Friday, March 26, 2010
This week Netanyahu spoke before the AIPAC Convention and declared, "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital. The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today." Amen. This is the point that Obama does not seem to understand or appreciate. Judging by his words in Cairo last year, Obama's view of Israel is more along the lines of Herzl's vision of the Jewish state. Israel is a response to antisemitism. Israel is recompense for the suffering in the Holocaust. This of course is partially true, but it fails to address the historical connection to the land of Israel. And this point is at the heart of the issue today. Even today's Times called Jerusalem holy to Muslims, but failed to use the same adjective when describing Jewish claims. The continued failure of the Palestinian leadership (and the world) to recognize and affirm this Jewish connection is fundamental to the perpetuation of the crisis. Where Obama is correct however is the failure in particular of Netanyahu to recognize that the suffering of the Palestinians also perpetuates the simmering of tensions. Having historical legitimacy never justifies adding to others' suffering. Israel of course has every right to defend itself against attack, even those and perhaps especially those that are only in the planning phases. The state must protect its citizens. That is part and parcel to the function of any state. Where we transgress is when we allow historical legitimacy and our own past sufferings to excuse causing harm to others. There are a few examples of this occurring even in the city that is closest to my heart. Then again I don't think everyone is treated equally in Chicago. That of course is no excuse, only an observation. But Ramat Shlomo is not the heart of the issue. There are two recognitions required to move forward. Palestinians must say the Jewish people have deep and abiding historical ties to this land and this city. Israelis must say Palestinians have suffered. We are partly responsible for their suffering. If Obama wants to twist arms, I wish he would twist both of our arms to say this. I wish he would not fixate on this neighborhood or that. I wish he would be even-handed in his pressure for both sides to address the heart of the matter.