Sunday, June 27, 2010

Silwan: Raising The Stakes

Friday afternoon, about 500 organizers and supporters of the Sheikh Jarrah movement brought the weekly protest to Silwan, where the Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat recently announced a plan to raze a wide swath of buildings, 22 in all, to build an "archaeological park." Barkat's idea is to expand what he, his NGO partner, the right-wing Elad (recently awarded the right to administer the site), Elad's zealot settler-supporters and American funders, Israel's Tourism Ministry--all of them--call "The City of David." This site has been developing beneath the radar for several years across from the Dung Gate, where you enter to the plaza leading to the nearby Wailing Wall.

Just to be clear, there is about as much evidence that King David's palace would be excavated by this project as evidence that Queen Helena actually found the grove from which the true cross had been cut in the Valley of the Cross. But like Helena's sites--she was said to be the greatest archeologist in history, because she never looked for something she didn't find--Barkat's City of David is actually meant to excite pilgrims--you know, guests to the Shapiro bar-mitzvah who are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon.

But even if the site had some scientific value--excavations were carried on here under British auspices during the Mandate Period--it would be terribly provocative to make 22 families homeless, as in Sheikh Jarrah, or impose a development plan on the neighborhood without agreement of its residents (who have a neighborhood committee, willing to negotiate). Silwan is the heart of the most heavily populated, impoverished and angry parts of the city, certain to be in any future Palestinian capital.

Which means that protests in this part of the city are much more explosive than in Sheikh Jarrah. In Silwan, stoning of police and settlers is commonplace, as are armed threats by settlers against residents. Youth gangs and neighborhood resistance are hard to tell apart. When we walked down the streets and neglected alleyways of Silwan, it was clear from the men on the stoops, women and children in the windows, and preening young men on the corners, that they had never seen, nor expected to see, so many Jewish Israelis coming into their neighborhood to back them--and that, for some, the mere presence of more Jews of any kind was not entirely welcome. Call it a teaching moment for all of us who were, on both sides, making ourselves vulnerable to the other's decency.

Halfway through the march, someone in the settler-occupied houses overlooking the march let off a couple of stun grenades, which made a dreadful boom, but caused no real hesitation. Then, in the middle of the square slated for demolition, we gathered for speeches, and one of the heads of the neighborhood association took the megaphone. He picked up the Hebrew chant protesters has used often in Sheikh Jarrah: "Jews and Arabs are not meant to be enemies"--a banal thought when you think about it, but deeply moving surrounded by this kind of tension.

I approached the unofficial leader of the protest, Assaf Sharon (profiled, among others here, in this excellent Haaretz article by Nir Hasson from the week-end supplement), and found him relieved, even gratified, by how many protesters had come out, given how much grittier, and potentially dangerous, was the confrontation in Silwan than in Sheikh Jarrah. He was running back and forth, scanning the hills for potential disruptions, feeling responsible, like the father of a toddler near a jungle-gym. The idea, he told me, was to let Barkat know that if he brings bulldozers, there will be hundreds sitting down this time, his eyes betraying both weary optimism and a certain apprehension. "Anyway, just look at these people coming out, and the way they are being received."


Potter said...

Nir Barkat gave an interview on the BBC in March of this year which was astonishing to hear. He lives on another planet where there is no international law, where only what the Bib says really matters, where Jerusalem is not occupied but "reunited" from 2000 years ago, where there is no occupation, where there are no settlements in jerusalem only "neighborhoods". When asked what if everyone went back to where we were 2000 years ago- he was dumbfounded and went into his pre-recorded spiel... going off about the Holocaust for good measure. BTW he says he is secular.

Good that you move where the action is and I wish I was there to join in. Basically Barkat is looking to be put in his place and if the Israeli government does not do it, international attention might.

Here listen to Nir Barkat for yourself:

Potter said...

That should have read ( although you may have guessed it) : "He (Barkat) lives on another planet where there is no international law, where only what the Bible says really matters,......"

Shoded Yam said...

