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RICHARD LEVY's JOURNAL PART 2: JNF Trip to Spain and Israel- October-November 2011

by Richard Levy, Montreal, participant of the trip, posted March 7, 2012

AVI MELAMED SPEAKS TO US ON A HILLTOP IN JERUSALEM

 Avi told us, towards the end of his presentation, that he has a blog in which he conducts TV interviews in Arabic intended for the Arab world, which he launched one year ago. The blog now has 50,000 visitors. He works with The Israel Project, the Israeli Foreign Office, Embassies and with Frank “Lonks” a news packager for Fox News. (See end of article for more on Avi).

Classifications of Arab Residents
Avi mentioned that the Arab residents between the Jordan River and West Bank fall into three classes:
1.            Arabs who are Israelis citizens, consisting of 1.1 million of the entire 7.7 million population of Israel. These Arabs citizens live mainly in the North;
2.            Jerusalem Palestinians, who live in and around Jerusalem numbering about 280,000. They are considered “permanent residents” of Israel. They can vote in municipal elections but do not have a vote for state elections. If a permanent resident leaves Israel for more than 5 to 7 years he must reapply for that status. They are not required to perform IDF service but they are entitled to National Health Service. These permanent residents can become citizens of Israel and, in fact, 50,000 have done so.
3.            Arabs who are subjects of the “Palestinian Authority” (PA). These Arabs live in one of three zones, established by the Oslo Agreement. The “A” Zone is entirely under PA authority (i.e., Ramallah). In the “B” Zone, authority is split: Israel has military responsibility but the PA has responsibility for the police. In the “C” Zone all security responsibility falls to Israel.
 
