This is not a book that Rashid Khalidi will like, which is perhaps as good a recommendation as any. Khalidi, who recently accepted the Edward Said chair at Columbia, is also the president of the American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ), in which capacity he has charged that for Arabs in Jerusalem, building permits are "nearly impossible to obtain." There is, Khalidi claims, a supposed Israeli program of "ethnic cleansing" meant to force out Jerusalem's "Muslim and Christian Arab population, and making Jerusalem an exclusively Israeli city. Israel is attempting to reach its stated goal of a 70 percent Jewish majority by the year 2020."[1] Variations on this charge are repeated endlessly by, for example, Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Amnesty International, and B'Tselem.

Despite their reiteration, these charges are entirely baseless, as now demonstrated in encyclopedic and lucid detail by Weiner. Far from an Israeli program of "ethnic cleansing," since reunification in 1967, Arab population growth in Jerusalem has actually outpaced Jewish population growth. In 1967, the city was more than 73 percent Jewish and today that majority is down to 69 percent; the projected percentage in 2020 is 62. Arabs have also built residential housing in the city at a faster pace than have Jews and have had requests for building permits approved at a rate almost identical to that for Jews. In many other cases, Arabs have chosen to build without the expensive permits (which pay for water and sewer hookups, etc.), both for nationalistic reasons and because the permits must seem a poor investment with demolitions as rare as they are.

Weiner, an international legal expert who teaches at Hebrew University and is scholar-in-residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, presents the demographic facts and building trends in penetrating detail, buttressing his arguments with sixty-five images of building in Jerusalem, in some cases identifying the owner, the building law violations, and the eventual legal outcome. In addition, Weiner features fascinating accounts of Arab landowners who have officially complained to the city over illegal building by fellow Arabs. Also included are numerous before-and-after aerial images showing the massive extent of building in the city's Arab neighborhoods.

While some of the information Weiner cites was previously known, thanks to work by Israeli scholars such as Israel Kimhi (to whom due credit is given), the preponderance of the findings are documented here for the first time. Considering the huge number of deceptive books, reports, and claims on this subject, Weiner's book is a must for any serious library and for all those with an interest in contemporary Jerusalem.

[1] ACJ letter, dated Dec. 1998, quoted in Alex Safian, "NPR's Special Bias," Sep. 30, 2002, at http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=6&x_article=280.