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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘status’

Book Review: Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ‘Jerusalem: The Biography’

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By Henry Goldblum

At first glance, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s best seller Jerusalem: The Biography is surely impressive. Media critics as well as Henry Kissinger have showered it with praise, and the BBC devoted a timely three-part TV series to the author, providing invaluable publicity. Indeed, the book is not dull by any standards. Drama abounds – be it in chapter headings (take chapter 5, “The Whore of Babylon”) or in the description of events, such as the Moloch ceremonies in the days of King Menasseh, “the sacrifice of children at the roaster…in the Valley of Hinom…as priests beat drums to hide the shrieks of the victims from their parents” (p. 39). The Muslim invasion is depicted in graphic detail, particularly the battle of 636 CE, which took place “amidst the impenetrable gorges of the Yarmuk River” (p. 172) – although the area through which the Yarmuk flows is in fact more of an open plain.

Renouncing Uniqueness

Sebag Montefiore has clearly invested much effort in conveying his vision of Jerusalem – past, present, and future. The result reflects thoughtful study of many sources relating to different features of the city, and the author certainly recognizes its special status. However, in his apparent desire to deal evenhandedly with the various local religions, he fails to make it clear that it is only for Jews and Judaism that Jerusalem is, was, and has always been the sole spiritual center on earth. This omission is unacceptable. The author rightly refers, if only en passant, to Midrash Tanhuma and the writings of Philo of Alexandria as two examples of this basic, constant belief, unlimited by time or circumstance. The intensity of Jerusalem’s sacred status for Judaism is such that later monotheistic faiths have attempted at various times to gain a foothold in the city, despite their having other, holier places (Mecca and Medina, Rome and Bethlehem). Perhaps recognizing the significance of capturing the “chosen status” of Judaism, they have utilized diverse strategies to prop up their variant “histories,” including reinterpreting Muhammad’s miraculous night visit to the “Farthest Mosque” on the outskirts of Mecca to include a stopover in Jerusalem.

It has always been fundamental for the Jew to appreciate this imbalance, and it cannot be overlooked in any attempt to describe Jerusalem. Sebag Montefiore has downgraded this uniquely Jewish aspect of the city; as far as he is concerned, Judaism’s monopoly on Jerusalem is limited to part 1 of his book, extending until the year 70 CE. Parts 2-8 belong primarily to other faiths and peoples, and the final section of the book, dating from 1898, is titled “Zionism,” as if the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty is a separate chapter in the history of the city rather than the restorationof a violently interrupted continuum. Significantly, he neglects to emphasize thata Jewish majority has dominated the citywhenever circumstances have permitted,including from the early 19th century onwardwithout interruption; nor does he remind thereader that only when Jews have ruled thecity have all other faiths enjoyed full rights ofworship there.

Historically Dubious These omissions are partially explained by the almost complete absence of references to classic Jewish works compiled in the Land of Israel – despite their obvious relevance in terms of place, time, and subject. Thus, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are together accorded a mere four quotations; the output of Jewish historians from Graetz to current Israeli scholars not of the revisionist mode is similarly glaringly absent. In contrast, detailed descriptions of events and individuals taken from non-Jewish sources abound – even when their relevance is historically uncertain or unsound – notably the passages on Jesus in chapter 11. The sole reference to Jesus in Josephus (Antiquities, book 17, 63-64), whom Sebag Montefiore cites among other non- Jewish sources as confirmation of his existence as a historic character, is widely regarded as being of dubious authorship (see Emil Schürer’s History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus, vol. 1, p. 428ff.).

The reliability of the author’s statement at the opening of the Islam section is similarly questionable: Muhammad is said to have come “to venerate Jerusalem as one of the noblest of sanctuaries” (p. 169). With all due respect, the Koran never mentions Jerusalem, and by beginning his discussion of Islam with the reinterpretation of the passage regarding “the furthest place of worship,” Sebag Montefiore creates a false impression, especially since in Sura 2, the Prophet commands that prayer be directed exclusively to Mecca. The other quotes on page 168 are all from later Muslim sources. The term “Iliya,” a corruption of the pagan name Aelia Capitolina coined by Hadrian, continued to be used by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem for a generation or more following Muhammad’s death, with examples from as late as the end of the 10th century. This is the name of the city appearing on the milestones of Caliph al-Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock in the 690s. The name Al-Quds, “The Sanctuary,“ came into common use only in the 11th century, in the context of the struggle between Crusaders and Saracens for dominion over the Holy Land (see Moshe Gil, The Political History of Jerusalem in the Early Muslim Period, p. 10). The anecdote concerning Caliph Omar’s tour of the Temple Mount (p. 175 in Sebag Montefiore’s book) only reiterates the secondary status of Jerusalem in Islam – the caliph rebukes Kaab, a converted Jew, who suggests praying in the direction of the Temple on the mount rather than toward Mecca. As Bernard Lewis has stated in The Middle East, “Much of the traditional narrative of the early history of Islam must remain problematic, whilst the critical history is at best tentative” (p. 51). Why, then, has Sebag Montefiore adopted Islamic accounts regarding this period so readily? Is he perhaps playing to Muslim sensibilities? All this leads us to an epilogue that looks forward, as might be expected from the previous sections, to a permanent division of the city into two capitals for two states, in accordance with current liberal and revisionist dogma. The hope of witnessing such a chapter in the history of Jerusalem rankles coming from a scion of the illustrious Montefiore family, whose philanthropy was once invested in the furtherance of a quite different destiny for the city.

