Terra Incognita: From Nataf to J'lem

It's hypocritical that Jewish Sheikh Jarrah protesters retire to homes built on former Arab land.

On January 22 the weekly leftist and Arab protesters in Sheikh Jarrah were joined by a number of Israeli Jewish notables, including former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and one-time education minister Yossi Sarid.
They were protesting against Jewish settlers moving into Jewish houses whose residents had been forced to flee in 1948, when they ended up on the Jordanian side of the border.
On March 7, Burg explained his feelings in an op-ed, “Once justice dwelled here. Now the settlers do, murderers of the nation’s soul... We shall not be silent when Ahmed and Aysha are sleeping in the street outside their home.” For him the protesters were the “people of integrity.” Jews must “leave Sheikh Jarrah now!”
Another celebrity activist in the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah is Sahar Vardi, daughter of Dr. Amiel Vardi of the Hebrew University. Sahar, who refused to do her army service, claimed in an interview that it is “unconscionable for me to live in my home in the German Colony and study whatever I like” when Arabs are being evicted from homes in east Jerusalem.
In late March another Sheikh Jarrah Jewish activist named Michael Solsberry was arrested at his home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.
There is a common stream that runs through those who are active against the occupation. Many are from leading families, come from a wealthy background and live in the most expensive neighborhoods. Nothing in itself is wrong with this, except when one considers what they demand of others. While they claim to be at the forefront of human rights, their activism obscures a darker truth. They believe it is acceptable to live where they want without being protested against, but deny that others might live in certain areas they deem to be off limits.
A recent suit aimed at preventing Jews from living in Arab parts of Jaffa was aided by attorney Gil Gan-Mor of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. The supposed logic behind ACRI’s opposing the Jews who want to live there is that they are members of Be’emuna, a religious Zionist organization.
The same ACRI supported Adel and Inan Kaadan in their quest to move into the Jewish village of Katzir. ACRI went to the Supreme Court and received a ruling from then court president Aharon Barak that “being a democratic Jewish state, as the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom asserts, Israel must act in accordance with the principle of equality.”
Consider Meretz’s motto for the 2008 city council elections inJerusalem: “Put an end to the haredization of the city.” Pepe Alalu,Meretz’s city councilman has been at the forefront in the “struggle”against the supposed haredi takeover of neighborhoods such as KiryatHayovel, a struggle that has seen the tearing down of aneruv (a border around a community that permitsreligious Jews to carry items on Shabbat) erected by religious Jews.
Ironically, Alalu would be first to speak out against a slogan demanding the “end to the Arabization of Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev.”
NOW LET us return to the story of Burg, Vardi and Solsberry. Burgresides in the beautiful, quiet communal settlement of Nataf in theJerusalem foothills. Founded in 1982, it features large villasoverlooking the Green Line. In 2006 it had 387 residents. It was builton land acquired from Arabs from neighboring Abu Ghosh. Nataf had oncebeen the home of an Arab effendi and had 16 Muslim residents in 1922and 40 in 1945.
A photo of Burg in The New York Times in 2008 shows him in his peaceful home adorned with maps and vases.
Vardi, according to an interview in Haaretz inMarch, resides in the German Colony, a leafy neighborhood in Jerusalemthat once housed German Christians. Solsberry lives in Pisgat Ze’ev, aJewish community in Jerusalem established beyond the Green Line.
Yossi Sarid, who also took part in the Sheikh Jarrah protests, residesin Margaliot, a moshav in the North that was the Shi’ite village ofHunin before 1948.
For all the Jewish activists in Sheikh Jarrah, it seems the height ofhypocrisy that they can retire to their homes, built on former Arabvillages or even in “illegal settlements” at the end of their protestagainst Jews who they decry for settling in former Jewish homes in anArab neighborhood. For ACRI and Alalu, there is one equal right forArabs wishing to reside in Jewish areas and another for religious Jewswishing to reside in Arab areas or among secular Jews.
The double standards employed by these organizations, politicians andactivists are not unique to Israel. In places like Arizona, Vermont andMontana, it has often been common for people to move into a “pristine”area and then complain when other “developers” wish to build new homesthat might ruin their view of what the land “should” look like.
Israel is increasingly divided between those who have settled inpristine places and those who would like to live the dream forthemselves. It has some secular people who wish to live in peace andyet would deny others their lifestyle. It also has Arabs who want theircommunities 100% Arab, yet wish to have equal rights to live in Jewishareas.
The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University.