5 Quotes About “United Jerusalem” That Will Help You Understand the Recent Takeover in Silwan

First off, the awful news: On Monday night, Jewish settlers affiliated with the radical right-wing organization ELAD entered 23 apartments in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. This is a major victory for ELAD, the managers of the “City of David” tourist park/settlement, whose representatives have made their goals quite clear:

“Our aim is to Judaize East Jerusalem.”

(Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes. Or the New York Times).

According to Haaretz’s Nir Hasson, this takeover is the biggest single settler influx into an East Jerusalem neighborhood in decades. The details are still hazy (and may remain so for a while): It was reported that the properties were purchased by an American group alternately called “Kandel Finances” (in Haaretz) and “Kendall Finances” (in the Times of Israel). I haven’t been able to find internet records for either spelling: Perhaps there is some connection between Kendall Finances and A. D. Kendall, a ”Contributing expert at The Terror Finance Blog” who tweets at @MoneyJihad? Or maybe Kendall/Kandel Finances doesn’t even exist. (50 kazillion Leftern Wall Bonus Points to anyone who can find out more/anything about them).

One detail that is clear is that the so-called Kendall/Kandel Finances is represented by Attorney Avi Segal, the same fellow who represented Arieh King’s Israel Lands Fund in their campaign to evict the Shamasneh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah. The same Arieh King, who, as an elected member of the Jerusalem City Council, distributed a flier throughout East Jerusalem declaring:

We [Jews] demand that you [Muslims] leave the land of Israel. We say this from a religious perspective, in order to ensure peace in the land of Israel.”

(Don’t believe me? Ask the Right Wingers Themselves: Arutz Sheva).

What this tells us, for those confused by all the detail, is that the real issue here has nothing to do with the details and nothing to do with whether the purchases/takeovers were “legal” or “illegal.”  The real issue here goes all the way back to the creation of modern “East Jerusalem” and the plan -shared by radical settler NGOs and members of the Israeli government alike- to do as ELAD planned, “Judaize Jerusalem,” and thereby implement exactly what Arieh King suggested, namely, making Muslims leave “the land of Israel,” from the river to the sea.

Looking at the present, devoid of context, one could easily be cajoled into thinking people like Arieh King and groups like ELAD are acting “on their own,” without government sanction or support. After all, Arieh King was recently dismissed from his position on the Jerusalem City Council for insubordination enacted by filing a court petition against the Jerusalem municipality over a plan to build new housing units in the Arab ”Arav al-Sawahra” (Jabl Mukabber) neighborhood of Jerusalem. And the Jerusalem District Court ruled, the next day (September 8th), that ELAD would not be granted permission to run part of the Western Wall compound.

But nothing is devoid of context. Let’s start with the concept of “United Jerusalem.” Following yesterday’s takeover, MK Moti Yogev of the Jewish Home party proclaimed:

”This is another important step in the strengthening of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, strengthening the united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

“United Jerusalem” sounds nice, right? And Biblical. And ancient. But it’s none of those things. The area that is today known as  “East Jerusalem” was actually created in 1967. Prior to 1967, the area making up East Jerusalem, then under Jordanian control, amounted to about 6 square kilometers. After Israel occupied the West Bank (and elsewhere) in 1967, the State annexed an additional 64 square kilometers belonging to 28 Palestinian villages in the West Bank, into the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem. The border was drawn around the principle of “maximum territory, minimum Arabs.”

For the skeptical, most of the above information can be double-checked on Btselem’s website. It is also that crucial organization that highlights the following:

”Prior to 1967, therefore, most of the area comprising present-day Jerusalem was not part of the city (West or East), but rather part of the West Bank. The new borders, set by a committee headed by General Rehavam Ze’evi, then assistant to the head of the Operations Branch of the Israel Defense Forces’ General Staff, were approved by Israel’s government.”

So, having clarified that the term ”United Jerusalem,” when used referring to today’s “Municipal Jerusalem,” has roots that go back not to the Bible or to ancient history, but rather to the Israeli State’s attempts to “legally” expand its land while minimizing the presence of Arabs, let’s take a look at the words of one last individual, the aforementioned architect of the borders of “United Jerusalem,” General Rehavam Ze’evi (nicknamed Gandhi, oh galling irony). Best known for his advocacy of “voluntary” transfer of the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to Ze’evi’s proposed “State of Ishmael,” which would have its capital in Nablus, Ze’evi did not speak only in hypotheticals:

“In northern Jerusalem the border has been moved so that the Qalandiyah airport ‏(henceforth to be called Jerusalem North‏) will remain in Israel’s hands. The Jordan Rift Valley has been left outside the State of Ishmael, with the border to pass 500 meters west of the longitudinal road, with two exceptions: 1. Jericho and its adjoining refugee camps, so that no further population will be absorbed into Israel; 2. the entry to Wadi Fara, where there is also a concentration of refugees ‏(a bypass connecting road can be built in this section‏). The Latrun enclave will be annexed to Israel. There are only four Arab villages in that area.”” (Haaretz).

Or, if that language is too technical, Ze’evi did not shy away from creative ways of describing “Them” and what should be “done with them”:

”We should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice. We have to stop this cancer from spreading within us.” 

Tying this all together, the point I want to make is this: From ELAD to Arieh King to “Kendall/Kendal Finances” to MK Yogev to Rehavam Ze’evi and onward to so many more governmental, quasi-governmental and governmentally-sanctioned individuals and organizations, the plan for Jerusalem (and most of the West Bank, too) has, both in theory and praxis, been one of “Judaization” and transfer, “voluntary” or otherwise. Yesterday’s events -whatever their details turn out to be- were part of a broad, powerful movement to destroy hope for a pluralistic, decent and humane society in the Holy City and the Holy Land.


View of Silwan from the walls of the Old City
View of Silwan from the walls of the Old City