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Mar. 26 2010 - 1:40 pm | 535 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

What if I Said Jerusalem Belongs to Christians?

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stirred up a hornet’s nest of interreligious conflict this week with comments about Jerusalem – the city of holy sites belonging to three religious groups who trace their common ancestry to Abraham. “Jerusalem is ‘our’ capital,” he told the annual AIPAC advocacy conference. “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today,” he said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has drawn worldwide criticism for his assertion of one religion's hegemony over the holy city of Jerusalem, which the three Abrahamic religions would like to share.

Bibi, your assertions about Jerusalem are so contrary to the commonly accepted view of Jerusalem in the international community that you have lit up the blogosphere. Wonder if your staff will print out this piece for you from the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole entitled,  ”Top Ten Reasons East Jerusalem does not belong to Jewish-Israelis.”

You have surprised and embarrassed liberal Jewish Americans; see this editorial in the Jewish Daily Forward calling your claims to Jerusalem “inflexible” and calculated to “play to a certain crowd in Israel and America.”  See this piece by the novelist Richard Greener on Huffington Post, positing the question:

If we were Palestinians could we start our own nation in 2010 while 500,000 citizens of another country occupy our land, and could we agree to watch helplessly as they grow in number to almost two million before the year 2050?

Bibi, way to act like the leader of a theocracy [like those other MidEast nations you criticize] and way to dis the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians. Having picked this high-profile fight over Jerusalem with our Nobel Prize-and-health-care-battle-winning president – for whom 78% of Jewish Americans voted – you are not looking like the “two states for two peoples” statesman who spoke so diplomatically at Bar Ilan University last June. You are not serving the large majorities of both Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis who consistently state their support for a two-state solution in polls.

Was it by design or by accident – like the timing of announcements of new settlements in East Jerusalem – that your comments have incited the Arab League right before their meeting in Libya this weekend? They’ve just announced the need to spend $500 million “protecting” Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and plan to take their complaints to the International Court of Justice.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is going  to the summit to head off any hasty action during this “crisis of confidence,” noting that, “It is crucial for Arab countries to help create a favourable atmosphere in which the [peace] talks can succeed.”  Good luck.

Storm clouds over Jerusalem: Will it soon be time to send in U.N. peacekeepers?

Storm clouds over Jerusalem: Will it soon be time to send in U.N. peacekeepers?

Bibi, are my my peacenik, ecumenical ears a bit too sensitive – ’cause to me it sounds like some of your most radical supporters are trying to ignite a holy war. How would it sound to you  if the tables were turned? Consider:

What if I stood before 7,000 people [as you did at AIPAC] and asserted a claim that – since the Hebraic people didn’t rule in Jerusalem between the year 70 C.E. and 1967 – Jerusalem really belongs to the world’s Christians, and therefore we should build government-subsidized, Christian-only settlements and lots of churches throughout the city?

Jerusalem's street signs have long been in three languages. After religious radicals painted out the Arabic street names, Jewish peace activists hurried to put the Arabic names back.

If my supporters changed the Hebrew street signs to English and called for a socially-engineered Jerusalem that would always be 66% Christian?

Ultra-Orthodox settlers rioting in occupied East Jerusalem to force a parking lot to close on Saturdays for Shabbat.

If my allies encouraged monks, priests, and nuns to riot to force parking lots to stay open on Saturday [the Jewish Shabbat] but close on Sundays to honor the Christian Sabbath?

If my mayor planned to raze 80 homes to build a religious theme park called the King’s Garden [as right-wing Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has done?] Only in this Christian-dominated Jerusalem, we would be razing Jewish as well as Arab homes, and the “king” celebrated in the King’s Garden would not be David, but Jesus Christ.

People would call me a religious bigot, and worse – and rightly so. Yet these provocations reflect reality in Jerusalem today.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: This “ours, not yours”  attitude about Jerusalem encourages anti-semitism around the world. The Forward put it better: “The world will often pick on Israel given the chance. Smart leadership tries not to give it the chance.”

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  1. collapse expand

    What if I stood before 7,000 people [as you did at AIPAC] and asserted a claim that – since the Hebraic people didn’t rule in Jerusalem between the year 70 C.E. and 1967 – Jerusalem really belongs to the world’s Christians, and therefore we should build government-subsidized, Christian-only settlements and lots of churches throughout the city?

    I’d tell you to go reread Genesis 12, Numbers 24 and Ezekiel 47. If you believe in the God of the Bible, it appears to me there’s no room for anyone other than the Jews to claim ownership of “the land”.

    Count this Christian as not offended.

    • collapse expand

      Some Jews at the coming of Christ accepted Him as the Messiah, these are the true Jews. God has fulfilled his promises and covenant with the Jews who have accepted Him. The new Israel, Jews are those who follow Christ. Everything that the Jews have done since Christ is but ceremonies of nostalgia. There is no temple as Christ said would happen, no sacrifices, what is left of the Jewish religious activity and beliefs? Israel is actually Christian, the fulfilling of the prophets of Judaism into Christianity. Supporting Israel now is in vain and only politically advantageous.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees freedom of worship for Christians (and Muslims, when those don’t come to Al-Aqsa to throw rocks on Jews below). We claim Jerusalem as our capital, because it was the one and only national capital of Jews. American Jewish liberal opinion isn’t exactly the factor here. When Obama pressed Netanyahu to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria, most of Israelis supported Obama. Don’t count on this support when Jerusalem is at stake.

  3. collapse expand

    Just wondering why President Obama needs Israel’s support. We give Israel 3 billion dollars, and we need their support? Bibi is and always has been extreme and intransigent. He may lose his coalition over this. Labor is reportedly backing off. And it’s all just more of the same – the woman got more votes, but they figured this guy would hammer a tighter coalition together. Hmmmmm – seems like something I’ve seen before.

  4. collapse expand

    Eileen, you could say Jerusalem belongs to Christians, and it would be as meaningless as me saying that Vatican City belongs to Muslims, or that Mecca belongs to the Hindus. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Vatican City are all sovereign states and do not need your assent, nor mine, to govern themselves nor to define themselves as Muslim, Jewish, or Christian.

    As I’m sure you know, the rights of Christians and Muslims to worship freely in Jerusalem are fully protected by the state of Israel. You and I, as non-Muslims, cannot even enter Mecca (segregated roads) nor bring a bible or wear a crucifix or kippah into Saudi Arabia.

    It’s true that anti-Semites use any action of Israel’s they disagree with to excuse their hatred of Jews in any country in the world. But I would have hoped and expected that a true peacemaker would condemn this kind of disgusting bigotry, rather than indulging in self-righteous “I-told-you-so’s.”

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    About Me

    I'm a former Wall Street Journal defense, technology, and telecomm reporter and helped launch the Friday Weekend Journal as a contributing writer. For the past several years I have been a writer, editor, and communications professional for international NGOs in human rights, microcredit, and advocacy. Currently working on an anti-genocide project at a Washington, DC, think tank.

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