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Bronner writes: "'Next year in Jerusalem!' was once the cry of an oppressed people seeking liberation from slavery and repenting its sins. Those same words now express the sentiments of an arrogant regime with expansionist ambitions."

People praying on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
People praying on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)


Next Year in Jerusalem

By Stephen Eric Bronner, Reader Supported News

20 December 17

 

n the Jewish Diaspora, Passover and Yom Kippur prayers end with the plea: “Next Year in Jerusalem.” At least since roughly the 15th century, these words expressed what was understood as the utopian hope of returning not simply to a homeland but a place of redemption. The sacred character of that longing from times past has been badly tarnished by exigency and hypocrisy; it is par for the course that President Donald Trump should soil whatever he touches. His decision of December 6, 2017, to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has already aggravated the conflict and further undermined the global standing of the United States.

Frustration has exploded into anger. The eerie silence surrounding stymied negotiations has made way for heated protests, talk of a new intifada, and Israeli military attacks that have left 4 dead and 300 wounded. Trump’s declaration offered no hint of a quid pro quo that might benefit the Palestinians. Media coverage in the United States (such as it was), however, lasted only for a day or two before MSNBC and CNN turned back to domestic issues. It wasn’t just a matter of ratings. Trump’s usual critics were not exactly outraged by the initiative. Former diplomats and Middle East “experts” did challenge its “timing,” its impact on negotiations, and the lack of Israeli concessions. But they offered few reasons why Trump should not have made his decision public. Negotiations are at a standstill, American policy was never even-handed, and Israel has no pressing need to concede anything. Trump’s critics quickly showed their common sense. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the lead. He had initially opposed Trump’s declaration but suddenly recalled that “logistical” problems would prevent any transfer before 2020 and that, besides, the president was simply recognizing the facts on the ground: most American offices are already located in Jerusalem.

All this is, of course, completely disingenuous: symbolic politics is still politics. And Trump made his symbolic point. Jerusalem’s “Western Wall,” which stands outside the pre-1967 borders and adjoins various Islamic holy sites, now apparently belongs to Israel. More than a few liberal Zionists nodded in agreement, and in fact Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) boasted of having advised Trump on his Jerusalem initiative. Unlike Christian evangelicals, Zionist extremists, or most in the orthodox Jewish community, they may not go out on a limb, but they don’t have much of a problem with the idea of a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control.

Most Americans are sick of the seemingly endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general and the Palestinians in particular. Trump’s cynical declaration on Jerusalem speaks to that reality. Shifting the American embassy to Jerusalem offers the president a momentary reprieve from the lurid Congressional investigations plaguing his administration, accusations of sexual misconduct, and the controversy surrounding his wildly unpopular tax bill. His decision also provides him with an “achievement” and proactive compensation, given the probable failure of the “ultimate” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan being formulated by Jared Kushner.

Details have come only from leaks and, apparently, the approach of the team led by the president’s son-in-law comes down to “take it or leave it.” Palestinians will supposedly receive a state without contiguous borders, control over air space and water, recognition of the right of return, or plans for the withdrawal of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank. Hamas will remain excluded as Fatah is turned into the sole representative of Gaza over which it lacks control. Bottom line: Kushner’s peace package will offer little more than the framework for a failed state, though, according to The New York Times (12/8/2017), Saudi Arabia might sweeten the pot with some cash. This is all just conjecture, but no Palestinian could possibly accept such terms. This kind of one-sided “peace” can only be implemented by force or fiat – a previously implausible idea yet, given the character of Trump’s foreign policy, not unimaginable now.

American policy will assuredly spark a new wave of European anti-Semitism as well as greater international isolation for Israel. The United Nations has already condemned the Jerusalem initiative. Israel will undoubtedly face more boycotts, vilification, protests and violence. Iraq’s powerful militia leader Moktada al Sadr has already called for a new “Arab Spring” targeting Israel that would unite Shia and Sunni. Unleashing an anti-Semitism wave and turning Israel into even more of an international pariah is not in its national interest. With regard to the interests of Netanyahu, however, it is another matter entirely. He will undoubtedly use the new state of siege to justify his obsession with security, Islamophobia, and claims of unfair and anti-Semitic treatment by the rest of the world.

Recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem also becomes a testament to Netanyahu’s leadership. No less than the American president, who is dealing with ever more calls for his impeachment, the Israeli prime minister is embroiled in a deepening corruption and bribery scandal of his own involving the German navy. Both leaders need support badly, and Trump’s Jerusalem initiative is a gift to orthodox religious and Zionist imperialist groups whose political support Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition requires. Trump’s declaration also enhances the “Jewish” and authoritarian rather than the non-denominational and democratic identity of the Israeli state. Extremists in Israel and Palestine have done everything possible to sabotage any prospect for peace or a two-state solution. Both are now off the table, at least for the foreseeable future. Trump’s initiative has officially placed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of those forces seeking to perpetuate rather than resolve it.