Shu’fat Arab Refugee Camp
Facing North towards Ramallah, which can be considered to be at “12 o’clock”, there was a Palestinian refugee camp within the Jerusalem municipality on our right at about 5 o’clock. Avi said this camp was built after 1948 on land that had been previously owned by Jews. (It was build in 1965.) Jordan had relocated Arabs from the old city of Jerusalem to this refugee camp. We could see that the “camp” was in fact a town in which apartment buildings of several stories predominated. It was not a “camp” in a sense of being a site where residents lived in tents, huts and flimsy shacks. Avi told us that was also the case for all other Palestinian refugee camps, with the exception of a camp or camps of the Southern end of the Gaza Strip.
There are 17,000 Arabs living in this “refugee camp” of which 4,000 have United Nations identification. Avi said that there are many people living illegally in the camp and much illegal activity takes place there. For more information from the UNRWA point of view, click here: http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=121 .
The Palestinian “Crescent”
From our hilltop vantage point, Avi pointed out Ramallah, easily visible, located on a hill to the North. He told us that it is a 20 minutes drive from Jerusalem; 500,000 people live there. Avi asked us to pivot around to the South where he pointed out Bethlehem, visible in the distance, in which 350,000 Arabs reside. He asked us to imagine a straight line running South from Ramallah to Bethlehem as the straight string portion of a bow. (See my diagram at the end) The curved wooden part of the bow curved on the East side from Ramallah down to Bethlehem. He called this the Palestinian “Crescent”. Virtually the whole area of this crescent was visible to us on our hill top. The importance of this visualization became clear when he told us that 1.1 million Arabs, i.e. 50% of the 2.2 million who live in the West Bank, reside within this bow or crescent. By comparison, approximately 500,000 Jews, or half as many, live within this bow (I believe this includes many of the Jews living in Jerusalem).
To drive home the proximity of populations in Israel, Avi reminded us that the mountains of Jordan were only 60 minutes to the East from our hilltop and Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean were only 40 minutes away to the West.
Lines in the Sand
Avi then switched his focus from populations to boundary lines. He emphasis that the famous “Green Line” was not a political border but merely a cease-fire line. Nor did the Green Line consist of a geographic line (in the sense of something delineated by natural boundaries like rivers, valleys, etc.). He called the Jerusalem boundary a “Seam Line” (perhaps in honour of the tradition of Jewish clothing workers).
After the 1949 Armistice when the Green Line was drawn, the inhabitants of the West Bank were all Jordanian citizens. After Israel defeated the invading Arab armies in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank but did not annex any of the territory. It implemented Israeli law in Jerusalem and the Golan, without any annexation. This was in contrast to the action of Jordan in annexing the West Bank after 1949, which was recognized by two countries: the United Kingdom and Pakistan (an old couple).
During that time, Jordan created the “District of Jerusalem” as well as the much smaller “Municipality of Jerusalem”, which was just 5 sq. miles. To demonstrate how huge population changes occur, despite the impression gained from reading the newspapers, Avi said that 65,000 Arabs previously lived in the Municipality of Jerusalem during Jordanian rule versus 280,000 Arabs in the year 2009 (now comprising 35% of the population). It wasn’t until 1998 that King Hussein renounced any claim by Jordan to Jerusalem East.
Although, much of the West Bank is now under the authority of the PA, land records are still located in Jordan as are birth certificates. King Abdullah II of Jordan has given 60,000 Jordanian passports to Palestinians born after 1998, so Jordan is still very much a factor.
Jordan, which the British carved off from historic Palestine (during the British mandate), has 6,000,000 people, 70% of which are Palestinian (i.e., from the West Bank of the Jordan River).
Settlements or Neighborhoods?
One of the larger “Illegal Settlements” is Ma’aleh Adomim, in which 35,000 people live. This town is only 7 minutes out of Jerusalem. Other “settlements” lie on lands annexed in Jerusalem neighborhoods which, under Turkish law, were public lands. Under Turkish law, if the voice of the preacher from the minaret could be heard, the land was considered part of the community. If it was outside hearing range it was considered public domain.
Of the settlers in the West Bank, 100,000 live in four large settlements, including Ma’aleh Adomim and Ariel (which has 20,000 residents). As for the new neighborhoods established on the hills of Jerusalem, these are not considered “settlements” by most Israeli Jews.
The Anti-Terrorism Barrier (“Talk to the Wall”)
Avi then directed our attention to the anti-terrorism barrier (“ATB”) which snakes its way up and down the hills surrounding Jerusalem separating Jewish neighborhoods from Arab neighborhoods. He explain that, before the ATB was built, there were 540 deaths (!) resulting from suicide bombing attacks. A gruesome calculation determined that there were on average 4.5 deaths per suicide bomb attack. Thankfully, 800 suicide bombing attacks were intercepted before the attack could be triggered. Where did the suicide bombers come from? 95% came from the West Bank – because there already was a fence surrounding Gaza. The ATB was called for.
In Jerusalem itself, 30 suicide bombing attacks occurred, causing 175 deaths. A women by the name of Ahlam Tamimi was implicated in the worst bombing attack which occurred in Jerusalem, the bombing of the Sbarro Pizza Shop. She was released in the prisoner swap deal for Gilad Shalit and then was the key speaker at in event at the University of Amman in Jordan. Named the “Princess of the Resistance”, she encourages people to follow in her footsteps. She embodies the inversion of values.
2002 was the high watermark for suicide bombings attacks: 480 casualties occurred in that year, more than all of the casualties during the 1990. Since the ATB was erected, there have been no suicide attacks.
Although, much of the ATB visible from our hilltop consisted of a wall, 90% of the ATB consists of a double system wire fence. The ATB, because so much of it is winding, is 760 km long. It is not electrified; it is monitored by sophisticated detectors of heat, motion, etc.
Down From the Heights
As we left the briefing and Mr. Melamed released his spell on the group, he told us that our hilltop lookout, with its unfinished villa, belongs to the Royal family of Jordan. Construction was suspended after the 1967 war. Perhaps King Abdullah is accepting offers.
Background of Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed, tall, fit, well-tanned and intense, led us, map tube in hand, to a hilltop where Jerusalem and beyond opened up before us. He told us that he comes from a “security background”. With his air of intrigue and a natural charisma, many of the women found him to be in Sharon Lehrer’s words “khotikh”, (for the English translation look at the first four letters). I am using the letters “kh” to represent the guttural “h” sound, as in the word Khannuka (“Chanukah”).
 
Avi was born in Jerusalem in 1960 to an old Sephardic family. After the army, where he served in a Combat Intelligence Unit, Avi earned his degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Hebrew University. He is also a graduate of the International Program for Conflict Resolution at The Leonard Davies Institute and George Mason University, the program for outstanding leadership of the Carmel Institute for Military Research and a the Israel Forum, a Lay Leadership Program sponsored by JAFI.


 
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