The revolutionary decision of a low court in Jerusalem to essentially allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, overturning 55 years of status quo is the most dangerous ruling of any court in Israel since 1948. Personally, I would be happy, in the reality in which we live in that billions of people all around the world call Israel the Holy Land, if every person, regardless of their faith, could pray anywhere they wanted to, with the only restriction being that their praying does not interfere with or prevent the praying of others. But that is not the world in which we live.
The so-called status quo since 1967 has been that only Muslims pray on what they call al-Aqsa or Haram a-Sharif and only Jews pray at the Western Wall, the Kotel. Since 1967, Muslims have not tried to pray at the Western Wall, although during some of the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians there have been Palestinian claims that the Western Wall is a Muslim holy site and should be under Muslim control. Jews have repeatedly tried to pray on the Temple Mount and some groups of Jews are actually planning to build a Jewish Temple with an alter for animal sacrifice in place of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israel has been conducting excavations in, around and underneath the Temple Mount for many years and Muslim fears regarding Israel’s intentions at the Holy Site have some basis in reality. The latest Israeli court ruling allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which I believe will be overturned by a high court, increases the basis of Muslim fears and adds explosive materials to the most explosive sight in the land between the river and the sea.
Israelis should be able to wave their flag freely and proudly all over Israel. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the June 1967 war and expanded the municipal borders of Jerusalem to include large tracks of land that were never part of the city of Jerusalem including more than 20 Palestinian villages. The annexation of those areas was done in contravention of international law and it is considered illegal. Most of the world does not consider east Jerusalem to be within the sovereign state of Israel.
The so-called unification of Jerusalem – east and west – is a fiction and only exists in the minds of Israelis and Jews around the world. In reality, on the ground, Jerusalem remains one of the most divided cities in the world. There is Israeli Yerushalayim and Palestinian Al-Quds and they are two completely separate and different cities that exist in two completely different realities.
Palestinians make up almost 40% of the residents within the municipal borders of Jerusalem and more than 90% of them are not citizens of Israel. In fact, they are not citizens of any country. They pay municipal taxes to the city of Jerusalem, income tax to Israel and pay social security taxes to the Institute for National Insurance. They benefit from the National Insurance and Israeli health care system – which has great value and is very appreciated. They have almost no benefits from the municipal taxes they pay and until very recently, Israel and the municipality of Jerusalem has limited the ability of this large population to build homes, even on their own legally owned land. They have no political voice or political rights whatsoever in the country that annexed them.
The Flag March
EVEN IF so-called Jerusalem Day is celebrated by Israelis every year marking the so-called unification of Jerusalem, marching through Damascus Gate and through the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, it is a provocation against the Palestinians of Jerusalem. Palestinians know very well who controls Jerusalem. The Israeli occupation is already in their face every day. The reality of Israel’s occupation and control over their lives is felt by them without having to wave Israeli flags in their face.
Over the years, the Jerusalem Day flag parades have brought with them extremists, racists, ugly faces of Israel with chants “death to Arabs” “Mohammed is dead” and even worse. These parades of provocation and incitement do nothing to make Jerusalem a more unified city. In fact, the opposite is true. Jerusalem has always been the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent years, it is being expressed through its religious dynamics and has become the center of Israeli-Palestinian hatred and fear.
The decision over whether or not to allow the flag parade to march through Damascus Gate should not be over precedents of the past or over Israel’s perceived right to wave its flag wherever or whenever it wants to. The decision should take into account the impact that decision has on creating a more peaceful atmosphere and reality in Jerusalem. Most of the flag waivers and especially the most extremists among them are not Jerusalemites – they are outside provocateurs. Their presence in this demonstration of extreme chauvinistic nationalism is the last thing we need in Jerusalem.
In the same vein, I ask what is the purpose of the Israeli army and extremist Israeli settlers in the occupied territories removing Palestinian flags in what are clearly Palestinian towns and cities all over the West Bank. This is a policy of insanity and ultimate stupidity. Palestinians have a right to express their identity. They are not putting their flags on exclusively Israeli owned properties or Israeli towns or cities. If the army and settlers continue to remove Palestinian flags from Palestinian towns and cities, and in some cases even replace them with Israeli flags, then I suggest let’s follow through with the message of this new/old policy: grant all people under Israel’s military control full Israeli citizens and full equal rights under Israeli rule.
If these areas are Israel and the flags flying in those areas are the Israeli flag then let all those who live under that flag become Israelis. That is the end of Zionism, the end of Jewish domination, the end of Jewish majority and the creation of the new Israel – binational – a state for all of its citizens. This is the direct message that the flag removers are sending to our Palestinian neighbors. By their own hands and deeds with each Palestinian flag they tear down and confiscate they are creating the bi-national state.
The writer, a political and social entrepreneur, has dedicated his life to Israel, and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.