Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The ‘Let Me Be Clear’ Jews

Jeffrey Goldberg stipulates that Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest city; Jews have a right to live wherever they want; the Shepherd Hotel is not “in and of itself” a morally profound issue (“It was bought legally by Jewish buyers years ago; it did not house Palestinians; and it is associated historically with the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who was an actual bona fide Nazi”); and the world’s focus on 20 apartments for Jews is “disproportionate.”

But Goldberg nevertheless concludes that apartments for Jews in Sheikh Jarrah are not in “the Jewish self-interest.” He attempts to make this seem self-evident by positing two kinds of Jews (see if you can guess which kind describes him):

If a Jewish person’s only concern as a Jew is the acquisition of every square inch of biblical Israel on behalf of the Jewish people, then I suppose it is a Jewish interest. But if a Jewish person has other interests as well — such as in peace, or in the idea that Palestinians, though a much newer people than the Jewish people, deserve a state just as Jews do, or in the continued survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – than [sic] the slow takeover of Sheikh Jarrah is not in the best Jewish interest.

But surely there are more categories of “Jewish persons” than (1) those whose “only concern” is acquiring “every square inch” of biblical Israel, and (2) those interested in peace and the survival of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and who believe Palestinians also deserve a state. Where is the Committee for More Labels when you need it?

There is at least one other category — Jews who believe that peace is best assured by keeping Jerusalem undivided (with free access to all religious sites) and who think the Palestinians have a right to a state only if they are willing to recognize a Jewish one with defensible borders. This group would include, for starters, the thousands who gave a thunderous ovation to a future president when he told them in 2008:

Let me be clear. … The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This third group also believes there is a morally profound issue relating to the Sheikh Jarrah apartments — one that Israel, as a democratic country, should make clear: “Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”

I’ll have to come up with a good label for this group.


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