How strange that just as an international controversy is boiling over whether Israel practices apartheid toward Palestinians, and veils its practice, National Public Radio airs a Cant-we-all-just-get-along report from occupied East Jerusalem that never uses the words occupy, occupation, settlers, annex, or illegal. Quite an achievement.
The story was about dialogue efforts between Jews and Palestinians living in Abu Tor, a Jerusalem neighborhood divided by the Green Line until 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Host Scott Simon announced it hopefully:
A small neighborhood in Jerusalem is home to both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. Their relations have often been tense or often non-existent. But over the years, a few people have tried to break that cycle.
Reporter Joanna Kakissis then told us about Alisa Maier Epstein’s efforts to teach her neighbors in Abu Tor Arabic and Hebrew, so that they can relate to one another. Epstein appears to live on the Israeli side of the road that once formed the 1949 armistice line. But all the Palestinians she is addressing live under an occupation/annexation not recognized by the world, and some of the Jews she is encouraging are surely illegal settlers. Kakissis didn’t mention any of that.
I must confess that I admire local efforts to build binationalism from the grass roots. In this video about the co-existence project in Abu Tor, Alisa Maier Epstein says the group has decided to “put politics aside” and work on their common interest as neighbors. Residents say there had been no communication between neighbors of different faiths till this project. A young man with an American accent says he wanted to make it a “more livable, more vibrant community.”
But the structural political component here is still dominant: the Palestinians are second class citizens. Actually they are termed “permanent residents,” not citizens, like the Jews. This is the reason why, for instance, they do not vote in Jerusalem elections; because they abjure these political conditions. When NPR tells us that “a few people have tried to break [the] cycle” of mistrust between the communities, it’s dreamland journalism. These communities are vastly different in power, on a legal basis. When Kakissis says that co-existence has been an elusive goal–
Abu Tor has often been too tense with the violence between Israelis and Palestinians
there’s a good reason for that: Jerusalemite Palestinians are oppressed by Israel. The UN report on apartheid, now suppressed, is a lot more reliable than NPR.