On the tours I lead of Nazareth and Upper Nazareth, I explain the strange – in fact, unique – problem Israel faces in these two cities. Upper Nazareth was built to “Judaise” Nazareth: swallow it up and leave it a poor Arab ghetto suburb of a modern vibrant Jewish city.
In fact, the task failed and many wealthier residents of Nazareth – starved of land to build on – bought homes in Upper Nazareth instead, to the point where a quarter of the city’s residents may now be Palestinian.
We all knew Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, hadn’t taken this lying down. He’s building a new neighbourhood for 30,000 ultra-Orthodox (ie religious extremists), has brought in settlers who were moved out of Gaza, and has set up a hesder yeshiva, a seminary combining religious study and army service – ie for religious extremists with guns.
But now we find out from the state comptroller (a sort of ombudsman) that he’s been doing all this through an illegal arrangement, backed by the government, that employed a “settlements adviser” at great expense – and paid for in part by his own Palestinian residents. The adviser, a rabbi called Hillel Horowitz, is one of the leaders of the Hebron settlers in the West Bank and is running for Habayit Hayehudi, a fascist party so extreme even Netanyahu avoided bringing it into his coalition.
Anyone who really wants to understand where the logic of Zionism leads needs to study the dark underbelly of Upper Nazareth politics.