Recycled: A Note to Hillary on Jerusalem Disunited

Last year I wrote an open letter to Hillary Clinton, then frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, on the mistake she was making by promising support for “united Jerusalem” – or rather the mistake in believing there was any such thing as undivided Jerusalem.

A very long year has passed, and Barack Obama has just chosen Hillary as his secretary of state. Freed of the need to win reelection as senator, burdened with responsibility for policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, she has the opportunity and obligation to update her understanding of our riven city. So here’s some reading material for her (the start below, the rest at The American Prospect). Just trade “candidate” and “president” for “secretary” and it reads fine.

Dear Hillary,

A colleague alerted me to your recent position paper on Israel, with your promise of support for an “undivided Jerusalem.” I appreciate the warm feelings, but I admit I was confused by your description of my city. Since you are a careful, wonky candidate, I figured you must have details at your disposal. So this morning I called a Palestinian cabby friend, and together we went looking for the “undivided Jerusalem.”

I live in Talpiot, an area that hugs the vanished DMZ that ran through part of the city between 1948 and 1967. The next neighborhood over, East Talpiot, was built after Israel annexed East Jerusalem and a swath of land around it in 1967. East Talpiot fills much of the vanished DMZ. It was part of the massive government effort to move Israeli Jews into the new areas and to erase the armistice line between Israel and Jordan. The apartment blocks sit on wide, tree-lined streets with brick-paved sidewalks. There are municipal playgrounds, and green park benches where the elderly can rest, and speed bumps to make life safer for kids crossing the streets. There is no marker to show where the armistice line once ran. If one drove no further, this might seem like the very vision of a city sewn seamlessly together.

But we drove on, into Jabel Mukaber, the Palestinian neighborhood immediately to the east. The community slopes down the side of a ridge toward a valley. We came in from the top, where a few of the streets have wisps of sidewalks. Further down, sidewalks vanish. School was letting out; a crowd of girls filled a narrow street while school buses tried to nudge their way through. The asphalt, cracked and faded, looked like a mere memory of pavement. Trash lay on the sides of the street and covered a hillside.

For copyright reasons, please read the rest here. But you can come back to South Jerusalem to comment.

While I’m on the subject, Todd Gitlin alerts us to this piece by Roger Cohen, also advising the new secretary of state that she should drop the old cliches about Israel:

I think Olmert’s words should be emblazoned on the wall of Hillary Clinton’s eighth-floor State Department office: “We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the territories. Some percentage of these territories would remain in our hands, but we must give the Palestinians the same percentage elsewhere — without this, there will be no peace.”

Asked if this included a compromise on Jerusalem, Olmert said, “Including Jerusalem.”

And yes, as I’ve mentioned before, Olmert’s era will be remembered for the strange gap between his dovish and evermore desperate rhetoric and his failure to stop settlement growth or reach a peace agreement. It’s my belief that you know people by their contradictions. But rarely are the contradictions writ so large.

2 thoughts on “Recycled: A Note to Hillary on Jerusalem Disunited”

  1. Dear Gershon, As a resident of the city, I agree that the notion of a ‘unified Jerusalem’ is but a hollow refrain.

    What kind of Jerusalem what you like to see in the next five years?

  2. Dont worry. Soon al Quds will revert to its true owners. We wont bother you in your holy city, Las Vegas, filled with sacred tawdriness. You have a historic claim to Las Vegas, since it was founded by a Jewish criminal, Bugsy Siegel. We have the only historic claim to al Quds.

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