Sovereignty and Dignity
(cc photo by afps14)
Leon Wieseltier has a thoughtful meditation on the plight of dispossessed Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. Unfortunately, his meditation doesn’t really seem to have led him to any policy conclusions:
In the name of justice, one may destroy peace, and forget that peace, too, is an element of justice. The idea of beginning again is often a savage idea. Since the Palestinian right of return, and its premise that restoration is preferable to reconciliation, would undo the Jewish state, Israel is right to deny it. But if, in the name of moral realism, and so that they do not delude themselves with catastrophic fantasies of starting over, Palestinians are not to be granted a right to return to what was theirs before 1948, then neither should such a right be granted to Jews. When Jews fled Sheikh Jarrah, they fled to a Jewish state, which should have been worth the loss of their property; and the same would have been true of the Palestinians, if their Arab brethren had allowed the state of Palestine to come into being. But the lunatic Jews who insist that a Jew must live anywhere a Jew ever lived do not see that they, too, are re-opening 1948 and the legitimacy of what it established. Why does the Israeli government allow the argument for a unified Jerusalem to be mistaken for the heartless revanchism of these settlers? Whatever arrangements about Jerusalem are eventually made in a peace agreement, and I no longer expect to see one in my lifetime, Jerusalem will remain both the capital of Israel and a demographically mottled city. It makes no sense to show contempt for the people with whom you are destined to live. It is not only cruel, it is stupid. So the dispossession of the El Ghawis is a disgrace. And a Jewish disgrace, because it was Simon the Just, the legendary leader buried in an ancient cave not far from the El Ghawis’ house, who famously taught that one of the things which supports the world in existence is the practice of kindness.
This is all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the demand for unequivocal Israeli sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem will, in fact, lead to the continued dispossession and disempowerment of Palestinians. The basic logic of the case shouldn’t be too hard to accept—after all, the point of Zionism is precisely that Jews shouldn’t count on the suffrance of gentiles for their welfare. If the 1967-2010 record did in fact support the proposition that Arabs living in Jerusalem would be well-treated by the Israeli government, then that not only would have been better for the Palestinians but it would also mean that the ideological demand for Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem might not be so problematic. The actual facts of the matter, however, are quite damning—as Wieseltier both knows and details—and they fully explain why Palestinians reasonably demand that predominantly Palestinian areas be made part of Palestine.