East Versus West: Reconciliation in Post-War Jerusalem

 

by Khaled Abu Laban

June 5, 2018

Introduction     

   Jerusalem, a city at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, one that is war ridden, divided, and held so dear to many around the world for its religious and historical value to the main three Abrahamic religions. After the war in 1948, Israel was declared over most of the land that was known as Palestine, which included West Jerusalem. Later on, in 1967, Israelis were able to take the Eastern part from the Jordanian authorities and decided to have on united city. In the years between 1948 and 1967, the western part was completely “de-Arabized” while the eastern part was prominently Arab Palestinian. The Arab population that resided in the Western part of the city either fled to East Jerusalem, The West Bank, or out of the country. The conflict did not end there, as the Palestinians believe they have the right to the city, while the Israelis insist that it is historically there’s.

           It is hard to look at the situation in Jerusalem, and not think of other similar cases like Beirut and Berlin. While Jerusalem does not have a physical barrier dividing it between Arabs and Israelis, residents of the city know where one side ends, and the other side begins. The Israeli side is much more developed, very European like, while the Arab side is under developed and looks like a city from the third world.  Present day Jerusalem is still suffering from the aftermath of those two wars. Divided into two sides, each side hates the other, but in order to survive the have to socialize and live together, at least partially. Palestinians in east Jerusalem depend on Israelis for services and development, work, education, medicine and other aspects of their everyday life, as they are after all, considered residents of the state of Israel. Israelis depend on Palestinian workforce in many professions that are prominently practiced by Palestinians in the city like construction work, cooking traditional foods, and other manual labor jobs. The situation is changing and more Palestinians are practicing better quality jobs like medicine and architecture, as more Palestinians are pursuing higher degrees in education. While the situation seems to be getting better between the two neighboring parts of the city, and more people are able to live with the other most of time, suppressed feelings of hatred between the two sides surface at times, and lead to violent confrontation. The violence that usually erupts in the West Bank and Gaza, eventually finds its way to Jerusalem, but recently it has been the other way around, where violence erupts in Jerusalem with knife attacks or car attacks, and then spreads to the West Bank and Gaza where factions are armed. This causes feelings of patriotism on both sides to surface, leading to bloody confrontations at times, this can be a terrorist attack or a soldier overreacting and shooting at civilians.

            Many activities, that include Israelis and Palestinians, are being used in order to create a sense of re-humanization between the two sides of Jerusalem. Activities that include people, mainly youth, from the Palestinian and the Israeli side are helpful and can create a sense of community between them. As a teenager I was part of a youth leadership program that included Israelis and Palestinians. This experience at a young age created a completely new image of what Israelis are like, as it helped me see that they are people just like us, not monsters, and that we have so much more in common than I have ever expected. Changing my view was what sparked my interest in the conflict on deeper levels. As a child, the conflict seemed really simple to me, as it did to most children my age; things were going great before 1948, then Jewish people came from all over the world, killed our people, and took our land. This is a belief that some people grew up with, and still hold as grown ups. Simplifying the conflict to this level is a huge problem, one that can be countered by facts once you start trying to see things from other perspectives, and actually learning about the conflict. I always imagined a soldier whenever I thought of Israelis, one that is heartless, and that sees us as less than humans, and one that would shoot to kill for the slightest reason. They were monsters in imagination, but a small program like that changed that image for me personally, and for many of the Palestinians and Israelis that were part of that program. While these methods seem to work on personal and intergroup levels, what does pose a real problem is trying to apply it on larger levels, reaching policy makers and decision makers. This is an issue that will also try to touch on in this paper.

