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Daniel Seidmann distorts the reality of Jerusalem’s Palestinians at ‘Comment is Free’


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Daniel Seidmann

Daniel Seidmann is the founder of an NGO called Terrestrial Jerusalem (TJ), another foreign government-funded far-left political advocacy group which places almost the entire blame for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, even Palestinian violence, on Israel.  

Seidmann’s Jan. 9 column at ‘Comment is Free’ is titled ‘The myth of an undivided Jerusalem is collapsing under its own weight‘, but it is Seidmann who’s propagating myths about Palestinian identity and the future of Jerusalem.

Responding to a claim by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (following his recent re-election) that “the vast majority of the Arabs in Jerusalem prefer to be on the Israeli side” and “they don’t want the city divided,” Seidmann notes their relatively low voter turnout and then argues the following:

 The Palestinians didn’t vote in this election, just as they have refrained from voting in previous municipal elections, because they were making a statement about their own identities: “we are Palestinian, not Israeli”.

However, Seidmann is not basing his claim on empirical data.  Polls in fact demonstrate that, in the event Jerusalem is divided in a final peace agreement, a plurality of Palestinians would prefer living on the Israeli side of the city. In addition to the clear democratic advantages and important social benefits they’d retain by remaining residents of Israel, “those who chose Israeli citizenship most often mentioned freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and better job opportunities.”

Now, for Seidmann’s next deception, on the “disenfranchised” Palestinians.

Seidmann:

Only 2,965 of the East Jerusalem Palestinians – 1.9% of the Palestinian population – voted in Israel’s 2013 national elections, with another 95% denied the right to vote.

This bizarre situation exists because most Palestinians in “undivided Jerusalem” are legally classified as “permanent residents”, rather than citizens of Israel. As such, they do not enjoy the right to vote in national elections….

By disenfranchising Palestinians of East Jerusalem from national elections, Israel has declared unequivocally that these residents of Israel’s “undivided capital” are not, in fact, part of Israel’s body politic. 

What the ‘Comment is Free’ contributor doesn’t tell you is that (following the unification of the city in 1967), Palestinians on the formerly Jordanian “eastern” side of the city became legal residents of Jerusalem (and  permanent residents of Israel) and had the the right to request full Israeli citizenship. However, for various political and cultural reasons, only a small minority have chosen to exercise that right. As a result, only about 15,000 east Jerusalem Palestinians are Israeli citizens today.

Seidmann spends much of his column arguing for a final status agreement which includes a bi-national (divided) Jerusalem, an idea not only fraught with problems (as Yaacov Lozowick has written about so persuasively) but which ignores a tectonic shift” taking place within Palestinian society. In a recent article on “Israelization” of east Jerusalem’s Arabs, Ha’aretz’s Nir Hasson describes trends which are inconsistent with partition.

Nir Hasson

Along with the nationalist radicalization, widespread support for Hamas and violent clashes reported in the media, far-reaching changes are taking place among the local Palestinians. These processes can be described as “Israelization,” “normalization” or just plain adaptation. The Israeli authorities, with the Jerusalem Municipality at the forefront, are encouraging and in some cases fomenting this process, and displaying surprising bureaucratic flexibility along the way.

Examples of this trend are legion. They include: increasing numbers of applications for an Israeli ID card; more high-school students taking the Israeli matriculation exams; greater numbers enrolling in Israeli academic institutions; a decline in the birthrate; more requests for building permits; a rising number of East Jerusalem youth volunteering for national service; a higher level of satisfaction according to polls of residents; a revolution in the approach to health services; a survey showing that in a final settlement more East Jerusalem Palestinians would prefer to remain under Israeli rule, and so on.

But dry statistics tell only a small part of the story; other elements are not quantifiable. For example, there is the pronounced presence of Palestinians in the center of West Jerusalem, in malls, on the light-rail train and in the open shopping area in Mamilla, adjacent to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. These people are not street cleaners or dishwashers, but consumers and salespeople. Another phenomenon is the growing cooperation between merchants in the Old City and the municipality.

Everyone involved in developments in East Jerusalem agrees that a tectonic shift is occurring, the likes of which has not been known since the city came under Israeli rule in 1967. Opinion is divided about the source of the change. Some believe it sprang from below, propelled by the Palestinians’ feelings of despair and their belief that an independent state is not likely to come into being. Others think it is due to a revised approach to the eastern part of the city by Israeli authorities, spearheaded by the municipality. Everyone mentions the separation barrier, which abruptly cut off Jerusalem from its natural hinterland − the cities and villages of the West Bank − as a factor that compelled the Palestinians in Al Quds (“the holy sanctuary”) to look westward, toward the Jews.

The huge light-rail project, which cuts across the city and greatly facilitates access from the eastern neighborhoods to the city center, is also contributing to the transformation. Most of these changes are occurring below the radar of the Israeli public, but their consequences could be dramatic, particularly with regard to the possibility of dividing Jerusalem − and the country. 

