I am a Jerusalemite and I love the city. But I am sick and tired of all the people who pretend to be interested in the city by their lip service but not by their action.
I say this because it seems that that we are again in the annual Jerusalem season. The routine has become boring. The American congress for election’s related reasons pass some sort of Jerusalem resolution in congress aimed at pleasing the pro Israel lobby. The White House makes some sort of shy remark about not changing traditional US policies about Jerusalem. The Arab countries rise up as one man in protest of the US congressional resolution and two weeks later everyone forgets Jerusalem.
In the meantime Israel’s control is not any more or less intrusive. The people of Jerusalem are not any better or worse off and everyone is pleased that they have done their part in this charade. Calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel year in year out does little to change its character or what people think of it. And Arabs rejection of this resolution do vey little to improve the lives of the over 200,000 Palestinians living in this city that is united only in the Israeli books but not in the reality of our lives.
For my part I am not too concerned about the US congress many of whose members vote annually for these Jerusalem resolutions without even knowing anything about the city, its history or its present situation except what the AIPAC lobbyist tells them.
I am, much more interested in the position of Arab leaders and the Arab public about Jerusalem.
To begin with Arab and Islamic opposition to the Jerusalem resolution is an exercise in rhetorical brinkmanship. Arab and Muslim leaders and public figures compete between themselves who can verbally oppose this issue louder than the other. I underline the word verbal because this is as far as the protest goes. If Arab leaders would donate a dollar (or whatever their national currency is) for every time they protested the Jerusalem resolutions many of the real problems in Jerusalem would have been solved by now.
An example from life in Jerusalem will explain my point of view.
For years private schools in East Jerusalem have been complaining that they will be unable to stay open unless they could find someone to support them. These schools have worked hard at keeping Palestinian students away from the influence of the Israeli ministry of education. Shortly after 1967 these schools fought and won a fierce battle in their refusal to apply the Israeli educational curriculum. Parents are unable to pay the high cost of private education so these school were caught between a rock and a hard place. The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem offered to support these schools. Israeli law guarantees education and the high taxes collected from Palestinian in Jerusalem provide enough money to the Israeli coffers. Palestinian leaders, including the late Faisal Husseini tried unsuccessfully to raise money from Arab (mostly Gulf) sources to help subsidize these schools and ensure that they are not obliged to take money from the Israelis. He failed to do that and the schools finally buckled and accepted Israeli funding.
Al Quds University, the largest Palestinian institutions and a leading center for higher education in Palestine has been going through financial troubles for some time. The university’s president Professor Sari Nusseibeh has been traveling in Arab and international locations seeking support for the university with little success. Teachers have not been paid in Al Quds University for months. For their part the Israelis are pressuring the university at times by closing its administrative offices and at other times by threatening to declare them illegal because they have not been accredited by the Israeli higher council of education.
If Arab and others are genuine in their protest of the US congress’s latest resolution the answer is simple. Quit nagging and protesting and start doing something about it. Opportunities for strengthening the Arab character of Jerusalem are readily available. The Palestinians of Jerusalem are not interested in your statements and protests. Put up or shut up might sound crude but the time has come for those who really support Palestinian steadfastness in Jerusalem to act and not restrict themselves to empty rhetoric.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. He is the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University which owns and runs Al Quds Educational Television. In May 2001, Mr. Kuttab received the International Press Institute’s award as one of fifty press freedom heroes in the last fifty years.