Admittedly, Jerusalem: The Biography provides an enjoyable ride. A more appropriate destination and a less controversial and dangerous route might be preferable, but that, presumably, would require a change of driver.

Dr. Heny Goldblum is a lawyer and a scholar of history

Visit Behind the News in Israel.

PA: We Will Fight Israeli Building With Our New UN Status

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Now that the Palestinian Authority has been recognized as a non-member observer state at the United Nations, it will now use its new power to ask the Security Council to force Israel to abandon plans to build in the E-1 area near the Jewish city of Maale Adumim.

Israel announced last week, immediately following the PA’s unilateral decision to request non-member state status at the UN, that it would begin building on the area which is under Israeli control.  The world responded to the Israeli plan primarily through condemnation, with many European countries calling in their Israeli ambassadors to submit formal protestations.

PA head Mahmoud Abbas called the plan a “red line”, although it is unclear what the implications of that are.

The Palestinian representative to the UN submitted a letter calling the move a “contemptuous response” to international approval for recognition of a Palestinian state.

“ Israel is methodically and aggressively pushing ahead with this unlawful land grab and colonization of Palestine with the intent to alter the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory… in its favor in order to entrench its illegitimate control of the land and prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations,” the letter stated.

The US would be expected to veto a resolution against Israeli housing growth, primarily because of its interest in bringing Israel and the PA back to face-to-face negotiations.

Approximately 600,000 Jews live in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.  The PA and its supporters oppose any construction for use by Jews in those areas.

Rahm Emanuel Blasts Netanyahu for ‘Betraying’ Obama

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu betrayed the Obama administration by announcing a new settlement expansion and the cutoff of tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, JTA reported.

Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff in his first term, delivered the rebuke over the weekend at the Saban Forum in Washington.

Emanuel’s comments were made public by another participant, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during an open forum and were confirmed by other participants.

According to an account by New Yorker journalist David Remnick, Emanuel had said that Netanyahu had “repeatedly betrayed” Obama, and that the latest Israeli moves – apparent retaliations for the successful Palestinian bid to achieve non-observer state status last week at the United Nations – were especially galling given U.S. support for Israel during its recent mini-war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

No other U.S. mayor had anything to say against Netanyahu this weekend.

Israeli Court Allows Country’s Most Celebrated Gay Couple to Divorce

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

In a precedent decision, which will undoubtedly be considered good news for all Israeli same-sex couples, especially those who aren’t getting along so much any more, a family court in Ramat Gan allowed the couple Prof. Uzi Even and Dr. Amit Kama, both men, to divorce, Ynet reports.

In the ruling, first of its kind, the judge determined that the family court is “the natural forum, the proper forum in which to hear this kind of a divorce case, since the rabbinical court does not recognize same-sex marriages and views them as sinful.” The judge further ruled that the rabbinical court is too “foreign and artificial a forum” to discuss the issue of same-sex relations.

Prof. Even, 64, is a former Meretz MK, and head of the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Amit Kama, 44, is a professor of Communications at Emek Yizrael College. The two met 19 years ago, and since they live as a couple. Their struggles for the rights of same-sex couples received wide coverage in the local Media.

Even was the first openly gay man elected to the Knesset. The two have adopted Yossi, a 30-year-old man who had been living with them for almost 14 years. That adoption—although largely symbolic, given their son’s age—was also a ground breaking family cort case.

For the record, when Even and Kama met, almost two decades ago, homosexual relations were prohibited by law, and they could be subject to ten years in prison – although that was not very likely.

Now, having been the most celebrated Israeli gay couple, the two decided to go their separate ways (no idea which one of them broke the news to Yossi).

Professor Even said there was no legal way for him to turn from being married to being divorced. “This is an absurd situation and I fought it for three years,” he said. “I met someone else and I live with him. He is a foreign national and the Interior Ministry wants to deport him, which was hurting me, because I could not go on with my life without solving the problem of my divorce. They would not give him resident status, only a tourist visa, because I’m already married and there was no legal way for me to get a divorce.”

According to Even, when he approached the rabbinic court, which is in charge of marriages and divorces of Jewish residents, “it started a holy raucous. They refused to record our documents, receive the fee, schedule a meeting. They told us to wait. So we waited a few days. Finally I had enough and I took back the suit, and filed it instead with family court.”

Even suggests that the court’s decision could serve as a precedent not just for the gay community, but for the public at large. “Now we’ll wait and see if the Ministry of the Interior will endorse the decision. I’m doubtful that they will be enlightened about it.”

“Why are they having so much trouble changing my marital status? Why are they forcing me to remain married to someone I no longer live with?”

