Thursday, July 30, 2009

My New LA Times Op-ed - And Please Vote There

In the Los Angeles Times:

The 9th of Av's new tears

President Obama's policies toward Israel add fresh pain to a day of lament.

By Yisrael Medad

July 30, 2009

An apocryphal story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte entering a darkened synagogue and observing weeping Jews, sitting on low stools. Asking what misfortune had occurred to cause such behavior, he was informed that it was the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.

On that day, as Napoleon learned, Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the fall of the Fortress of Betar. The day, marked with a 25-hour fast and a public reading of the book of Lamentations, signifies not only the loss of Judaism's singular holy site but the end of independent political sovereignty and the eventual expulsion, a second time, into exile.

On hearing that story, Napoleon exclaimed: "A people that cries these past 2,000 years for their land and temple will surely be rewarded."

Today, the 9th of Av, there are many new threats to Jerusalem, including the recent diplomatic dissing of Israel by the U.S. Fortunately, the words of President Obama and other U.S. officials have served to reinforce a consensus among Israelis that Jerusalem must remain exclusively under Israeli control and that even communities of Jews living outside the former Green Line, the armistice line drawn after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, must remain a part of Israel.

A liberal Washington think tank, the Center for American Progress, recently conducted a panel discussion based on the premise that the Old City of Jerusalem is the main impediment to solving the Israeli-Arab conflict. The group's plan recommends that Israel and a future state of Palestine appoint a third-party administrator that would run and police the city. An audience member who asked why the status quo could not be retained was informed by a panelist that that "would be too intangible."

We have to hope Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton knows better than to upset the status quo. As longtime diplomat Dennis Ross informed us in his book, "The Missing Peace," the only new idea Yasser Arafat raised at Camp David in 2000 was that the temple didn't exist in Jerusalem, claiming it had been located in Nablus. Her husband, then-President Clinton, was astonished at this. Instead of "Holocaust denial" we were given "temple denial."

U.S. policy toward Jerusalem has long tended toward the "denial" side of the equation. If an American living in Jerusalem gives birth to a child in either West Jerusalem or post-1967 East Jerusalem, for example, her progeny is not recognized by the U.S. as being born in Israel. The birth certificate and passport will list only a city name -- Jerusalem -- as the place of birth.

This rule follows the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, which notes: "For a person born in Jerusalem, write JERUSALEM as the place of birth in the passport. Do not write Israel, Jordan or West Bank ..." The "logic" for this is that Israel is considered by the United States to be "occupying" territories -- including Jerusalem -- whose final status must be negotiated.

As State Department spokesman Ian Kelly admitted on June 22, before being reined in, the recent Obama administration fixation on a "settlement freeze" also targets neighborhoods in East Jerusalem whose Jewish population's "natural growth" is to be halted.

And there is more State Department trickery. Births of children of American citizens in any of the Arab towns or Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem and beyond the Green Line will have their birthplace noted, as per the above-mentioned regulations, as the "West Bank." Is the "West Bank" a state? Is the State Department engaged in creating new states?

This is an illogical and quite unreasonable bureaucratic situation. On the one hand, the State Department has fashioned a new "state" while, on the other, it is ignoring Israel's status in its own capital.

The "West Bank" never existed as a geopolitical entity until April 1950, when Jordan annexed the area. That annexation, incidentally, was considered by all the world -- except for Britain -- as an illegal occupation. Yet the U.S. has established the "West Bank," with the stroke of a pen, as if it were a state entity.

If the U.S. insists on using boundaries dating to 1948, shouldn't it also use the place names in use at that time? "Judea" and "Samaria" were both names written into the U.N. partition resolution. A baby born to U.S. citizens in Shiloh, for example, should therefore be registered as having been born in "Shiloh, Samaria."

Today is a day of lament for a long-ago event seared into the collective memory of Jews the world over. But the contemporary pressures the Obama administration has brought on Israel have created another lamentable situation between the two nations. This year, the ancient fast days will also provide an outlet for contemporary frustration over issues of sovereignty, political independence and security.

The newspaper has also set up a vote on the question:

Should "Country of Birth" for American babies born in Jerusalem be "Israel"?

Can I request that you vote?


In a Wahsington Post editorial, "Tough On Israel", that criticizes Obama on his approach to Israel, confirming the thrust of my op-ed, I found this:

Israeli public opinion, which normally leans against the settler movement, has rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu.

I would dispute that. In the past 42 years, the Israeli public has consistently voted in an overwhelming fashion for parties supporting the basic policies of retaining Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Even various polls hover around the 50% mark and, depending on the phrasing of the questions, actually supports Yesha positions. Check my blog for examples.


yoni said...

i almost posted this on the la times site, where it might have constituted ma'arit ayin, chas v'shalom.

">A baby born to U.S. citizens in Shiloh, for example, should therefore be registered as having been born in "Shiloh, Samaria."

oh, and how many babies have actually been born in shilo, samaria, mr. medad? perhaps all negotiations should be suspended because of this?

still, a good point. about the, uh, 3 or 4 babies born in shilo, samaria, since it's founding? c'mon, do the stats. work it.

if you need an editor, let me know. :)

yoni said...

"U.S. policy toward Jerusalem has long tended toward the "denial" side of the equation"

so you're comparing what's written on our childrens american passports to holocaust denial and "temple denial"?

it's not that i dont' agree in principle, mr. medad, but please stop writing these foolish things. it makes us look bad.

Anonymous said...

"Can I request that you vote?"

in the context of what's happening between israel, america, hamas, the p.a. and iran, who really cares? i say this as someone with 4 kids with jerusalem passports.

but, ok, i voted, i voted, ok? grumble.

Anonymous said...

Ain't that a river in Egypt?

sorry, shouldn't be cracking jokes today.

crispin said...

check this blog entry, opposing the column:

Michael Goyette said...

Hi Yisrael,

I voted "yes" - thanks for the link. I pray that G-D would deliver the whole land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, into the hands of the Jews forever. All is well here in Tennessee, hope all is well with you in Shiloh.


YMedad said...

Actually, 4 babies of an American citizen were born in Alon Shvut alone. But, of course, it's the principle - and the illogical position vis a vis Jerusalem. The State Dept. can't have it both ways - no to a "Jlm" and yes to a "West Bank" based on what existed up to May 15, 1948.

Thanks to the voters.