Talk of peace is a smokescreen. Trump’s decision is actually a provocation that dares the Palestinians to embrace violence. It also complicates any future peace talks. Most European leaders have condemned the United States, and it has been called an “unreliable” broker. The 57-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation responded by recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, jettisoning the United States as a negotiating partner, and preparing to recognize a Palestinian state with very different borders. On December 12, 2017, in fact, the Palestinian Authority canceled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence just before “pressing" domestic matters derailed his planned visit to the Middle East. Untrustworthy authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt will become proxies for American interests in the Middle East. In keeping with its more general withdrawal from various international associations, the United States has now abandoned its role as a regional mediator. Indeed, the American president can now concentrate on ever more militantly confronting Iran and North Korea.

“Next year in Jerusalem!” was once the cry of an oppressed people seeking liberation from slavery and repenting its sins. Those same words now express the sentiments of an arrogant regime with expansionist ambitions. That change makes a mockery of the ethical gravitas associated with figures like Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Abraham Heschel, and a host of other intellectual and activist luminaries. New pragmatic proposals for peace are surely necessary. Especially when all seems lost, however, it is equally important to affirm the cosmopolitan ideals and humanistic values that will inform them. Today, there is something profoundly irresponsible in ignoring either the prescience or the challenge of Walter Benjamin’s call to “rub history against the grain.”



Stephen Eric Bronner is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of Global Relations at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights at Rutgers University. His most recent books are The Bitter Taste of Hope: Ideas, Ideologies and Interests in the Age of Obama (SUNY Press) and The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists (Yale University Press).

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


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+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-20 14:38
"Next year, Jerusalem" was also the cry of the Christian crusaders who dreamed of liberating the holy land from Muslims. To them, Jerusalem was a Christian capital. (It was never that.) The crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and held it briefly before reinforcements from Muslim nations neighboring Palestine could be assembled. For 300 years, the Christians pledged themselves to conquering Jerusalem. It was always "next year, Jerusalem."

When Spaniards discovered gold in the western hemisphere, the rest of Europe forgot about Jerusalem quite entirely.

European Jews who attempted to colonize Palestine in the early 20th century are just more European crusaders who are singing the old war songs. Soon, they too will pass and move on to more lucrative conquests.
 
 
+9 # tedrey 2017-12-20 20:35
More historical detail: As long as military help continued to reach the Near East from Christian Europe, the Crusaders held Jerusalem. When the Christian kings' interest temporarily ebbed that aid ceased, and soon Jerusalem fell in 1187. It was like what might happen to Israel if American aid abruptly ceased. Jerusalem was held from 1099 to 1187-- that's 88 years. (The present Israel would reach that age in 2036.)
 
 
-16 # Brice 2017-12-20 17:05
There is little the Americans or Israelis can do to aggravate this conflict.

Palestinians maintain violence simply because in the Muslim's world, and in countries that fear their terrorism, violence has worked.

The cry from the Palestinians has always been that time is on their side. The claim they are victims of genocide, and yet Palestinians have the highest if not one of the highest birth rates of any community in the world, and that is where they get the idea that time is on their side.

The things that have worked so far are Israel building settlements on their land, as opposed to military violence of tearing down the houses of Palestinians. Under these regimes the violence in reduced. This is why the huge outcry against Israel.

Just in past months Hamas has again reiterated what it has said on its charter and from the beginning, it is not peace or a Palestinian state that is their priority, it is the destruction of Israel, AND the Jews, AND the Americans if they could do it. A more ISIS-like goal can only be found in ISIS itself, yet somehow Israel is blamed in the totalitarian Palestinian media to whip up violence and terrorism.

I oppose everything Donald Trump has done since even before he was elected President, but oddly, this promise to move the Embassy to Jerusalem at some point, is the right thing to do. The Palestinians are not Liberals or Progressives folks, they are victims of Islamic terrorism too.
 
 
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-21 07:07
"violence has worked."


But the Israeli side has been 1000 times more violent than Palestinians, so it is correct to say that violence is what has made it possible for European Jews to conquer and colonize Palestine. But this is how all colonizations work.

There's been a lot of debate about whether the Palestinian resistance would have been better to follow the model of Gandhi -- non-violent resistance. The argument is generally that Palestinian non-violence would have shown Israeli violence for what it really is. I don't know about this. Palestinian violence is self-defense against a military invasion and occupation. I hardly count it at all.
 
 
+1 # Citizen Mike 2017-12-21 10:42
The Jews learned from their WWII experience that the only effective source of power is violence and military strength, and that they were alone in an antisemitic world without allies, so they had to be self-sufficient . The Palestinians learned from the Nazis the power of genocidal hatred and the near-success of the holocaust. Both sides are to be condemned in the emerging results of history that we see today. It would have been much better if a homeland for the Ashkenazi Jews had been carved out of German territory, perhaps as a buffer between the West and the Iron Curtain. It was never practical to try to impose a state populated by modern European people in the backward and vendetta-driven Levant, and foolish to do so based on legends of mythical ancestors.
 
