I love Jerusalem. It is an achingly beautiful city, and one of great meaning to me personally. I became a serious person at last in Jerusalem when I began visiting it at the age of 50 and got engaged in history. There I have seen some of the darkest acts of human beings, and the most inspiring too; there I’ve seen the bitter results of the failure to separate church and state. For Jerusalem holds meaning for many religious people; and it was on that account that more than a century ago the founder of political Zionism promised the pope, the kaiser, the sultan, and the czar that Jerusalem would stay internationalized if a Jewish state was established.
The failure of Zionists to live up to Theodor Herzl’s promises reflects the failure of Zionism itself. Whatever Zionism’s idealism and promise for oppressed Jews, Zionist leaders found that they could not carry forward their vision for a state without touching on religious nationalist chords in their following. They used biblical myths and myths of Jewish peoplehood to inspire Jews to “redeem” the land. They gave political power to rabbis and religious zealots. Whatever their socialist convictions, the Zionists wound up insisting on the need for a Jewish majority, and that need has resulted in ethnic cleansing, yesterday, today and forever. That ethnic cleansing is most hideous today in Jerusalem, where Palestinians are being moved out of their own neighborhoods to make greater Jerusalem a more Jewish city and the “eternal capital of the Jewish state.”
That’s how Zionism worked out. And it is what Donald Trump sanctified the other day in his macabre speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
A great number of people are denying the meaning of Trump’s speech. Wolf Blitzer, Jeffrey Goldberg, Christiane Amanpour, Eliot Cohen and Dan Shapiro all say that the peace process is alive and well. They are lying to themselves and their followers. Benjamin Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson and other Zionist leaders know precisely what Trump means; he blessed the idea of a unified Jerusalem sprawling in all directions with segregated highways and towering concrete separation walls. The Israeli government has been licensed to move forward on plans to swell the annexation of Jerusalem by ethnically cleansing more Palestinian communities and building more “Jewish” infrastructure, in Sheikh Jarrah, on the road to Bethlehem, and east of Jerusalem, too.
Lara Friedman of Foundation for Middle East Peace stated this plainly yesterday.
Anyone care to place bets on how long it will be before Bibi announces Israel is moving forward on E-1 [east of Jerusalem]? My bet is that it’s a matter of a few months…
Friedman also blasted an opposition leader in Israel, Ehud Barak, for celebrating the president’s move.
Yes folks, this is the guy people want you to believe is the hope for liberal, progressive Israel.
Trump’s announcement is a particular horror for liberal Zionists. They have long supported the peace process after others in the progressive community said it was a farce. Many of them have pleaded to give Jewish Israel time to turn some day to idealism. Trump’s announcement, and the wall-to-wall support it is getting inside that Zionist polity that Jewish nationalism has created, is a crushing moment for these liberals.
Listen to the anguished Lara Friedman reckoning sincerely with this moment.
I don’t pretend to know where things go from here, nor can I pretend to mourn the death of the Oslo process. That process, in truth, was moribund for a long time, and in its dying state had become all-process, no-peace, and worse….until now, there was still a sliver of hope that this process could be the seed for a future agreement…That hope is gone, replaced by fears of consequences, intended & not, Trump’s reckless policies could unleash.
Last night I attended a demonstration by the young Jewish group, IfNotNow, outside Chuck Schumer’s office, because the Democratic leader– who announces at Jewish gatherings, Am Yisrael Chai, or The People of Israel Live! — supports Trump’s decision. A hundred people were there on short notice, singing Which side are you on, Chuck? and a young Jewish woman said through a bullhorn that Schumer had endorsed a policy of “segregation” in Palestine into the future.
Palestinians use the word “apartheid,” but it hardly matters: there are signs that the Jewish community is waking up at last to the world that Zionism has built, for Jews and Palestinians. Their awakening reminds me of what I’ve read about the Stalinists who finally gave up in the ’50s. They had to admit that their dream had failed, and produced great suffering. I take hope from the fact that Lara Friedman retweeted what Mairav Zonszein wrote:
Trump will go down in history as the US president who put a kosher stamp on BDS and made the one state mainstream.
I can’t expect these liberal Zionists to become anti-Zionists tomorrow. But I would urge them to acknowledge that the Palestinian campaign for human rights, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, is the only thing in the world that is right now putting real pressure on Israel to change. And to acknowledge that the only hope for redeeming Israel is giving the vote to all Palestinians under Israeli governance, so that progressives and liberals may actually transcend ethnic divisions and build a coalition. When only the Jewish majority gets to build political coalitions, we see what happens: more ethnic cleansing and more propaganda.
No doubt, there is darkness over Jerusalem today. But the city has always been a magnet for dreamers; and Trump’s speech gives us greater standing.
Thanks to James North.
This piece originally gave Lara Friedman’s professional home as Americans for Peace Now. She is the head of Foundation for Middle East Peace.