Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Monday, 18 February 2008

Jerusalem Diary: Monday 18 February

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem


You can, if you wish, have your say over Jerusalem.

Monopoly borad for London from 2005
Monopoly boards traditionally show properties within a single city
The manufacturers of Monopoly (which, they claim, is the best-selling board game in the world) are holding an online poll to decide which cities should be in their forthcoming "World Edition" of the game.

As of 18 February, "Jerusalem, Israel" was fifth on the leader board, sandwiched between "Riga, Latvia" and "Paris, France".

This is no accident. The campaign group One Jerusalem is determinedly encouraging people to make Jerusalem number one, by the time voting closes at the end of the month.

Yehiel Leiter is the director general of One Jerusalem, a group that, in its mission statement, declares a single objective: "Maintaining a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel."

The Monopoly campaign, says Leiter, "puts Jerusalem on the table. It has people not avoid Jerusalem because it's contested".

One Jerusalem has other campaigns: it is encouraging people to pressurise the orthodox Sephardi Shas party into leaving the governing coalition, and so turn the government which talks of negotiating a potentially Jerusalem-dividing agreement with the Palestinians into a minority administration.

The group also says it has handed out 128,000 golden ribbons on the streets of Jerusalem (the colour is because of the song, "Jerusalem of Gold").


Mudi had a golden ribbon fluttering from the wing mirror of his taxi, until recently.

But Mudi is unusual, in that he is an Israeli Arab.

"The truth is," he told me, as I sat alongside him in his taxi, "Jewish people, especially religious people, won't stop any taxi driven by an Arab."

But when they see a golden ribbon, says Mudi, "they know no Arab guy would have it on his car".

Jerusalem from the air

Mudi has another advantage: he says he does not "look" like an Arab, and he speaks Hebrew fluently. Passengers mistake him for a Jew.

"And very, very few people are not prejudiced," in what they say to him. At least, that is the case in Jerusalem.

"In Tel Aviv," he says, "it is exactly the opposite. They don't care I'm an Arab".

When his Jerusalem passengers disembark, Mudi says he tells them that his name is, in fact, Mahmoud.

He says, though, that he has not felt "comfortable" with the ribbon. Indeed, the other day, when he was washing his taxi, he ripped it off, and so far has not replaced it.

Still, many of his Arab colleagues continue to tie a ribbon around their rear-view or wing mirrors, in order not to put off potential customers.

Some, says Mudi, even wear a yarmulke (Jewish skullcap).


A postscript on the fate of "Jerusalem, Israel" and the new edition of Monopoly.

As has been noted before in this diary, the international consensus is that the status of Jerusalem has yet to be decided.

The United Nations partition vote of 1947 held that the city should be a "corpus separatum", under international supervision. That vote has not been superseded in the UN.

When approached, Hasbro, the American manufacturers of Monopoly, promised that they would not second-guess the UN, should Jerusalem be included.

In an email to the BBC, they stated: "Due to space limitations no selected city's board space will have any descriptive text aside from said city's common name."

Yet to be resolved is how much Jerusalem will cost. The Old Kent Road (Mediterranean Avenue) or Mayfair (Boardwalk)?

Your thoughts and comments on Tim Franks' diary:

Jerusalem should not be included as under international law, neither East nor West Jerusalem is considered Israel's capital. Tel Aviv is recognised as Israel's capital, pending a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. East Jerusalem is considered by the international community to be illegally occupied by Israel and in contravention of several binding UN Security Council Resolutions hence Tel Aviv, Haifa, aye OK - Jerusalem, definitely NOT !!
Umran Amin, Glasgow, UK

"International consensus" on Jerusalem? What hogwash! Tell me, if every country in the UN had to get together and decide that London should be an "international city", no longer belonging to England, does that mean that officially London should no longer be recognized as part of England? I do not care what anyone in this so-called "international consensus" says - Jerusalem is OURS, and NOBODY has any right to tell us it's not.
Shaul Behr, Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine it will NEVER be the capital of Israel!
Alia Hamad, Jerusalem, Palestine

