O, Jerusalem — Israel Symposium postscript

O, Jerusalem — Israel Symposium postscript

Uri and Yael, first cousins on my mother’s side, are a rather typical middle class couple, moderate Israelis who live in a suburb of Haifa. Longtime supporters of the Labor Party, their votes are now up for grabs. And hopeful constituents of Rabin and Peres during the 1990s peace process, they now voice disdain for the sincerity of the Palestinian Authority leadership’s peaceful intentions. This view seemed almost universal among Israelis we saw on last month’s Meretz USA Israel Symposium and in my own travels the week after, until my return about 12 hours before seder time.

On Jerusalem in particular, Yael surprised me with her opinion on the ongoing disagreement between Netanyahu’s coalition government and the Obama administration on the right and wisdom of continuing to build housing for Jews in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. “We have no choice,” she said.

There is a choice, of course, and this choice that Israel has made is a poor one, because it gobbles up the very ground that is required for a territorial compromise in Jerusalem that would help make a two-state solution possible. While on a tour of East Jerusalem with our very knowledgeable (and patriotic) Israeli guide from Ir Amim, we looked down upon a shiny new neighborhood there. Our guide asked rhetorically if Israel or the Jerusalem municipality suddenly saw the light in providing sidewalks and other amenities to treat its East Jerusalem Arab residents equitably. The answer sadly is “no”; the new traffic circle, the new buildings, the playground and the sidewalks are there for the convenience of new Jewish residents in a development now called Nof Tsyon.

This links to a long NY Times blog post which discusses the issue of Jerusalem in detail.

By | 2010-04-06T23:59:00-04:00 April 6th, 2010|Blog, Symposium|5 Comments


  1. Werner Cohn April 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,
    Your relatives Uri and Yael live in Israel, and will have to live with whatever peace arrangements are going to be made. You live in New York, and will not have to live with the views you urge upon them.
    Thanks for reporting on their views, though, and also for reporting that their views seem to represent the bulk of Israelis.

  2. yaksul April 16, 2010 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Tragically, there is no more left or liberal zionism. It has been hijacked by tribal fanatics who call the shots in Israel. Israel today may be a democracy but it is one only for Jews. What has trumped human rights in Israel is the demographic imperative which entails the dispossession and exclusion of Arabs. Israel has made attaining a two state solution an impossibility, simply because Israel does not want it.

  3. Ralph Seliger April 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Werner Cohn believes that unless we live in Israel, we have no right to express our opinion on these issues. Since I believe in free speech, I see this as wrong on its face.

    I see the kind of views expressed by Uri and Yael as leading Israel to endless conflict. Out of politeness as their guest, I did not say this to them. On this blog and in other public forums I have every right to say so; I do not, however, have the right to expect that my say-so as a non-Israeli will be listened to.

    I hasten to add that other relatives of mine, as well as the Meretz activists we met, see things more as I do. And even though I’ve observed that most Israelis have lost faith in the peaceful intentions of most Palestinians, it is heartening to have it reported at an Israel Policy Forum event last night that 60% of Israelis still favor dismantling at least some West Bank settlements in the interest of peace.

    Understandably, most Palestinians must also be distrustful of the peaceful intentions of Israel. It is our task as progressive Zionists to soldier on in the face of such doubts, and of the cynicism expressed from radically different perspectives by both Werner Cohn and Yaksui.

  4. Heidi Wilson April 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    Ralph, I disagree that you have no right to expect your opinion to be listened to. This is a moral issue and all human beings, being subject to moral responsibilities, have the right to have their reasonable arguments considered. Also, the Israel/Palestine situation is doing so much damage to the entire region and also to the U.S., that you have a right to be heard as an affected party.

    Hang in there, Meretz! And keep talking.

  5. Anonymous April 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    To commenter Werner Cohn:

    Do you also agree that right-wing American Jewish perspectives should be disregarded for the same reason that you give? If so, please tell AIPAC the same!

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