Jewish Settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem after 1967
Jewish settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem started after a long break most probably in the 13th century A.D. during the Mamluk rule in Palestine. It was then confined to a few scores of Jewish individuals who were living on the charity of Jews in the Diaspora, as reported by Jewish travelers to Palestine during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. In fact, Jewish presence in Jerusalem is closely tied to the Muslim conquests. It is only after Omar bin al-Khattab (the second orthodox caliph) took control of the city in the year 638 that Jews were allowed to live there after over six centuries of banishment. Similarly, it is with Salah Eddin's liberation of the city from the Crusaders in 1187 that a Jewish presence in Jerusalem became a reality. Both Jewish migration (from the Galilee) and immigration to Jerusalem intensified in the 19th century and was concentrated mainly in the Jewish Quarter. By the turn of the century, and with the growing influence of the Zionist movement, this immigration drive had reached such proportions that the small area within the Jewish Quarter could no more accommodate the growing number of new arrivals. Jews began to expand beyond the confines of the now-saturated quarter.

Mixed Quarters

Jewish demographic growth in the Old City was not necessarily matched with a proportionate increase in the amount of real-estate property. In fact, after an expansion in the number of Jewish-owned property at the end of the 19th century, the ratio began to shrink in the 20th century, due to the migration of the Jewish population from the Old City to new neighborhoods outside the walls. These neighborhoods boasted developed services and amenities, some of which were restricted to Jews. This was not the case inside the walls of the Old City, where the larger part of property occupied by Jews was rented from Muslims, and to a lesser degree from Christians.
When the 1948 war broke out, Jews possessed 192 properties inside the Old City, most of which (105) was in the Jewish Quarter, while the rest was spread among the various other quarters. These figures are based on the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property records, where all property belonging to Jews was registered with minute accuracy after the division of the city as a result of the war. In 1948, Jewish property made up 0.6 percent of the total area of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The various quarters in the Old City, including the Jewish one, were not restricted to one ethnic or religious group, but were mixed, naturally with varying proportions. A racist-ethnic separation did not take place until 1967, when non-Jews were barred from residing in the expanded Jewish Quarter.

Jewish Settlement after 1967

Once Israel seized control of the Old City in June 1967, and before the curfew was lifted, Israeli generals, clerics and the mayor set about planning the future of the Moghrabi Quarter that separated the Western (Wailing) Wall and the Jewish Quarter, and the future of the Haram al-Sharif. While the generals ignored the call of rabbis, especially the IDF rabbi Shlomo Goren, to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, they agreed to the demolition of the Moghrabi Quarter. In a matter of hours, bulldozers laid bare a quarter whose history dates back to the 12th century, with all its architectural fabric, its mosques, its houses, its sufi-zawiyas, and its Moroccan heritage. As a result, 135 families, or about 650 individuals, were rendered homeless, in addition to the death of three women under the rubble. War conditions made it impossible at the time to verify the fate of other similar victims.
Then began the process of expulsion from the Jewish Quarter of all its Palestinian residents irrespective of their status. Some were original owners living in the quarter prior to 1948 and coexisting with their Jewish neighbors, some were only tenants, and others were refugees living in Jewish-owned property after having been forced to leave West Jerusalem. In April 1968, the Israeli authorities confiscated 30 hectares of Old City land under the pretext of "public good," and for the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter. For this purpose, they applied the Public Good Law (a 1943 British Mandate law that, in effect, refers to the good of all the residents), as well as the laws of absentee property, notwithstanding that the bulk of real-estate property in this quarter was non-Jewish, belonging either to Islamic Waqf (endowment), or to family Waqf (inheritance), and that the representatives of both Waqfs were present in the city in 1967 and continue to be. Thus, all property, irrespective of whether it was Arab or Jewish, private or Waqf, present or absentee, was expropriated - naturally, only Jews benefited from the procedure. Israel suggested a compensation of U.S.$ 500-3,000 for each property. Those who agreed to be compensated were the tenants; the owners have rejected compensation to this day.

