Saturday, April 17, 2010

Elie Wiesel's Jerusalem

The week-end International Herald Tribune brought us two statements, the first, a full page ad by Elie Wiesel, explaining his (and presumably every Jew's) attachment to Jerusalem, and second, a column by the Times' Roger Cohen, explaining his (and presumably every decent person's) attachment to facts. Just who paid for Wiesel's fancy musings on Jerusalem--an earlier version of which Christopher Hitchens eviscerated years ago--the ad does not say. Rumor has it that Bibi Netanyahu asked Wiesel to intervene, and that Ronald Lauder, who took out an ad of his own yesterday, is covering the costs. Anyway, Netanyahu's brazen use of Diaspora big shots--whose love of Jerusalem transcends love in Jerusalem--commands a certain awe. My wife, Hebrew University literary scholar, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, has written about this before. In the following letter to the IHT, she responds to Wiesel:

In the same issue of the IHT (April 16, 2010), there appeared a full page ad (“For Jerusalem”) signed by Elie Wiesel, and Roger Cohen’s column, “The Clutches of the Dead.” Nothing could have illustrated Cohen’s point about the slim purchase that the “minority,” the Living, have over the “majority,” the Dead, better than Wiesel’s sentimental claim over all of Jerusalem on behalf of some misty-eyed notion of three thousand years of Jewish belonging.

Neither man lives in Jerusalem, my city, but Cohen articulates that very value for which many of us hoped Wiesel—who won the Nobel Prize, not for literature, but for peace—would be our spokesperson. After representing so eloquently the victims of history’s injustices in Nazi and then Soviet Europe, Wiesel would surely, we assumed, turn to the injustices perpetrated by his own people, and cry out against the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Instead he tells us, with no evidence on the ground, that “Jews, Christians and Muslims are allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city.”

I defy Mr. Wiesel to find three Muslim families in all of West Jerusalem. The delicate balance between Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods in this city has never been realized in city planning and infrastructure. Now it is being flagrantly undermined by acts that will almost certainly push the Palestinians into the hands of the extremists and kill any chance for peace between the two peoples.

Cohen reminds us that Jerusalem’s poet, Yehuda Amichai, called his city the “only city in the world where the right to vote is granted even to the dead.” As a growing group of Jerusalemites, Jews and Palestinians, stand in protest every Friday afternoon in the parking lot in Sheikh Jerrah across the street from where Jewish settlers have brutally displaced Palestinians based on some doubtful claim to Jewish ownership prior to 1948, we are taking a stand in the name of the Living and Life Itself.

Not only do the settlers here and all over the West Bank undermine the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence (if Jews have a right to land owned across the Green Line before the War of Independence, then surely so do those thousands of Palestinians who were displaced from West Jerusalem—including, presumably, the very house from which I write these words), but they consign all of us, sooner rather than later, to join the phalanx of the dead who died because people like Wiesel prefer mythical references to History and Eschatology over the real people who want to live together in peace:

“You see that arch from the Roman period?” asks the putative tour guide in Amichai’s poem "Tourists": “It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”

Professor Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Powerfully and beautifully said!

Potter said...

Thank you for links, Roger Cohen's and Sidra D Ezrahi's perfect response to Wiesel, much kinder to him than Hitchens in his piece from 2001, "Wiesel Words" linked above. But Hitchens also said what had to be said and it needs to be brought forward again. Wiesel is off track and Cohen sees what happened to him.. the abuse of memory, blinding victimhood.

Yehuda Amichai's poem "Tourists", quoted in part, always brings the chills. How beautifully and simply it conveys what is important- what is moral.

------
( this is only the second stanza of "Tourists")

Once I was sitting on the steps near the gate at David's Citadel and I put down my two heavy baskets beside me. A group of tourists stood there around their guide, and I became their point of reference. "You see the man over there with the baskets? A little to the right of his head there's an arch from the Roman period. A little to the right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!" I said to myself: Redemption will come only when they are told, "Do you see that arch over there from the Roman period? It doesn't matter, but near it, a little to the left and then down a bit, there's a man who has just bought fruit and vegetables for his family."

Shoded Yam said...