Historical background

            Following the war in 1948, and the defeat of the Arab armies in Jerusalem, Jewish authorities decided to settle thousands of Jewish refugees in Palestinian houses. Those Palestinians decided to flee their houses in order to avoid the war, thinking that they may come back as soon as the war has ended. The Palestinian society in the western part of Jerusalem was one of the most sophisticated and prosperous ones in the Middle East. Palestinians owned 33.69 percent of lands in the western part of the city, in addition to villages like Lifta, Dayr bader, Dayr Yassin, Ayn Karem and Bet Safafa, and Jews owned 30.04 percent of the land.[1] Fighting between Zionists and Palestinians started after the UN resolution for the partition of Palestine in 1947. As the fighting started, Jews started leaving mixed neighborhoods where they were renting. The Hagana, which was a Jewish armed militia, did not like the fact, so they decided to forbid Jews from leaving, and decided to drive Palestinians from West Jerusalem. They did that by sending threats in the beginning, then sending in armed groups to spread a sense of insecurity. This helped in clearing many neighborhoods of Palestinians, who thought they would go back after the war is over.[2]  

            During the first months of 1948, Palestinian militiamen manage to place a siege on the Jewish parts of West Jerusalem. The Hagana decided to respond by clearing Arab villages of their inhabitants in order to cut the support for the militiamen. One of the most savage and important acts done by the Hagana was the massacre of Arab villagers in Dayr Yassin after they surrendered. News of the massacre spread to other villages, causing villagers to flee their homes, and effectively clearing West Jerusalem from its Arab residents. [3]

            After declaring the State of Israel, Arab forces advanced from several countries to settle the war. The Jordanian army, lead by Glubb Pasha, decided to enter the old city of Jerusalem. This reluctant decision by King Abdullah was what stopped the Hagana from taking over the whole of Jerusalem. The king was reluctant because his Army was created and trained by Great Britain who did not want an armed conflict and had other arrangements with the international Zionist movement. The Jordanian Army was also lead by a British Lieutenant General, John Bagot Glubb, also known as Glubb Pasha. [4]

            The Jordanian army was able to keep East Jerusalem until the war in 1967. The war settled this; the Israelis took East Jerusalem after the war in 1967, and united Jerusalem under Israeli authority. This was on paper, but East Jerusalem was prominently Arab Palestinian, and still is until this day. This was the beginning for what the situation is today, East Jerusalem is Arab and West Jerusalem is Israeli.

            The walls that divided the Jewish and Palestinian parts of Jerusalem fell in 1967 after Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan. The falling of the physical wall did very little to change the attitudes of people still scared by the wars. While Israelis celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem, Palestinians still mourn it and see it as an occupation.[5] Its no surprise that Palestinians do not accept the unification of Jerusalem as a reason to celebrate, they se Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and Israel as an occupying force.  Palestinians in East Jerusalem feel that Israel is trying to drive them out using systematic Israelization of the city, many Jews are and have been moving into the Eastern part of the city, which worries the Palestinians that what happened in the Western part of Jerusalem will soon happen in the East, where the Jewish population would outnumber the Palestinians, turning the city into a legitimate Israeli capital rather than an occupied land. While the Israeli government acknowledges the fact that they want more Jews to move to East Jerusalem, in order to counter housing problems like high prices in the western part of Jerusalem, they insist that they are not trying to drive Palestinians out. Jews who live in East Jerusalem stay in houses in the middle of Arab neighborhoods, and in order to keep them safe, IDF soldiers and policemen are always keeping watch and guarding them. 

Identity conflict in Jerusalem

            According to Auerbach, The conflict can be termed Identity conflict if one side denies the other’s narrative regarding their national identity and their rights to the territory that is claimed by both sides as their exclusive property.[6] This applies to the case for Jerusalem, as Israelis deny the Palestinian narrative and their claim on the land, and the Palestinians do the same in return. Auerbach claims that a conflict that is rendered an identity conflict requires more than sheer conflict resolution techniques; it will require reconciliation by forgiveness. That is because of the intense and hard feelings involved in the conflict by both sides[7]. Reconciliation has a broader meaning than conflict resolution, as it involves psychological and emotional processes. It is more personal and involves apology and forgiveness.

            Burton argues that basic human needs such as food, shelter, security, all the way to self-fulfillment, identity and recognition are core needs that must be fulfilled in order to bring about resolution. The need for ones identity and cultural values being accepted and legitimized, rather than being marginalized is one of the most important steps taken towards the reconciliation[8]. Once both sides have those needs fulfilled, the Palestinian Israeli conflict would have hope for reconciliation, and hope for a solution that can unify both people in one state that respects diversity.