You're reading too much into it, Potter. What Barkat says is irrelevant, as its nothing more than pablum for the proles scripted by the real estate developers that he's obviously shilling for. Whadya think, Olmert's the only greedy son-of-a-bitch on the take? Nir can talk tanach and emote about the shoah till he's blue in the face.

Remember; "You can polish up a turd, but in the end it's still a piece of shit"

The only ones who are pretending not to notice this phenomenon are those with a vested interest in pretending not to notice.

Potter said...

Just watched the youtube video posted on Coteret of the Silwan march. Their finest hour yet.

Nir Hassson article is good.

SY- the interview was astonishing- made him transparent I agree. Barkat has power and he is using it however... see Haaretz article today about how he rushed approval for the demolitions.

Shoded Yam said...

I read the article, and yes he does have the power, because for the moment he's making sure the graft is being distributed equitably. The second he starts to think he's cappo de tutti and his genrosity becomes conditional, they'll hand em' his ass and he'll be sharing the docket with olmert. Its inevitable. Patience, buddy, patience.

Y. Ben-David said...

Right, if only Bernie and the other Israeli "progressives" at this demonstration would get the hint, give back their Arab homes in west Jerusalem, then go back to where they came from (Bernie can read Yehuda Amihai's poems in Hebrew just as well in New Hampsire) and then the "occupation" will be over and there will no longer be a "Palestinian problem". Let's be consistent! You yourself seem to approve of the argument that there is no going back 2000 years in time-i.e. there are no modern Jewish rights in the country. If that is right-what right did Bernie have to come to "Zionist occupied Palestine" in the first place? Would Bernie come up with any more cogent arguments for his presence in that Arab house in west Jerusalem that Barkat did?

Potter said...

Y. Ben-David-

No- it's not about returning to what was lost 2000 years ago. This has everything to do with the old way of getting what you want- ie through force- might making right ( which btw entitles Arabs to also get nukes and rockets) versus international law where the grown-ups have declared that you cannot do that anymore, that it's an insane way to run a planet. This is, as David Grossman and Yehuda Amichai, know not about Jews versus Arabs, it'a about crazy people versus sane people.

Jewish rights have been established in modern times, not Biblical times. Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah belong to the Palestinian side of a deal backed by international law that bases a legitimate Israel within the 1967 lines ie- that legitimizes Israel, not only Palestine. If you and Barkat don't agree to this, if you and Barkat deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, you destroy the deal and deny that West Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv are Israeli. ie- you and Barkat are doing the very thing you accuse "progressives" of doing: delegitimizing Israel.

This point has been made over and over every which way- what is so hard about it?

Y. Ben-David said...

No one recognizes the pre-67 cease-fire lines as an international border, certainly the Arabs don't-that is why the demand the Palestiniian "right of return" which in effect says Israel has no sovereign right to control who enters it even within those lines.
Recall that UN Security Council Resolutions do NOT require an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-67 lines.

Jewish rights have NOT been established only in "modern times" else was the Balfour Declaration made? It predates 1948, a fact the "progressives" seem to forget. It recognized Jewish settlement rights not only in pre-67 Israel, but ALSO in Judea/Samaria (there were existing Jewish communities there before Balfour...and that includes Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Hevron, Shechem, Gaza, etc) plus in what now Jordan.

Now, I can respect a position that says "Yes, Jews have a right to live in Hevron, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, etc, but for practical reasons we should give up implementing that right". But that's not what I hear in these "progressive" writings. I hear rage, I hear non-sensicle claims that the Jews there have no "right" to be there. The fact that many are Orthodox simply stokes the fires for these "progressives". In the end, the Arabs see them as being no different. I reject your claim that the Arabs have accepted what you define for THEM as being a "reasonable" settlement. They have already been offered a settlement whose territorial component is along the lines you outlined and they rejected it. They will never accept such a settlement...they will never give up the "right of return". So we are back to square one, whether the "progressives" like it or not.

Potter said...

