Will Netanyahu Open his Ears?

By George Hishmeh – Washington DC

Israel, like a child, always sees itself blameless, thanks to its traditionalist supporters, including some key members of the well-entrenched American Jewish community, who cannot see the light of day as if they are blindfolded.

Here is one prominent example (and there are many) where the author of  a full-page advertisement, costing tens of thousands of  dollars, and which appeared in key U.S. papers, made a fool of himself this week, even as some fellow Jews recognized.

Elie Wiesel, a prominent Holocaust survivor and a 1986 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is the author of the ad titled ‘For Jerusalem,’  where he expresses his attachment to the city and yet has never chosen to live  there. In the ad, which reportedly has been paid for by a friend and which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has supported, Wiesel makes outrageous claims. He says, ‘Contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims are allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem.’

Wiesel is definitely out of touch, or has been in deep slumber while this hawkish Israeli government has been kicking Palestinians out of their homes in occupied Arab East Jerusalem and allowed Israeli Jews to settle there.  In fact, Professor Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi of Hebrew University challenged Wiesel ‘to find three Muslim families in all of West Jerusalem.’  He pointed out that ‘a growing group of Jerusalemites, Jews and Palestinians, stand in protest every Friday afternoon in the parking lot in Sheikh Jarrah (an Arab  neighborhood), across the street from where Jewish settlers have brutally  displaced Palestinians based on some doubtful claim to Jewish ownership prior to  1948.’

As a matter of fact, Jewish property in West Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1948, is less than 30 percent.  Professor Salim  Tamari, author of ‘Jerusalem 1948′ The Arab Neighborhoods and their Fate in the  War,’ explains that Arabs owned  ‘close to 40 percent of the property in West  Jerusalem (and) another 30 percent were owned by religious waqf (trust) foundations, mostly Greek Orthodox.’ 

Wiesel also claimed that Jerusalem is ‘not a single time (mentioned) in the Koran, ‘the Muslim holy book, while ‘more than 600 times in the Scripture.’  He obviously is unaware of Laylat Isra wal-Miraj in which the Koran details the journey of the prophet Muhammad, guided by the archangel Gabriel, from the Haram Mosque (in Mecca) to Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem), where he met the earlier prophets, including Adam, Moses, and Jesus and then ascended to paradise, where he experienced the majesty of Allah, and was also shown hell.  The Miraj is nowadays popularly celebrated with readings of the legend on the 27th day of the Muslim month of Rajab, called the Laylat’ al-Miraj (‘Night of the Ascension’). 

Jerusalem, also known as the Holy City, is also sacred to Christians where Jesus Christ is believed to be buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Interestingly, right across from the church is the Mosque of Omar, named after the Muslim Caliph who upon visiting Jerusalem turned down requests from his followers to pray at the Church of Holy Sepulcher when he visited the church for fear that his followers would turn it into a mosque.  Graciously, he stepped a few yards away and prayed in the open yard where the mosque stands there.

All this outrage by some in the American Jewish community stems from the unclear stance of the Netanyahu government and his extreme rightist cabinet members like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who last Tuesday told a group of foreign diplomats that Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Israel and it will never be divided – ‘neither directly nor indirectly’, a line once uttered by the late Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin.

This view is contrary to others positions taken by former Israeli leaders like Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, according to Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now. ‘Without a deal on Jerusalem there will never be peace for Israel, she emphasized, adding ‘without a strong effort to step up the peace process, the status quo prevails.’  She went on to say that her organization ‘will continue to back President (Barack) Obama as he takes steps to help Israel make peace.’   Otherwise, the status quo ‘could mean Israel’s continuing into pariah-state status.’

At present, Israel is at the bottom of a list of the least favorably viewed nations standing at 19 percent, according a recent BBC poll.  Only Pakistan (16 percent) and North Korea (19 percent) are lower.

In brief, as Ari Shavit of the liberal Israeli paper, Haaretz, wrote that ‘in order to save our home, (it) is necessary to act at once to end the occupation; it is essential to effect an immediate and sharp change in diplomatic direction.’ 

Will Netanyahu begin to listen or else he may find himself on a slippery slope, thanks to supporters like Wiesel and Lieberman, among others.

– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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