Tuesday, April 30, 2013

1971: Planning for Jerusalem in 1980

In December 1971 Uri Mor wrote a report titled The Arabs of East Jerusalem, A Forecast for the 1980s. We recently met Mor, a staffer of the Office for Arab Affairs in the Prime Minister's Office. The copy in file גל-13908/2 is unfortunately truncated, and ends abruptly at page 13, but since by then it has covered quite a bit of ground, it seems safe to assume we've looking at most of the original.

Making predictions is always tricky, as the saying goes, and especially predictions about the future; making predictions about the future of Jerusalem seems, frankly, like a fool's errand. Making predictions about the future of Jerusalem then filing them in an archives whence they can be extracted and re-read in light of what actually transpired is, well, not recommended.

Mor prefaces his predictions about Jerusalem in 1980 by enumerating many of the things that could skewer his assumptions: there might be political changes in the West Bank or in Jordan. A new Pan-Arab hero such as Nasser might rise and excite the Arabs of Jerusalem. He notes various alternatives in which the Arabs of the West Bank and Jerusalem might coalesce around a leader of their own (though he doesn't see an obvious candidate). There might be negotiations between Israel and Jordan, which would inflame Arab public opinion on the West Bank where King Hussein is so hated following his massacre of Palestinians (in 1970 - and interestingly, he manages not to use the word "Palestinians"). Nor is he comfortable in projecting what the economic relations between Israel, West Bank and Jordan will be in the coming decade. Having said all that, however, he then sets out to make his projections.

He starts with demographic projections. In 1967 there were 68,500 Arabs in the city, and 200,300 Jews. In 1980 there will be 97,000 Arabs and 292,000 Jews. Of the Arabs, some 82% will be Muslim, and the rest Christians. Here is a demographic report from 2010 - 30 years later than Mor's target date - which comes from this useful website. So far as I can make out, Mor's figures for 1980 weren't far from the mark, though the trends were a bit different: a steady 3-1 relation of Jews to Arabs in Jerusalem has eroded significantly in the interval (it's now about 2-1 and sinking); the proportion of Christians among the Arabs has eroded even more.

He correctly foresees a sinking birthrate of Jews and Arabs, and fails to see that the death rate would also sink. He wonders if there's any chance of unifying Jerusalem with Bethlehem and Ramalah, apparently an idea he'd heard somewhere, but saw no sense in it. On the other hand, he also speculates that Ramalah might someday become the capital of the West Bank (true, since the late 1990s). He suspected there might be significant immigration of Arabs from the Hebron area into East Jerusalem, and wondered what this would do to the internal political dynamics of the Arabs.

On employment, he seems to have correctly foreseen that a significant chunk of the Arabs would work in construction in the Jewish sector. He didn't see much future for Arab light industry (there's isn't much heavy industry in Jerusalem and never has been). He did expect there to be a growing number of jointly-owned Jewish-Arab commercial or light-industry enterprises. This didn't happen. He saw a growing problem of educated Arabs who wouldn't find proper employment in Israeli institutions.

Interestingly, he expected growing integration to result in a growing number of Arabs acquiring Israeli citizenship.Within a decade, he dared to expect, they'll all be voting in the municipal elections. In national-level elections he expected Jerusalem's Arabs to support the Israeli Arab leaders. None of this happened, not in the 1980s, and hardly in 2013, either.

He went back and forth on what to expect regarding security and violence, but seems to have decided, on balance, to expect an encroaching pseudo-peace. As a projection for 1980, this wasn't bad.

He was considerably more optimistic about the Christian Arab community than time warranted. He knew they'd been declining for years, but expected, for some reason, that Israel's presence would reverse this process. It didn't.

Finally, he turns to the relations between Jews and Arabs. He felt the most significant factor would be how Israel relates to the Arab leadership - and then he continues his discussion on page 14 which we don't have.

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