Journal of Palestine Studies Special Virtual Issue: On Jerusalem

The Journal of Palestine Studies presents this Special Issue: On Jerusalem, curated from our collection of articles and essays on the city’s historical transformation and the contemporary context in which Jerusalemites reside. The Special Issue is available free in its entirety for one month and for purchase afterwards.

In this Special Issue, we feature seven erudite pieces from the Journal’s archive, which offer a comprehensive look at Jerusalem’s recent history and serve both as context and complement to the triptych of essays that constitutes our Jerusalem Dossier. Penned by Palestinian and Israeli Jerusalemites, the three essays analyze the latest wave of violence and heightened repression in the city and their impact on the Palestinians of occupied East Jerusalem. Lastly, we round out this Special Issue with some documents from our primary Documents and Source Material archive. 

First in the category of pieces contextualizing and complementing the Jerusalem Dossier, Ian S. Lustick examines the imagined contours of Jerusalem and argues that a final status agreement has the potential to offer Israelis a Hebrew “Yerushalayim” and Palestinians an Arab “al-Quds,” slightly overlapping but mainly separate entities due to the often unappreciated fact that Israel and Palestine have different ideas about what constitutes whole and proper Jerusalem; picking up on that thread, Rashid Khalidi argues that an equitable arrangement between Israel and Palestine in Jerusalem is central to the success of any final settlement and outlines what that agreement would entail.

Nicholas E. Roberts’ groundbreaking paper analyses British urban planning in Jerusalem during the Mandate years, which privileged the Mandate authorities’ Zionist colonial partner over the Palestinians and enshrined a legacy of Jewish-Israeli favoritism that remains evident decades later; Gish Amit, for his part, documents how the Zionists parlayed their colonial advantages into a thorough conquest of Palestinian neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, and the resultant confiscation of private libraries still held by Israel as absentee property.

Walid Khalidi’s seminal “The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem” was truly yeoman’s work on behalf of Palestinian Jerusalemites dispossessed by Israel, in which the doyen of Palestinian historians investigated the history of the site Israel offered the United States for its proposed embassy, documenting the original Palestinian land deeds and demonstrating that the site was expropriated refugee property.

Michael Dumper, a veteran chronicler of Jerusalem, examines how Jerusalem’s churches have shifted from cooperation with the Israeli state in the early post-1967 years to subsequent identification with Palestinian nationalism, contending that the Christian religious establishment’s long-term interests would be better served under Palestinian sovereignty.

And, lastly, the inimitable conscience of Palestinian intellectuals, the late Edward Said, called on Palestinians to challenge Israel’s attempt to reconfigure Jerusalem from “a multicultural and multireligious city into an ‘eternally’ unified, principally Jewish city under exclusive Israeli sovereignty” by offering an alternative vision for a pluralist Jerusalem, rooted in humanitarian and universal values which would not only be more faithful to the city’s history but also its “very lived actuality.”

The editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Rashid Khalidi, introduces the Jerusalem Dossier’s three new essays, as follows:

As close observers of the situation in the city, Danny Seidemann, Nazmi Jubeh, and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian offer granular and often painful descriptions, both from the ground up and analytically, of the Israeli occupation regime’s ceaseless and brutal encroachment on the rights, patrimony, space, and lives of the over 300,000 Palestinian residents of occupied Arab East Jerusalem.

These essays present a reality far from the false picture projected by Israel that is generally reproduced by most of the U.S. mainstream media in a mendacious rendering of the situation luridly highlighting the occasional outbursts of Palestinian violence against Israelis. Meanwhile, the massive, daily, grinding violence against women, children, old people, and young men by Israel’s soldiers, Border Police, undercover agents, uniformed police, and armed settlers is entirely omitted. This systemic, legalized, and routine state violence is deployed by a hated alien occupation authority to maintain absolute control over the lives of Jerusalem’s Palestinian inhabitants who resort to rebellion when the pressure becomes intolerable.

Palestinians in Jerusalem want only to live a normal life in their own city. But, as these accounts make clear, Jerusalem is NOT the city of its Arab residents, any more than Israel is the state of all its citizens. For the Israeli government, both belong to the Jewish people alone. In Jerusalem, where it wields exclusive sovereign authority, Israel asserts untrammeled rights over structures above ground, including Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as the archaeological patrimony that lies below the surface, in a grievous violation of the delicate status quo that had been maintained for centuries. In its own eyes, the state of Israel has absolute authority in occupied Arab East Jerusalem, and only its Jewish citizens have full rights there. Palestinian Jerusalemites are no more than residents, there on sufferance, whose rights, homes, and very presence in the city can be terminated on an administrative whim.

This is a state of affairs that has predictably produced the unrest that has been roiling Jerusalem since the fall of 2015 and indeed, as Danny Seidemann shows, since much earlier. That unrest has in recent months affected the other occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza and it continues to do so today. Jerusalem has a symbolic and national importance, as well as a religious significance, for Palestinians, just as it does for Israeli Jews. But only the latter’s sentiments and concerns are recognized in practice by the Israeli state, notwithstanding its diplomatic agreements with Jordan, discussed in Jubeh’s essay.

Cutting through the fog of deception and cant around the violence that has rocked Jerusalem for well over a year, the essays lay bare the true cause of the problem: a brutal attempt to establish one group’s exclusive rights at the expense of those of another in one of the most contested spaces on the face of the earth. Without understanding this cause, and forcefully addressing it, the problem will only get worse, and more violence is inevitable, and with it more suffering, as always mainly on the part of the Palestinian people.*

Lastly, under Documents and Source Material, we feature, inter alia, the European Union’s Heads of Mission 2012 report on East Jerusalem; an analysis of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000 promulgated by the city’s municipal council documenting the dire consequences for Palestinian residents that have already started to materialize and will only worsen if the council sees its vision of an increasingly Jewish Jerusalem at the expense of Christian and Muslim Arabs fully realized; and, finally, we include Walid Khalidi’s famous 1967 address to a special session of the UN General Assembly challenging Israel’s concurrent annexation of East Jerusalem and rebuking the Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s inaccurate claims presented prior to Khalidi’s speech.

  • By Khelil Bouarrouj.

*The entire introduction, along with the dossier, is part of the online section of Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2.


Nicholas E. Roberts
Vol. 42, No. 4 (Summer 2013), pp. 7-26
Gish Amit
Vol. 4, No. 4 (Summer 2011), pp. 6-23
Michael Dumper
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Winter 2002), pp. 51-65
Rashid Khalidi
Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring 2001), pp. 82-87
Ian S. Lustick
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Autumn 2001), pp. 5-21
Walid Khalidi
Vol. 29, No. 4 (Autumn 2000), pp. 80-101
Edward W. Said
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Autumn 1995), pp. 5-14


Daniel Seidemann
Vol. 45, No. 2 (Winter, 2016), pp. 3-12
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian
Vol. 45, No. 2 (Winter, 2016), pp. 13-22

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