On Saturday, 18 June 2022, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) and the Institute for Palestine Studies hosted Nazmi Al-Jubeh, Professor of History at Birzeit University in Palestine, and an expert in the history and heritage of Jerusalem, to provide the Annual Nakba Lecture titled “Jerusalem and the Battle for Survival.” Al-Jubeh’s lecture is the second in this series, following Azmi Bishara, the General Director of the ACRPS, who gave the inaugural lecture titled “On the Contemporary Relevance of the Nakba and the Arab Dimension of the Palestine Issue”, in May 2021.
The event was moderated by Arab Center researcher, Ayat Hamdan, and was attended by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Palestine Studies, Tarek Mitri, and its General Director, Khaled Farraj.
Al-Jubeh began his lecture by addressing the political and social backgrounds of the ongoing movement in Jerusalem to resist the reality produced by Israeli policy. He stressed that current events in Jerusalem mark an exceptional case that will be reflected in the wider Arab region and the Middle East. He reviewed Israeli occupation policy and its impact on the city and its residents, stressing that the occupation weaponizes land and demography to erase the Palestinian identity of Jerusalem.
The historian noted that the Israeli occupation is anxious about the demographic factor, with the Palestinian population expected to increase to more than 50 percent of the population in all of historical Palestine. The occupation is thus attempting to limit the Palestinian population to live on only 10 percent of the city’s area and Israeli policies to control the land have succeeded through the clearly growing number of settlements. He added that settlement policy not only aims to control the land, but also aims to break up the national social fabric of Palestine — but the non-political popular resistance stands in the way of these policies. Population growth works in the interest of the Palestinian population. The number of Palestinian births in all of Jerusalem exceeds the number of Jewish births, which abound only within the more religious Jewish groups.
Economically speaking, the occupation is systematically impoverishing the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem by forcing the middle class out of Jerusalem and to invest elsewhere, and directing the working class to pursue labour in low-wage jobs, such as cleaning and construction work, inside the occupied Israeli interior. Al-Jubeh made some predictions for the Jerusalemites based on current data and the occupation’s projects targeting the city and its Palestinian residents, especially in the Old City, which the occupation has failed to Judaize, despite many desperate and coercive attempts.
The historian concluded his lecture by addressing Israel’s attempts to create a false narrative, referring to it as “the war of the narrative” between the two broad popular Israeli narratives led by Zionist religious nationalist movements, which are challenged by the Palestinian counter-narrative based on self-awareness and identity. The young generation is now moving without the guidance of the divided Palestinian factions or the Palestinian Authority, which cannot stand up against the unorganized mass popular action, making life difficult for the occupiers.
Following the lecture, Azmi Bishara, led the launch of the Jerusalem Story website, a project initiated by the Arab Center, and in the works for the past three years. It was designed and prepared by a team of twelve researchers, collaborators, and volunteers.
This site addresses an absence of electronic platforms that showcase the city of Jerusalem, providing critical coverage of the occupation’s settlement and expansion projects and recording the Arab narrative to counter the spread of the Israeli narrative about the historical city. Bishara indicated that the English-language site explains almost everything about Jerusalem, telling the history of Jerusalem and its residents from the 1948 Nakba War until the present time. The website complements the Arab Center’s Documentation programs on the Palestinian issue, such as the “Palestinian Memory” project, which was established by the Center several years ago. These efforts also parallel other projects to document Arab issues such as “Syrian Memory”, which the Center aims to launch next March.
In this context, Bishara indicated that the Palestinian cause requires thinking about the frameworks that unite the Palestinians (Jerusalem, the Diaspora, the Arabs of 48, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip). Hence, the Annual Palestine Forum that will be held every January by the Arab Center and the Institute for Palestine Studies, as part of efforts to reconcile academic scholarship with commitment to justice and the struggle against occupation. This was followed by an introduction to the website by manager, Kate Rouhana, who provided a detailed breakdown of the site contents.
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