Finally, in the context of Seidmann’s advocacy on behalf of again dividing the city, it’s worth remembering that  Jordan ethnically cleansed the Jewish residents when it conquered the eastern half of the city in 1949 and, similarly, it seems certain that all Jewish residents of a future Palestinian controlled east Jerusalem would similarly be expelled.  

In other words, those advocating for a divided Jerusalem not only ignore the wishes of Palestinians who live there, but are tacitly supporting a future in which co-existence between Jew and Arab in the city would be replaced by walls and ethnic cleansing. 

It’s truly mind-boggling how, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, self-professed progressive advocates such as Seidmann often find themselves adopting policies which will result in greater separation and less co-existence.

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21 replies »

  1. “places almost the entire blame for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, even Palestinian violence, on Israel.”

    He actually said the moderate and understated “As long as the occupation exists, events like this will happen,” You shouldnt have to distorts the reality of what Seidmann said.

    Your translation makes him look like a fixated extremist . .unwilling to yield in his bitter self hatred Why you do this I dont know its easy enough to check maybe you were busy.:)

    • Berchmans you are an expert on ‘bitter self hatred’

      What kind of low level self-hating racist scum writes this kind of thing on Twitter,
      ” Paul Titterton ‏@SonofBerchmans 29 Oct
      My grandson is about to be born an American. I must have done something really bad in a former life ! ”

      Oh yes, now I remember it was you.
      Please don’t try and use your usual excuse about ‘using humour’, many other racists have tried the same excuse.

        • Jeff

          “Answer: a Chomskyite.”

          I have noticed this line of argument here…in fact it is in my ” profile ” that “(he) is a follower of Finkelstein ” Follower with the implication of “Life of Brian’s ” He has the sandal follow the sandal ” This because I mentioned Finkelstein in a post .

          As with your idea that I must be a “Chomskyist” because I grew up studying him in Psychology but his influences on teaching of the deaf, LInguistics , Psychiatry , and other disciplines meant I could have seen him featured even more if Id chosen other courses.

          Then his peace activity . You will know he has led anti western slaughter for 45 years ..

          You meant it as an insult didnt you ?

      • You are so easy to wind up . I go there soon ..to the land of the Great Satan to try to influence him before his IQ adjusts to local conditions ! :)( OK that was a joke I dont really think the US is the Great Satan nor that Yanks are dumb)

        FWIW last year I went to Washington determined to sneer at the pomp idiocy and ended up enthralled by it all. I went to the White House to see if I could see Michele just like all the other flag waving odd bods . I even liked the Vietnam memorial . I was gobsmacked at Lincolns Memorial. Actually silenced.Doesnt happen often.

        • In spite of your usual smarmy attempt to wriggle out of a situation when you are questioned, it is clear for anyone to see the kind of pathetic excuse for a human being you are.
          Your puerile attempts at humour do not disguise your overt racism, if you think they do then you really are educationally challenged.

          Tip of the day Berchmans……slither back under the stone and re-join the other racists,

        • You keep saying that and in this case absence certainly won’t make the heart grow fonder – unless of course you have a radical personality transplant. I wonder whether the US know what Paul Titterton is really like?

    • “He actually said the moderate and understated “As long as the occupation exists, events like this will happen,””
      Moderate and understated indeed since the violence was happening long before 1967 and continues to emanate from territories the Israelis have pulled back from (in honoring the parameters of the interim “peace” deal known as the Oslo Accords), i.e., territories controlled by the PA and Hamas.
      Mr. Seidmann shouldn’t lie about the xenophobic source of the violence (good advice for you too!).

  2. Thanks Adam. In your final passage, you highlight the biggest hypocrisy of the “anti-Zionist” mindset. That Israel is accused of those terrible crimes of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” (which are clearly and definitvely Bad Things) but that the proposed solution (two states which is officially and indisputably a Good Thing) will effectively result in exactly those same phenomena.

    You could argue that consent is the key i.e. that both parties agreeing to separate (e.g. in the peaceful transition to two states) makes it OK. That’s all well and good but what if some people on either side wish to remain in their homes? What would happen to them? To any Arabs on the Israeli side who want to stay in Israel? Not a lot. To any Jews on the side of the border that becomes Palestine? Well, it doesn’t take much of an imagination, does it!

  3. interesting how the BDS brigade condemned the parties involved in building the light rail system, on the basis that it went through Arab areas. If it had only connected Jewish areas, they would of course have complained about apartheid.

  4. Yes, the far leftists do indeed support ethnic cleansing as well as apartheid. 1. They support the ethnic cleansing of Jews from E.Jerusalem. 2. They never speak out when Abbas admits he will allow no Jews in a future Palestine. 3. They never speak out against apartheid vs. Palestinians in Lebanon. In short, they are everything they accuse zionists of when they slander Israel and her supporters. They’re actually worse as their indifference to Palestinian suffering (when Jews cannot be blamed) makes them bigger haters of Palestinians than those they accuse. I dare say it’s a stretch labeling all these anti-zionist cretins modern bigots, racists, and neo-nazis.

