians under Israeli rule (including Palestinian citizens of Israel, PCIs), etc, etc—, WTF are Netanyahu & Co.—indeed the entire Israeli right—thinking? How do they imagine this is going to play out? What’s the end game? We’re not talking about Gaza, Jenin, or some place around which the Israelis can build a wall and try to forget about. This is their “eternal” unified capital city, but where close to 40% of the population does not enjoy the rights of citizenship and is hostile to them. And the Palestinians of Jerusalem are devoid of political leadership, with not a single person who can speak in the name of even some of them or serve as an interlocutor with the Israelis. Moreover—and I find this incredible—, the Israelis don’t want Palestinian interlocutors in Jerusalem. They don’t want to negotiate or bargain with the Palestinian residents of the city, to collectively dialogue with or treat them as anything other than barely tolerated interlopers in a city that they, the Israelis, consider to be theirs and theirs only. And the Israelis have absolutely nothing to propose to the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem (except to subtly—or not so subtly—encourage them to emigrate, or just go away). The people who run the state of Israel have become unhinged, point barre (the new state president, Reuven Rivlin, being a notable exception). Again, WTF do they expect to happen? Indian-style communal riots, with rampaging mobs in both communities chauffé à blanc murdering dozens, if not hundreds? And if this comes to pass—an eventuality that one must not exclude—, what then? If anyone who identifies with the Israeli right can give a response to this—to what appears to objective observers to be an irrational fuite en avant on the part of Netanyahu & Co.—, I’m all ears.
Third—and repeating an assertion I made in a post two years ago—, Israel, in view of the manner in which it has treated the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem over the past 47 years, has no moral right to decree itself as the eternal sovereign power over the parts of the city it occupied in 1967. The legal (non-)right was settled by UNSCR 478 in 1980. But the moral (non-)right is equally pertinent. Israel has no right to rule Sheikh Jarrah, the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, Silwan, Shufat, the Mount of Olives or any other such neighborhood it conquered in ’67.
And then there’s the “Jewish nation-state law,” which, if it passes in one of its forms—and which seems likely—will further complicate matters with PCIs, plus diaspora Jews. Again, WTF are these people thinking?
UPDATE: Le Monde correspondent Benjamin Barthe, who has been reporting from Israel/Palestine for many years, has a spot on analysis in the issue dated November 25th on the volcanic situation in East Jerusalem, “A Jérusalem-Est, un mélange hautement inflammable.” The full text of the article is in the comments thread.