Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1972: Strengthening Israel's Control of East Jerusalem

It has been a while since we've posted about East Jerusalem. Today's document is interesting because it's not clear what its significance might be. It's a six-page handwritten draft, on the back of discarded official correspondence, signed by Uri Mor and addressed to his boss, Shmuel Toledano, the Advisor for Arab Affairs. In the top left corner, there's a squigly which looks like Toledano's initials, so he may indeed have read it. The file itself, גל-13908.2, we've already met (here), and it's from Toledano's office. The date is March 27, 1972. All in all, then, though at first glance it looks like a half-baked draft that should have ended up in the wastepaper bin, it is probably a valuable document for understanding the mindset of anonymous mid-level Israeli officials working on the unification of Jerusalem, five years after the act of unification itself. Did it inform policy? Did it create any action? Who knows?

Mor's thesis is that true unification of Jerusalem will happen when Jews and Arabs live together. Even commercial transactions, he says, aren't the goal, merely a way to create coexistence. Yet his recipe for achieving the goal are unconvincing.

The situation in the city, as Mor saw it, was that the Arabs of East Jerusalem had gotten used to Israel's control; the municipality was giving them good service; and the connections to Jordan were fraying. And yet, he mused, many of the Arabs now had needs for services which are supplied by the government, not the municipality, such as restitution for damaged property, and also, the smooth relations with local Arab leaders might perhaps not reflect the opinion of the general populace. He recommended creating an active cadre of hundreds of locals who would meet Israeli officials regularly and mediate between them and their communities. Apparently his office was to spearhead this effort, thereby increasing its importance.

Mor also noted various social trends. The Christian community is diminishing, while the Muslim population is growing. This growth is fueled by a high birthrate and also by immigration from the West Bank into Jerusalem because of the better economic conditions in town. He advocated close monitoring of the social and economic trends, though it's not clear that he had any way of influencing them. He suggested encouraging the publication of a pro-Israeli Arab newspaper, and repeated that there must be better connections with prominent Arab figures.

It's a rather odd document. The claim that the Arabs of East Jerusalem were already integrating into Israel in 1972 sounds over-optimistic. The measures he recommends veer from monitoring - which is a type of intelligence gathering - to some form of top-down encouragement. Surprisingly (or not), the document reads more as a justification of the office than a blueprint to create significant change on the ground. Full of good intentions and fine sentiments, lacking in any malice or arrogance, but strangely hollow.

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