Jerusalem, Al Quds, Yerushalaym

The old city of Jerusalem, a view on the Dome of the Rock, from the roof of the Austrian hospice.

The other day I was surfing the Internet when I accidentally came across an online discussion group hosted by a representative of the Socialist Party in the Dutch Senate. A variety of topics are placed online for open discussion, amongst which an article that caught my attention: “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel anymore, Washington is”. Upon reading the comments placed by participants of the discussion group, I was alarmed that everyone went into the content of the article. Not one commentator paused for a second to critically look at the title, which in and of itself is reason for concern.

More reason for concern is observing how the local Dutch and international news channels cover events in occupied Palestine. Camera lenses focus on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as if these areas are the only areas that represent occupied Palestinian territories. This methodology is completely oblivious to one of the many important issues for Palestinians — Jerusalem. Ever since the occupation commenced, Palestinian Jerusalemites became victims of a torturous process of ethnic cleansing, yet rarely, if at all, are they represented by mass media, whether in the United States or Europe. House demolitions, land confiscations, illegal administrative detentions, disproportionate taxation, unlawful citizenship-rights withdrawals, and more recently the apartheid wall are considered daily routine to the Palestinian Jerusalemite. Despite these practices the international community and the media choose to play the ostrich.

The purpose of these practices is complete eradication of a majority Palestinian presence or claim to the city of Jerusalem confining them to two areas, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is done, in order for Israeli occupying forces to gain the demographic upper hand in the city of Jerusalem, so as to claim it as its capital.

Today the building of the apartheid wall tops all other methods in excluding the majority of Palestinian Jerusalemites, keeping them outside the wall, thereby constantly drawing and redrawing the border lines at the convenience of the occupation. Former mayor of Jerusalem and current vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert makes no secret of this. He has clearly stated that Palestinian presence in the city may not exceed 22% thereby forcing upon them a new reality — becoming an ethnic minority in the city of Jerusalem.

Today the extension of the apartheid wall is the exclusion of 70,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from residency in Jerusalem. Jerusalemite Palestinians are not even considered citizens, rather residents. People with hundreds of years of family roots in the city are considered ‘residing tourists’ but not citizens. This residency is symbolized by a blue identity card, in contrast with an orange one for West Bank, and Red for the Gaza Strip. These are all discriminatory measures imposed on the Palestinian people in and out of Jerusalem.

The old city of Jerusalem, a view on the Dome of the Rock.

The media (both local Dutch news broadcasting stations and international ones such as BBC or CNN) are involved in an ongoing process of constructing hyper-realities. These hyper-realities are dangerous because they are not realities. However they slowly become realities because the audience believe and act on basis of these constructions, which causes people to drift away from authentic experience.

After years of observing the media, one might conclude that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are Palestinian areas and the rest (including Jerusalem) is Israeli. For example, when the media chooses to report on an Israeli military plunder of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are usually placed to represent their point of view either from Ramallah or the Gaza Strip, while the representatives of the Israeli occupation forces and reporters on the other hand are placed to do so from Jerusalem. Another example is that the daily practices of Israeli occupation forces with regards to cleansing the city of its Palestinian inhabitants are hardly ever reported or covered.

For the untrained eye there seems to be nothing wrong with such image constructions. It is then no wonder that viewers internationally do not know any better and simply assume based on what they hear and see through media representation. However a more in-depth look into the politics of that region tells us otherwise. It tells us that a virtual reality is being created which is completely contradictory to the actual reality on the ground especially with regards to the status of Jerusalem and the status of its inhabitants. It tells us that war is not only waged by shooting an M-16, plundering villages by bulldozers and tanks, or eliminating human beings from up above with Apache helicopters. It tells us that the media is an accomplice to a complementary war which is more subtle and less bloody but equally unjust and inhumane, if not worse, because the consequences of this kind of propaganda machine is in fact genocide. If Palestinians are constantly portrayed as perpetrators when in fact they are being occupied, or, when Palestinians are portrayed as non-existent in the city of Jerusalem for example, then eradication or elimination is either justified or takes place unnoticed.

If anything, up to this date, the city of Jerusalem is disputed territory. One need only research historical facts and read UN resolutions contradicting and condemning occupation claims of the city as its capital. Even the United States, renowned for its unconditional support to the Israeli occupation of Palestine has refrained from situating its Embassy in the city of Jerusalem, likewise other international Embassies.

Palestinians in Palestine are undergoing a slow and systematic process of genocide and ethnic cleansing, a fact that is supported by visual, verbal, written, actual, explicit and implicit collaboration, and that is a crime. Throughout history the city has known wars and blood-shed, however one should learn from that history and not repeat it. The city of Jerusalem, the whole city of Jerusalem, has always known a diverse presence and that is the way it should remain, whereby secular, Muslim or Christian Palestinians should have as much right to the city as its Jewish inhabitants.

Bisan Abou Gharbiyeh is a Palestinian freelance journalist based in the Netherlands.