Friday, December 07, 2007


You may have heard how the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was this week considering a law that declares Jerusalem to be a "Palestinian, Arab and Islamic city." Despite Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and being a bitter foe at the moment of Fatah, the political movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, any Fatah members who are opposed to the law aren't opposed to its message or spirit, but to Hamas (rather than Fatah) being the main sponsor of the bill. This would-be law is interesting in how much it differs from Israeli laws concerning Jerusalem, and the attitude and actions of the Arab states regarding the "City of Peace" (ha!). In sharp contrast to the Israeli view of its capital, the Arab world's narrative about Jerusalem is exclusive in the extreme.

Following the capture by Israel of the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem - along with the Old City and its holy sites - in June 1967 during the Six-Day War, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed the "Protection of Holy Places Law 5727". This law said, "
The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places." The law went on to warn that "Whosoever does anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years."

All too easily forgotten by the world is that while the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan ruled the West Bank and occupied the Old City, from the late 1940s to the summer of '67, Amman violated armistice agreements and prevented Israelis from reaching Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites in eastern Jerusalem.

In 1980, the Israeli parliament passed another law on Jerusalem, the "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel," which set out once and for all the Jewish State's position on the Holy City: 1)
Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel. 2) Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court. This "Basic Law" repeated the provisions of the 1967 "Protection of Holy Places Law", stating once again that 3) The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.

Sadly, I've yet to see a single Palestinian or Arab law that recognizes not only the right of Jews to have access to their holy sites in Jerusalem, but that would protect the right of adherents of all faiths - other than Islam - to have free access to holy sites. While it is true that Israel has many times over declared Jerusalem to be the Eternal Capital of Israel and the Jewish People, being a country of true laws and not fatwas, Israel also recognizes the rights of all peoples to share in the holiness and history of the city. Such a policy, such a recognition, would be odd if Israel were anything like her neighbors - ruled by sheikhs and autocrats, narrow-minded, intolerant. As it is, Israel is and should always be a welcome exception.

Anyone who wonders what the situation would be like if a Palestinian government ruled over the Old City (or any other part of Jerusalem) can look not only to that aforementioned law about Jerusalem discussed this week in the PLC, not only to the Jordanian precedent set prior to the Six-Day War, but also to Saudi Arabia's example in its role as caretaker of the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina. If you're not a Muslim, I wish you good luck in trying to visit those cities. Despite the fact that Jews and Christians once lived in (and helped to found) such places, if you're not Muslim, you're officially prevented access to them.

No secret it is that I consider myself to be a fairly flexible person, open-minded, welcome to hearing the opinions of others even if - sometimes, especially if - they differ from my own. When the moment is appropriate, I see the inherent value of compromise and cooperation. But if we're talking about the status of Jerusalem, you will find me inflexible, narrow-minded, and decidedly uncooperative and uncompromising.

I wasn't always this way, but...things long ago changed for me.
Despite Jerusalem's deep, archaeologically provable Jewish history and nature (to say nothing of Biblically-based arguments), I believe the Holy City must always welcome and provide free access to holy sites for believers of all faiths who truly revere and honor the people, places and events which have occurred there. Above all, when it comes to my position on Jerusalem - a city I've lived in and love - I feel that being uncompromising, narrow-minded and inflexible is the best way to preserve religious (and political) liberty in Zion.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hey, Iran is still Iran

There are probably many people - of a certain political ideology - who are inclined to trust Iran a bit more now that we're hearing Tehran suspended nuclear weapons research in 2003. In fact, the people who are willing to trust Iran more now are probably less willing than ever to trust the Bush Administration, despite recent events being seemingly a softening of position as part of an effort to reduce tensions. But allow me to remind those people, if they didn't already get the message from the preceding paragraph, that Iran is no way vindicated - as IAEA head Mohammed El-Baradei stated - by our Federal Government's sudden turnaround.

It would have been much more to the advantage of the United States, and our stated goals, if the released intel on Iran had been kept quiet - not, that is to say, in order to justify war. But now America has lost practically all the leverage we had on Iran, and the rest of the world regarding Iran's activities. A change in position such as this represents leads me to believe that behind-the-scenes, something not entirely advantageous may be in the works. This isn't pessimism; it's pragmatism: it smells, to this landlubber, like a fishing vessel - returned from a trip out to sea - that has yet to be scrubbed.

Iran is not a dangerous country simply due to the alleged activities in pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Iran is still a supporter of Hizballah, which, let us not forget, provoked a war with Israel in the summer of 2006 that caused immense suffering for citizens of both Lebanon and the Jewish State. Iran is still, also, supplying insurgent Islamists in Iraq with weapons to use against U.S., Iraqi and other allied troops. It is still a theocratic dictatorship, and unless the Islamic Republic has suddenly changed its opinion about America being "the Great Satan", its messianic leadership is still committed to our ruination in one way or another.

Were there a U.N. Commission on Fighting State-Sponsored Terrorism, Iran - if that "august" organization didn't ironically vote the Islamic Republic to be such a group's chief - would be considered the planet's number one participant in supporting violence against civilians to achieve ideological gains. Iranian meddling in Iraq is directly responsible for the deaths of American troops - and whatever your opinion of the War, if you're more likely to blame Bush for GI's deaths than those who are actually doing the killing, you're a misguided fool.

Iran - and by Iran, I mean the Iranian theo-crazy government and those who prop it up - is still a bad guy.
Let's call a spade a spade. The Islamic Republic represents an affront to all civilization, and the further it spreads its tentacles, the more it gains the potential to be the sort of Evil Empire that could put the Soviet Union - and the death tolls, internal and external, caused by the U.S.S.R. - to shame. No "peace" in the Middle East will ever have a chance at long life so long as Iran remains ruled by this incarnation of government, this Islamic Republic.

Those who assail all of the connections between religious groups and politicians in the U.S.A. should recognize that however many such connections exist in America, we are nowhere near the extreme amalgamation of religion and politics represented by the Iranian theocracy. There is a huge difference between President Bush stating he believes his faith guided him in deciding to change Iraq's government and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stating God is continually telling him to incinerate millions of Israelis (if not with nukes, then with Shihab-3s...does it really matter what he'd use?).

Among our closest and loyal allies, we can count the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia and Israel - democracies all. Who are Iran's closest partners? Russia, China, Venezuela, and Hizballah. Not exactly the "Super Friends", are they?

Perhaps this news about Iran is very similar to those medical findings we see released every few years - one study says eggs are good for you, the next says eating too many can kill you. You don't know who to trust, because the people issuing a warning today will be the same people who retract it five years from now. I'll admit the accumulation of more information,
that may paint a clearer picture of reality, is a good thing. But sometimes, keeping it quiet is a better option than shooting yourself in the foot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Hanukkah!

From Adam Sandler's HBO special...seems like ages ago...of all the versions of this song, the original is still the classic..