Painting a green line through Jerusalem.

green line Jerusalem

An activist paints a literal Green Line on June 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (A. Daniel Roth)

There is a green line that runs through the city of Jerusalem.

It exists only on maps, and pretty much only on maps not printed by the State of Israel or other Jewish institutions, but it exists, and it represents a part of the international border between Israel and the West Bank as of June 4, 1967.

It exists even though official Israel and its supporters have done everything within their not-inconsiderable power to erase it in word and deed, creating a municipal behemoth that is currently one hundred times larger than the city was a century ago, pushing Palestinians out of neighborhoods and family homes and rendering fundamentally unholy the very city towards which Jews pray three times a day.

Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.

Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance,yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.

“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.”

Activist Emily Schaeffer explains:  “It’s disturbing to me that the average Israeli or visitor to Israel is able to go about daily life without noticing the occupation and oppression that exist on the other side of the Green Line, and that is because that line has been erased, both literally and conceptually.”

And of course, Israel has erased the international border, the Green Line, in many, many places, all up and down the West Bank, via settlement construction, Israeli-only roads, and the land-grabbing Security Barrier. The simple act of brushing green paint down a Jerusalem sidewalk was intended, activists say, to call attention to the entirety of occupation—not just that in the nation’s capital—on the anniversary of its beginning.

Yet it’s undeniable that the occupation is most easily denied in Jerusalem. Israeli and Diaspora Jews know what and where the West Bank is—they might support Israel’s settlement in that land, but they can’t fool themselves that it’s anything but a military occupation, at least for now.

But the average Israeli long ago stopped thinking of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, and French Hill as settlements. They’re just neighborhoods. Nice places to live, where the kids can run through the hilly yards behind sandstone apartment blocs.

Reminding them, the Diaspora community, and the world at large that these neighborhoods (and many more like them) are every bit as illegal as the West Bank hilltop communities they see on the nightly news is an important, subversive act.

Because if American and Israeli Jews are going to support the settlement project and all it entails—occupation, human rights violations, a possible end to the two-state dream—they need to be honest about it. They need to actually see what it means, especially in our holy city.

Green paint and cardboard are a good place to start.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.


  1. Ronald Bradley

     /  June 5, 2013

    Your articles about the green line on cardboard and about Kerry’s recent speech give me hope and even solace in that I can see that someone else shares my views and is not deluded by paranoia and lies. Thank you. I think that there is still hope and Kerry will be very tenacious. I think that these new Obama people are finally a match for the devious Netanyahu. Otherwise Israel will self-destruct because America and Europe will eventually lose interest in the ugly behavior of Israel.

    • There are a lot of good folks on the ground doing good work – I’m just afraid that the powers that be have moved things along too far at these point, and all we can do is go down protesting. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong on that. (And thank you very much).

      • There are political efforts that can be made, but they require dropping some long-held consented opinions by the left.

        Specifically, that Jews east of the green line would not be permitted to remain in sovereign Palestine.

        If settlers were permitted to remain, but not as Israeli citizens, and without any exclusively Jewish neighborhood, and color-blind application of perfecting title to land by compensation, then the reality would be a Palestinian sovereign area with a 10% Jewish minority, and no longer any pretense of the settlement effort being an official Israeli government sponsored expansion effort.

        • Ronald Bradley

           /  June 8, 2013

          I fear that the US will make major concessions to Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the West Bank, simply because so many Israeli partisans are assisting the US in these machinations – if the Palestinians agree with this, which is unlikely, I still think that it is better than allowing Israel to steal everything in the long term. The US elite who are setting this up may be somewhat biased towards Israel because some of them and their minions are Jews. I am not sure about this. In many articles in the mainstream press these minions have been described in the past as acting as lawyers for Israel. I am just happy that Kerry is trying to do the right thing and that the Obama administration are less cynical than I expected. Perhaps I am naive but I have not felt optimistic like this for years. I pray that something civilized will happen.

          • Want2Know

             /  June 10, 2013

            “The US elite who are setting this up may be somewhat biased towards Israel because some of them and their minions are Jews.”

            So, because they are Jews they are inherently biased? Your statement sounds like sometthing one would have heard in Berlin during WWII.

  2. I visited Ramallah in 2009 and nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced there. The oppression in the air was like a straightjacket. Within minutes of the start of my visit I understood why and how suicide bombers are born. Tragic. Unbelievably tragic.

    • It’s awful, and most people with opinions about it have no idea what it’s like. One thing I love about Kerry is that he has actually been to Gaza and the West Bank. He’s one of about 5 or 6 American politicians who have ever actually bothered to do that. It says a lot to me about the man, but I don’t know if it’s enough.

  3. Good street action.

    • I thought so, too, really good. I couldn’t help but mentally contrast it to yelling at FLOTUS at a fundraiser – some disruptive protests are powerful and effective, and some really are not. It’s best to choose the kind that are.

  4. A few years ago, on Mondoweiss, I suggested the idea that activists lay a green thread, the length of the green line. (The holier-than-thou editors and commenters there pooh-poohed it.)

    A year ago, I elaborated on the idea, in a blog-post entitled “As If”

    It is a proposal to regard all of the land east of the green line as Palestine, and to voluntarily put it into practice.

  5. Ilan Chaim

     /  June 8, 2013

    The Green Line is not an international or permanent border, but the Armistice Line that marked the ending of Israel’s War of Independence in 1949. According to Security Council Resolution 242, territories it delineates (not “the” territories) will eventually become the basis of permanent borders defining Israel and a future Palestinian state, once the parties actually sit down and negotiate a settlement face to face. This process is unlikely to succeed if people can’t tell the difference between a 64-year-old cease-fire line and present reality.

    • Richard Witty

       /  June 9, 2013

      ONLY Israel regards the land east of the green line as anything but occupied.

      Per international law (in the UN requiring General Assembly and Security Council ratification), there is not yet a legal Israel, as the partition resolution was only a general assembly resolution, and was not ratified by the security council.

      It was affirmed to be real by the consent of the super-majority of states.

      By the very same logic, the land east of the green line is occupied land, not sovereign Israel, prospective Israel only by the generosity of the PA, in their effort to evolve to good neighbor to good neighbor relationship.

      Borders are created by consent, not by decree. As property is affirmed by consent, and not by decree (or evolution from “military necessity” to civilian residence).

  6. Ilan Chaim

     /  June 9, 2013

    One legal interpretation says the Jordanian aggression in June 1967 obliterated the Green Line; i.e. the breaking of the 1949 truce necessarily erased the line that marked it. The fact that Britain and Pakistan were the only countries to recognize Jordan’s 19-year occupation of Judea and Samaria only made it easier to extend this mistaken concept to Israel’s custodianship of the territories ever since. It is precisely because these territories were never part of any sovereignty that they are correctly referred to as disputed territories. Let’s end the dispute once and for all by drawing up the borders between Israel and Palestine and move on.

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