Justifying his proposal, the Yisrael Beiteinu activist explained that such a move would “benefit everyone” by “avoid[ing] needless friction in the city and maintain[ing] the Jewish character of Upper Nazareth”.
The report also notes that the Mayor of Upper Nazareth “praised the initiative but stressed that the municipality cannot provide assistance for legal reasons.” Mayor Gapso has previously explained that he is “all for a democratic Upper Nazareth, but first of all a Jewish one.” In 2010, a message from the mayor on the city’s website stated: “Just as [David] Ben-Gurion and [Shimon] Peres said in the 1950s that the Galilee must be Jewish, we say the same about Nazareth Illit [Upper Nazereth]…The primary goal is to put the brakes on the demographic deterioration.”
Built to Judaize Nazareth
By way of providing further context, the following is an extract from my book ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’:
Having confiscated land ‘in the public interest’ in the mid 1950s, the Israeli government created Upper Nazareth, overlooking Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. In 1953, a government official acknowledged that ‘making Nazareth a partially Jewish city’ would be ‘a colonizing act with difficulties’, but its importance was also clear. The director of the IDF Planning Department said that the role of Upper Nazareth would be to ‘emphasize and safeguard the Jewish character of the Galilee as a whole’, while according to the Northern Military Governor, the final aim of the settlement was to ‘swallow up’ the Arab city through ‘growth of the Jewish population around a hard-core group’.
In a 1957 letter reproduced in a publication marking the Jewish town’s thirtieth anniversary, the then Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, wrote that ‘the new settlement must be a Jewish town that will assert a Jewish presence in the area’. In the mid 1960s, an Israeli newspaper article described the creation of Upper Nazareth as a governmental decision ‘to impose on Arab Nazareth a Jewish town … whose purpose – whose basic, primary, and even sole purpose is ‘to break’ Arab autonomy in the region and in this city, and later, to create a Jewish majority’.
Today, while Upper Nazareth’s 50,000 inhabitants occupy 42,000 dunams, down the hill in Nazareth, 70,000 Palestinians are forced into just 14,000 dunams: four times as crowded. Yet ironically, it is precisely this lack of room for expansion that has forced those Palestinians who can afford it to move to Upper Nazareth. This is the context for more recent efforts intended to consolidate the city’s ‘Jewishness’, like the announcement in June 2009 of a new ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood ‘to counter Arabs moving in’. A month later, Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the Yesha Rabbis Council, called for ‘the public to act to “Judaize”’ Upper Nazareth.