The Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem are a web of contradictions: while most are not Israeli citizens, they enjoy a status distinct from that of other Palestinians—allowing them freedom of movement, the right to vote in municipal elections, and access to the national health-insurance system, as well as an easy to path to Israeli citizenship should they so desire. While they make up, overall, one of the poorest demographic groups in Israel, members of the younger generation are increasingly obtaining educations and jobs that will lead to greater prosperity. And while Islamist groups are rapidly gaining influence and popularity in their neighborhoods, Arab Jerusalemites are more inclined than ever to learn Hebrew, to study for the exams that can get them into Israeli universities, and even to seek Israeli citizenship.
In a detailed report, David Koren and Ben Avrahami explain the history and status of these Arabs, their internal diversity, and the disintegration of their traditional structures of communal authority. The last phenomenon has led to the greater popularity of Hamas and the even more radical Hizb ut-Tahrir group, and abetted the growing influence of pro-Islamist Turkey and Qatar. Although first published in Hebrew in May, the report—recently made available in English—sheds much light on the ongoing disturbances on and around the Temple Mount. Arguing trenchantly against proposals by some Israeli politicians to partition the city, the authors instead offer alternatives:
[I]n any form of partition of the city, Israel must be concerned not only about the terrorist infrastructure that would emerge only a few meters from Jewish neighborhoods but also about the currents that would dominate the educational, cultural, and welfare systems of the Palestinian political entity established. Children would be brought up with a deeply rooted hatred of Israelis, glorification of the violent struggle against it, and rejection of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. . . .
[Instead], we believe that Israel should take steps to infuse additional and more significant [efforts and resources into policies that] unite the city, by means of actions that increase the eastern Jerusalem Arabs’ sense of belonging to the city and the state.
On the basis of the hundreds of conversations we have had . . . with dozens of prominent figures, both women and men, we believe that broad sectors of the Palestinian population have come around to a pragmatic attitude about the Israeli authorities, despite their Palestinian national identity, and see Israel not only as the culprit to be blamed for their difficult situation as individuals and as a community but also as the only possible source for solving their problems and turning their lives around. . . .
During the recent spate of [stabbings, car-rammings, and so forth], teachers and principals went out into the streets to get their pupils to curb their emotions and avoid attacking innocent persons, both Arabs and Jews. In another decade, perhaps these teachers will be joined by merchants, businesspeople, community activists, and cultural figures who endeavor to introduce mutual respect and sensitivity to the turbulent reality of Jerusalem.
Read more on Hashiloach: https://hashiloach.org.il/residents-eastern-jerusalem-historic-crossroads/