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Pollsters Yaacob Shamir and Khalil Shakiki
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Carob juice vendor outside Damascus Gate, Old City, East Jerusalem. (Note: the person in this photo was not interviewed.)
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Shopkeeper in East Jerusalem's Arab Market sells a PALESTINE socccer team shirt, even though he tells me there is no PALESTINE national team.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Street scene in East Jerusalem.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak, July 20, 2010


JERUSALEM, ISRAEL-On June 29, 2010 I wrote an article "EAST JERUSALEM ARABS TELL ME THAT THEY PREFER ISRAEL OVER THE PA" which has since been picked up by four other websites. (see for example ,

When I was recently back in Jerusalem, I  spoke with more East Jerusaelm Arabs,all of whom told me the same thing: they do not want to live in a Palesitnian state unde Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas but want to stay in Israel.

One younger man, who is part of a family clan of "30,000 " East Jerusaelm Arabs, who live" in Beit Hanina, Shuafat, and the Mount of Olives" told me  that he does not want to live under the PA. "What you want me to starve of hunger," he laughed. Seriously, he said that most of his clan of 30,000 "think the same way I do."

He added "I live in Israel. I have paid my taxes all my life. I should get to stay. We aren't going to the PA."

Another middle aged East Jerusalem Arab living in the Mount of Olives said his family wants to stay under Israeli rule. I challenged him saying that before 1967 his family was living in Jordan, and if there were to be a Palestinian state with  a capital in East Jerusaelm his family would be in that state.

"I don't care if years ago we were under Jordanian rule. We want to stay in Israel," he said adamantly.

Another  middle aged man and his friend concurred.  "There are lots of  those in East Jerusalem who want to live in a Palestinian state, but I am not one of them," he said.  "And there are lots like us," he added.

One East Jerusaelm Arab from Beit Hanina, who lives near Salam Fayyad, the PA president, said "Fayyad is a good man, but I wouldn't want to live in his state."

This got me wondering wehether anyone has taken opinion  polls of East Jerusaelm Arabs  to see what a majority of them think.

Khalil Shakiki, a Palestinian pollster who surveys Palesitnain opinion told me  that while he includes East Jerusalem Palestinians along with other West Bank Palestinians in his polls, "I do not have polls only of  the opinions of East Jerusalem Palestinians. My statistics don't  relate to East Jerusalem only."

Shakiki has been publishing poll results of Palestinain public opinion in tandem  for the last 16 years with Yaacov Shamir, a professor at the Hebrew University of  Jerusalem, who simultaneously polls the opinion of Israelis.

When I told  Shamir about how every  East Jerusalem Arab  I have spoken with wants to stay under Israeli rule not the PA and asked him what he thought, he deflected the question. "You should ask Khalil Shakiki about this, not me."

I pressed him furhter and said, "O.K. but are you surprised at my findings?"

He face reddened and he said quietly, "No this does not surprise me."

I asked him to explain.

"Look, Arabs in East Jerusalem watch Israeli T.V. and see  Israeli media.  It is a very open society where people can express their opinions freely , and they like this.  They also get benefits like Israeli national insurance and other benefits which they would not want to give up."

In an event in Jerusalem in July, Shakiki said that 16 years ago he and Shamir met in Ramallah "thinking what could we do to move the peace process forward."  He explained that their "normative assumption"  was that "if we make poll results [of both Israeli and Palesitnian public opinion] known we could contribute to peace making."

This  has got me questioning whether it is likely that Shakiki would commission a poll of East Jerusaelm Arabs [assuming it was logistically possible] knowing that the result could be that a significant minority or possibly even a  majority would say that they wanted to remain under Israeli rule and not the Palestinian Authority.

Not very likely is it?  


by Rhonda Spivak, June 29

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - Although few would say so publicly, every one of the handful of East Jerusalem Arabs I spoke with in the last two weeks  said that  he would rather live under Israeli sovereignty than under Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

In the Arab market in the Old City of Jerusalem, I met  Asem, who sells soccer jerseys and sports wear. In his shop, there is a soccer jersey with the  name PALESTINE in big  letters on a blue background. Asem  tells me  there is no national  soccer team for PALESTINE, but "but we have the shirt.”

But, although he sells a soccer jersey saying PALESTINE, Asem is in no rush to have East Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state under PA President Abbas.  When I ask him if he would prefer to live under  Abbas in a state of Palestine, rather than under Israeli sovereignty, he gives me the opposite answer of what I expected.

“No, I  would rather live under Israelis than under Abbas. Abbas is a thief like Arafat was. But I would rather have Abbas than King Abdullah.”

When I ask him why he prefers to stay under Israeli rule than PA rule, he answers, “At least here I can say what I want. In Syria, if you say what you want, you can go missing forever.  In Jordan too.   And  under Abbas, too.  It is chaos there [under PA rule]. Abbas can stay in Ramallah, and stay out of Jerusalem.”

Asem’s Palestinian friend in the shop nodded in agreement. Asem did say that it’s not that he liked Israel per se, but that if given the choice, he prefers it to being ruled by the PA. 

He continued, “There are some nice homes in Ramallah. You know who lives in them. Abbas and his people. Not all of the other Palestinians. They are kept poor.”

Akram, a taxi driver living in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem echoed Asam’s sentiments in wanting to remain under Israeli instead of Palestinian rule.

“Abbas, he should stay in Ramallah and not come to Jerusalem. We don’t need him here. We are different than Palestinians in Ramallah and elsewhere. They [the PA] are all “mamzerim’[bastards] and corrupt. I want to be Israeli. I have my Israeli identity card and I want to get my bituach leumi [national insurance benefit].  Who knows what it would be like to live under PA rule?  But I don’t want to try it.”

Wadi Joz is a neighborhood where religious Jews have been trying to buy homes.

“There are Arabs who will sell for a lot of money but they do it quietly so no one will know. They make the deal but they make the possession date a long time away,” says Akram, who is pleased to tell me that his brother is entering the Israeli police force.

Moussa, a taxi driver waiting outside the Western wall tells me his name is “Moshey,”  which is the Hebrew name for Moussa.  Moussa is also definitive that he doesn’t want East Jerusalem to be a capital of a Palestinian state under Mahmoud Abbas. “It’s a balagan there in the West Bank [under Abbas]. I would keep my Israeli identity card…Baruch Hashem, I should live under the Israelis. .. It wouldn’t be better under Abbas.”

When  Moussa says the words “ Baruch Hashem”, I  can’t quite believe my ears.  Did I hear you correctly saying  Baruch Hashem, just like religious Jews do? Moussa smile

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.