    • Last sentence should have read, I dare say it’s NOT a stretch labeling all these anti-zionist cretins some of the biggest, most vile modern DAY bigots, racists, and neo-nazis.

  5. As I recall in 1967 Israel did not merely give Arab residents of East Jerusalem permanent resident status but initially proposed to give them all citizenship. It was only as a result of vociferous objections from the Arabs that Israel decided to confer citizenship only on application.

  6. Daniel Seidmann doesn’t tell us that over 200 Dom (Gypsy) families who are permanent residents of East Jerusalem have applied for Israeli citizenship.

    These families are fearful of having to live under the PA in the future, mainly because of the overt racism they suffer from Palestinians, but also because they prefer living under Israeli rule. (Not all Dom families have applied.)

    The Dom community enjoys the full support for their applications of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat and the Dom community presented him with a birthday cake last year on his birthday.

    There is a small Dom community in Gaza and Dom are distributed across much of the Midle East. These communities suffer from much Arab discrimination and in Iraq have suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of Shia militias, but you are unlikely to discover any of these facts from the Guardian or the BBC.

  7. Harvard’s Ruth Wisse has pointed out in If I Am Not For Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, liberals can excuse their own betrayal of Israel by holding it fully responsible for the very hatreds it inspires. “In the case of the Arab war against the Jewish state,” Wisse wrote, “obscuring Arab intentions requires identifying Jews as the cause of the conflict. The notion of Jewish responsibility for Arab rejectionism is almost irresistibly attractive to liberals, because the truth otherwise seems so bleak.”

  8. Of course Daniel Seidmann doesn’t know what he writes about. I live in Jerusalem and I see with my own eyes what’s going on. The Arabs of east Jerusalem just flood the previously Jewish parts of town – i.e. center and west Jerusalem, on a daily basis, totally adapting the Israeli lifestyle, enjoying everything that Israel built and developed in Jerusalem.
    They aso are first in line to get the Israeli national security stipeds and when you go to a medical facility in west Jerusalem – be it a hospital or a clinic, you see more Arabs than Jews there.
    Oh yeah… they’ve learned to take full advantage of the fruits of Israel. They won’t get something like that in Ramallah.
    However, as an Israeli Jew I feel in the last 2 years that I don’t live in an Israeli city anymore, and I don’t mean east Jerusalem. As a Jew I don’t dare go to east Jerusalem. Too dangerous. So many cases of Jews being attacked/stabbed by Arabs, or almost lynched to death by Arab mob. Only a few days ago a Haredi Jewish man was stabbed near Damascus gate.
    I’m talking about the areas where the Jews in Jerusalem always used to live, hang out, work, shop – the center of town and west Jerusalem. Areas that were under Israeli control since 1948, that were developed and built by Israel and reflect the Israeli way of life. These areas have been totally taken over by thousands of Arabs who seem to have lots of spare time. There seem to be more Arabs than Jews hanging out in the center of town nowadays.
    In addition, more and more Arabs work in west Jerusalem. Most bus drivers, taxi drivers, pharmacists, more and more vendors, waiters are Arabs, etc. etc.
    If you go to a hospital or an emergency medical center in west Jerusalem on weekends you’ll see that most of the staff is Arab. That’s right, most doctors, nurses, administrative staff in Sha’arei Tzedek or Hadassah hospitals are Arabs. It is not very nice to go to a hospital in Israel’s capital and having to be treated mostly by Arabs – who of course talk Arabic between themselves and behave like the hospital is in an Arab country. Frankly I feel more comfortable being treated by Jewish staff who share the same culture, history, education system, national identity as myself.
    It’s ok if there was a minority of Arabs working there – but why should they be the vast majority? even on weekends. Are we in Israel or an Arab state? Frankly I tend to trust more Jewish medical staff than an Arab one. Different culture, values, education, professional standards etc.
    The feeling is that Jerusalem has turned into a dual-national city with the Jewish and Arab populations, almost the same size, totally mingling in every place and aspect of life. This of course is because the Arab population is coming to “our” areas and not that we go to their neighborhoods or shops etc. I predict that there wuill also be many case of mixed marriages or babies with an Arab father and a Jewish mother and vice versa.
    I don’t like this and most Jews in Jerusalem don’t like it. We feel that frankly the Arabs have mainly bad things to contribute to our society and environment whilst they mainly get good things from us and take advantage of everything that the Israeli environment can give them.
    I, as many Jews in Jerusalem, want to live in a predominantely Jewish town, not a mixture of Jewish/Arab town.
    I think that with this new reality where the hundreds of thousands of Arabs of east Jerusalem coming to our areas on a daily basis, it’s best to separate between us and them. The only way to do that is divide the city. And we should stop giving them Israeli citizenship! Once we do that we will never get rid of them. Even if we give east Jerusalem to the Arabs, those with Israeli citizenship will leave their houses and go live somewhere else in Israel so to retain their Israeli citizenship.