I am an Israeli Arab and I also tend to be a bit concerned when near the Palestinian controlled areas when geting into a taxi, as for the rest of Israel there are no such problems. Please don't try and make some racialist stories out of Israeli Jews, they are my fellow citizens!
Dr Moukie Fallah, Herzalia Israel

Firstly, the taxi story is obviously made up. Most taxi drivers here are Arabs, so waiting to find a Jewish one would take for ever. Also there is no way of telling if the taxi is driven by an Arab or a Jew and quite frankly we dont care! Secondly, even as a voter of Israel's most Left wing party, there is still no denying that J'lem is Israel's why not have it listed like that. Most Arabs in Jerusalem want to stay part of Israel and most are rushing to get citizenship.
Yoni, Jerusalem, Israel

I never got a taxi in Israel, but I did hitch a ride with my Israeli friends. When we were picked up by an Arabic man they were petrified and remained silent in the back, shivering every time I spoke in my clearly British accent. The man was very friendly, and I was appreciative of the lift we got when we were miles from any towns. My friends tutted at my 'naive' English sensibilities... The level of distrust, and the palpability of tension between the Israelis and Palestinians/Israeli Arabs was unbelievable.
Norman, London

No nation in the world recognizes East Jerusalem as part of Israel. It is considered occupied Palestinian territories. So If Hasbro, the American manufacturers of Monopoly, wants to put WEST Jerusalem, Israel, then that's fine.
George , UK & Palestine

I spent two years in Jerusalem and never heard of anyone avoiding an Arab taxi!
Avi, Manchester, UK

Lucky us in the North. Hizbollah is over the border and we live in quiet coexistence with our Arab co-citizens. At least half of all taxis are driven by Arabs. I don't know anyone who would waste his/her time in avoiding these taxis. Jerusalem is different. It is open to the Palestinian-governed areas. People are more afraid there.
Haifa, Kfar Bialik

It's not only Jerusalem that has people campaigning for it to be on the Monopoly World Edition board. A quick check on the internet showed similar campaigns for London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cape Town and Montreal. There will be many more. Why pick on us?
Jack Cadranel, Jerusalem, Israel

About the Mudi story: who cares who drives? In my work place most of the drivers are Israeli Arabs - and nobody cares. The story don't reflect nothing about the general situation here.
Shimon, student, Ben Gurion University, Israel

I am a non-Jewish American who lived in Jerusalem for over a year recently, and I still travel there several times a week to go to school. None of my Jewish Israeli friends has ever expressed any reservations about taking cabs driven by Arabs. We're students, and life in Jerusalem is not cheap, so we usually take the first guy who gives us a fair price. As others have pointed out, you can't necessarily tell at first whether he's Arab or Jewish or Klingon anyway.
Taybeh Chaser

I find a lot of the comments from the zionists rather offensive. How can you say you are not racist and then claim all Arabs are terrorists in the same breath?
John Stoffel, Rochester, NY

The reason many Jerusalemites avoid Arab taxis is not, as you insuate by your lack of explanation, because they are racists. Most people do it out of fear of being driven into Arab East Jerusalem or Ramallah, for criminal or terrorist / political purposes. Jews in Tel Aviv are not fussed by the affiliation of their taxi drivers because there are no dangerous areas near Tel Aviv.
Shaya, Manchester, UK

Maybe later Hasbro can promise to make a version for the "occupied territories" on the back of an opened-out cigarette packet. Instead of monopoly money they could have international pledges. The whole board would be one colour (brown) with no utilities or waterworks, no Chance (or hope) and there would be no need for the Jail square (as it would all be one great small prison). Any developments on the squares would face getting crushed by an oversized armoured dice...
Omar, Cardiff

I am Jewish & religious. I lived in Jerusalem for 28 years. Although I don't live there any more my parents do. I have used taxis all my life so I find Mudy's story awkward and strange. Never in my life, I checked up if the taxi driver is an Arab or not. Most recently I was sitting in a cab and the taxi driver's name was Muhamed, we discussed all the way to my parents' house and eventually finished our conversation blessing each other. So BBC, please stop this nonsense!
Joseph Elboim, Beit Shemesh, Israel

