Inspiring News from East Jerusalem

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I'd like you to meet a 14-year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem, Mohammed El Kurd, who is the bearer of encouraging, even inspiring news but also of somewhat depressing news. Let's get the bad news out of the way. In the first of the two BhTV video clips below, Mohammed describes to me what it's like when Israeli settlers move onto property that has been your family's since 1956, refuse to leave, and make it their goal to intimidate your family into moving off the part of the property you still inhabit.

The good, truly uplifting news is that some Israeli Jews started demonstrating on behalf of Mohammed's family and other Palestinian families in his neighborhood. Here is the effect this had on Mohammed's world view:

Israeli courts have upheld the right of the settlers to stay where they are--which is kind of remarkable when you consider that, under international law, East Jerusalem, being outside of the "green line," isn't even part of Israel. Israel did unilaterally annex East Jerusalem, but even Israel's closest ally, the United States, doesn't recognize the annexation as valid.

Mohammed's story is told in a documentary called "My Neighbourhood," which was filmed when he was 11, right after the settlers moved in, and has recently come out on DVD. There's an eight-minute, condensed version of the documentary here, and the trailer for the documentary is here:

[Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem aren't allowed to vote in Israel's national elections. That was inaccurate. Though most East Jerusalem Palestinians aren't eligible to vote, they are allowed to apply for Israeli citizenship and, if it is granted, they become eligible to vote. A large majority have chosen not to apply for citizenship for reasons including (1) the pre-requisites for citizenship laid down for East Jerusalem Palestinians (e.g. renouncing all other citizenship); and (2) the view, held by many East Jerusalem Palestinians, that by applying for citizenship they would implicitly validate the Israeli occupation. There's some background here and here.]

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Robert Wright is the author of The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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