(Thanks to Rhonda Spivak)
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 smiles. “Yes, I speak like everyone else around here. I guess I picked up the expression.”
Firas, an Arab, who lives in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood also says he isn’t in any rush to be under the PA, and is fine with the fact that there are “both Jews and Arabs who live in Abu Tor.”
“Who knows what kind of State there will be under Abbas. All my life I’ve lived under Israeli rule, so I don’t know anything else. But I don’t think my life would be better under the PA,” he says.