Israel/Judaization of Jerusalem

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The Judaization of Jerusalem refers to a process by which Israel has sought to transform the physical and demographic landscape of Jerusalem to correspond with the Zionist vision of a united and fundamentally Jewish Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.[1]

The question of whether or not the Judaization of Jerusalem is official government policy in Israel is a matter of debate. Some scholars like Oren Yiftachel, Moshe Ma'oz and Jeremy Salt claim that is has been the policy of successive Israeli governments since 1967. Others, like Justus Weiner and Dan Diker, have objected to the entire notion, claiming that the lack of any significant change to the demographic balance of the city undermines suggestions that it is government policy and renders any such discussions moot.


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Jerusalem has a long history of settlement predating that of three monotheistic faiths, Jewish, Christianity,Muslim, that hold the city in high esteem. Members of all three denominations and many others have made Jerusalem their home over the years. In modern times, Jerusalem was ruled by the Ottoman empire, who ruled over much of Palestine from the 16th century until the end of World War I. Under their rule, Jerusalem was home to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, with the Old City divided into Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian Christian quarters. Jerusalem then fell under the control of the British Mandate, until the 1948 Palestine war, after which Jerusalem was divided, with Israel taking control over West Jerusalem and Jordan taking control over East Jerusalem. Israel seized control over East Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

Today, Palestinian Jerusalemites in East Jerusalem number some 250,000, comprising 30% of the total population of Jerusalem.[2] Since the 1967 war and Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, Israeli actions seeking to change the legal status of East Jerusalem have been condemned by the international community.[2] Moshe Ma'oz describes the policy of Israeli governments since 1967 as aimed at "maintain[ing] a unified Jerusalem; to Judaize or Israelize it, demographically and politically."[3] According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), "Israeli and Palestinian organisations have criticised Israeli policies that have sought to judaise East Jerusalem, expand the municipality of Jerusalem, and maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem at the expense of the Palestinian community, in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law (UNCHR, 12 July 1995; ICAHD, March 2007; B'tselem, July 2006)."[2]

Defining Judaization: Means and effects in Jerusalem

"Judaization" is characterized by Oren Yiftachel as a form of "ethnicization", which he argues is "the main force in shaping ethnocratic regimes". Yiftachel identifies Judaization as a state strategy and project in Israel, not confined to Jerusalem alone.[4] He also characterizes the goals of those pursuing a "Greater Israel" or "Greater Palestine" as being driven by "ethnicization", in this case by "Judaization" and "Arabization" respectively.[5]

Valerie Zink writes that much was accomplished towards the Judaization of Jerusalem with the expulsion of Arab residents in 1948 and 1967, noting that the process has also relied in "peacetime" on "the strategic extension of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, bureaucratic and legal restrictions on Palestinian land use, disenfranchisement of Jerusalem residents, the expansion of settlements in 'Greater Jerusalem', and the construction of the separation wall."[1] The attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, in the words of Jeremey Salt, "to obliterate its Palestinian identity" and thicken 'Greater Jerusalem' to encompass much of the West Bank, have continued under successive Israeli governments.[6][7]

Cheryl Rubenberg writes that since 1967, Israel has employed processes of "Judaization and Israelization so as to transform Jerusalem into a Jewish metropolis," while simultaneously pursuing "a program of de-Arabization" so as to facilitate "its objective of permanent, unified, sovereign control over the city."[8] These policies, which aim to change Jerusalem demographically, socially, culturally and politically, are said by Rubenberg to have intensified after the initiation of the Oslo peace process in 1993.[8]

Drawing on the scholarship of Ian Lustick, Cecilia Alban writes of how the Israeli government has succeeded in establishing "new powerful, concepts, images, and icons" to explain and legitimise its policies in Jerusalem. The government's use of the term "reunification" to describe its occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 is cited as one such example, which in Alban's view, falsely implies that this area belonged to Israel in the past. Noting the reality of the fear among Israelis that Jerusalem would become redivided under dual sovereignty or internationalization proposals, Alban's writes that such fears were "exploited politically to justify the forced retention and Judaization of East Jerusalem."[9] Steve Niva writes that Israeli policies calling for the Judaization of Jerusalem and the rest of historic Palestine in the 1970s, augmented Muslim fears that Israel was an extension of Western imperialism in the region.[10]

Settlements and house demolitions

Yiftachel writes that by 2001, Judaization in Jerusalem had entailed the incorporation of 170 square kilometers of surrounding land into the city and the construction of 8 settlements in East Jerusalem housing a total of 206,000 Jewish settlers.[11] In an essay he co-authored with Haim Yaacobi, they write that, "Israel would like the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to see Judaization as 'inevitable', a fact to be accepted passively as part of the modern development of the metropolis."[12]

