MYTHS and FACTS: mythsandfacts.org
Eli E. Hertz | January 3, 2018
Palestinians have nurtured a myth that historically there were two Jerusalems – an Arab “East Jerusalem” and a Jewish “West Jerusalem.” But Jerusalem was never an Arab city; Jews have held a majority in Jerusalem since 1870, and “east-west” is a geographic, not political designation. It is no different than claiming the Eastern shore of Maryland should be a separate political entity from the rest of the state.
In 1880, Jews constituted 52 percent of the Old City population in East Jerusalem and still inhabited 42 percent of the Old City in 1914. In 1948, there were 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem, with 65,000 Arabs. By 1961, a joint Jordanian-Israeli census reported that 67.7 percent of the city’s population was Jewish.
Although uniting the city transformed all of Jerusalem into the largest city in Israel, a bustling metropolis, even moderate Palestinian leaders reject the idea of a united city. Their minimal demand for “just East Jerusalem” really means the Jewish holy sites (including the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall), which Arabs have failed to protect, and the return of neighborhoods that house a significant percentage of Jerusalem’s present-day Jewish population. Most of that city is built on rock-strewn empty land around the city that was in the public domain for more than 50 years.
Arab claims to Jerusalem, a Jewish city by all definitions, reflect the “what’s-mine-is-mine, what’s-yours-is-mine” mentality underlying Palestinian concepts of how to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. That concept is also expressed in the demand for the “Right of Return,” not just in Jerusalem – Israel’s capital – but inside the “Green Line” as well.