East Jerusalem Story - jerusalem report

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East Jerusalem Story - the jerusalem report magazineby Andy Friedman

Text of East Jerusalem Story - jerusalem report





    THE ORIGINAL research for this story was conducted in the middle of June as the second installment of a series of articles I had been planning about simmering tensions between Arabs and Jews in East Jerusalem and clash-es over holy sites around Israel.

    In early May, I wrote about the Temple Mount and had moved on from that story to focus on the next hill to the east the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. When I toured the cemetery, the Arab-major-ity Ras al-Amud neighborhood located on the

    western slope of the Mount of Olives and the Israeli Maaleh Zeitim enclave there on June 25, Arab attacks on Jews on the Mount had been on the increase and were bad enough to warrant an article about the future of the holy site and the adjacent residential neigh-borhoods.

    The rest of the city, however, was calm.Following a meeting in Ramallah the pre-

    vious week, I had stopped at a grocery in the Shuafat neighborhood on my way home and thought nothing of it. The day after visiting

    the Mount of Olives I had arranged to borrow a DVD from a Palestinian acquaintance in Sheikh Jarrah and thought little of walking the streets there with my 12-year-old son as I kept the appointment.

    In recent years, I have noted the appearance of Arab shoppers and pedestrians around West Jerusalem at the Malha and Mamil-la malls, Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road and taken pride at the non-noteworthiness of it all as two groups of Jerusalemites, if not exactly sharing the same space, at least


    Despite ongoing violence in the Arab quarters of the capital, observers do not believe this indicates the start of an intifada-like uprising By Andrew Friedman


    co-exist not too badly. What a difference a week makes.Four days after walking around Shuafat un-

    afraid, East Jerusalem exploded in a round of popular violence unseen in the city since the dark days of the original intifada a quarter of a century ago.

    On June 30, the bodies of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel were dis-covered in a pit near Hebron, an event that sparked gangs of extreme right-wing Jews to prowl the streets of Jerusalem shouting slo-

    gans including Death to Arabs and harass Arab pedestrians and workers at places like the Mahane Yehuda market. Two days later, the body of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a resident of Shuafat, was found in the Jerusalem Forest in West Jerusalem. Young extremist Jews have been arrested for the murder.

    The murder of Abu Khdeir provided the match that set off a conflagration that the Israeli authorities have not managed to extinguish.

    Whereas in the Galilee and central Israel, police and community leaders managed to calm tempers relatively quickly perhaps aided by Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting that began June 28 in Jerusalem, police had no such luck. From Shuafat to Ras al-Amud to Armon Hanatziv, violence flared all summer and into September, with no signs of abating.

    On Rosh Hashana, 23-year-old yeshiva student Chanan Kupietzky was set upon by a mob in the City of David (Silwan) as he made

    A Palestinian man confronts Israeli policemen during clashes that broke out after the funeral of Mohammed Sinokrot outside Jerusalems Old City, September

    8. Sinokrot died of wounds sustained in a clash with police the previous week



    R AW


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    his way back to the Old City after performing the tashlikh holiday ritual at the neighbor-hoods ancient Shiloah Pool. A week earlier, a family was nearly lynched after mistakenly entering Wadi Joz. Attacks on school buses, gunshots at Maaleh Zeitim and other attacks have continued with little response from po-lice or Border Police units, according to res-idents. In Shuafat, rioters damaged several Jerusalem Light Rail stations and repeatedly stoned trains.

    Significantly, however, activists and ob-servers say the violence in the capital appears to be little more than locals blowing off steam and does not indicate the start of an intifada-like uprising in Jerusalem. Despite the fact that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deploy additional security resources to the capital to prevent the round of violence from becoming a silent intifada, voices on the Arab streets of the city do not believe the pro-tests will reach that level.

    I SEE it as a phase, one activist close to the protests tells The Jerusalem Report. Speak-ing on condition of anonymity, the activist says the violence is intended largely to high-light the Palestinian identity of East Jerusa-lem Arabs, but adds that, unlike the second intifada of 2000-2004, there is no central body coordinating the riots nor are they de-fined by a clear goal.

