My latest piece for the American Prospect:
Lest it be said that I never agree with anything that Benjamin Netanyahu says, I actually concur with one clause — not a whole sentence — in the speech he gave Tuesday evening. “The struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle for the truth,” the prime minister of my country said.
The rest of his speech consisted of the usual quarter-truths and myths that make up most statements about “eternally united” Jerusalem — by Netanyahu himself, by other Israeli officials, and by often-naive American supporters. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel’s open letter, published as a full-page ad last month in The New York Times and other U.S. papers, is a good example of the art form.
Netanyahu was speaking at the start of the celebrations for Jerusalem Day, the sundown-to-sundown national holiday marking Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. (The anniversary is set according to the Hebrew date, rather than the civil date of June 7.) The venue was Merkaz Harav yeshivah, the seminary most identified with the stream of religious Zionism that gives metaphysical meaning to Israel’s victory in that war. Netanyahu’s right-wing ally, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, was admirably more honest speaking both at Merkaz Harav and the next day in Parliament. Rivlin acknowledged, with pain, that Jerusalem is not “bound firmly together” — the words from Psalm 122:3 so often cited in speeches about “united” Jerusalem.
Rivlin also admitted that outside of religious Zionists, most Israelis now ignore Jerusalem Day. Since East Jerusalem serves as synecdoche for all the conquests of 1967, this says something about wider attitudes toward the occupation. Most religious Zionists, along with politicians of the secular right, are still celebrating Israeli rule over the “Whole Land of Israel.” The majority of Jewish Israelis have simply put the occupation out of their minds, as a problem that seems both faraway and beyond solution. Meanwhile, those concerned with the occupation as a threat to Israel’s character and future do mark Jerusalem Day, not as a celebration but as the time for some truth-telling. …
Read the rest at The American Prospect; come back to South Jerusalem to comment.