Dumper: The Politics of Jerusalem since 1967 and Cheshin, Hutman, and Melamed: Separate and Unequal
Both works under review are highly valuable additions to the contentious but understudied subject of contemporary Jerusalem. In different ways, they offer fascinating insights into the politics of the city and, more specifically, the mechanisms of Israeli rule that have been deployed since the occupation of East Jerusalem in June 1967. However, these two volumes address the Israeli conquest in divergent ways, working from different assumptions regarding rights to the city.
The authors of Separate and Unequal include former advisers to the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem in the Office of Arab Affairs, Amir Cheshin and Avi Melamed, and a journalist who has covered the city for the Jerusalem Post, Bill Hutman. Their insights are primarily those of individuals who possess unique "insider" information about the Teddy Kollek administration (1966-93), and the book provides often intriguing material drawn from their experiences and sources.
Well-written and engaging, Separate and Unequal is generally quite critical in its depiction of the Jewish state’s rule over the territory it conquered in 1967. In describing the municipality’s policies toward the Palestinians, the authors assert that they "suffered greatly" under the Kollek and Ehud Olmert administrations. This military occupation "translated into a miserable life for the majority of east Jerusalem’s Arabs, many of whom have chosen to leave the city, as Israel hoped they would" (p. 10). Such statements are particularly damning of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem precisely because they are articulated by those who actually had a role in the policies.
The authors detail some of the specific methods by which the Israeli state has attempted to control various realms in the city, including those of housing, services, and education. They relate that since 1967, Kollek and other governing authorities have been driven by two basic goals: to increase the Jewish population through rapid construction of Jewish-only settlements and to institute a range of incentives to induce Israeli Jews to move there; second, to hinder the growth of the Arab population and to develop policies intended to expropriate their land and force them out of the city.
The book effectively shows that within the Israeli national consensus there is significant variety of opinion concerning how to reproduce the Jewish state's domination over the Palestinian population. Kollek’s meager and highly patronizing proposals for gaining greater control—to allow the Palestinians a few more "crumbs" from the Israeli state—were rejected by other elements of the Israeli elite (including Yitzhak Rabin, who, as prime minister, wished to earmark even less funding for Palestinians in the city than did Kollek). Separate and Unequal also depicts the limits of Israeli power, especially the inability of the Israelis to control the Palestinian street in any meaningful way, to break the population through large-scale repression, or to co-opt the Palestinians. Chapter 6, on the politics of the Palestinian educational system, underscores this failure.
Despite the value of this work, the authors operate under a set of assumptions that highlight the extent to which they speak within the Zionist consensus on the city. Even though they are critical of Israeli rule, they refuse to acknowledge that rule as an illegal occupation, perpetuating the fiction that Jerusalem is different from other occupied Palestinian lands. Nowhere, for instance, do the authors challenge the dominant Zionist vision of maintaining in place nine sprawling Jewish settlements—which they call "neighborhoods"—in East Jerusalem, along with nearly 200,000 settlers. Instead they depict the conflict in the city as being one between a state and those over whom it rules legitimately. Adhering to the myth of Israeli liberal democracy vis-à-vis the Palestinians of East Jerusalem limits their analysis of Israeli power in the city.
Michael Dumper’s Politics of Jerusalem since 1967 is an extremely well-researched, densely footnoted, and comprehensive examination of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem. Adopting a rigorous historical method, Dumper is far more analytical in his study of the contemporary city than are Cheshin et al. This detail gives Politics a scholarly edge that the largely anecdotal Separate and Unequal lacks. Although Dumper concentrates on the post-1967 period, he does a remarkable job of giving the various themes and subjects historical context. For one, his examination of space and territoriality notes (as Cheshin et al. fail to do) that the city’s west side was also the site of vast expropriations, a site where Israel came to consolidate its hold only after forcing out the entire Arab population of more than 50,000 in 1948. Whether he is relating the politics of housing, demographics, religion, or the provision of services, Dumper effectively shows how these issues were contested long before Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. His discussion of demographic politics, for instance, though echoing Cheshin et al. that there do in fact exist Israeli policies to limit and constrain the Palestinian population of the city, situates those schemes in the pre-1967 contest for the city and the obsession of Zionist planners with the "threat" that large numbers of Palestinians in the Jewish state's midst posed to their exclusivist project. So impressive is Dumper’s work in this regard that one of the few criticisms this reviewer can make is that the book’s title, which suggests a strong emphasis on the post-1967 period, is a bit misleading.
Dumper’s work illuminates how large segments of East Jerusalem have been reconfigured and woven into the Israeli polity since 1967. He does not forget—unlike Cheshin—why these practices are violations of Palestinians’ right to national self-determination in and to the city. The views of the international community point to an important political paradox: although the UN and the entire international community are on record as recognizing East Jerusalem as "occupied territory," they have not been able to stop the establishment of even one Jewish settlement or the return of even one dunam of stolen Palestinian land in the city in the last thirty-three years.
Politics provides a thorough scholarly examination into Israeli structures of domination in Jerusalem. In that sense, it is an especially successful project. In addition, rather than reproducing the Zionist mode of representing the city as "unified," Dumper deploys a terminology that highlights Israeli illegality. Settlements are not referred to as the sanitized "neighborhoods" that Cheshin et al. and a good many other commentators on the city use. East Jerusalem is acknowledged as occupied territory, not simply as contested. One interesting chapter combines a number of methodological strategies on the politics of religion, nationalism, and space. Here the author shows that there have existed a number of microprocesses in the city between Christian elites and the Israeli state that have made the former occasionally complicit with Israeli attempts to wrest land from the Palestinians throughout the city. The Greek Orthodox patriarchy comes under particular scrutiny, and Dumper also draws on his past research to outline the complex interface between the Israeli state and the Muslim Awqaf Administration.
Justice in Jerusalem for those who live under Israeli occupation is not, as Cheshin et al. suggests, about replacing an Israeli-imposed arrangement of separate and unequal with one of separate and equal. Nor is it about making Israel’s brutal occupation a little bit more "responsive" to the needs of Arabs. Rather, the important questions at hand concern decolonization no less than desegregation. Those interested in the politics of the city would do well to read these two works together, but in addressing the multiple themes of colonial appropriation, Dumper succeeds impressively, while Cheshin et al. unfortunately fail.
Thomas Abowd is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at Columbia University, New York.