 
0 # Brice 2017-12-24 14:51
> But the Israeli side has been 1000 times more violent than Palestinians

That's really a meaningless claim.

You can say the police are 1000x more violent than the criminals too ... and there is a reason for that.

What matters is not the level of violence, but the reasons behind it. The reason behind Palestinian violence is hidden and lied about. The reason behind Israel violence is to deal with a history of genocide and oppression of Jews in a region that hates to see what they view are lesser people gain independences. It is similar with the Kurds, and Yazidi and anyone else. Islamic Republics are by nature oppressive bullying societies, just like the KKK in the South.

What I find disgusting is how people who claim to be on the so-called Left would hate and fight the KKK and Nazis, and at the same time support Palestinian rights. These are sick hateful people who are mentally and morally incoherent.
 
 
+21 # jwb110 2017-12-20 20:24
The delusion held by some in the West that the Middle East is the Muslim world is myopic in the extreme. The Muslim world includes all of Indonesia, much of India, they is a Muslim presence in China. Europe has a substantial Muslim Population. And the US has a presence also. Essentially 23% of the world population has just seen steps to them losing access to their most holy of sites in Israel. That population is growing and will outstrip the Christian and Jewish populations mid-century.
Muslims globally are being impacted by plans being drawn up by real estate developers. That should tell us something about why it is necessary to elect people who have some understanding of how their own country and the world works. If the call for Jihad becomes a global thing and not regional the US will be engaged on more fronts than it can possibly cover. This is a recipe for a disaster that the present administration in the White House will walk away from and leave actual Americans to clean up the mess.
All this talk about making America great again...I ask you..For who?....and for What?
 
 
-3 # Brice 2017-12-21 02:28
It is only under Israeli control that access to these sites was guaranteed. In Muslims hands Christians and Jews were cut off. It doesn't sound like you know much about this really.
 
 
+1 # futhark 2017-12-20 21:18
Drang nach Osten: Israeli policy of expansion to the east, using the their religious beliefs to justify dispossessing the natives.
 
 
+2 # PABLO DIABLO 2017-12-20 23:14
BDS
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-21 11:43
Yes, Boycott, Divest, Sanction. That's what will work.

It is interesting to hear yesterday Trump and his UN representative threatening nations that voted for the resolutions disallowing Jerusalem to be the recognized Israeli capital. Trump said if they did not vote the way the US demanded, then they would lose US foreign aid. I hope they all vote for the resolution and tell Trump he can stick the foregin aid "right up there the sun don't shine."

In reality, US foreign aid all goes to US contractors for materials and services they supply in nations that the US regime and its corporate masters want. It does not help people. Most nations would be better off refusing the offer of aid. Political leaders are bribed to take the aid.
 
 
+6 # janie1893 2017-12-21 02:54
This act by Trump makes me physically nauseous.
I do hope people will differentiate between Judaism and Zionism. Zionism has become a very dangerous political movement. Netanyahu,all Zionists including fundamentalist Christians,arms manufacturers and sociopaths everywhere are eager to see war break out in that region.

Trump is determined to be a 'war president' and he is currently pursuing this end on at least 3 fronts--the middle east, Korea and the United States. He would enjoy a civil war. If he hasn't accomplished his desire by
April, 2018, you can be sure he will be aiding and abetting conflict in other areas as well.
The man is evil and dangerous in the extreme.
Someone, somehow , must get this madman out of the presidential office.
 
 
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-21 11:50
janie -- I do think people make the distinction you worry about. Zionism is a political movement. Its roots were very close to Nazism. And just like Nazism it has used religion as a cover. It has never been the case that more than a few percent of Jews supported Zionism. And many Zionist leaders have been atheists, though sometimes they posed as religious Jews in order to keep the con-job going.

I'm not so certain about war. Trump is a bluffer. This time Israel cannot risk a war against its neighbors. They are war hardened now and they fully understand that Israel does not want peace with anyone. Israel must be totally defeated if there ever is peace. Israel does not want to put itself in that position.
 
 
+7 # RLF 2017-12-21 07:59
All these religious people are the same. It is just an excuse to be shitty and think you're not. Religion sucks!
 
 
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-12-21 09:38
Israel under the Likud fascists has degenerated into a militarized Apartheid bunker propped up by US guilt.
 
 
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-21 12:52
The vote today in the UN was 135 to 9 in favor of a resolution condemning Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. There were 35 abstentions. This is a good vote, right in the face of the threats and intimidation coming from Trump and Nikki Haley. Their attempt to blackmail nations did not work. The bullies at the UN just got ignored. That's a good sign.
 

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