Jerusalem, the Capital of Apartheid

By acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump has demonstrated a genuinely deep historical insight. Even if Israel itself had claimed any other city as its capital – be it Tel-Aviv, where Israel’s declaration of independence took place in 1948; or Hebron, where once Abraham bought a graveyard, and where nowadays a few hundred Jewish settlers terrorize hundreds of thousands of Palestinians; or even Vilnius, once known as “Lithuania’s Jerusalem” for its prosperous Jewish community (Israelis now parrot that “every people has a right to choose its own capital”, so why not?) – the leader of the free world would have been correct in pointing at Jerusalem as the true and genuine capital of the Israeli Apartheid.

Since the fall of the South African Apartheid in 1994, no capital – in fact, no other city on the globe – has been divided into 60% first-class full citizens and 40% second-class “residents”. Precisely this, however, is the essence of “united” Jerusalem. When Israel occupied and annexed the eastern parts of the city in 1967, it regretfully found out that they were inhabited – by Palestinians, more than 300.000 of them by now. These Palestinians were not granted the Israeli citizenship, but merely turned into tolerated inhabitants, as if they had somehow infiltrated into their own city. As non-citizens they can participate in municipal elections, but have no voting rights to the Knesset, under whose jurisdiction the whole of Jerusalem falls. If they stay out of Jerusalem for too long (guess who decides how long), they lose even their residence status and be thrown out of the city altogether, as happened to thousands of them.

In 1980 Israel legally – or, as the entire international community finds, illegally – declared the entire united Jerusalem to be its capital. Consequently, about a dozen foreign embassies left Jerusalem and moved to Tel Aviv. Yes, Mr. Trump: your future embassy will not be the first one! You’re a loser on that. Many embassies preceded you, but they all left as soon as the Apartheid in the city was turned into a law.

One might think that Israel would then turn its “eternal capital” into a symbol of welfare and prosperity, a model of nondiscriminatory coexistence. The very opposite is true. In East Jerusalem, two-thirds of the population live under the poverty level (compared to just one-fifth in West Jerusalem). This poverty is intended. To push Palestinians out, Israel grants them no construction permits; cutting it from its West Bank hinterland has turned East Jerusalem into a South African township: impoverished, strangulated, polluted and overpopulated. The infrastructures – electricity, water, sewage, education, health, roads, pavements, you name it – are either nonexistent, or intentionally lagging ages behind those in the Jewish neighborhood, both those in West Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements within East Jerusalem itself, continuously placed there in order to break the Palestinian community altogether and push their original inhabitants out of the city.

Since the previous decade, the Apartheid Wall (newspeak’s “separation fence”) runs through East Jerusalem, annexing the better parts of it while practically leaving other parts outside the city. The Palestinian National Authority is not allowed to operate in these neighborhoods, because “Jerusalem is all ours”; the Jerusalem municipality is not willing to give them any services either. These surrounded ghettos, home to tens of thousands, have become a safe haven for criminal gangs, where even the garbage has to be burned on the street since no authority bothers to collect it. Entering Jerusalem proper for whatever reason – work, visit, hospital – is performed through heavily armed checkpoints, and depends on the good will of the Israelis, or rather the lack of it.

Private property, this holy capitalistic right, is a privilege reserved exclusively to the Jews, as Jerusalem demonstrates in a rotten nutshell. Aided by law and police, Israeli settlers regularly throw Palestinians in East Jerusalem out of their homes and take them, claiming the properties belonged to Jews in the distant past. Jewish property is eternal, no matter how many hands and sovereignties it changed. Obviously, there are also numerous properties that belonged to Palestinians in that very same distant past; however, under Israeli law these properties cannot be claimed by their original owners, who allegedly “abandoned” them when fleeing (or being deported) from them in the 1948 war. Jewish property left on the Palestinian side is never considered “abandoned”, and its previous owners, or their heirs, or some settlers’ gang, can successfully claim them and throw out their Palestinian residents.

As we have said, Palestinian Jerusalemites have no voting rights to the Knesset. They can vote to the city’s municipality, though; but almost all of them have so far refrained from exercising this right, since voting is considered as consenting to the Israeli occupation. But the farsighted architects of Apartheid are not content. What if all of a sudden 40% of the capital’s population do start voting?! A new law is in the making to solve this issue; after all, even South Africa was once all for democracy – provided non-Whites were excluded. The bill proposes to split Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and make them independent of the city. This way, Jerusalem can no longer be held responsible for serving them (which it does not do anyway), and, on top of that, their inhabitants will be excluded even from electing the mayor of Jerusalem. Annexing to Jerusalem some distant Jewish suburbs, including illegal West-Bank settlements, is suggested as a further boost to the Jewish majority. Just imagine your own city split and expanded at will, based on such racist considerations of whom-do-we-want-not-to-vote.

The only problem with this proposal is that it might sound like the beginning of the end of the (big lie of) “united Jerusalem”, and, more specifically, that these townships would be given to a Palestinian State, once the Messiah comes. Don’t worry: the proposed law clearly rules out giving up Israeli sovereignty over these suggested “new municipalities” without the support of a two-third Knesset majority – a condition which is practically impossible to satisfy – and a bill setting even higher demands is already underway. Just like in South Africa, democracy – even when reserved to Whites/Jews – must give way to Apartheid policies.

Jewish tradition distinguishes between Upper and Lower Jerusalem. Upper Jerusalem is the ideal City of God. Never has Lower Jerusalem been more remote from this ideal. Today’s Jerusalem is the most blatant incarnation of the Israeli Apartheid, with 40% of its residents held as non-citizens in their own city, discriminated by law, pushed into poverty, harassed and terrorized by the Israeli police and settlers: a huge South African township, marked for eviction and takeover by Israeli Jews. Realities in the West Bank are basically much the same, but Jerusalem is the quintessence of this injustice. President Trump will go into history as the leader who gave his blessing to this moral crime, earning himself a distinguished place in the hall of shame.

Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in computer science, an M.A. in comparative literature, and a Ph.D. in Jewish studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English, and Dutch). HaCohen’s work has been published widely in Israel.

Author: Ran HaCohen

Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in computer science, an M.A. in comparative literature, and a Ph.D. in Jewish studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English, and Dutch). HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter From Israel" appears occasionally at