Y. Ben-David:

The 1967 cease-fire lines are not Israel’s border as you and Barkat claim. You and Barkat base this on various cherry pickings in history ( the Bible, Balfour etc). The 1949 armistice line ( Israel within the green line) is not strictly a border either but within the 1949 line Israel is recognized as legitimate, sovereign and on this basis was accepted into the United Nations and thus the world community after Israel’s War of Independence. Israel wanted this recognition.

This does not mean that there is no “right of return” according to the UN. That right exists and needs to be sorted out and satisfied somehow. That right does not mean that Israel has no sovereign right either. But Israel does have an obligation, and many feel a moral obligation, especially before it can continue on with respect in the eyes of the world, to deal with the dispossession. There will not be any peace otherwise.

Regarding cherry picking, be it the Bible or Balfour, Balfour is modern, but it is only a British declaration, not international law. Balfour is no basis for Jewish land claims. If it were then Arab communities that existed up and down the Mediterranean coast from Yaffo to Haifa also have a basis for land claims because in Balfour there is this: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” .

Y. Ben-David said...

Balfour refers to a "national homeland" for the Jews but no "national rights" for the non-Jewish population, only civil and religious rights.

Israel has no more "moral obligation" to the Palestinian refugees than does Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia and others do for the MILLIONS of German refugees expelled from those countries, nor than Pakistan for the millions of Hindus and Sikhs that fled that religious-ethnocentric state, nor than Croatia does for the expelled Krajina Serbs nor than Greece does for the Turks forced out in the 1920s, nor than Turkey for the Greeks forced out at the same time, etc,etc.

Shoded Yam said...

Comparing Israel to Pakistan? To Czechoslovakia? To Poland?!?!? How is this possible? The light unto the nations with the most moral army in the world is no better than a bunch of madrasa-educated, suicide-vested, savages? No better than foaming at the mouth, anti-semitic, polish papists?

Oh well. I guess are shit does stink afterall. I suppose in that case, that dog and pony show we pulled in Haiti after Cast Lead would be analgous to lighting a match after defecation.

Potter said...

Y. B-D.

Balfour is not germane to the UN boundaries proposed and accepted by Israel at the time of partition (1947), at which time a Palestinian homeland, by inferences, was also accepted by Israel. Ceasefire lines changed those boundaries in 1949. Let’s not forget the UN accepted and excepted Israel within those lines gained through war when the UN voted Israel a member. At that time Israel agreed to obey international law. That law states ( I mean firstly the UN Charter to which Israel is a signatory and elsewhere in a resolution) that land cannot be acquired through war. Mind you again that Israel at the time it was accepted at the UN had recently declared independence including land acquired through war. That addition changed lines significantly from the UN partition lines for the better for Jews at the expense of land proposed for Palestinian Arabs. And this WAS accepted. So an exception was made for Israel by the UN in accepting Israel as a legitimate sovereign state, a member of the world community, asking that Israel live in peace with it’s neighbors:

In the aftermath of the 1948 war, and conditional on Israel’s acceptance and implementation of resolutions 181 and 194, the UN General Assembly voted, with the May 11, 1949 Resolution 273 (III), to admit Israel to UN membership as a "peace-loving country". This resolution reiterated the demands for UN control over Jerusalem and for the return of Palestinian refugees. ( wikipedia)

There was no condition upon Israel regarding the “right of return” BUT it was declared as existing. This implies an obligation (a moral obligation too) upon Israel to deal with the Palestinian Refugees, to give them some form of justice for their losses in return for Israel being accepted as a state for Jews. This does not, to my mind anyway, compensate Jewish losses over the centuries which can never be done, but it recognizes that Palestinians are not responsible for Jewish losses through eternity and deserve some justice as well.

The resolution, accepting Israel into the UN also does not give Israel sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The (alleged) “progressive” position that Jews have no right to live in a Palestinian state I have not heard. But if that is so, it is the other side of the coin to your position that Arabs have no right of return. If Israel has a sovereign right to control who enters it’s territory,why shouldn’t a future Palestinian state? I think Palestinians will allow Jews to live in Palestine (under Palestinian law) and we will see, if this happens, how they treat their minority.

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