Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wiesel and his emotional attachment to Jerusalem as opposed to Khalidi's description of reality

Wiesel did it again. Some days ago there were reports that Netanyahu asked him to use his influence on Obama (whom he accompanied on a visit to Buchenwald last year) to defuse the tension between the two governments. And here we are. In an ad that appeared in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal Wiesel jumps on the subject of Jerusalem:
"For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics," he writes. "It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Koran...the first song I heard was my mother's lullaby about and for Jerusalem.''

In the ad, titled "For Jerusalem", he also writes that Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under Israeli sovereignty has freedom of worship for all religions been assured in the city.

It's not exactly true what Wiesel says here. Freedom of worship was guaranteed for Muslims, Christians and Jews (except Israelis) all over the world only before Israel captured East-Jerusalem. What he says about the freedom for Jews, Christians and Muslims to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem is a lie, the freedom only applies to Jews. And when he pretends that Jerusalem was not mentioned in the Koran, he omitts the story of Mohamed's journey to heaven on the back of the flying horse Buraq, which supposedly took off from and landed on the exact spot where now the Haram al-Sharif is located.

But these are not the main points here. What really matters is his remark 'Jerusalem is above politics', meaning that for him Jerusalem's Jewishness is above question. In fact the gist of the ad is to leave all discussions about the issue till an as yet distant and ill defined future::
"Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security.''
Wiesel's ad was answered by an open letter from Debra DeLee of Americans for Peace Now in which she said among other things that Jerusalem is not just a Jewish symbol. It is also a holy city to billions of Christians and Muslims worldwide.  And alsothat follow your advice - to indefinitely postpone Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over Jerusalem - amounts to a future of blood and tears for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is not a prescription for trust and hope, but for perpetual strife. DeLee sent him a map of the city and invited him to a tour of East Jerusalem together with experts of Peace Now the next time he would be in Israel.

 Recent map published by the BBC. The figures relate to places which are in the news because of friction between Jews and Palestinians and/or because of building projects. 1) Gilo, 2)Pisgat Zeev, 3) Sheikh Jarrah, 4) Ramat Shlomo, 5) Silwan, 6) The Wall

But the real answer to Wiesel appeared, a few days before Wiesel published his ad, in Foreign Affairs (quoted by Mondoweiss) by the hand of University of Columbia historian Rashid Khalidi (picture). Khalidi explained that there is nothing 'disputed' about areas in East-Jerusalem, because everything Israel has ever done there is in clear contravention of international law. Also he pointed to the fact that some 40 generations of  Arab, Muslim and Palestinian leaders are buried in the ancient Mamilla cemetery (over part of which the Wiesenthal Center is building a Museum of Tolerance (!).. And next he wrote:
Today, Jerusalem is the geographic center and communications hub of the West Bank. By walling the city off from its Arab hinterland and building fortresslike settlements in concentric rings around the city -- and, increasingly, within its remaining Arab neighborhoods -- Israel has succeeded in fragmenting and isolating Arab population centers within the city. These settlements also hinder the flow of north-south traffic through the West Bank, leaving Israel as the master of a terrain speckled with tiny Bantustan-esque islands of Palestinians....
When it comes to Jerusalem, a final-status negotiation that begins from the status quo -- the result of successive Israeli governments establishing settlements as faits accomplis -- will be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader. Even a return to the status quo ante of 2000 is insufficient, given Israel’s aggressive reshaping of Jerusalem’s surface and subterranean landscape since the 1980s. One need only walk through the streets of Jerusalem with a sense of what they once looked like to understand how takeovers of key buildings; strategically placed new housing developments, roads, and infrastructure; extensive archeological excavations; and the digging of a vast network of tunnels under and around the Old City were intended to fragment Arab East Jerusalem and permanently incorporate it into Israel.
 In the end, only a negotiation in which all of Jerusalem is placed on the table will suffice.

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