In 1981, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that non-Jews could not buy property in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem so as to "preserve the homogeneity" of the Jewish Quarter. On the other hand, no law prohibits Jews from buying property or living in East Jerusalem.[13] The efforts of fundamentalist Jewish groups who enjoyed government backing in attempts to take over Palestinian homes in the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City between 1993 and 2000 are cited by Rubenberg as one example of the Judaization of Jerusalem. Meron Benvenisti writes that these groups succeeding in taking over several buildings, "but only after receiving massive assistance from the government to, among other things, finance an extensive system of armed guards to protect them day and night, and hire armed guards for their children anytime they go out into the streets."[14]

Rubenberg also cites settlement construction as an example of the Judaization of Jerusalem, citing in particular the construction of bypass roads that connect Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with those in the West Bank so as to create a newly expanded Jerusalem metropolis integrally linked with Israel proper.[8] Jeff Halper, an anthropologist and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), describes the Judaization of the city as one of the effects of settlement growth and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, describing it as being aimed at "eliminat[ing] the idea that there is an East Jerusalem, to create one unified, Jewish Jerusalem."[15] In March 2009, defending its planned demolitions against Palestinian houses in the Bustan area of Silwan that would leave 1,500 people homeless, Jerusalem authorities said the houses were built illegally, without zoning and construction permits. Palestinians and human rights organisations countered that "Israel makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to get the requisite permits, as a part of the policy to Judaise the eastern part of the city."[16]

Residency rights

Other means by which the Israeli government is "Judaizing Jerusalem", according to Leilani Farha, are via the revocation of residency rights, absentee property laws, and discriminatory taxation policies.[17] Since 1982 the Israeli Interior Ministry has not permitted the registration of Palestinian children as Jerusalem residents if the child's father does not hold a Jerusalem ID card, even if the mother is a Jerusalem ID cardholder. [18] In 2003, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel law was enacted, which denies spouses from the occupied Palestinian territories, who are married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents (Jerusalem ID card holders), the right to acquire citizenship or residency status, and thus the opportunity to live with their partners in Israel and Jerusalem. In Israel, foreign spouses who are Jewish are automatically granted citizenship under Israel's Law of Return. [18]

Replacing Arabic place names with Hebrew names

Another major aspect of Israel's effort to Judaize Jerusalem was to replace the Arabic names of streets, quarters and historical sites with Hebrew names.[19] The Jordanian newspaper, al-Ra'i, published a list of such names and accused the Israeli government of changing the Arab names systematically to erase Arab heritage in Jerusalem and prevent the reassertion of Arab sovereignty over the city. The newspaper also claimed the new names had nothing to do with the old names and sometimes attributed a Jewish patrimony when in fact there was no such relation. One example it cited was the site named Solomon's Stables by the Israeli government, which the newspaper claimed was not built in Solomon's time, but at the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian.[19]

Demographic debate

Benvenisti writes that complete data on the demographics of Jerusalem are not collected by any one official source and that as a result, data is interpreted and used selectively and inconsisently by both Palestinian and Israeli sources. Figures pointed to by Palestinians as evidence of their success in preserving the Arab character of Jerusalem, are also sometimes used as "proof of the Judaization of Jerusalem". Benvenisti writes that despite immense Israeli effort, "the demographic balance in the city has hardly changed at all."[20]

Critiquing international news reporting on Jerusalem for centering on Arab and Palestinian claims regarding the Judaization of Jerusalem, Dan Diker writes that the underlying assumption of such reporting is that "eastern Jerusalem" has always been an Arab city, ignoring "the fact that Jerusalem has had an overwhelmingly Jewish majority as far back as the mid-nineteenth century, well before the arrival of the British."[21] Drawing on a study of urban planning and demographic growth in Jerusalem conducted by Justus Reid Weiner, Diker writes that between 1967 and 2000, "Jerusalem's Arab population increased from 26.6 percent to 31.7 percent of the city's total populace, while the city's Jewish population decreased accordingly."[21] He also writes that Arab housing construction heavily outpaced Jewish building during the same period, attributing this in part to "the direct sponsorship of illegal construction by the Palestinian Authority."[21]

In "Is Jerusalem being "Judaized"?, Weiner reviews demographic figures from the mid-19th century through to the the present and concludes that the "demographic evidence does not support the allegations that Israel is 'Judaizing' the city."[22] His view is that speculation as to whether or not a policy of Judaization exists is rather pointless when there is no "effective implementation of tangible measures to implement such a program."[22]

Support for Judaization efforts

According to Nur Masalha, the International Christian Embassy in Jersualem (ICEJ), established in 1980 in the former home of Edward Said, supports "exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the city and the Judaisation of Arab East Jerusalem."[23] The ICEJ website notes that its embassy was founded "as an act of comfort and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people in their claim to Jerusalem" It also notes that the ICEJ administers several aid projects, engages in advocacy for Israel, and assists "aliyah to the Jewish homeland."[24]

