20 Oct, 2020

A new campaign is underway in Israel’s undivided capital to promote just that: dividing Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, annexed in 1967, from the rest of the city. The ad campaign is the work of a group called Save Jewish Jerusalem (SJJ), founded by a who’s who of Israeli politicos and activists, including former MKs, generals, an ambassador and even a member of the Mossad secret service.

SJJ claims to be apolitical, basing its position instead on history and practical considerations. Historically, the movement argues, these neighborhoods and villages were never part of Jerusalem. Practically, the 200,000 residents alter the demographic balance of the Israeli capital and account for 60 percent of the terrorist attacks in the city since October. Cutting them off would improve Israeli safety and reduce municipal costs.

“This movement is free of any political agenda,” Arieh Amit, retired police officer and co-founder of SJJ, told Ynet in March. “If I thought it was connected, even indirectly, to any party or political agenda – I wouldn’t be there. Our goal is to save the future of Jerusalem.”

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The current campaign, which began Sunday, features posters plastered around Jerusalem with the phrase “[This Palestinian village] is not our Jerusalem”. The movement advocates for the security fence — which currently separates Israel, including Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, from the Palestinian West Bank — to be extended to separate these neighborhoods from Jerusalem, as well.

Amit, who is a former commander of the Jerusalem District Police, explains why. “Let it be clear: the villages that should be removed from the city limits are villages that were never part of Jerusalem until 1967, when a cocky, arrogant committee was established that was blinded by the historic victory and found explanations to why we should expand Jerusalem and add these villages to the city. These villages are incubators for hatred, terror attacks and generations of people who keep this hatred alive, and only those who visit these places realize how dangerous they are to our future.”

A poster from the SJJ campaign reads: “Shuafat is not our Jerusalem”. (Image: Save Jewish Jerusalem)

Today, the residents of these Palestinian villages carry Israeli IDs and benefit from the privileges of residency, but that residency would expire should the villages be separated from Jerusalem, saving taxpayers an estimated 2 to 3 billion NIS (about $525 to $788 million). It would also shift the demographic balance of the city. Currently, the population of the capital of the Jewish State is roughly 40 percent Arab. Dividing the city would solidify Jerusalem’s Jewish character by reducing the proportion of Arab residents to just 20 percent.

SJJ faces opposition from both the left and right. Right-wingers want to see Jerusalem, first declared a Jewish capital by King David some 3,000 years ago, remain united. Left-wingers argue that unilateral actions have never proven effective, and cutting 200,000 people off from their current sources of livelihood will only serve to aggravate the unrest in the city. But according to the movement’s founders, their ideals suit both political flanks, disengaging from the Palestinians and establishing a clear Jewish majority in Jerusalem.