Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jerusalem: Israel's New Golden Calf

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jerusalem: Israel's New Golden Calf

Article excerpt

Jerusalem: Israel's New Golden Calf

Picture a beautiful city which has a small neighborhood with nice little pubs and restaurants only five minutes walking distance from the downtown district. Imagine sitting in a chic bistro in that neighborhood, sipping cool draft beer while soft music plays in the background. You are with friends, talking about work, sports, or politics.

Continue with the image, and assume that less than 100 yards from the restaurant is a detention center. It is a warm April evening, and while you enjoy dessert, only the thick sound-proof walls of the cells keep you from hearing the screams of a political prisoner who is being tortured there.

Tragically, this is not an imaginary city but a real one, Jerusalem. On April 25, 1995, Abd al-Samad Harizat, a computer scientist, was "shaken" to death in the detention center known to Israelis as the Russian Compound, and to Palestinians as Jerusalem's Moscobiyyah. According to Amnesty International, a British forensic pathologist who attended the autopsy concluded: "There is no doubt whatsoever about the cause of death...he died from torture." Restaurants and pubs outside the prison were open that night, cheerfully serving their clientele. Harizat was not the first to die there.

It isn't hard to discern the deadly undercurrents which are at work in this city, the prevailing inequity between Jews and Palestinians, and the injustice it brings in its wake. Jerusalem is not the only "mixed city" where Palestinian residents are discriminated against -- Haifa, Jaffa and Acre are other examples. Yet, the abuses of Palestinians living in these cities hasn't been in quite the same league as that to which the East Jerusalemites have been subjected.

Jerusalem, one might also recall, differs from the other "mixed cities" because of its religious importance. Thus, there is a disturbing correlation between the spiritual significance of the city and the injustice taking place within it. This frightening convergence between the spiritual ethos and injustice is a direct consequence of Israel's 30-year-old imperative: the holiest city for the Jews must be dominated by the Jewish state regardless of any other considerations.

Accordingly, the objective of every Israeli government -- backed by the religious parties -- has been to gain full control of Jerusalem. This drive for mastery and domination of Jerusalem is at the root of Israel's effort to subjugate its Palestinian residents, and the many violations committed against them is a natural result of this objective. The decision to build 6,500 apartments on Har Homa is only the most recent indication of this strategy.

Deadly undercurrents are at work in this city.

B'Tselem, an Israeli information center for human rights, points out that in the past 30 years some 38,500 housing units were built on lands expropriated from Arabs, and taken over by Jews. …

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