Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

Making History in Jerusalem – A Palestinian List for Jerusalem

All of the Residents List for the Jerusalem City Council
قائمة لكل سكانها

Palestinians voting and participating in the Jerusalem Municipal elections is resistance to the occupation and not normalization. Resistance takes many forms. Palestinians have tried many ways to resist the occupation and while the Palestinian people remain steadfast on their land, the occupation continues, deepens, and threatens Palestinians on a daily basis. The current Israeli government is speeding up the pace and severity of annexation and there are clear strategies to erase Palestinian existence on this Land. Nowhere is the Palestinian presence more at risk than in Jerusalem. For fifty-six years Palestinians in Jerusalem have loyally observed the PLO boycott of Jerusalem Municipal elections. For fifty-six years Jerusalem Palestinians have not participated in municipal decision-making. Close to 400,000 Palestinian in East Jerusalem, 40% of the residents of the city, according to the Israeli borders, are voiceless. They have no mother or no father and no protection. The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to work in Jerusalem or to help Jerusalem and with no one in positions of power regarding issues that affect the lives of every single Palestinian in Jerusalem, Palestinian Jerusalemites are next to defenseless. If there is one thing clear from struggles for freedom and liberation is that rights are not given by those who have them, rights are taken by those who demand them.

Palestinians in Jerusalem are forced to pay taxes to the municipality of Jerusalem; however, in return they get very limited services and many house demolitions, even more than ever. While Jewish residents of Jerusalem receive the services to which they are entitled by law as taxpayers, Palestinians pay taxes but do not receive their legal share of services. There is no neighborhood planning for Palestinians, and therefore almost all newly constructed Palestinian homes are designated as illegal. In fifty-six years not a single new Palestinian neighborhood has been built in Jerusalem. Expropriation of Palestinian land in Jerusalem continues, building new Jewish neighborhoods on Palestinian land. Whole neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are threatened with expulsion, in Silwan, Ras al Amoud, Walaja, and in other parts of the city. Kafr Aqab and Shuafat Refugee camp, two neighborhoods beyond the apartheid wall and more cut off from the city than ever. The city election board has even refused to put voting booths there despite there being about 100,000 potential voters.

The continued boycott of municipal elections is not contributing to advancing Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. Boycott has not worked. A different strategy is necessary. Palestinians do not recognize Israeli sole sovereignty in Jerusalem, the struggle of Palestinians in Jerusalem will always be part of the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation, independence and self-determination. Palestinian participation in municipal elections is not recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. It is an expression of exploiting the system set up by the occupying power to take back power for achieving Palestinian rights. Despite Israeli political statements that they want Palestinians to participate in the elections, this is a clear lie. They make those statements to try to prove to the world that Jerusalem is united. Palestinians have fallen into the trap believing that their non-participation in the municipal elections denies from Israel the ability to claim the unity of the city. No one is fooled by. Palestinian participation in the municipal elections is probably the best way to expose the Israeli lies. The Jerusalem municipality, along with the Israeli government discriminates against Palestinians, steals their land, keeps them in poverty, leaves their neighborhoods underdeveloped, denies them of the most basic human and civil services.

On October 31, 2023 Jerusalemites – Palestinians and Israelis – will have an opportunity to vote for a Palestinian list called “All of the Residents” headed by a young Palestinian woman educator Sundus ElHout. Sundus and her colleagues are struggling together for justice and in advancing the rights of Palestinians. As the late Faisel el Husseini often said “Our Jerusalem belongs to all of us.” “All of the Residents” list seeks to represent Palestinian interests in Jerusalem, but they also welcome Israeli Jewish support of those rights.

In the words of Mahmoud Darwish in the Palestinian Declaration of independence: “Nourished by many strains of civilizations and a multitude of cultures and finding inspiration in the texts of its spiritual and historical heritage, the Palestinian Arab people has, throughout history, continued to develop its identity in an integral unity of land and people and in the footsteps of the prophets throughout this Holy Land, the invocation of praise for the Creator high atop every minaret while hymns of mercy and peace have rung out with the bells of every church and temple.”

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.
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