Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Story in a Small City

It's Yom Yerushalyim (Jerusalem Day) in Israel. I've written on Jerusalem a number of times on this blog:

On the Destruction of the Hurva Synagogue and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in 1948 here.

On Jerusalem's special status and international law here.

On the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967, which includes links to a radio report by CBS reporter, Michael Elkins on the battle for Jerusalem, and audio of Israel Defense Forces entering the Old City of Jerusalem and reclaiming the Western Wall on June 7, 1967 here .

Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world, has its share of issues. There's also no doubt that Israel inherited a lot of baggage from the British and the Turks.

Before 1918, anyone born in Palestine was a citizen of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Arabs complained that many Jewish newcomers did not apply for Turkish citizenship but attempted to retain their European passports. This was a fair complaint as it meant Jews could avoid military conscription and other obligations. The British, when they took over the region, did not grant British citizenship to those born in Palestine between 1918 and 1948 even though they were an occupying power. Instead they provided resident status to Arabs, but Palestinian citizenship to Jews, according to the British Mandate given by The Council of the League of Nations:
"ARTICLE 7. The Administration of Palestine shall be responsible for enacting a nationality law. There shall be included in this law provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine."
In 1948, Palestinian Arabs found themselves scattered between various administrations. All those that remained in Israel were automatically given Israeli citizenship, if they so desired.

Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem (and the Old City) were given Jordanian citizenship when Jordan illegally annexed this territory on April 4,1950. (I'm actually not sure the status of those under Egyptian rule in Gaza between 1948 and 1967.)

In 1967, as a result of Jordan shelling Jerusalem during the first day of the Six Day War, Israel conquered these territories, and allowed an open border for the first time in decades between the formally divided city (against the wishes of mayor Teddy Kollek, incidentally. It was actually Moshe Dayan that insisted on this.)

Arabs in east Jerusalem were offered full citizenship when Jerusalem was reunified, but most refused at the insistence of the Arab League opting instead for Permanent Residence Status, an accommodation worked out with the Arab residents themselves. Every resident of Jerusalem can apply for citizenship at any time; Arabs who have been residents for years would be granted this almost automatically.

One might ask why Jerusalem's disassociated Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods even continue to exist. In fact, this was a policy inherited and maintained by Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.
"In 1971, four years after the reuniting of the city of Jerusalem in the Six-Day war, reporter Arnold Forster interviewed Teddy Kollek, then Mayor, for Dateline Israel . Kollek regarded the issues of the development of the newly formed city, which at the time received world attention and was highly controversial." -
You can listen to the Exclusive Teddy Kollek Audio Interview on IsraCast.

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