In recent weeks Israel’s Likud Government has not only angrily rejected U.S. calls to end new settlement building in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank but has also boosted its efforts to make Jerusalem an exclusively Jewish city and Israel an exclusively Jewish state.
Last month Jerusalem’s first city plan in 40 years was due to be unveiled but was delayed at the last moment because officials felt it allocated too much housing for the city’s Palestinian community. Underlying the plan is the assumption that Israel will keep control of East Jerusalem, annexed in 1967, and continue to absorb more and more of the West Bank. This assumption flies in the face of the original 1948 U.N. mandate for an international city and a 1967 resolution condemning Israeli occupation of Arab East Jerusalem.
Approximately 270,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and a third of these live in housing built without permits after 1967. Such structures, including historic buildings housing nuns and priests, have been slated for condemnation in order to clear the way for exclusively Jewish neighborhoods. Of course, since 1967 it has been almost impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain building permits. According to a report by the World Bank, between 1996 and 2000, building violations were actually 4.5 times higher in the Jewish neighborhoods, but citations and demolitions 4 times higher in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
In addition, this week Israeli transport officials revealed their plan to “standardize” all road signs using the Hebrew pronunciation. Currently, all road signs use the traditional Hebrew, Arabic and English names. The new policy means that Nazareth and Caesarea will be transliterated into English and Arabic as Natsrat and Kesriya. Jerusalem will become Yerushalaim. The plan will avoid “confusing” drivers, said the Transport Ministry. Yes, that will make things much less confusing.
This week the education ministry announced the elimination of references to the Nakba (“Disaster”), the traditional Arabic name for the 1948 partition of Palestine, from Arabic children’s textbooks. Since 2007, a more balanced view has been taught, referring to the event as both the Nakba from the Arab perspective and “war of independence” from the Israeli. “There is no reason to present the creation of the Israeli state as a catastrophe in an official teaching program,” said education minister, Gideon Saar. “The objective of the education system is not to deny the legitimacy of our state, nor promote extremism among Arab-Israelis.”
Perhaps. But the revisionist view of history, coupled with all the other developments, are seen by Palestinians, and others, as part of a larger, sophisticated plan of “ethnic cleansing,” to establish an exclusively Jewish state and remove all vestiges of Palestinian rights, culture and history in the region.
As a succession of right-wing Israeli governments continues its aggressive, expansionist policies, including the ongoing occupation of Palestinian Territories and growing Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, a strategy which only inflames more hatred in the Arab world, one has to wonder if Israel isn’t bent on its own destruction.
Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad. Let us pray that cooler and wiser heads would prevail on both sides of the conflict.