and Original Sins
no city on the planet has endured so many centuries of ethnic and religious
bloodshed as Jerusalem, the cradle of the worlds three great monotheistic
religions. The panel examining the current strife had a somewhat Israel-centric
focus, not because the two speakers were overly supportive of the 52-year-old
nation-state but because, in their opinion, only Israel could make certain
changes needed for peace.
Dr. Ian Lustick,
professor of political science, began by reminding the audience that a
great deal of ethnopolitical conflict is not the conflict of interest
between the two sides but rather is the result of conflicts inside one
or both of the sides. Only by understanding the dynamics of internal
Israeli politics can we understand how much of the problem between Jews
and Palestinians is actually a reflection of a struggle inside of Israel,
he added. Part of that struggle has revolved around a number of misconceptions
regarding Yerushalayim (the Hebrew word for Jerusalem), he argued,
and within those misconceptions are the seeds of a peace accord.
The first misconception
is that a unified Yerushalayim under Jewish sovereignty has always
been a powerful and central element in Zionism. In fact, he said, back
in the 1920s and 30s, most Zionist leaders didnt want their capital
there, and he showed several maps and outlines from the 1930s, 40s, 60s
and 70s depicting the many different configurations of the city that
were approved by Zionist leaders and/or the Israeli government.
So what were
seeing is a very malleable border, not a set border, something that can
be changed and manipulated in response to what the political needs of
the moment are or the political opportunities are perceived to be. More
recent maps have had similar goals: to make it seem as if this large,
completely new boundary was a traditional, united Yerushalayim
[for which] Jews have been yearning for millennia.
were not an accident, Lustick argued, but were pushed by the extreme
Right in Israel. Their idea is this: We can never convince a majority
of Israeli Jews that they ought to fight and die for Nablus or Jericho
or Ramallah. [Instead,] we can convince them that this huge piece of the
West Bank, including the biggest Palestinian city, is Yerushalayim
and they cant give up their right hand for it, knowing that the Palestinians
will never accept a state without al-Quds [Arab Jerusalem].
Later, in the
question-and-answer session, Lustick talked about the polling discrepancies
on the subject of Jerusalem among polls of Israeli Jews: If you ask them
blindly, Do you agree that we should negotiate about Yerushalayim?
over 90 percent will say, Nono negotiations. If you say, To avoid
an Arab majority in Yerushalayim, do you support redefining the
city limits so Arab settlements will be outside the city? Sixty percent
said Yes. And that was in 1995. So, in fact, the feeling of disgust
and fear of the other is what actually makes it possible for Israel to
politically move toward a separation between West (Israeli) and East
(Arab) Jerusalemand thus toward a peace treaty as well. (Note: that was
10 weeks before Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister.)
Hallaj, a member of the Palestinian National Council and former director
of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, the conflict in Jerusalem
is not motivated by ethnicity per se. Rather, he argued, Its a conflict
between a people who are occupied by another people. And the occupied
always resist the occupier.
There has been
a consensus for a long time that if the peace process in the Middle East
founders, the rock against which it will crash will be the issue of Jerusalem,
he said. Jerusalem has become a question of To be or not to be for
the Jewish state. This is the way it has been successfully portrayed in
most of the world.
What is less
understood in the West, he said, is how important Jerusalem is to the
Palestinians. While acknowledging that Jerusalem has religious and emotional
importance to Jews and to the Jewish statetheres no question about that
and theres no sense denying that factHallaj maintained that it is more
important to the Palestinians than it is to the Israelis. In addition
to the religious and emotional ties, he argued that the ancient city is
important to Palestinians for a number of reasons:
the largest Palestinian city with the biggest concentration of the Palestinian
population in the region, and home to the bulk of the Palestinian elite.
It is also the major center of Palestinian national life, home to most
Palestinian newspapers, the only Palestinian theater, the biggest Palestinian
hospital, and so forth. Geographically, Jerusalem especially the current
expanded Jerusalemis indispensable to the viability of Palestinian
national life. You take Jerusalem out of Palestine, or what is intended
to be Palestine, and you pretty much sever it into two discontinuous regions.
is the historic capital of Palestine. Although many in the West think
that the idea of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is
a political aspiration for the future, its also a recollection of the
Palestinian past, said Hallaj. I was born in Palestine and Jerusalem
was our capital city. There was no Israel.
have been appointed, and have accepted, the role of custodians of Arab
and Muslim interests in Jerusalem.
stated flatly that further territorial concessions by Palestinians are
not feasible in Jerusalem, since Israel was established on 80 percent
of Palestinian historic homeland, he suggested two possibilities. One
involves divided sovereignty over a unified cityin other words, you
keep Jerusalem as one city with free movement of people, with some part
under Israeli sovereignty and another part under Palestinian sovereignty.
While it may be a little difficult to work out the constitutional arrangements
and the modalities and the details, he said, difficult is a lot better
The other possibility,
he said, is to re-divide the city the way it was before Israel occupied
the Arab half in 1967. After all, he said, Jerusalem has been a divided
city even since Israel occupied it in 1967. West (Israeli) Jerusalem and
East (Arab) Jerusalem may be geographically contiguous, but in every
other way they are worlds apart. You go from East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem,
which is a five-minute walking trip, and you jump from Damascus to Budapest.
that before 1967, Israelisas enemy nationalswere not allowed to go
into Old Jerusalem, Hallaj said that with the advent of peace in the
region, there [would be] absolutely no reason for that.
the peace-building discussion that concluded the conference, Dr. Joseph
Montvillea former U.S. diplomat who now serves as director of the Preventative
Diplomacy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Washingtonoffered some historical and psychological perspectives on
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel, he noted,
is a product basically of the Jewish experience in Christian Europe,
a point seldom made in discussions of the regions problems. In a sense,
the Jews and the Arabs, mostly Muslims, have been made to pay a price
for centuries of Christian persecution and brutality towards the Jewish
people in Europe, he said.
a number of hawkish Israelis, including former defense minister Ariel
Sharon, whose controversial visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif
added fuel to the recent escalation of fighting (and, ironically, to Sharons
election as prime minister in February). Sharons view of how Jews defend
themselves is to fight as long as necessary
It thinks of sheer, raw
survival in a brutal, brutalized world.
In recent years,
Montville said, he has been trying to communicate to Palestinians this
Christian burden of guilt and its consequence on the Zionist movement
and the formulation of the Jewish state, noting that history has dealt
the Palestinians the role of acquiescing in the establishment of and continued
existence of the Jewish state.
He pointed out
that Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israels internal security service,
Shinbet, recently made an unprecedented declaration about the need to
forego the use of strength and the necessity for civic integration,
and that Ayalon also made a very dramatic request that Israel acknowledge
its debt to the Arabs of Palestine from 1948, when Israel was established.
The first step
would be a formal recognition on the part of the government of the price
paid by the Palestinians in 1948, including those who became citizens
of the state, he said. The shadow of 1948 hovers constantly over the
Arabs in Israel, and its playing a part in the willingness theyve demonstrated
to rebel against the state. An original sin which is not dealt with
is like an internal wound which is not tended to.