Expanded Settlement

In 1975, approximately 1,500 Israelis were settled in the Jewish Quarter, later followed by an expansion of settlement outside the quarter. The "restoration" of the Jewish Quarter, or more precisely its rebuilding, has transformed its historical image. From an architectural perspective, it became a foreign body jarring with the rest of the Old City quarters with respect to height, form, function, building material, etc. A modern Jewish Quarter was thus created and connected to West Jerusalem through a network of public transport, with buses reaching it through Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate and Dung Gate. All this allows the Jewish residents of this quarter to live in total independence in an area where residence is denied to non-Jews, and lacking any continuity with the rest of the Old City quarters. Tourism to the quarter has been promoted through the development of various attractions, with Jewish tourist guides making up 99 percent of the total number of tourist guides working in that area. All these factors have turned the Jewish Quarter in Palestinian eyes into a symbol of the Israeli occupation of the city.
Concurrently with the above-mentioned steps, the Israeli authorities took possession of the Madrasa Tankaziyah that forms part of the Haram al-Sharif western wall. This building is considered one of the architectural masterpieces of Jerusalem. It was built in 1336 by the Mamluk ruler of al-Sham (Greater Syria) Tankaz al-Nassiri to be used as a Mamluk theology school in Jerusalem. In this building, the Koran and Hadith were taught, there Sufis lived and Mamluk dignitaries were hosted on their visit to Jerusalem. Later, the place was used by the Higher Islamic Council under Haj Amin Husseini and was also the site of a Muslim religious court. The edifice overlooks the Silsilah Gate (one of the gates of Haram al-Sharif), and its rooftop gives a commanding view of the whole Aqsa compound. The building has now been turned into an Israeli police and Border Police station from where Muslims at prayer in the Haram al-Sharif get shot at.
In 1977, a new phase of settlement began outside the Jewish Quarter under the slogan that "Jews have the right to settle in all parts of the Old City." This drive was consolidated with the coming to power of the Likud. The new government had for objective to control the Old City and encircle it from the outside, not only with settlement belts - as Labor had intended - but also through the penetration of Arab neighborhoods, especially Silwan, the Mount of Olives and, later, Sheikh Jarrah and Ras al-Amud.

Linking the Settlements

Settlement activity in the Old City centered along the Haram al-Sharif western wall. Having taken control of the Buraq Wall (the Wailing Wall) and later the Madrasa Tankaziyah, the Israeli authorities spread their grip to al-Wad Road that runs parallel to the Haram's western wall. The purpose was to connect all the settlement points in order to encircle the Haram. Hence, settlement sites were also established on the way to the Tariq Bab as-Silsilah, Aqabat al-Khalidiyah, Aqabat al-Sarayah, the Qirami Quarter, Bab al-Zahira (Herod's Gate) and Burj al-Laqlaq. Scattered buildings in the Christian Quarter, the Sa'diyyah Quarter and Bab Huttah were also confiscated.
It is equally important to note the activity that takes place under the ground and over the rooftops of houses and markets (suks) that is aimed at linking all the settlement sites with each other. Thus the Jewish Quarter was joined with Aqabat al-Sarayah through the rooftops of Suk al-Hussor and Suk al-Attarin with a view of controlling the Sabra tract of land (the dilapidated extension to Suk al-Khawajat). In a similar vein, the opening of the tunnel parallel to the Haram western wall was construed not as an uncovering of a historical site worth visiting, but as an attempt to control what is beneath the ground and to link the settlement sites with each other.

Extremist Aims - Modest Results

In spite of the drive for the control and penetration of Palestinian space by Jewish extremists, who have consistently enjoyed the support of the ruling political establishment, their accomplishments in this respect were quite modest. The biggest achievement of the settlement movement did not come as a result of the millions invested, nor the forged title deeds, the connivance of the ruling establishment, or the support of the Jewish lobby and other groups in the United States. It came at the hands of bulldozers in 1967, and as a result of confiscation laws enacted after the occupation of the city. Nonetheless, the settlers were able to seize only 78 properties outside the borders abutting the expanded Jewish Quarter, and there is no doubt that a rational and neutral legal revision of these transactions will uncover tens of forgeries and illegal movements that were involved in connection with these take-over operations. It is a known fact that the total area of settlement sites inside the Old City, including the Jewish Quarter with all its extensions, does not amount to more than 12 percent of the total area of the Old City.
A major problem is the intractable security situation that has arisen as a result of these Jewish settlement sites inside the Old City. The settlers there are not necessarily proponents of peace or coexistence between the two peoples. To the contrary, the majority believe in the absolute right of the Jews to all the Old City and that a Palestinian presence there is a disfigurement of its historical character. These Jewish settlement sites have thus become military outposts, with fortifications, barbed wire and guards armed to the teeth. The settlers strut around provoking and harassing the Palestinian residents, exacerbating their sensitivities with their flaunting of Israeli flags. A good example is the house Ariel Sharon has appropriated at the beginning of al-Wad Road. These sites heighten the Palestinians' sense of insecurity, feeding rumors about further confiscations, and often leading to confrontation with the settlers.
The Palestinian position regarding Jewish settlement in the Old City rests on several factors, the most important being the legal. In other words, what is the legal basis that allows Israelis to retrieve the houses they owned or where they resided in the Old City before 1948, while denying the Palestinians the same right to return to their homes in West Jerusalem or even in the no-man's land that separated the two parts of the city after 1948? In fact, a great number of Palestinian-owned houses in West Jerusalem have remained unchanged, yet, to date, no Palestinian has succeeded in reclaiming his/her property. Israelis, on the other hand, whether as individuals or through governmental bodies, have been able to get back their property in East Jerusalem, particularly in the Old City. How can this be justified in view of the fact that from the legal perspective - at least from the Israeli one - the same Israeli law applies in the "united city"?