            The conflict over Identity in Jerusalem is the most prominent one. Both sides have their narrative, which is widely refused by the other side. Each side sees the city as their exclusive property, and each wants the other side out. Reaching reconciliation in that are requires a personal connection leading to apologies and forgiveness.

Re-humanization and Reconciliation

            In cases where a history of conflict is present between two groups, they develop negative stereotypes about each other that are implied to every member of the other group. These stereotypes are what fuels that hatred and give it reasoning. Dehumanization of the other is an important ingredient for intergroup violence, it makes it easier for one side to hate the demonized other, and it even gives a reason for violence and sometimes murder.[9]

            The act of dehumanization is one that is strongly present between Palestinians and Israelis.  Palestinians view Israelis as occupiers, mass murderers, and land thieves, while Israelis view Palestinians as terrorists, backwards, killers that are trying to drive them into the sea. These images fuel the conflict and push it towards worse and worse levels.

            This phenomenon comes as a result of the wars, massacres, violent attacks, terrorist attacks and long history of conflicting narratives. Tackling this problem is a main step towards reconciliation, by re-humanizing the enemy many acts of violence will lose its legitimacy, and that will lead us a step further into a future reconciliation.

            Programs and efforts that encourage cross cultural understanding, tolerance and dialogue are in place, and help people gradually change the demonized images and stereotypes of the other. Programs like “Seeds of Peace” “Search for a Common Ground” and “Building Bridges for Peace” help youth in conflict zones interact with the enemy, talk to them and find commonalities. These programs help change stereotypes on interpersonal and intergroup levels by giving people a chance to discover each other beyond the narratives[10].  

            Many different methods were used in efforts for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. One that was most prominently identified by the late Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On, was the Narrative model. This model uses narrative and story telling in groups of Palestinians and Israelis where each tells stories of how the conflict affected them. This model promotes compassion and empathy, and it helps those involved see the humanity of the other side through their suffering. The method shows both sides that the other is also badly affected, and is also suffering the same way they do[11].

            While the programs are not sufficient, they are effective at least on the people that get involved. Some of these people do revert slowly to their old way of thinking when they go back home, or when violence erupts and affects their people. But many do retain the basic facts that the enemy is not the monster we think them to be. While sharing such ideas can lead to demonization by own people, some still do it. In today’s world, some can mean many, as the use of social media can reach millions in seconds. I believe that in addition to those programs, we need to use media and social media outputs in order to inform people of the facts that many know and deny, this conflict is not in anyone’s interest, and fueling it would not lead to peace, ever.

Development of Reconciliation

            Programs for reconciliation typically target interpersonal and intergroup aspects. They usually target the people, and not the decision makers; in order to start changing the view society has on the other. I believe that in order to reach the top of the political food chain, it is important to start at the grassroots level. Projects targeting the common people help in spreading understanding and reconciliation on a personal and group levels, and this, if it is done often enough will hopefully change the views of the society. When people change their views of the other on the grassroots level, it will change the voice of the people from asking for strong governments that aim for the marginalization of the other, to seeking politicians that seek the inclusion of the other. There is no easy answer for the question “ How do we develop the change from grassroots to policy makers”; the only way to achieve that is by changing the common voter’s ideas and stereotypes about the other. My view of the future thirty years from now is one of a state that includes both Israelis and Palestinians as equals under the law, and if projects are able to achieve spreading this image to the communities, people will start working on changing policy makers and voting for politicians that have this same image of the future, thus achieving reconciliation.

            It may seem far-fetched, but it is achievable. Things can change in an instant, and with more people being faced with facts from social media outputs, people are more informed and less ignorant. People who are educated are less likely to follow blindly behind politicians and leaders who seek their own interest by putting others in harms way. I think, today, it is easier than ever to see people as humans regardless of their backgrounds, and it is easier than ever to start moving forward and understanding that the only chance we have for peace is to be in it together. The other options we have are; the two state solution, which has proven over and over again to be unrealistic, the annihilation of the other, which is ridiculous, and the one state solution, which, I believe, is a no brainer.

