Sir William Fitzgerald Report on Jerusalem 1945

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Sir William Fitzgerald

on the

Local Administration of Jerusalem.

28th August 1945

Table of Contents



          Part I: Historical Backgound

                    The Jews and Jerusalem

                    The Christians and Jerusalem

                    The Arabs and Jerusalem

                    The Interlude

                    Jerusalem and the British Occupation

          Part II: Proposals for a Solution of the Problem

                    Constitution of the Boroughs.

                    The Franchise Generally.

                    Constitution and Function of the Administrative                                            Council.

                    Town Planning.


                    Water Supply.


                    Finance of the Administrative Council.


                    General observations in regard to financial
                                         aspects of my proposals.



 My terms of reference were; "To enquire into and report to the High Commissioner on the local administration of Jerusalem and to make recommendations in relation thereto."

Jerusalem! The whole history of the world cannot contain many words which so touch the depths of human emotion: the Temple of Solomon, its Western Wall ex­isting to this very day; Golgotha, the scene of the Crucifixion; the Mosque al Aksa; the Dome of the Rock; these are the revered shrines of three of the world's greatest religions. All four are situated within, the walls, hence the complexity of the prob­lem of its government.


 Part I.


The Jews and Jerusalem.

 For the Jews the city epitomises the story of the Israelites. Here some thou­sand years before the Christian era David established his kingdom and moulded the tribes into a nation. Here Solomon built the Temple. After Solomon, the magnificent edifice was destroyed and the people led into captivity by the Babylonians. The captivity was of short duration. Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of Babylon, restored Jerusalem to the Israelites seventy years after its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. The Temple was rebuilt. Nehemiah restored the city walls, but one hundred years later they were to be breached by the Persians, who in turn were supplanted by Alexander of Macedon. Thereafter, the city was to be captured by Ptolemy of Egypt and Antiochus of Syria. Again the Temple was desecrated. A revival of a hundred years of the Maccabean era closed with the capture of Jerusalem by the Roman general, Pompey, in 63 b.c. The victory of Pompey pressed heavily on the Jewish people. Herod was appointed their king but his was an empty title, he was a vassal of Rome. True he was a Jew, but he was a converted one, by race he was an Idumean. Even his res­toration of the ravaged Temple did not enhance his prestige.

For over one hundred years the Jews nursed their resentment, and then they rebelled. Rebellion against Rome was never an easy struggle. Internal dissensions made it hopeless. In 70 a.d. the city fell to Titus. The second Temple was burned to the ground. The stones.of the Wailing Wall were all that escaped the flames and the subsequent plundering. The Jews were scattered to many lands. This disaster they believed to be in the nature of but another temporary captivity: they did not assimilate with the people amongst whom they now lived; the diaspora was created and with it the Jewish problem.


It is nearly 1900 years since the destruction of the city by Titus, over seven­ teen centuries have passed, since the final dispersion after Bar Kochba's rebellion but "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning" finds as deep a response-to-day in every Jewish heart as it did when it was uttered by the psalmist during the first captivity. To add to -that intensity of feeling, the yearning in the 137th psalm has earned a measure of fulfillment. There are in Palestine some half-a-million Zionists. Their communal settlements are dotted from Dan to Beersheba. They are there by virtue of a provision embodied in the Mandate of the League of Nations Jewish eyes this is no colonization as we understand the term, but a return to take up inheritance. The distinction is important because it goes to the root of the problem.


The Christians and Jerusalem.

 The City of Jerusalem was the scene of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ and to this day for Christians it enshrines imperishable memories. To them it is more than the capital of a country. Their stake in it is measured not by taxable capacity but by sacred values no less real to-day than they were 2000 years ago. The effect on Jerusalem of the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman Empire was far-reaching. The Empress Helena excavated the hill of Golgotha and a church was erected on what is now the site of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, The other places in Jerusalem sanctified by the works of Jesus were sought and reverenced. The pilgrimage, that exercise of devotion which has so profoundly influenced the life of Jerusalem, was instituted. At the division of the Roman Empire in 395 a.d. Jerusalem became subject to the jurisdiction of Constantinople. For the next two hundred years it enjoyed a peace such as it had never known. Several beautiful churches were erected. They emphasize to this day the Byzantine tradition of the city as potently as the Mosque al Aksa bears witness to the Moslem and the name of every hillock and pool recalls the Jewish, At this period it can be said that Jerusalem lost its identity as a town in the province of Syria and became a city of churches of the Christian world. Indeed, it seemed as if it had been favoured beyond cities and states of the time. For nearly 500 years it had been spared the scourge of war. But a disaster of appalling magnitude was now at hand. In 614 the city, whose inhabitants had become enervated by long years of comparative peace, fell an easy prey to Chosroes II of Persia.

