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