Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem – some context

The first political planning decision in the ‘reunified’ city concerned plans not for construction but for the geopolitical determination of borders…the determining consideration, ‘a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs,’ laid down as the basic tenet in the delineation of the borders, made possible the planning and implementation of the prinicipal political objective: the creation of physical and demographic faits accomplis.

[It became] clear that the planners must set their sights on the vacant areas on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it. These areas would have to be expropriated from their Arab owners. The legal instrument at the disposal of the Israelis for this purpose was the Land Ordinance (Expropriation for Public Purposes) of 1943, which grants the treasury minister the authority to expropriate private land when there is a ‘public need’ for such action – with the definition of ‘public need’ left to the minister himself…

But no one was deceived by the designation of these ‘ethnically colorblind’ needs; the expropriated areas were being taken from Arabs and handed over to Jews. This was an extraordinary interpretation of the word public: The only legitimate public was Jewish, and therefore only jews were entitled to benefit from the expropriation.

From Meron Benvenisti, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996, pp.154-55.

In twenty-five years of rule in east Jerusalem, Israel expropriated a total of 23,378 dunams for the construction of nine Jewish neighbourhoods. To understand the extent of the expropriations, consider that the total area of Jerusalem, west and east, is 123,000 dunams, of which over half, or 70,400 dunams, are lands annexed by Israel in 1967. Thus Israel had expropriated 33.2 percent of the territory of east Jerusalem for the construction of Jewish neighbourhoods…

The legal justification for the expropriations was that they were going for public use. This is a legitimate reason for the state to use private land. The reality, however, was that the land was going exclusively for the use of the Jewish sector. The new neighbourhoods built on the land were specifically earmarked for Jewish families. If this sounds like a throwback to the ‘Whites Only’ days of segregation in the United States, it should. Israel was a little more subtle than the segregationists in America – there were no signs stating ‘Jews Only’ at the sales offices of the new neighbourhoods being built in Jerusalem. But only Jews were eligible for the low-interest loans and other incentives subsidized by the state for purchasing the homes in these neighbourhoods. This policy raised few eyebrows in Israel.

From Amir S. Cheshin, Bill Hutman, Avi Melamed, Separate and Unequal: The inside story of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp.59-60.

Author: benwhite

I could say a lot about myself at this point, but to be honest, you wouldn't be that interested.

3 thoughts on “Israel’s colonization of East Jerusalem – some context”

  1. Great that you put it into context now, Idrees, because the riots now are about this exactly. The news is full of “rioting Arabs” and “police retaliation”, Sheikh Jarrah looks like Hebron and in Silwan there’s going to be a settler march of 70 people, on Sunday. The government, media and army are cooking something up.

    1. My dear, you are too generous to assume that all good things in the world originate with me. But I’m afraid I can’t claim credit for Ben’s priceless work :)

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