Monday, June 28, 2010

All This for a Tourist Center?

Haaretz reports today that the Jerusalem Municipality wants to raze 22 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighboorhood of Silwan to make room for a tourist center. The plan was rushed through by Mayor Nir Birkat despite having a number of flaws pointed out by inspectors. The government would assist the Palestinians in relocating within Silwan.

The issue here is twofold. In addition to the complete disregard for principles of counterinsurgency, Mayor Barkat is a local authority. Unlike Washington, D.C. which is a federal city, Jerusalem is its own municipality. Mayor Barkat is not really accountable to the Israeli state so much as to his constituents within Jerusalem itself. Considering that building in East Jerusalem is clearly an Israeli national issue, there should be strong coordination between the state and the city on such a sensitive move.

But most likely, the move is tacitly approved by the government anyway. Using the veil of municipal sovereignty, the government can shirk its responsibility to not inflame the situation. However, the level of ill will the project will generate far outweighs the benefits of a new tourist center. If nothing else, the project could have been touted as an "economic opportunity for Jerusalem's Arab citizens." The authorities could have pointed out that Arabs will run the stores and restaurants. Instead, the move is a political punch which Israel's enemies will exploit.

And yet again the government will find itself in a contentious situation that could have easily been avoided.

1 comment:

  1. I believe the tourist center is being managed by the same settler group that runs the underground digs, no? Silwan's become a huge deal because so much of the policy has been turned over to groups that are more interested in ethnic "victory" than decent governance. Take a look at Ir Amim's website, they've done a lot of good work on the Silwan issue