Hasbro promised not to second guess the UN yet they still decided that they should award Jerusalem to the zionist state?
Karim, Jerusalem, Palestine

Something is not quite right in the Mudi story. All Israeli taxis have a prominent notice showing the driver's name, licence number and photograph. Consequently it would be very difficult for him to disguise his origins.
Victor Leaf, London, UK

Given the worldwide importance of Jerusalem to three religions, why not honour Jerusalem with two places on the board, West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Then Zionist players could have fun buying up both in the game and Arab players would try their level best to buy East Jerusalem (most probably failing due to their lack of Monopoly money hence accurately reflecting their lack of economic clout in real life as compared to Zionists). I just feel sad when Jews get caught in the middle of a fight between Zionists and Arabs.
Prabuddha Ghosh, Delhi India

The story of Mudi cannot be entirely accurate.
Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem, Israel

Let's say it is as accurate as "Jerusalem, Israel".
Oscar Lima, Brighton, England

I am half Jewish and half Russian. I often go to my father's birthplace, Jerusalem, and our corporate office in Tel Aviv. The official capital is a very diverse workplace, while our spiritual capital is not. My relatives always caution me against speaking to any Arabs. Our US office employs a secretary from India, who happens to have an Arabic name. I was overheard addressing her by the name and was chastised for "giving an Arab a shelter for terror at home". I did feel truly uncomfortable as I felt this being discussed behind my back during my entire stay.
Nate Levi, Stanford, CA

How are they going to keep Muslims who play Monopoly from acquiring Jerusalem? Us Christians have been known to lust after the place as well -- and we're BIG Monopoly players. Is this really a good move?
Colin Wright, Richmond, Ca, USA

I think it would be a mistake to add Jerusalem to the monopoly board. By doing this the maker would alienate all the Arabs who have enjoyed playing monopoly and have also witnessed first hand the humiliation and suffering Palestinians have endured at the hands of Israel.
Ali Abadi, London Ontario Canada

It is scandalous that the world questions the legitimacy of the Jewish peoples' right to undivided Jerusalem as their historical and religious capital, particilarly when Muslims and Christians already have their own religious capitals.
Michael Hammer, Frisco,Colorado

Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, whatever you left-wing pundits say. So there is no controversy. Just because some Hamas and PLO want it as a capital of their would-be state is not a fact, but an aspiration.
Eliyahu, Jerusalem, Israel

I find Mudi's comments rather odd. I live in Jerusalem, I'm Jewish and religious and I flag down the first cab that comes my way regardless of who's driving it. I wouldn't even know how to distinguish between a cab driven by an Arab and one driven by a Jew.
Gideon Ross, Jerusalem, Israel

This is yet another small step in the long slow march of the Zionist International to deceive, persuade, cajole, brainwash the general public into accepting its lies and demagoguery. The UN General Assembly, which is the closest this world gets to a truly "international community", has voted again and again that everything the Jewish State of Israel has done and intends to do in East Jerusalem is illegal and null and void. The world has spoken - does anybody listen?
Ibraheem (O.E.H.Johansen), Copenhagen, Denmark

The story of Mudi cannot be entirely accurate. I have lived in Jerusalem for three years... Taxi drivers have NEVER told me their names, whether Mudi, David or Mohammed. It is true religious Jews feel safer with Jewish drivers. Why should that be surprising, given the terrorism? The writer should have thought about this a little more before he printed this claim that the driver supposedly tells his name to people after letting them out.
Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem, Israel

"Jerusalem, Israel"?? Even the US government doesn't recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. I sense a Zionist agenda. Bad idea for sales.
Jasem, Dubai, UAE

This version of Monopoly is going to be a geopolitical nightmare. Have they thought about who's going to have the honour of holding the Jail square?
Kate, Paris, France


Tim Franks 29 March
Views from Cairo



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