I can just imagine Hitchens, after having read Weasel's rationalizations, now in a carpet-chewing rage, between swigs of scotch, completely obiterated, slurred speech, muttering invective; "Wiesel, you f*cking whore!?!?!, I'm gonna rip your guts out and piss on them!!!" as he furiously pens his piece. Hey, don't laugh. I saw this guy give a speech at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. You could smell the chivas three rows from the podium. My kinda guy. Party On Dude!:-)

esthermiriam said...

Thank you.
While I'm not often a fan of Cohen's, this time he surely deserves to be read and praised -- and, don't overlook the end of the column.

October 2010 will be the 10th anniversary of another much ignored UN Security Council Resolution, calling for the participation of women in state actions devoted to resolving conflict. Would that....

Jewish-Extremist said...

If you don't think "the dead" and the Jewish past have anything to do with Jewish claims to Jerusalem today, then the best thing you and your husband can do in the name of justice for the Palestinians in Jerusalem is to pack up and leave and go back to your house in New Hampshire. No one will prevent you from enjoying Yehuda Amichai's there. You are living in what the Arabs consider to be an Arab house stolen in 1948. The fact you demonstrate against Jews living in Sheikh Jarrah does NOT absolve you of that theft in the eyes of your fellow Arab demonstators there. I suggest before you leave you track down the Arab who owned the house you are now living in and give it back to him. This is JUSTICE in the eyes of the Arabs, not your mealey-mouthed "desire for peace" expressed at the end of this hypocritical column.

Shoded Yam said...

"...The fact you demonstrate against Jews living in Sheikh Jarrah does NOT absolve you of that theft"

Irrelevant. What is relevant, is the fact that what was acquired as a spoil of a war of survival fought by genuine refugees and genocide survivors in 1948 will NOT absolve those venal shtetl slobs who came in time of peace and prosperity looking for and expecting a free house, by virtue of their jewish exceptionalism and imagined ubermensch status.

peter said...

In fact, it doesn't take a Jerusalem scholar, or even a Jerusalem resident, to track down Muslims living in Jewish neighborhoods of western Jerusalem. It took this CAMERA researcher, who, unlike DeKoven Ezrahi, neither lives nor works in Jerusalem but lives some 30 kilometers away, only minutes to track down the names of multiple Muslim families living in neighborhoods like Talbieh, Arnona, Ein Kerem, Kiryat Yovel, Kiryat Moshe, Ramat Denia and Katamon. These names were passed along to Serge Schmemann, the editor of the editorial page of the International Herald Tribune, but will not be published here out of respect for the residents' privacy.

Read the rest here:

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=139&x_article=1834

Shoded Yam said...

"Peter", eh? Thats a good name for you. Very descriptive.

Big deal, so some sanctimonious jerk-off knows how to read a phone book. Even a broken clock is right at least once a day. Dr. Ezrahi took a little poetic license. She didn't come to any any empirical conclusions. It was an op-ed piece. Not a policy paper from the Rand Corporation. She simply challenged Weasel to find muslims living in west jerusalem .

However, having said that (and with all respect) I think it would been more effective to discuss the conditions and coticils by which (and what kind, Palestinian or Israeli Arabs) muslims are allowed to live in West Jerusalem rather than engage in hyperbole. To wit;

"...Israeli lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann sets the record straight with the following points:

- Most of West Jerusalem is off-limits to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in terms of their ability to purchase property. This is because most of West Jerusalem, like most of Israel, is "State Land" (in all, 93% of land in Israel is "state land"). Under Israeli law, to qualify to purchase property on "state land" the purchaser must either be a citizen of Israel (Palestinian Jerusalemites are legal residents if the city, not citizens of Israel) or legally entitled to citizenship under the law of return (i.e. Jewish). This means an Israeli or a Jew from anywhere in the world can purchase such property in West Jerusalem, but not a Palestinian resident of the city."

"... With respect to private land in West Jerusalem, legally there are no limitations on Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem purchasing in such areas. Similarly, there are no legal limitations on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem renting in West Jerusalem. However, Danny (who is extremely familiar with East Jerusalem and its residents) does not know of a single case of a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem residing in West Jerusalem, either through purchase or rental of property. (This is distinct from Arab citizens of Israel, a small number of who do live in West Jerusalem). The reasons for this are social, cultural, and economic, and as far as State Lands go, legal."

http://peacenow.org/entries/wp258

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