The Battle for Jerusalem

Middle East Eye, 19 November 2014



Just a few hundred metres away from al-Aqsa, the crowded and poor Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan is in the first stages of Judaisation. It is now referred to as the City of David. Just after settlers took over 23 more apartments in Silwan at the end of September, and violent clashes ensued, an advert appeared congratulating the settlers on their Zionist endeavour. "The strengthening of Jewish presence in Jerusalem is our common challenge," went the ad. "With your settlement act, you make us proud." 

Who put their names on the front page ad? Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel; Shlomo Aharonishky, ex-chief of staff of the Israeli Police; and retired general Amos Yadlin, former head of intelligence in the Israeli Defense Forces and a possible contender for the leadership of the Labor Party. As MEE contributor Meron Rapoport noted: “In short, not a bunch of right-wing lunatics, but the flesh and bone of the Israeli establishment.”

The settlers of the “City of David” are just the visible part of a broader act of dispossession. Declaring the area a Jewish National Heritage site, despite the fact that no reliable archeological evidence has been found linking King David to the stones uncovered during the excavations, has legitimised the acts of the settlers.

The takeover of Silwan is not a fringe activity. Israel’s housing minister Uri Ariel, a senior minister from the Jewish Home party, has looked into renting an apartment there.

Sami Abu Atrash, a colleague of Yusef al-Ramouni, found hanging from a steel bar in the Egged bus he drove summed up the atmosphere in East Jerusalem on Tuesday. He told the Middle East Eye: “They’re against us. They don’t want any Palestinians to live on this earth. They want to transfer all the people …We work for the Jewish people, and help them, all the time, day and night. But the Israelis - and it’s not just the settlers – it’s the government - they are pushing them to kill us, and destroy our houses. It’s the system of the government against the Palestinian people.”

What’s going in East Jerusalem has forced even the most West-leaning and compliant of Arab leaders, King Abdullah of Jordan to withdraw his ambassador.