Friday, December 07, 2007

Jerusalem

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.

3 comments:

jjew said...

Jeremy, that was beautiful, smoothly written, and as always informative. However, there are is an aspect of the issue that as well determines the nature of the conflict. It is true that the Arab government against which we're faced has no good objective, but we cannot overlook the wrongs that the Israeli government has done. By that I am referring primarily to Moshe Dayan's decision, back in 1967 after Israel won the Six Day War and annexed East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, bringing it under Israeli control. According to the records, the very next thing he did was place Temple Mount sovereignty in Arab hands – THAT was the mistake, I guess you have no depth perception and see in two dimensions when one of your eyes is covered. Today we are suffering for his action. Not only that, many of Israel's current political leaders suffer from a basic lack of ideology and value, and so we continue to suffer for the same ideologically-strained mode of behavior. I saw David Horowitz speak at the Great Syangogue here in Jerusalem and he made a great point; Israeli society is willing to try again what it hasn't tried in the longest time – the premise is that perhaps things have changed now so let's go back to trying (previously failed) options again. Of course, simply in the realm of theory, we know what happens when people try the same thing over and over again – the same THING happens over again. Even RATS eventually take the right path towards the maze, something that the Israeli government and society, in the last 59 years or 41, years hasn't been willing or able to do. "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." You are theoretically right, but that theory flies out the window when the people with who we are dealing have an ideology which states that our metaphysical existence is invalid – people who have no metaphysical existence cannot be rewarded with a physical existence. Therefore, it can be said, all politics aside, that this conflict is religious in nature and not political. What, then, can solve it? Like Sting says, "There is no political solution." All I'm saying is that we can't expect the government to do the right thing, so crack open a siddur.

I'm not arguing with you, I respect you a whole lot and we agree on many points. Anyway, talk to you real soon, God willing. Alison should be coming here real soon (to Israel) for a week or so and we're going to hang out. Your brother in Moses, Yaniv…

Avram said...

well written Jerome and jjew

CresceNet said...

Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.