Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sheikh Jarrah activists respond to Elie Wiesel's "Jerusalem is above politics" advertisements

Dear friends,

As you may be aware, last week Elie Wiesel, a prominent American supporter of Israel and a former recipient of the Noble Peace Prize, took out full page advertisements in the New York Times and Washington Post claiming that Jerusalem, as a city, was "above politics".

In the advertisments, Wiesel denied any Muslim connection to Jerusalem and claimed that all Jews, Christians and Muslims have unfettered access to their places of worship in Jerusalem. In addition, Wiesel claimed that all Jews, Christians and Muslims could build and reside anywhere in Jerusalem.

Weisel's denial of a Muslim connection to Jerusalem, of course, denies the very important place that Jerusalem has in both Islam as a religion and in Islamic history. In addition, his claims that all Christians and Muslims have unfettered access to worship at their shrines in Jersualem is an outright lie, as is his claim that they can build anywhere and reside anywhere in Jersualem.

Palestinian Muslims and Christians are regularly denied access to their holy shrines in Jerusalem and they are regularly denied the right to build "their homes anywhere in the city". Indeed, the policy of the Israel state is to push Palestinian Muslims and Christians out of the city, in order to "Judiaze" it. Wiesel in claiming that Jerusalem is "above politics", also denies the internationally recognised fact that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory.

In response to Wiesel's advertisements titled "For Jerusalem", more than 100 Israeli Jewish activists living in Jerusalem, who are active in the solidarity struggle with the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah who have been evicted from their homes in order for Jewish settlers to take over their homes, have published their own letter entitled "From Jerusalem".

The Sheikh Jarrah activists point out that Weisel speaks of a "celestial Jerusalem", while they live in an earthly one in which Palestinian freedom of movement is denied and where Palestinians are evicted from their homes and where Zionist politicians seek to "franticly Judaize" the city.

I have included below the letter by the Shiekh Jarrah activists (and the link to their website) and the text of the advertisements taken out by Wiesel.

In solidarity,
Kim


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From Jerusalem, an open letter to Elie Wiesel

http://www.en.justjlm.org/?p=97

Dear Mr. Wiesel,

We write to you from Jerusalem to convey our frustration, even outrage, at your recently published letter on Jerusalem. We are Jewish Jerusalemites – residents by choice of a battered city, a city used and abused, ransacked time and again first by foreign conquerors and now by its own politicians. We cannot recognize our city in the sentimental abstraction you call by its name.

Our Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches. Your Jerusalem is an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories. Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one.

For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.

Indeed, your claim that Jerusalem is above politics is doubly outrageous. First, because contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified. The tortuous municipal boundaries of today’s Jerusalem were drawn by Israeli generals and politicians shortly after the 1967 war. Feigning to unify an ancient city, they created an unwieldy behemoth, encircling dozens of Palestinian villages which were never part of Jerusalem. Stretching from the outskirts of Ramallah in the north to the edge of Bethlehem in the south, the Jerusalem the Israeli government foolishly concocted is larger than Paris. Its historical core, the nexus of memories and religious significance often called “the Holy Basin”, comprises a mere one percent of its area. Now they call this artificial fabrication ‘Jerusalem’ in order to obviate any approaching chance for peace.

Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one’s life. As true Jerusalemites, we cannot stand by and watch our beloved city, parts of which are utterly neglected, being used as a springboard for crafty politicians and sentimental populists who claim Jerusalem is above politics and negotiation. All the while, they franticly “Judaize” Eastern Jerusalem in order to transform its geopolitics beyond recognition.


Illegal Israel settlers move into a Palestinian home, whose family has been evicted. Outside the home lies all the Palestinian families possessions, thrown out by settlers.

We invite you to our city to view with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction. You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west. We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality’s refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians.

We, the people of Jerusalem, can no longer be sacrificed for the fantasies of those who love our city from afar. This-worldly Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it. Only a shared city will live up to the prophet’s vision: “Zion shall be redeemed with justice”. As we chant weekly in our vigils in Sheikh Jarrah: “Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!”

Respectfully,

Just Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) Activists


Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.


Banners in Sheikh Jarrah opposing evicts of Palestinian families from their homes.
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Text of New York and Washington Post advertisements:

FOR JERUSALEM:

http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/inthenews.aspx

As published in The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on April 16, 2010 and in The New York Times on April 18, 2010:

It was inevitable: Jerusalem once again is at the center of political debates and international storms. New and old tensions surface at a disturbing pace. Seventeen times destroyed and seventeen times rebuilt, it is still in the middle of diplomatic confrontations that could lead to armed conflict. Neither Athens nor Rome has aroused that many passions.

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.


Elie Wiesel

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

What is the solution? Pressure will not produce a solution. Is there a solution? There must be, there will be. Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security. Why not leave the most difficult, the most sensitive issue, for such a time?

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

- Elie Wiesel

1 comment:

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