Michel Warschawski Interview (Part 5)
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Jerusalem with Michel Warschawski. He’s the founder of the Alternative Information Center. He’s the author of On the Border. Thanks for joining us again.
MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI, FOUNDER, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hello.
JAY: So why does Jerusalem matter so much to everybody?
WARSCHAWSKI: First question: what is Jerusalem? And there is nothing like Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a construction. There is absolutely nothing in common with Jerusalem of King David and Pisgat Ze’ev settlement. But it’s part of Jerusalem today. Jerusalem, in fact, was defined by a group of officers in 1967 who got the following order: draw a line with maximum territory, minimum of population. ["HA-lam-za-YEH-vee"], one of the most racist generals and leaders of Israel, assassinated a few years ago, was in charge of it. So it’s—Jerusalem was defined by negative. Ramallah couldn’t be part of Jerusalem, so it stop at Ramallah. Bethlehem couldn’t be decently part of Jerusalem, so it stopped at Bethlehem. And all the rest was named Jerusalem, though only 12 percent was ever Jerusalem in one time in history. So the so-called reunification of Jerusalem, it’s a very sexy concept, reunification. No one likes a city divided with a wall in between. So the concept of reunification was used to annex as much as possible of the West Bank to Israel under the pretext of reuniting Jerusalem.
JAY: Now, this is all the result of the 1967 war?
WARSCHAWSKI: Yeah, the immediate result in the—.
JAY: For our viewers who don’t know the history, just explain what was Jerusalem in ’48, and then what is it after ’67.
WARSCHAWSKI: So we’ll start even before ’48. Jerusalem was a small, marginal, and non-important city, both for the Arabs and for the Jews.
JAY: Before ’48.
WARSCHAWSKI: Before ’48. Zionist leaders hated Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion was obliged to make Jerusalem the capital for diplomatic reasons, but he was escaping Jerusalem. Every evening he has his apartment in Keren Kayemet Street in Tel Aviv. For them Jerusalem was like—.
JAY: And just for viewers who don’t know, Ben-Gurion is one of the founders of the state of Israel.
WARSCHAWSKI: He was the founder of Israel. And he and his surrounding, for them Jerusalem was diaspora, religious Jews, very oriental. They want modernity; they want West. Tel Aviv was Israel. Jerusalem was diaspora, was not different from Marrakesh, or from Lodz in Poland. They need it because—and I would say that for the Arabs it was the same: Jerusalem was a small, marginal, very small, very, very small, not a city—a town. Important for pilgrims, yes, Muslim pilgrims coming to al-Aqsa [inaudible]
JAY: Al-Aqsa being the mosque in the Old City.
WARSCHAWSKI: Third holiest site of Islam. Jews coming to the Wailing Wall, and Christian to the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and around. But because the 1947 partition resolution of the United Nations made Israel make Jerusalem an international city, not belonging either to the future Jewish state nor to the future Arab state in Palestine, there was a competition who will keep Jerusalem. So Jerusalem became something relevant, while from a sociological point of view, I would say, it was an irrelevant city. After ’67, another problem for the Israeli leaders: anything relevant to history and to confirm roots in Jerusalem was in the eastern part. Western Jerusalem was a modern city without nothing, no one sign of the past. So the whole argumentation, the whole discourse, or we are coming back to the roots, we are coming back to the heritage of our fathers, was embodied in East Jerusalem, where the Temple Mount was and some other sites.
JAY: And where the Palestinians were.
WARSCHAWSKI: But also where the Palestinians were.
JAY: Not where that line would have been drawn, not on the other side of where they would have drawn the line trying to get rid of—create a Jerusalem without Palestinians.