Limitations and problems with reconciliation

            People on both sides have strong views on interacting with the other on a personal level with a goal of reconciliation. Working with the enemy, or normalization of the occupation is considered treason, and is punishable by the community. If we can spread different images and change the stereotypes, the community may begin to understand those actions. With more involvement from both sides with the other, this is starting to seem more achievable, but it should be taken slow in order to be accepted gradually by the community on both sides. A history of violence, wars, killings and occupation is one that is not easily removed for the memory of people on both sides. If large steps were to be taken, attempts for reconciliation will have an opposite effect on people, giving voice for extremists on both sides to act violently, creating chaos and destroying the efforts to reconcile. Reconciliation in the case of Israel/Palestine and especially in a sensitive city like Jerusalem should be taken slow and introduced to people gradually. Changing one person at a time might seem too sloe, but in this case, I believe it’s the only way to reconcile a conflict that has proven immune to all the different efforts in the decades that has passed.

                       

References

Auerbach, Y. (2005). CONFLICT RESOLUTION, FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION IN MATERIAL AND IDENTITY CONFLICTS. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 29(2), 41-80. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23262796.

Burton, J. (1990). Conflict Resolution and Prevention.  New York: St. Martins Press

Calame, J., Charlesworth, E., & Woods, L. (2009). Jerusalem. In Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia (pp. 83-102). University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/j.ctt3fhdcs.10

Curtius, M. (1987). The Walls Fell, but the Barriers Remain. Journal of Palestine Studies, 17(1), 196-199. doi:10.2307/2536679

Krystall, N. (1998). The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50. Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(2), 5-22. doi:10.2307/2538281

Maoz, I. (2011). Does contact work in protracted asymmetrical conflict? Appraising 20 years of reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Journal of Peace Research, 48(1), 115-125. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/29777473.

Raines, S. (2004). IS PEACE EDUCATION CHANGING THE WORLD? A META-EVALUATION OF PEACE-BUILDING PROGRAMS IN HIGH CONFLICT REGIONS. Peace Research, 36(1), 103-117. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23607729.

Rempel, T. (1997). The Significance of Israel's Partial Annexation of East Jerusalem. Middle East Journal, 51(4), 520-534. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/4329118


[1] Krystall, N. (1998). The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50. Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(2), pp 5 doi:10.2307/2538281

 

[2] Krystall, N. (1998). The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50. Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(2), pp 6-7 doi:10.2307/2538281

[3] Krystall, N. (1998). The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50. Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(2), pp 10-11 doi:10.2307/2538281

[4] Krystall, N. (1998). The De-Arabization of West Jerusalem 1947-50. Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(2), pp 12 doi:10.2307/2538281

[5] Curtius, M. (1987). The Walls Fell, but the Barriers Remain. Journal of Palestine Studies, 17(1), pp197. doi:10.2307/2536679

[6] Auerbach, Y. (2005). CONFLICT RESOLUTION, FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION IN MATERIAL AND IDENTITY CONFLICTS. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 29(2), pp46. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23262796

[7] Auerbach, Y. (2005). CONFLICT RESOLUTION, FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION IN MATERIAL AND IDENTITY CONFLICTS. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 29(2), pp47. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23262796

[9] Raines, S. (2004). IS PEACE EDUCATION CHANGING THE WORLD? A META-EVALUATION OF PEACE-BUILDING PROGRAMS IN HIGH CONFLICT REGIONS. Peace Research, 36(1), pp105. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23607729

[10] Raines, S. (2004). IS PEACE EDUCATION CHANGING THE WORLD? A META-EVALUATION OF PEACE-BUILDING PROGRAMS IN HIGH CONFLICT REGIONS. Peace Research, 36(1), pp105. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/23607729

[11] Maoz, I. (2011). Does contact work in protracted asymmetrical conflict? Appraising 20 years of reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Journal of Peace Research, 48(1), pp120. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/29777473