Ramadan Dabash Wants to Be Jerusalem’s First Palestinian City Councilman

Aug. 13 2018

Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who make up about one-third of the city’s population, have had residency rights in the city since 1967, guaranteeing them access to Israel’s welfare and healthcare systems and the right to vote in municipal elections—a right rarely exercised. Ramadan Dabash wants to change that, writes Matti Friedman:

In the last election in 2013, . . . not even 2 percent of [Jerusalem Palestinians] cast a ballot. This has helped keep [them] in limbo and has contributed to a gap that’s clear to anyone who spends time in the city’s Arab neighborhoods, which are neglected, crowded, and unsafe. Eighty-three percent of children in eastern Jerusalem are poor, according to Israeli government statistics, twice the rate in the city’s west.

That reality, Ramadan Dabash says, is why he’s flouting his community’s political taboo to run. . . . The Palestinian Authority, based in nearby Ramallah, sees participation in Jerusalem elections as a form of collaboration. Last month a council of Islamic clerics banned any involvement. Dabash says he has faced backlash in the form of hostile phone calls and messages on Facebook and WhatsApp groups, where he’s tarred as a “traitor” or a “collaborator”—epithets that carry a threat of violence.

But he’s determined to forge ahead, armed, perhaps, with the striking results of a poll released this year, according to which 58 percent of Jerusalem Palestinians support voting. Just 14 percent said they were opposed. . . Because Jewish residents here are split acrimoniously between mainstream Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox, if Palestinians have even a few seats, they’ll control crucial swing votes. . . .

Over the past five years or so, watching from west Jerusalem, it’s been clear that remarkable changes are afoot in the city’s human landscape. Not long ago, it was unheard-of to see Palestinian salespeople in Israeli stores. Now it’s commonplace. Palestinian enrollment at Hebrew University is up dramatically, as are requests for Israeli citizenship. The number of east-Jerusalem wage earners employed in west Jerusalem is now estimated at close to 50 percent. The trend is driven not by good will but by economic interests: by demand for labor in Jewish Jerusalem; and by a lack of better options for Palestinians.

Read more at New York Times

More about: East Jerusalem, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Palestinians

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy