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Without the Jews, there is no Jerusalem

The world’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish capital doesn’t hurt the Jews — a child knows who his mother is even if others don’t acknowledge it — it hurts the world itself, in its battle against Islam’s political and spiritual defiance.
633An unidentified Israeli American’s passport shows that she was born in Jerusalem with no country named    Photo credit: EPA

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a disputed law that would have allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to list their birthplace as Israel on their U.S. passports this week, it did not rule against Israel, as our “friends” rejoiced. In fact, it ruled against America. The White House and the State Department has long held the position of refusing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The court ruled that the U.S. President has final say on the issue, rather than Congress, which sought to impose American recognition of Jerusalem in a roundabout way. It was entirely an internal, constitutional disagreement.

But what does the Supreme Court ruling actually mean? It means that the U.S. does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is not just a geographical location — not even for the purposes of the internal, constitutional American debate — it is the object of many generations’ desire. Jerusalem is Zion. I am not talking about us — for us, Jerusalem is present in our Bible, in our prayers, in the way we observe holidays and life events, in our literature, in our pilgrimage and more — more so than any other topic. But Jerusalem is also present in the history of the American nation.

Religious and ethnic groups left ailing Europe and arrived in America, which they viewed as the Promised Land. To them, Jerusalem was a spiritual and political concept, the capital of a Jewish kingdom in the first millennium B.C.E., the birthplace of Christianity in the first century C.E. It was a symbol of the American ethos. There is no Jerusalem without the Jewish people. It was on the basis of what we made of Jerusalem, beginning in the time of King David and onward, that Christianity sought to posit itself in Jerusalem.

In the second century C. E., a great empire decided not to recognize the political and spiritual link between Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Rome renamed Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina” and Judea “Palestine” — named after the sea people Philistines (who disappeared from the region hundreds of years prior). It was in this way that the Romans sought to sever our ties to Jerusalem and to the land of Israel as a whole.

Later, with the joining of the Roman Empire and Christianity, the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon decided in 451 C.E. to appoint a patriarch to Jerusalem, motivated by the same historical pattern of cutting the Jews off from Jerusalem. It didn’t work. A total of 96 patriarchs have been appointed since then and until the city was reunited in 1967 by the descendants of the very Jews who were exiled from it. How many American presidents will be appointed before the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state?

Refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people does not hurt us. A child knows exactly who his mother is, even if others don’t acknowledge her identity, and vice versa. But what this refusal means is actually a refusal to recognize Islam’s political and spiritual defiance of the West — chiefly America. Islam fights against Israel and the Jewish people not as individuals, but as the first line before the West as a whole. Islam’s claim of religious exclusivity relates to all the religions of the world, not just Judaism. The implications of this are momentous — be it militarily, socially, politically or religiously.

The U.S.’s denial of the Jews’ link to Jerusalem is a denial of the very role that the U.S. plays in the global drama. Despite massive geopolitical changes that the Middle East and the entire Muslim world has undergone in recent years — from Morocco to Indonesia — a large portion of the Western elite still thinks that Israel is the problem, and if only Israel was sacrificed, world peace would be restored. History teaches us how misguided this thinking really is. In fact, the return of the Jews to Zion actually serves as a guarantee for the continued existence of Western civilization.

Shooting the messenger

But let us focus our attention to our own problems: Some of the responses among the conservative Right to the recent Channel 2 exposé on Likud MK Oren Hazan, (accused of having used narcotics and paid for prostitutes before being elected to the Knesset) are a case of shooting the messenger. (It would be interesting to see what kind of response would have come out of the Right had the subject been a leftist MK instead.) The information presented in the Channel 2 expose is extremely volatile, and has not yet been verified or corroborated. One would hope that Hazan will emerge from this as innocent and pure as the driven snow. But even if some of the story is true, what will we do with all this shame? The severity of these alleged actions is not only moral, as it pertains to the job of an elected official. The political implications are no less severe.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s misdeeds were also glossed over. So much so that in his zeal to deflect attention from his own corruption, he uprooted a thriving part of the land and essentially sabotaged his political successors. Various sources allege that his motivation for withdrawing from Gaza in 2005 was (among other things?) a desire to divert public opinion away from his own actions and to enjoy immunity from the media. This idea was echoed in Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramovich’s call at the time to handle Sharon with kid gloves (in Hebrew the phrase was: to keep him in a protected box the way you would a delicate citron).

And what about former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who, toward the end of his term offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reckless concessions that no Israeli leader before him dared to propose? Who can guarantee that he didn’t make this offer just because the sword of corruption investigations was hanging over his neck? Both Sharon and Olmert were high-ranking Likud members.

So what will become of Oren Hazan at the moment of truth? Will he assume the role of the new Alex Goldfarb (a rightist MK who supported the Oslo Accords in exchange for a political appointment), in an effort to people please and win the public’s and the media’s forgiveness? He is currently a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and the coalition, only 61-MKs wide, depends entirely on his vote. Our experience with Sharon and Olmert has taught us that it is best to vet people at the start of their political career rather than after they achieve high-ranking positions. It is critical that we do so.

On lords and titles

About a month ago I wrote an open letter to Pope Francis in which I argued that the Church’s efforts to recognize a Palestinian state in the heart of our land was a direct continuation of historical efforts to nail the Jewish people to the cross. My letter immediately elicited the harsh criticism of Haaretz English editor Bradley Burston, who called me out on disrespecting the pope by calling him “Mr. Pope” (in the Hebrew version) rather than “your holiness” (as I did in the English version of the same article).


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