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Owning Jerusalem: Identity and Borders in the Holy City

June 4th, 2008by Haim Watzman · 6 Comments · Judaism and Religion, Politics and Policy

Haim Watzman

I recall a gathering of journalists once many years ago at which a well-meaning but clueless intern told me that she worked in “Jerusalem, Israel” and then quickly corrected herself: “I meant just Jerusalem. I believe it should be an international city.”

In response to my Jerusalem Day post earlier this week, DanH asks a related question:

It has always seemed to me that, given the claims of both sides, the only long-term solution for Jerusalem is joint or autonomous administration, not just of the holy places, but of the whole city.

To idealists, and to some overwhelmed by the intractability of the Jerusalem problem, internationalization and joint Israeli-Palestinian rule over the cialis cheapest Holy City sound like wonderful solutions. But, quite aside from the practical problems (recall Danzig, recall Trieste), they are wrong in principle.

Why? Because they give neither the Jews nor the Arabs what they want and cheapest levitra in uk need-ownership and sovereignty in the city they see as their capital.

Those two words, “ownership” and “sovereignty,” sound primitive and selfish to idealistic peaceniks. But that’s only because such people think the whole concept of national and religious identity is primitive and selfish. Enlightened humans, such people believe, don’t need such divisive things as religious belief and national affiliation. They don’t need blood and soil.

True, religious fundamentalism and hypernationalism can be a cause of conflict. But so can disregard of the natural human trait of identifying with and how to get generic viagra taking pride in one’s native culture, faith, and land. One reason (not the only one, of course) that sub-Saharan Africa is such a mess today is that the colonial powers disregarded ethnic affiliations and territories in drawing their boundaries. And self-styled trans-national states (Austria-Hungary, the Soviet Union) always end up imposing a dominant culture on their minorities, leading to resentment and rebellion.

But the cialis prescriptions online diversity of human culture, language, historical narrative, and paths to God is a gift and an asset. Who wants to live in a world where everyone thinks, talks, remembers, and worships the same? Instead of ignoring or dismissing particularistic identities, we need to strengthen them. It’s when people feel that their national and religious identities are under threat that they take up arms to defend them–and justly so.

A nation strong and secure in its identity can afford to give up some of its native territory and accept and acknowledge that other nations have other beliefs and cialis for sale in the uk narratives. When a people feels secure–not just militarily, but culturally as well–they can compromise.

Making both Palestinians and Israelis feel secure in their identities is thus essential for any peace plan. Given the centrality of Jerusalem in both Palestinian/Arab and Israeli/Jewish history, belief, and myth, it’s important that each nation have its own stake in the city. It’s not enough to hand it over to some vague international administration, or to share ownership. Each nation needs and deserves to have a part of it for its own. With firm and unchallenged sovereignty for both nations, Jerusalem can indeed become a city of peace.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Barbara // Jun 4, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    “A nation strong and secure in its identity can afford to give up some of its native territory and accept and acknowledge that other nations have other beliefs and narratives. When a people feels secure–not just militarily, but culturally as well–they can compromise.”

    Exactly, I would say. But then, are so many Israelis really insecure? Are settlers? Is it insecurity that makes them blind or something else altogether?

  • 2 Y. Ben-David // Jun 5, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Prof Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University appeared on Al-Jazeera’s prime-time talk show on Yom Yerushalayim. The host asked him what business of it was the Jews to be in Islam’s holy city of Jerusalem. Kedar replied that Jews were worshipping G-d in the Temple in Jerusalem 3000 years ago when the Arab predecessors of the Muslims were worshipping idols, burying baby girls alive and drinking wine…meaning that first and cheapest price for strattera foremost, Jerusalem is a Jewish city, long before the Muslims made any claim to it. The host then replied “but Jerusalem is mentioned in the Qu’ran”. Kedar says “no, Jerusalem is NOT mentioned even once in the Qu’ran”. The host started quoting and then realized the verse doesn’t mention Jerusalem by name, only referring to “al-Masjid al-Aqsa” (the far distant place).

    Kedar was interviewed the next day on Yaron Dekel’s radio (Reshet Bet) talk show “Hakol Diburim”. He asked Kedar whether it was wise to mix religion with politics. Kedar (who used to be an activist in the religious Leftist party Meimad and supported the Oslo Agreements but has recanted these things) said, “you don’t understand…to the Muslim, the two are one and the same thing. The existence of a Jewish state is a terrible affront to the Muslim religion. They feel jihad is mandatory in order to get rid of the abomination of a dhimmi Jewish state in the Middle East”.

    So there you have it. The problem is not “letting the Palestinians find their identity in Jerusalem by controlling part of it (are you willing to give them Judiasm’s holiest place-The Har Habayit-Temple Mount?). Splitting the difference as you advocate will not solve the problem, it will only exacerbate it by showing the Arabs/Muslims that we are not serious because by giving up our own holiest places to them, we are not prepared to struggle for anything and we are admitting that “really, they are right…we don’t belong here at all”.

    This is the reality of the situation, as difficult as it may be to accept.

  • 3 The Other Alan // Jun 5, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    “Because they give neither the Jews nor the Arabs what they want and need-ownership and sovereignty in the city they see as their capital.”

    The same can be said for the country at large, and this calls out, more than anything, to the fantasy of two-states. I won’t even go so far as calling it a two-state solution, because with two states I see no solution, just further fragmentation.

    “It’s when people feel that their national and religious identities are under threat that they take up arms to defend them–and justly so.”

    Sometimes, maybe more often than not, when people feel threatened they lash out against “Them”. Just look at Zionism. Instead of defending against the depredations suffered in Europe, Zionists turned their attention to a return to the Land of Israel and began lashing out against the Palestinians, conjuring up every means to disenfranchise this population and impose Jewish dominion.

    So in this sense Palestinian resistance is justified, and justice will be served when the effort to impose dominion and buy cheap cialis without a prescription the disenfranchisement ends. This is probably the only solution for Israel. To become great enough, and stay big enough, to accomodate within its border west of the Jordan the concept that “diversity of human culture, language, historical narrative, and paths to God is a gift and an asset” not just for Jews but for all equally. Retreating into small-minded ethno-religious fragmentation continues until such time that a higher notion of existence on this Earth takes root.

    Right now Israel has only insecurity in mind. Keep Jews insecure to promote immigration and entrenchment. Keep them insecure by highlighting Jews as the world’s #1 victims. Keep Palestinians insecure in their ties to their homeland. But as Abraham Lincoln noted, ” A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall”.

  • 4 DanH // Jun 5, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Haim,

    Thank you for your reply. I am in the “overwhelmed by the intractability” camp, not the idealist camp. Or more precisely, I see how division could work and may even be necessary in the short run. However, I am not sure that an all-Jerusalem city council is going to be impossibly more dysfunctional, than, say, the dangerously fragmented Knesset is now.

    It is clearly going to take several generations for the bitterness to subside. But is important to start the interactions that will cause that to happen. It was not so long ago that large numbers of Palestinians crossed the border to work alongside Israelis, though it may be impossible to imagine such a thing at the moment.

    I do not see how Israel can remain a giant walled city in the long run. In the short run, Israel has decided it is necessary for survival. But I despair if no effort is made to start opening the gates in both directions.

  • 5 niqnaq // Jun 5, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Isn’t the question of whether Jerusalem is physically divided, by a wall, distinct from the question of whether it is legally divided, by a border?

  • 6 SoJo Morning Line-Up // Jul 8, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    [...] Internationalizing Jerusalem? It won’t work, Haim says. [...]

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