by Walid Salem
Jerusalem looks more and more as if it is under the ownership of the Israelis and the internationals, either living in it or talking about it from the outside. What does it represent for me as a Palestinian Jerusalemite? Why I am excluded not only when it comes to my rights to the city, and my rights in the city, but also excluded from my right of representing it?
Like many Palestinian Jerusalemites, I have a demolition order for my house since 2002. And as with many others, a new road that links between two settlements in East Jerusalem started to be created passing exactly at the entrance of my house in Shuafat.
This is just a minor example of the deprivation of the Palestinian Jerusalemites' rights in the city. But I also have no right to the city, I am not allowed to make a political claim that East Jerusalem is mine, something that the international community organizations in the city is adapting to, by avoiding to take actions that make Israel angry with them in the city.
Thirdly I have no right to represent myself politically. At the legal level I am obliged to be defined as" A Jordanian Citizen residing Permanently in Israel", as the Israeli authorities define my status, then I am an alien in my city, cannot claim it, and as a "Jordanian" living in Israel as the say, I have to respect the generosity of the Israel of allowing me to live in an "Israeli " territory that was annexed to Israel in 1967.
Therefore I also have no right to represent myself administratively, also at the community level. In this level my Arab Municipality was dissolved by the Israeli Authorities in 1967, and then I was obliged to deal with an Israeli municipality that does not represent me. Such a municipality imposed on me its community centers that it established inside my communities, and made it the address for providing services to me.
Facing several complex challenges in Jerusalem
These are just examples, and there are many others, while my presence in my city faces several complex challenges, that are: First: Judaization of the land, the place, the space, and the landscape. Second: Israelization of the institutions by obliging me to deal only with Israeli organizations for the services, while closing the Palestinian organizations and delegitimizing any link between those existing and the Palestinian Authority. Third: Ethnic cleansing by using different methods of evacuating me out of my city. Fourth: Isolation of those who will stay in the city after all of this by disconnecting the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city from each other, therefore I will need to pass through a Jewish "neighborhood", when I need to move from one Palestinian neighborhood to another. In addition to that is the isolation of houses in each Palestinian neighborhood by creating Jewish enclaves inside these neighborhoods such as in the Old City and Silwan. Fifth and last: The closure started in 1993 by checkpoints and permits system, and ended with the creation of a Separation Wall, aiming to disconnect between the Palestinian Jerusalemites themselves and not only between the Jerusalemites and West Bank Palestinians. Needless to say Jerusalemites are also not allowed to travel to Gaza.
These policies could not possibly pass without resistance from the Jerusalemites. In this regard Jerusalem continued to be the center of the Palestinian national leadership from 1967 till 1994. Then the period 1994 to 2001 witnessed a division of leadership between Jerusalem and Ramallah. After the death of Faisal Husseini in 2001, the leadership moved fully to Ramallah.
Today new grassroots leadership is emerging
Nowadays one can see in the city new grassroots leadership that replaced the old leadership of notables that came to its end after the death of the last notable leader Faisal Al Husseini in the year 2001. None of the existing personalities was able to fill the vacuum created after Faisal Husseini death. Also the Ramallah leadership did not want that to happen, and more importantly, the Israeli iron hand against any Palestinian leadership in the city prevented a new central leadership to emerge after Faisal passed away. But since life cannot live with a vacuum, the absence of Faisal was replaced by a new type of collective leadership if you like to call it represented by local community leaders who acquired legitimacy in their communities through their accumulative actions for the benefit of their communities.
During the Faisal Al Husseini period there was a central institution of leadership that gathered around a charismatic leader. After Faisal Al Husseini we started to see the dispersal of the leadership to the communities. On one hand this means that we came to a situation of more participation, but on the other hand the leadership was localized, and the central Jerusalem leadership was lost. The other Jerusalemite personalities failed to replace Faisal Husseini after his death, therefore they lost legitimacy, or at least they have less and less legitimacy than the communities' new emerging leaders. But they still have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and it is very important that they present it to the communities' leaders. These veteran leaders are still also those with loud voices with the international community and with the donors while their local basis of legitimacy is diminishing. The conclusion is they are not the personalities that can develop a new leadership to Jerusalem (this task has already transferred to the community leaders), but they certainly can still play the role of the advisors by their knowledge and experience to the community leaders.
The new community leaders are the Building Track for any new central Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem, while the personalities and the NGOs are the Supporting Track , and we should not confuse between them, their roles and the level of importance of each of them.
While the first track of the community leaders is ready to launch, the second of personalities is in disarray, fragmented and full of competition, parallel work and other diseases, alongside their high knowledge and expertise. The international donors' policies help to develop and sustain these aspects of behavior, something to be clarified in another article.
The role of children and the role of the Islamic component
Another important part of the issue of legitimacy and leadership in the city of Jerusalem, has to do with two other components: the first represented by the children of Jerusalem of 7 to 12 years old, who found themselves facing continuous ongoing humiliation and insecurity, mainly after the kidnapping and the cruel killing of their mate Mohammed Abu Khdeir and other events that followed. These children are the main actors in the nightly clashes that go on every day in the East Jerusalem communities since the brutal killing of Abu Khdeir.
The other component to be taken into consideration there is the Islamic component, as expressed by the intensive involvement of the northern part of the Islamic movement inside Israel in defending Al Aqsa against the Israeli right wing extreme groups against it, something that will lead to a religious war, starting with reaction of anger like the killing of three Israelis by running over them in the last month. These events and others like them might grow if the attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque continue.
YESTERDAY is the time to promote nonviolence and representative bodies
The above explanation can provide you with the basic analysis that can help you (and also us) to understand the situation in Jerusalem these days. Since the 2000 Intifada the situation in the city started to become bigger than the capabilities of the individual charismatic leaders to control. New local leaders started to emerge, and with the accumulation of oppression, some of them have already started to move to violence. Therefore it is essential to find for them YESTERDAY nonviolent methods and representative bodies to express themselves, to contain the movement towards violent methods of expressing themselves. We should have started this yesterday, but there has been a lack of enough will on our side, and hesitation in the international community resulting from political hesitation, or from the inability to understand.