Contextual Content

Abu Dis – A city divided

Phyllis Bennis: "There were negotiations going on between Israelis and Palestinians back in 2000, then-prime minister Barak, Ehud Barak, offered to the Palestinians, who of course were demanding, appropriately, that their capital of their Palestinian state should be in the Palestinian city of East Jerusalem. And instead, Barak said, of course, we can’t allow that to happen, but we’ll let you have your capital in Abu Dis. We’ll even let you call it Al-Quds, which is Arabic for Jerusalem."

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Story Transcript

JESSICA WEATHERUP, PRODUCER (VOICEOVER) : The question of a divided Jerusalem remains a stumbling block in the establishment of a two-state solution in Israel. In a recent article for the Nation magazine entitled The End of History: With a period, not a question mark. Phyllis Bennis wrote about her recent experiences in the West Bank, specifically about the town of Abu Dis.

PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Abu Dis is a small village outside of Jerusalem. It’s an ancient village. In the Bible it was called Bethany. And the Silk Road, which came from China and India across Central Asia, through the Middle East to the Mediterranean Sea, for many, many years this was—the Silk Road, of course, was built more than 2,000 years ago—that Silk Road, one branch of it always went through Bethany to Jerusalem and to the sea. That silk road now stops in biblical Bethany, what is now today’s Abu Dis, a small, poor, dusty Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem. And the reason that it’s so significant is, one, that the Israeli creation of the apartheid wall has now done what 2,000 years of history could not do: end the Silk Road. The Silk Road no longer goes to the sea; it dead-ends in Abu Dis. And Abu Dis is famous for another reason. At the time that there were negotiations going on between Israelis and Palestinians back in 2000, then-prime minister Barak, Ehud Barak, offered to the Palestinians, who of course were demanding, appropriately, that their capital of their Palestinian state should be in the Palestinian city of East Jerusalem. And instead, Barak said, of course, we can’t allow that to happen, but we’ll let you have your capital in Abu Dis. We’ll even let you call it Al-Quds, which is Arabic for Jerusalem. Now imagine. The equivalent would be if there were negotiations going on over New York City, and the side that controlled New York City said, "You know what? We’re really not going to let you have anything in New York City, but we’ll give you Newark, outside of New York, a dusty, dirty, poor town, and you can call it New York." The problem is Newark is not New York City, Abu Dis is not Jerusalem, and no Palestinian would ever imagine that Abu Dis could become Jerusalem. It was an insulting joke, if you will, when that offer was made, but it put Abu Dis on the map in a very different and very difficult way.