Monday, June 11, 2007

I Like Honest Lefties

From an interview with Meron Benvenisti in the Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol.14 No.1 2007:-

PIJ: Let’s begin by going back to June 1967. Where were you? How did you feel? How did you react?

Meron Benvenisti: What happened in the war, at that time and even today, after 40 years, I believe, was a formative historical event. I would say that it’s more important than Independence Day. For Israelis who, at that time, stood before the Wall, the Western Wall, it was earth-shattering, especially for those who came with their parents, like me, who felt that we were joining hands with our ancestors. It was a very important day, and not only for religious people, but also for atheists like myself. That is why I refuse to accept the simplistic left-wing approach that this was just the occupation and domination of the other. Yes, there is a very important element of that, but that makes it even more tragic, because I do not accept that this was just an act of unjustified violence. I believe that the connection with the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem is significant. The fact that it created so much misery and other problems for the occupied Palestinians does not negate that formative event.

Did you also have childhood memories of having visited the Wall before '48?

Absolutely. I remember on the last day the Jews could go to the Western Wall, on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1947, we blew the shofar, sang “Hatikva” and suffered the violence of the British police there. So for me, especially because of my family’s connection and my father’s role as an educator, I was open to such things and absorbed them. The fact that all these sentiments have been “usurped” by right-wing Israelis doesn’t make them less important for me and for my identity. I understand, agree and feel the pain and the cognitive dissonance, but one should not just write it off as if it didn’t exist. There is this element that people must understand. If they don’t, if because of conflicting ideologies they are ready to discard it, the Israeli community is losing something that should be cherished.

and he continues:

What should be the relationship of Islam and Judaism and Christianity to their holy places? Who determines this? You say not lawyers, so who?

The status quo with gradual improvements. The status quo is the accumulation of the wisdom of the people who have to deal with daily problems, and who, by dealing with them sensibly, created the existing – code in the Temple Mount. The Jews are below, and the Arabs are above. And that cannot be changed. The Jews can re-create a quasi-Temple Mount, a substitute Temple Mount, as they have done at the Western Wall. On the borderline, there will be always people who try to incite, but basically, the status quo can hold.

Don’t you think it might have been simpler if the original UN partition plan with the idea of an international city had been realized, and would have neutralized all of the problems that we are seeing?

Yes, if I were to be unrealistic. In a condition that is a clash of nationalisms, you cannot impose from the outside, without the use of force, the notion of multiculturalism. The obvious solution is partition. But this doesn’t work in Jerusalem.

Professor Sergio de la Pergola has suggested the Old City should be a separate entity, along the lines of the Vatican.

I don’t believe in this idea of a separate Holy Basin. It is based on the fact that behind the enormous disparity in power, we’ll build a situation in which the Israelis will create an island of equality that they can eliminate at will. Indeed, there are endless games of sovereignty, of solutions. There are more than 200 plans for the solution of Jerusalem. But all plans are the same, except for nuances. Everyone has his own symposium and have his own dialogue about how to solve the problem of Jerusalem, and the problems remain unresolved.

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