The Elad Association promotes the Judaization of East Jerusalem. Operating in the city for some 20 years to acquire properties belonging to Palestinians in Kfar Silwan, Palestinians say it has "taken over" substantial sections of the village.[25] Elad also funds the digs being conducted near the Temple Mount. In 2008, Haaretz reported that at least 100 skeletons dating to the Islamic era (c. 8th-9th centuries AD) found a few hundred meters from Al-Aqsa mosque were removed and packed into crates before they could be examined by archaeological experts.[26] The excavations at Al-Aqsa are described in Arab media in the context of Israeli efforts to Judaise Jerusalem.[27]

Criticism of Judaization efforts

According to David G. Singer, the magazine America published four articles between 1969 and 1972 that "censured Israel for its policy of Judaizing Jerusalem: moving Jews into the former Jewish section of the Old City, building new housing projects around the Holy City, and permitting - even encouraging - Christian Arabs to migrate from Israel."[28]

In a six-point document drafted as a result of discussion between the leaders of Fateh, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, among other Palestinian groups in March of 2005, three issues were listed as "liable to explode the calm" between Israeli and Palestinians, one of these being "the Judaization of East Jerusalem."[29]

In a 2008 report, John Dugard, independent investigator for the United Nations Human Rights Council, cites the Judaization of Jerusalem among many examples of Israeli policies "of colonialism, apartheid or occupation", that create a context in which Palestinian terrorism is "an inevitable consequence".[30] Dugard was heavily criticized for "his inability to use objectivity in his assessment", by Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to Geneva.[30]

In a joint communiqué issued by King Abdullah of Jordan and King Mohammed VI of Morocco in March 2009, both leaders stressed their determination "to continue defending Jerusalem and to protect it from attempts to Judaise the city and erase its Arab and Islamic identity."[31]


  1. a b Valerie Zink (January 2009). "A quiet transfer: the Judaization of Jerusalem". Contemporary Arab Affairs. Volume 2, Issue 1: pp. 122 - 133.CS1 maint: extra text (link)Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").This definition is drawn largely from Valerie Zink's, and is supported, among others, by that of Hassassian in Ginat et al., who defines the Judaization of Jerusalem as "impos[ing] a Jewish landscape both physically and demographically."
  2. a b c "Occupied Palestinian Territory:Forced displacement continues". Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Retrieved 2009-03-24.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  3. Moshe Ma'oz in Ma'oz and Nusseibeh, 2000, p. 2.
  4. Yiftachel, 2006, pp. 6-7, 66.
  5. Oren Yiftachel, in Grenfell and James, 2008, p. 157.
  6. Jeremy Salt in White and Logan, 1997, p. 290.
  7. Manuel Hassassian in Ginat et al., 2002, p. 294.
  8. a b c Rubenberg, 2003, p. 194.
  9. Cecilia Alban in Dupont, p. 91.
  10. Steve Niva in Weldes, 1999, pp. 168-169.
  11. Yiftachel, 2006, p. 66.
  12. Oren Yiftachel and Haim Yaacobi in Misselwits and Rieniets, 2006, p. 174.
  13. Robert I. Friedman: Zealots for Zion. Inside Israel´s West Bank Settlement Movement." Random House, New York, 1992. ISBN 0394580532. P. 99.
  14. Benvenisti, 1996, p. 198.
  15. Rory McCarthy (7 March 2009). "'You don't have a house any more': One Palestinian family's encounter with Israel's bulldozers in East Jerusalem". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-24.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  16. Mel Frykberg (10 March 2009). "MIDEAST: Home Demolitions Threaten Peace Talks". Inter Press Service. Retrieved 2009-03-24.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  17. Farha in Merali and Oosterveld, 2001, p. 254, note #6.
  18. a b MIDEAST: Israel Moves to Judaise East Jerusalem, IPS News, access date=26 Mar 2009
  19. a b Nevo, 2006, pp. 92-93.
  20. Benvenisti, 1998, p. 176.
  21. a b c Dan Diker (1 April 2003). "Does the International News Media Overlook Israel's Legal Rights in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-03-25.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  22. a b Justus Reid Weiner (March 2003). "Is Jerusalem Being "Judaized"?". Jewish Political Studies Review. 15:1-2.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  23. Masalha, 2007, p. 130.
  24. "About us". International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ). Retrieved 2009-03-25.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  25. Meron Rapoport (February 12, 2008). "Group 'Judaizing' East Jerusalem accused of withholding donor information". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-03-23.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  26. Meron Rapoport (November 15, 2008). "Islamic-era skeletons 'disappeared' from Elad-sponsored dig". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-03-23.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  27. "Israel prepares to dig tunnels underneath the Aqsa Mosque" (in Arabic). Aljazeera. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 18 Mar 2009.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").Google translation
  28. David G. Singer in Gurock, 1997, p. 727.
  29. Reinhart, 2006, p. 86.
  30. a b The Associated Press (26 February 2008). "UN expert calls Palestinian terrorism 'inevitable consequence' of Israeli occupation". International Herald Tribune.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  31. "'No excuse to delay peace talks'". The Jordan Times. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-24.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").




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