WARSCHAWSKI: Yeah, they couldn’t. Exactly. Without Palestinian [inaudible] they couldn’t. But—and there is a holy figure, holy number, 27:73. This was the ratio between Jews and Arabs in the two parts of Jerusalem together. It was 70 percent Jews in 1967, 23 percent Arabs. And somehow the goal of a very well coordinated policy and long-term planning is to keep the ratio of Jews and Arabs or Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem more or less the same. And, paradoxically, it was a victory for both side—after 45 years of annexation of East Jerusalem, one-third of the population, a little bit more than 27 percent. But still it’s not a bad result from the Israelis. They kept of the Palestinian populations under one-third. And for the Palestinians it was not so bad, because they grew from 27 to 33 percent, despite a systematic policy of—we call it administrative ethnic cleansing. It was not ethnic cleansing in the brutal way of Yugoslavia, for example, or Rwanda, or of Palestine 1948; it was more with administrative measures.
JAY: For example?
WARSCHAWSKI: For example, no family reunification. If a Jerusalemite married a non-Jerusalemite, the spouse who is not Jerusalemite cannot come here. So either the family will live separated or the Jerusalemite will have to leave. Lost IDs they call it. a Jerusalemite who have left Jerusalem for studies, for example, for too long a period of time—which is a definition which change according throughout the years—lost his residency in Jerusalem, even if he has property, his family, his job, everything. He was a bad student and he went to Amman, and instead of three years he remained there four years or five years. He lost his ID card.
JAY: So if I understand the status of Palestinians correctly, there’s three essential statuses. You’re either—or even four if you include Gaza: you can be a resident of Gaza; you can be a resident of the West Bank; you can be a citizen, if you have Israeli citizenship; or you can have a residency status in East Jerusalem, which is its own special status.
WARSCHAWSKI: Exactly. In fact, there are many more categories. You can be a refugee also, and inside, the Palestinians of Israel, you have internal refugees. They are Palestinians with Israeli ID cards, but they are refugees because they cannot go back to their village of origin.
JAY: Okay. Let’s go back. So why does this irrelevant city become so relevant?
WARSCHAWSKI: First, it became a city. In order to assess the Jewish character of what was annexed, that part of the West Bank, there was a systematic policy, I said, of reducing as much as possible the number of Palestinians, but also increasing as much as possible the number of Jews by building a belt of new settlements, urban settlements in the borders of the annexed part of Jerusalem, who are today 270,000 people, 270,000 settlers inside Jerusalem in big suburbs, in fact, suburbs like Gilo, like Pisgat Ze’ev, like Talpiet East. All these are huge suburbs, adding to Jerusalem another problem. Jerusalem is a city without industry. It’s the poorest city. Among the ten big cities of Israel, it’s by far the poorest.
JAY: Let me back up one sec so everyone understands. Before 1967, who governs East Jerusalem?
WARSCHAWSKI: Before 1967, West Jerusalem was the self-proclaimed Israeli capital; East Jerusalem was part of the West Bank and the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, not the capital (the capital was Amman). But it was a Jordanian city, Jordan annexing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. So it was part of Jordan.
JAY: And as a consequence of the ’67 war, Israel now occupies the West Bank, East Jerusalem; Jordan relinquishes its claim to the West Bank; and now it’s occupied territory.
WARSCHAWSKI: Yes, with one difference. While the West Bank, except East Jerusalem, is under Israeli law a military-occupied territory, East Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel. So Israeli law applies and not the military orders, in East Jerusalem, and the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are permanent residents, like kind of green card in Israel.
JAY: But not citizens.
WARSCHAWSKI: Not citizens. In fact, the Israelis made the offer in ’67, but a kind of typical Jesuit offer, knowing very well that they will say no, so they were very large.
JAY: ‘Cause then they have to accept the principle of the occupation.
WARSCHAWSKI: The principle of occupation. And they wouldn’t, and today solidarize with the rest of the West Bank population and Gaza. So Israel made the offer; they said no. Now many Palestinians—or not many. There are Palestinian families who are saying, okay, we are ready to be citizens. Say too late, too late. You can, but it’s very complicated, and you have to [inaudible] for that.
JAY: In the next segment of the interview, let’s talk more about the significance and what’s happening now with Jerusalem. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Michel Warschawski.
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