Caring for all of Jerusalem’s residents

A clear vision for the future of our city demands that we reject divisive policies and support those that contribute to a more just and sustainable city.

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a November 12 Jerusalem Post op-ed regarding new labeling guidelines adopted by the UN, Caroline Glick singled out Ir Amim as an example of the kind of Israeli NGO through which Europe works to “advance its aggressive policies against Israel.”
The absence of any context – much less substance – for these allegations contributes less to Glick’s case than to the demonstrable reality that Israeli NGOs advancing work to end the conflict are under mounting and unrelenting attack.
As stated clearly in all public materials, the mission of Ir Amim is to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it and to help secure a negotiated resolution on the city.
As Israelis, we believe the value of a city that is fairer and more livable for all the people who call it home is self-evident. Moreover, from a pragmatic perspective, we believe an agreed resolution on the city – the understood epicenter of the conflict – is in our best political interests, would better reflect the concept of democracy to which we aspire and offers a considerably more viable security strategy than ignoring the untenable state in which we find ourselves: an increasingly binational but unequal city. That status impoverishes all of us.
Given its mission, Ir Amim will continue to be deeply engaged in issues that affect the political climate of our city. For the past several years Ir Amim has been scrupulously monitoring and reporting on developments on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – the catalyst for the recent outbreak of violence – toward the imperative of ensuring preservation of the status quo at one of the world’s most volatile holy sites. We are witnessing the fast growing power of radical Temple movement activists driven to overturn the status quo, their rising influence within the political establishment, and their successful cooptation of the language of “religious rights” in the public discourse.
The prime minister himself recently declared Israel’s commitment to upholding the status quo, acknowledging the distinction between Muslim worshipers and Jewish visitors in understandings between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
All efforts must be made to ensure that Muslim worshipers continue to enjoy priority over visitors in their holy place, as would be expected for Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.
Increasing the application of collective restrictions on Muslim worshipers only inflames anxieties, heightening the current sense of instability in the city. The rash of stabbing attacks and shootings perpetrated against Israelis is deplorable, intolerable and unjustifiable by any standard. This is not the city in which we want to live. Nor is a city in which the Palestinian part of it is turned into a military zone with the erection of some 35 checkpoints and closures – many on internal roads, preventing Palestinians from getting to work and their children from getting to school. Those 35 barriers are now down to roughly 16, but no less pernicious.
Collective punishment against an entire national group based on the sins of a few is patently unjust. It is also unsound: one cannot justify blocking access to schools while at the same time insisting on the need to keep youth off the streets.
Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of recent events has been Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public flirtation with the idea of revoking the residency of some 100,000+ Palestinians living in the eight neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier – living in their own city but forced to cross a checkpoint every day in order to enter it. Living in desperately underserved enclaves all but entirely abandoned by the Municipality, the mayor of which has suggested that they be shifted to the military authority of the Civilian Administration. The people living in these neighborhoods – where Israeli ambulances and fire trucks refuse to enter – are Jerusalemites.
Summarily revoking the permanent residency (already an inferior civil status,) of anywhere from a fourth to a third of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem is an offense to any rudimentary concept of democracy.
Creating a system of barriers doesn’t protect us from one another; it merely reduces our ability to see one another and makes the idea of peace too abstract to recognize.
A clear vision for the future of our city demands that we reject divisive policies and support those that contribute to a more just and sustainable city: ensuring that all people have the inviolable right to pray in their holy places, dismantling all closures and checkpoints, securing the right of all our children to study in a municipal school (over 2,200 classrooms are currently missing in east Jerusalem), addressing the unsustainable socio-economic disparities between east and west Jerusalem, providing – at the very least – emergency services to the neighborhoods beyond the barrier. All while finding the strength of will to rise to the inevitable challenge of negotiating an agreed upon resolution on Jerusalem.
The author is director of International Relations & Advocacy at Ir Amim.