Joint Activism in Jerusalem: Is a Joint Community-Based Agenda Possible?
Based on the findings of a forthcoming report,1 four types of approaches for joint Palestinian-Israeli activism have been identified, both on a general level and in Jerusalem: the cooperation approach, the solidarity approach, the reconciliation approach, and the coordinating together and working separately approach.
The cooperation approach comprises two tracks: The first concentrates on professional cooperation while abstaining from interfering in political issues, such as the many projects in the fields of health, education and the environment. The second concentrates on political cooperation, such as Track II - various joint projects aimed at developing scenarios for political solutions, or a number of joint political campaign projects such as Bringing Peace Together,2 which seeks to bring together different peace movements to exchange views, and to develop joint visions and actions. Other examples include the International Women's Commission (IWC), a joint project whose aim is to promote women's participation in conflict resolution; and Jerusalem Link, also a joint women's project whose basic objectives run along similar lines.
The solidarity approach brings left-wing Israeli organizations to the Palestinian territories for the purpose of acting in solidarity with the Palestinians. Examples include Gush Shalom and Ta'ayush, among others.
The reconciliation approach targets the healing process. If under the current circumstances, reconciliation between the two peoples seems far-fetched, attempts are made to achieve reconciliation at least between individuals. This is what the Bereaved Families project is trying to do.
Finally, the coordinating together and working separately approach is built on the assumption that it is essential to concentrate the work for peace within the mainstream in both societies, while leaving to the peace activists the responsibility of coordinating joint activities with their respective mainstreams. This approach tends to draw a good deal of criticism, especially to the cooperation part. Peace activists are denounced as cooperating with their counterparts on the opposite side instead of working with their own mainstreams, with "love" growing between the peace activists on either side while, all the time, the situation on the ground is deteriorating and extremism is on the rise on both sides. This approach includes political projects such as the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Project. It also comprises all the projects where the uni-national component predominates, while the bi-national activities carry minor weight, or are confined to coordination between the leaders of these projects.

Joint Activism in Jerusalem

The implementation of the four above-mentioned approaches in Jerusalem took two forms: One is carried out through top-down projects, the others through partial bottom-up participatory projects.
The top-down joint projects are of two types. The first one is not concerned with people's participation. Examples are a number of research projects aimed mainly at developing scenarios about the city's future without consulting with its population. Dozens of scenarios were prepared in that direction. The second type of projects deal with the city's population as "target groups" that are to be addressed, or to be considered "beneficiaries" of services to be offered.
Top-down joint projects are plagued with problems. For one thing, they generate a lot of complaints among the target groups that see themselves as being denied a participatory role in the planning of activities. For another, there is little difference between these projects and the official non-joint ones, including the municipal projects that are implemented without prior consultation with the population about their needs and concerns. Moreover, taking the political context into consideration, such projects would be regarded by the East Jerusalem Palestinians as going against their rights. The same can be said about all the projects of the centers and committees that are linked to the municipality in Jerusalem.
The other top-down uni-national projects in the city are those pertaining to the PLO factions and to Hamas. The projects run by PLO factions concentrate on recruiting groups of people for a specific political position, without asking their opinion on how to develop programs that would be of benefit to them. Hamas's strategy follows similar lines. The only difference is that it uses religious institutions in order to recruit people for its ideology.
In Jerusalem, the top-down approach to joint activism is combined with the partial-participation approach. The latter enlists people's participation when money is secured for a project. It is limited to a specific project and ends when the project is completed. Finally, this participation might be real, cosmetic or take the shape of co-optation.3
The big absent element in Jerusalem is the concept and the practice of full participation by the city's communities in joint projects.
Before delving into suggestions on how to develop a process of participation in the city, it might be worthwhile to summarize the challenges of joint activism in Jerusalem.


Among the various challenges facing joint activism in Jerusalem, the following could be considered the most prominent:

A. The problem of "normalization." On the Palestinian side, the censuring of those who work with and normalize relations with those purported to be the enemy has always been present.
When it comes to Jerusalem, this anti-normalization discourse takes an added dimension: Because of the closure and the restriction on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian Jerusalemites became willy-nilly their people's representatives in joint projects. This has placed them in a very delicate position where, on the one hand, they have to be careful in presenting the needs of their own people, and on the other hand, find themselves under attack from the other Palestinians because of their meetings with Israelis and the alleged concessions they make during these meetings.
B. The fact that joint projects in Jerusalem are confined to small minorities on both sides - while the West Jerusalem population is moving more to the right of Israeli politics, and part of the East Jerusalem population is adopting more radical positions. It is true that the majorities have not gone as far as to condone the use of violence; yet it is equally valid to say that they are not interested in joint activism because of their very tough opinions regarding the other side.
C. The asymmetric relations between the two populations in the city, including the fact that the Palestinian Jerusalemites play the role of the lumpen proletarians in West Jerusalem factories.
D. The facts on the ground not being conducive to joint activism in the city - with settlement expansion inside and around East Jerusalem, and with the wall separating Jerusalemites from other Jerusalemites and from West Bank Palestinians. Adding to that are the issues of ID confiscations, house demolitions and the absence of zoning plans, among other problems.
E. The absence of political cover: The political leadership on neither side is showing support for joint activism in Jerusalem. On the Israeli side, the government's position is that the Jerusalem issue has been postponed on the political level, so why support joint civil-society activities that aim to promote sharing Jerusalem as a capital for two states? Not to mention that some of the Israeli government members are not willing to share Jerusalem - "the eternal united capital of Israel" - with the Palestinians.
On the Palestinian side, the Palestinian leadership is willing to see Jerusalem shared, but they are not convinced that the joint activities taking place in the city are effective enough to lead in that direction. Moreover, all the Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions in the city have been closed by the Israeli authorities, despite the fact that they were conducting crucial joint Palestinian-Israeli activities. Orient House is the most notable example in this respect.
F. Subjective problems. In addition to the previously mentioned objective challenges, other subjective ones confront joint activism in Jerusalem. These include the problems of fragmentation as opposed to diversity, and parallel work as opposed to coordination of activities between the different actors and projects in the city.
G. International interest. Due to the political postponement of the Jerusalem issue, some international organizations hesitate to fund joint activism in the city and uni-national projects alike.
Is a Joint Community-Based Agenda Possible?

With all the above-mentioned complexities, it seems that the point of departure for changing the dynamics would be the creation of a community-based participatory process in the city, aimed at creating a community-based agenda.
The community-based approach is not only a bottom-up approach, but it is also fully participatory from A to Z and at all the stages, starting with need assessment, to planning, to organization and team work, then to follow-ups, monitoring and evaluation. The outcome of such a participatory process is development and, chiefly, human development.
Another significance of the community-based approach is that it fits in with human security concepts affirming that all people should have equal access to all the issues pertaining to freedom from fear and freedom from want.4
Last but not least, the community-based approach is about the freedom of the communities (individuals and collectives) to self-determination, including political matters and livelihood issues. In concrete terms, this means that among the overall Jerusalem community, some members will have the freedom to decide to join Israel, while others could decide to join the PA. This should be carried out without discrimination; i.e., without giving the right of freedom of choice to one group and withholding it from the other.
The community-based approach leads to the development of a community-based agenda, where each community will have the right to decide the components of their development agenda; then they will decide freely how to work together in order to implement that agenda. Here, each community will have the right to network and cooperate with all the bodies that might help them implement their agenda, whether these bodies reside inside or outside the city.
Nonetheless, the question remains: Can the joint peace projects in the city be transformed from a "peace industry" to community-based developmental projects that will be able to meet the needs of the city's population?