    For a long time, people assumed that East Jerusalemites were largely integrated into the fabric of the city we may have been pas-sive-aggressive politically by refusing to take part in Israels administration of the city, but we very much participated in the day-to-day life of the city by shopping in West Jerusa-lem malls, eating in restaurants there, watch-ing movies at the Cinema City complex, and more.

    But the events of the last three months have showed that the calm that pervaded the city was an illusion. Of course, people were furious about the kidnapping and murder of Abu Khdeir and that got even worse because

    of the war in Gaza. Anger grew as images from the war emerged, but there is a deeper explanation for the deep frustration felt by so many young people a lack of identity.

    This has been a serious issue for us in East Jerusalem for many years. On one hand, we are Palestinians, occupied by Israel and gov-erned by Israeli law. On the other hand, we enjoy access to Israeli society things like social security and healthcare. Overall, this dichotomy creates a sharp sense of identity confusion for many young Palestinians, so the riots have been a way a terribly unhelp-ful way, Im afraid for many young people to assert their sense of national identification by supporting and identifying with the suf-fering of their nation in Gaza and the West Bank, the activist says.

    For Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites, the cost of the current phase continues to rise. In the Arab sector, Jerusalem police say more than 760 people have been arrested since the riots broke out. Of these, at least 260 detainees are under the age of 18, according to a report in the Haaretz Hebrew daily.

    No estimates have been released yet re-garding the monetary damage to local in-frastructure and the economy caused by the violence, but news reports ahead of the Rosh Hashana holiday indicated that hoteliers in the city were concerned about empty rooms during the peak holiday season as tourists chose to stay away from Jerusalem because of the violence.

    Two days before Yom Kippur, which co-incided with the Muslim Eid al-Adha fes-




    tival, there can be no mistaking the tension in Silwan, adjacent to the Old Citys Dung Gate. Although the neighborhood has largely steered clear of the violence that has rocked other parts of the city, clashes did erupt on September 30 when a group of Jews moved into a home in the dead of night.

    Right-wing groups and representatives for the new Jewish residents asserted the right of Jews to purchase property anywhere in Jeru-salem and say the home had been purchased legally.

    Left-wingers and Palestinians countered that the home was forcibly wrested from the rightful Palestinian owners and that the transaction was intended only to provoke violence from local residents by a combina-tion of pressure and questionable real estate

    ethics. They say the move was just the latest incident aimed at Judaizing the neighbor-hood, prior to erasing the Arab presence in Jerusalem completely.

    In either case, there is no question that the Jewish homes serve as a poke in the eye to the local Arabs.

    Walking around the neighborhood, locals are only too willing to point out the homes that have been taken over by Jews apart-ment buildings clearly identifiable by Israeli flags, glistening white Jerusalem stone (in contrast to the rough stone characteristic of older, Arab-owned buildings) and especially by the barbed wire and private security forces financed by the Housing Ministry.

    One resident, Khaled Ziyyam, eagerly pointed out to The Report the most recent ac-

    quisition one wing of a larger family home with a pretty courtyard, complete with lem-on tree and grape vines. Whatever the legal details of the purchase and takeover of the property, the reality appeared to be simple and bitter a group of unwanted Jews have moved into the part of a Palestinian building, very much against the wishes of the residents.

    ASKED HOW he felt about the new neigh-bors, Ziyyam spat on the ground and called them filthy thieves. He says Jews would never be welcome in Silwan, or any other Arab neighborhood, and added his hope for a new intifada, or even full-scale war, to evict the usurpers.

    Let them live in Tel Aviv or Haifa. We dont want to live with them, he says.

    Others disagreed, saying that while they agreed with Ziyyams view of the current crop of Jews in Silwan, in theory they would not object to Jews purchasing property in the neighborhood, provided they came in peace rather than violence. As in other communities where Jews and Arabs live in close proximi-ty, both sides here say they are