Retribution came some years later when the Persians were utterly defeated at Constantinople, and the Emperor Heraclius marched into Jerusalem bringing with him the true Cross. Most of the churches were rebuilt. Jerusalem resumed its way of life as the pilgrim Cxty of Christendom. The Persian terror had receded into the limbo of forgotten things. Few could have noticed the rising tide which eventually was to sweep over the Pyrenees on to Tours, and leave in its ebb as a legacy to Euro­pean architecture the stately Alhambra of Granada.


The Arabs and Jerusalem.

 In 637 after a siege of four months the city fell to Omar the second Khalif of Islam. It is only in recent times that justice has been done to Arab achievement under the first four great Khalifs. Never in the sorry story of conquest up to that day and rarely since, were such noble and generous sentiments displayed by a conqueror as those extended to Jerusalem by Omar As an act of respect the Khalif himself came from Mecca to receive the capitulation. Like another great warrior more than twelve cen­turies later, he walked into the city on foot by the Jaffa Gate. One of the conditions of capitulation, which was faithfully observed, was that the churches, lives and property of the Christians should be spared. Freedom of religious worship was guaranteed, and Muslim and Christian lived in amity with one another. If they had done nothing else during the centuries that have passed, this treatment of the vanquished Christians would have for ever assured the Arab race of an honoured place in the annals of Jerusalem. The city was, however, to Islam more than a symbol of conquest. It played a prominent part in the religion which united and inspired them. The God of the Old and the New Testament had blessed Jerusalem, and Mahommet was the pro­phet of that God. The Angel Gabriel had borne him from Mecca to commune with God himself, on that spot where al Aksa now stands; from that rock in Jerusalem which to-day is enclosed within the noblest building raised by Arab genius the prophet ascended to heaven. The Mosque al Aksa was erected and took its place with Mecca and Medina as one of the three great shrines of Islam. For three hundred years the new rulers displayed a religious tolerance such as Western Christianity could never practise or never understand.


       In the tenth century, however, the infiltration of the Seljuk Turks led to discrimination against the Christians which indubitably caused hardship and even persecution.


The Interlude.

 Pilgrims returning to Europe carried with them stories. In 1093 Peter the Hermit appeared in Palestine. On his return to Western lands his fiery eloquence stirred up* emotions which caused Europe from the Baltic to the Mediterranean to march to the Crusades. A landing in Palestine was effected and after varying fortunes Godfrey of Bouillon led the armies over the walls of Jerusalem on 15th July, 1099. The Latin King­dom of Jerusalem was launched on its uneasy journey with the crowning of Godfrey in the Holy Sepulchre.

Although the crusaders maintained a precarious foothold for another 100 years, the Latin Kingdom fell on Salah-ed-Din's overwhelming victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. Jerusalem once again passed into the hands of the Muslims, but not before yet another tradition, the Latin one, had taken firm root, to add to the complexity of life in the Holy City. The next few hundred years marked a period of decline. Pilgrims still came spasmodically but religion in the Western World was taking new shapes. In 1517 Jerusalem was taken by the Ottoman Turks and it remained a part of the Turkish Empire until it was entered by the armies of General Allenby on 9th December, 1917. The closing years of that Empire were to add further complications to the legacy to which the British succeeded because during the 19th century the weakness of the Sublime Porte enabled several European powers to wrest extra-ter­ritorial privileges for their Christian communities established in the Holy City.


Jerusalem since the British Occupation.

 Such was the city entered by Allenby on that memorable day in 1917. Jew, Christian or Muslim cannot walk its streets without receiving a rebuke, or strength and hope from its every stone and sound.

In 1934 the Municipal Corporations Ordinance, an adaptation of English local government law, was applied to this city steeped in tradition and riddled with claims of privilege. It has failed. For the purpose of my task it is unnecessary to enquire deeply into the cause of the failure. It will be sufficient if I say that the foundation upon which English municipal government rests is recognition of the fundamental principle of democracy that the opinion of the majority shall prevail. The Arabs are unable to concede the application of that principle to the city of Jerusalem that has taken shape since the advent of British administration. In the light of history I am constrained to admit that this point of view, although not to the extent to which it has been pressed by the Arabs, is not without substance. Indeed, politically responsible Jews have repeatedly stressed that they fully appreciate that the unique position of the city of Jerusalem calls for a specialized form of administration.


Part II.

 Proposals for a Solution of the Problem

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