On Making Jerusalem Jewish

Rima Najjar

Image for post

The Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City during Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), June 2, 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
The headline in Jewish News Syndicate above this image states: ‘Jews flock to Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day, despite Arabs riots’

“There is plenty of evidence for the existence of ancient Jerusalem. Excavations in the City of David, today the village of Silwan, just south of the Old City walls, show that the site has been continuously occupied for some 5,000 years… To most Israelis it is axiomatic that the celebrations for the 3,000th anniversary of the conquest of Jerusalem by King David mark a real and tangible event; but this is far from certain.”

These words belong to a site called ‘Jewish Virtual Library,’ billed as a project of AICE. What is AICE? It is “a professional membership association recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for those involved in international credential evaluation and comparative education research.” This self-described Jewish site has the imprimatur of legitimacy and objectivity, but is riddled with content that functions as Israeli propaganda.

Consider these loaded and ominous words, “…the City of David, today the village of Silwan.” They are loaded, because the italicized phrase “City of David” is pushed forward as an alternative name to the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. The settler-colonial Jewish state has been implementing a devastating plan for Palestinians to judaize Jerusalem since illegally annexing the city in 1967. For the same misleading purpose, this library refers to Haram al Sharif, the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, as the mythical “Temple Mount.”

The subsequent sentence in the article that raises doubts about the “tangible” event of the “conquest of Jerusalem by King David” is simply a cover, to strike an aura of credibility. The reader has already been deceived to think “that the site has been continuously occupied for some 5,000 years” by Jews throughout, rather than by Palestine’s millennia-old cultures and societies that possessed great depth and complexity and are, in point of fact, the heritage of Palestinians of all ethnicities and religions and not of Jews worldwide.

But what concerns me most in this post is the ominous nature of this insidious Jewish library. I use the word “ominous” judiciously. The following 8-minute video-clip obtained from Wadi Hilweh Information Center — Silwan will dramatize the threatening and unpleasant nature of Israel’s judaization project.

The Center posts daily stories about the utterly horrifying impact of the Judaization of Jerusalem on the Palestinians living in Silwan, which lies just outside the walls of the Old City, whose Palestinian community is being torn apart by Israel’s dig to find a ‘lost city’:

We, the residents of Wadi Hilweh, did not delegate anyone to convey the information on our behalf, and we do not allow any person to obscure our deep rooted identity which lies in the houses, stones, trees, gardens, springs, and sky of our village. Silwan, the core of the human history on this pure land, does not like the falsification of history that comes from the offices and platforms of the settlers association of right-extremist political agenda.

This particular video shows Iyad Abu Sbeih of Silwan, Jerusalem, “moving house,” — i.e. moving out his belongings, but also window frames, doors, electric sockets, and anything else that can be salvaged, because the next step is for him to hire a bulldozer and demolish his home as ordered by an Israeli court.

Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been driven by a demographic obsession of “in-gathering” Jews to Palestine. With that in mind, Israel has not only physically erased some 500 Palestinian towns and villages, planted trees on their ruins and erected Jewish communities close to these sites, giving them manufactured Hebrew names that often mimicked the original Arabic names, it has also “erased” its Palestinian inhabitants, the way it is forcing Abu Sbeih to erase his own home.

That Abu Sbeih is ordered to demolish his own home himself brings to mind Nazi soldiers making their victims dig their own graves.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center explains: “Palestinians in East Jerusalem are forced to build without a permit because getting one is an almost impossible task. At the same time, Israel builds thousands of housing units for Jewish Israelis in illegal settlements built in East Jerusalem on expropriated Palestinian land.”

In June 2020 alone, according to B’Tselem, demolitions in Jerusalem have left 51 non-Jews, including 31 minors, homeless in Jerusalem, despite the danger of remaining without shelter during the coronavirus pandemic. Israel’s Palestinian home-demolition policy is well documented. See ICAHD. See also: ‘How Israel’s archaeological excavations work to rewrite history in Jerusalem’ and Nur Masalha’s The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology, and Post-Colonialismin Israel–Palestine(London and New York: Zed Books, 2007).

The brutality, sheer cunning and deviousness with which Israel has been going about “making Jerusalem Jewish,” to coin a Trumpism, with the object of transforming the city into “the unified and eternal Jewish capital” of Israel is there for all the world to witness.

The result is a continual conflict in Jerusalem between two projects, as we learn from a 2009 study on a site called Al-Zaytouna Centre, which conducts strategic studies on the Arab and Muslim world, focusing on Palestinian issues. It is not yet a project of AICE, in case you are wondering.

On the one hand, we have Israel’s systemic judaization project, which seeks to seize the city, and redefine its cultural, religious, and demographic identity. On the other, we have “a spontaneous and subjective individual reaction from the original population of the city” to fix the Arab and Islamic identity of the city, and to maintain the status quo until its liberation from the occupation.

To check on this conflict today, fast forward eleven years and weigh in Trump’s proclamations about Jerusalem. We find the wildly uneven conflict is still raging and the Palestinians suffering egregiously at Israel’s heavy-handedness.

The conflict, if we wish to continue characterizing it as such, rather than the cruel and unjust Israeli control that it is, is a David-and-Goliath type of conflict. The Jewish state represents itself as David in Palestine — i.e., the underdog. But, in fact, it is not the weaker side, not now and not even in the David and Goliath biblical story, if we interpret it as Malcolm Gladwell does in his book by that title. Gladwell sees David as possessing deadly technology, sharp eyes and nimble feet, fighting against a lumbering giant, with poor eyesight and possibly neurological damage.

The lesson that applies, however one analyzes the story, is: the powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.

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