Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Jerusalem cannot be divided without havoc and bloodletting. I hope to offer a series of posts to demonstrate why. Today's post looks at the geography and at borders.

I'm assuming anyone who knows how to read a blog also knows how to use Google Earth, so the images I've downloaded should be merely a guide to your own viewing. Let's start with a screen-shot of central Israel, an area smaller than Los Angeles.
You can see (sort of) that Jerusalem sits on the top of a north-south ridge of hills. Directly to its north is the town of Ramallah, directly to its south the town of Bethlehem. Directly to its east is the Judean Desert. Since Google has helpfully added the Green Line of 1949-1967 (in red), to the west of the city you can see the Jerusalem Corridor, a finger of territory that connects the city to the rest of Israel, while jutting into the West Bank. Before 1967 Jerusalem was not only divided, it was surrounded on three sides by hostile enemy territory. From its vantage points on the high peaks of Nabi Samuel to the north, and Beit Jallah to the south, the Jordanian army could see just about the entire city below.

Let's get closer to the city itself.
I've marked two significant points. To the north is the Atarot airstrip (circled in light blue), and down to the right, the Holy Basin. Each plays a different role in the story. First, the airstrip.

Between 1949 and 1967 West Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and it grew significantly. East Jerusalem wasn't the capital of anything, and didn't grow. In June 1967 when Israel took over the entire town, the Jordanian "half" of it was a small area, almost completely inside the yellow frame. To the north, well outside town, was a small airstrip, near where there had been a Jewish village of Atarot until it was conquered by the Jordanians in 1948. In June 1967 a team of three Israeli generals - Uzi Narkis, Shlomo Lahat, and retired general Moshe Dayan - were told to draw a new municipal line. They felt the airstrip had to be inside it, and so they invented a new definition of the city which had no history and not very much logic.(Source for the map) This artificial town had a population of about 250,000, 70,000 of them Palestinians from the Jordanian side, many of whom did not know they were in Jerusalem until the Israelis told them. Had you asked them they'd have said they lived in Um Tuba, or Kfar Akeb, and so on. Israel then proceeded to annex the area inside the line, to offer citizenship to it's populace (they mostly didn't take it), and to "force" upon them the benefits of permanent residents such social security and later universal health care, when we all got it. (Those they did take).

Since 1967 the city has roughly trebled in size, to about 800,000, of them some 250,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians spread out from their villages, some of which connected to each other and to the center. The Jews spread out in the west, and added 10 new neighborhoods in the new areas beyond the old border. Nine of them appear on the above map, and one (Ramat Shlomo), the most recent, doesn't. They are, north to south: Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Eshkol (including Sanhedria), French Hill, the Jewish Qurter of the Old City, East Talpiot, Gilo, and Har Homa. There's also an industrial area of mostly Jewish-owned companies way to the north, next to the airstrip, but no-one lives there. The airstrip, by the way, is defunct. So much for that miscalculation.

The historical heart of Jerusalem is called the Holy Basin. It's a new name, which first entered the political discussion in the Camp David discussions of summer 2000: Ehud Barak was willing to consider handing over the outer Palestinian neighborhoods, the Um Tubas and the Kfar Akebs which probably should never have been defined as Jerusalem in the first place, but was loth to divide the truly historical heart of Jerusalem. There is no official definition of what precisely fits into the Holy Basin, but it's more or less the area between Mount Scopus to the north and the Hill of Evil Council to the south, or perhaps less, depending upon whom you ask. (The Hill of Evil Council, by the way, is a New Testament name, upon which the British built their government house, and the UN sits until this very day. I spoof you not).The center of the Holy Basin is the Old City, which actually isn't the oldest part of town. To it's north I've marked the Sheikh Jarrah area, and to its south I've marked the City of David-Silwan area - which is the oldest part of the city, predating the wrongly named Old City by about 2,000 years.
I've marked five sections of the Old City. Green for the Muslim Quarter, red for the Christian Quarter, blue for the Armenian Quarter, fuchsia for the Jewish Quarter, and yellow for the Temple Mount, called Haram el-Shariff by the Muslims. Jerusalem not being New York, the resolution offered by Google Earth becomes less helpful when you get closer than this altitude above the city, but maybe in a future post, when I try to show the silliness of dividing the city, I'll try none-the-less.

Proposed borders: Jerusalem hasn't been divided, nor has anyone ever officially agreed on how to divide it. Yet since 2000 there has been much discussion of such a division, and of course a total international consensus that it must happen (except for those who disagree). For the purpose of my future posts on the matter, in which I shall try to show why the city cannot feasibly be divided, I'm following the contours of this international consensus. Its principles were formulated by President Bill Clinton on Dec. 24th 2000, and they're very simple: areas where Jews live in will be in Israel, areas where Palestinians live in will be in Palestine. The Temple Mount-Haram elSharif will be in Palestine because the Palestinians really really want it and there are mosques on it. Where possible - open areas, for example - the border will be the Green line of 1949-67.

The folks who agreed on the Geneva Initiative have gone to a lot of effort to make detailed maps of the various sections of town and who they'll belong to; compare their polished output to my slap-dash ones and you'll be impressed, I assure you. The whole 10-piece series is here. Their lines are pretty much what Clinton had in mind, and I expect his wife and her boss agree. So my task in the coming posts will be to show what the reality will look like, and why you wouldn't want anyone you know to have to live in it.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

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