Even and Kama were married in Canada and their status was changed to married by the Israeli interior ministry. Their marriage hit the rocks back in 2009 and they’ve been living separately since. The two have signed a separation agreement which was accepted by family court in 2011. The couple then requested that the court recommend to the interior ministry to change their status from married to single.

The family court judge indeed recommended the status change, but the Ministry of the Interior refused to change the status based solely on the signed agreement, arguing they had to approach the rabbinical court. But the rabbinical court rejected their request for a ruling saying it did not have the legal framework within which to discuss it.

The family court judge who granted the couple the divorce wrote in his ruling that the various branches of the civil court are the natural forum for such a case, where there exists a long list of decisions determining the specific rights and obligations of same-sex couples.

UN General Assembly Votes in Favor of Palestine

Friday, November 30th, 2012

With a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of nonmember state status for “Palestine” on Thursday.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has pointed out that the UNGA does not actually have the ability to recognize states, which is a power vested only in the UN Security Council, which rejected the PLO’s effort for upgrade last year.

So regardless of the UNGA vote, Palestine will still not be a state.

In fact, “The UN General Assembly does not have the power or the authority to establish states. Any such General Assembly resolution upgrading the Palestinian delegation would be no different from any other non-binding, recommendatory resolution of the General Assembly, and would have no legally binding status.”

Of course it does give them something. It will allow the Palestinian delegation to sit in the General Assembly hall, between Panama and Pakistan.

The following countries voted against the nonmember status change:

  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • United States

GOP Senators Set to Punish the Palestinians and the UN

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Republican U.S. senators introduced the first efforts to penalize the Palestinians and the United Nations should the body affirm enhanced Palestinian status.

The amendment language, first reported on the Americans for Peace Now website, was introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

“The first shot has been fired in the much-anticipated Congressional battle to punish the Palestinians for seeking to upgrade their status at the UN – and to also punish any UN agencies and any countries that support them,” writes APN blogger Lara Friedman.

Language proposed this week as an amendment to S. 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act would punish both the PA and the UN for a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian “observer state.”

The PLO is set to submit its bid for non-member observer state status today, Thursday.

Friedman reports that the GOP amendment seeks to compel the president to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority by 50% if the PA “seeks at any time after November 25, 2012, at the United Nations General Assembly or any other United Nations entity status different than the status it held on November 25, 2012″ – with the cuts continuing “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved.”

Next, the same amendment will compel the President to cut by 50% U.S. “appropriated contributions to any United Nations entity” that upgrades the Palestinians’ status after November 25, 2012, and those cuts as well will continue “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved.”

Finally, to complete the package, the amendment compels the president to cut by 20% U.S. assistance to any country that after November 25, 2012 votes to grant the Palestinians full membership in the UN, or votes to grant them non-member state status, or votes to otherwise “alter” the status of the Palestinians at the UN “that interferes with the resolution of permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” and those cuts will continue until the country in question “votes at the United Nations to revert the status of the Palestinian mission back to the status it held on November 25, 2012.”

According to Friedman, the amendment permits the President to waive this one category of cuts (but not the others) for national security reasons.

Could be a meaningful step towards balancing the budget…

According to JTA, a separate amendment to the same bill introduced by Barrasso, Lee, Inhofe and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would cut off all funding should the Palestinians succeed in their bid to change the PLO’s status.

U.S. law institutes total cuts to Palestinians and the United Nations in the case of full Palestinian U.N. membership, but so far has had no provisions to penalize an upgrade to observer status.

As of Thursday morning, the PLO is still a non-member observer entity, but this will most likely be changed later in the day.

JTA content was used in this report.

The Palestinians: We’re in No Hurry to Sue Israel at the Hague

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The Palestinians today are trying to play down Israel’s fear that, as soon as they are accepted as an observer state at the UN this week, they would start submitting lawsuits against Israel at the international criminal court at the Hague. But, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News, they have warned that going to the Hague would remain an option.

The PA’s UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour reiterated that, despite repeated pleas from Israel and the U.S., the Palestinians have every intention this week of carrying out their initiative to request from the 193-member general assembly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status from “observer entity” to “observer state.”

The current draft of the proposal to be submitted by the Palestinian at the UN on Thursday, “the UN will decide whether to award Palestine the status of an observer state at the United Nations, without infringing on any accompanying rights regarding the Authority’s role as the representative of the Palestinian nation based on previous, relevant decisions.” The proposal further clarifies that it is intended “to enhance the right of the Palestinian nation to self determination as a Palestinian state in the territories that were occupied in 1967.”

Jerusalem and Washington continue to argue that the Palestinian move is wrong, but both have already acceded to their anticipated defeat at the general assembly. The French announcement yesterday that they would vote in favor of the upgrading, was followed by announcements from Denmark, Norway, Spain and Switzerland, all supporting President Abbas, as will Great Britain. Italy and Australia are expected to abstain. The U.S., Canada, Guatemala and Micronesia—never forget Micronesia—will reject the proposal.

Germany’s position is not yet clear. Now, that’s a relief.

The truly troublesome part of the proposal is not so much the new status, which still stops short of real statehood, but with the fact that the full assembly will embrace its depiction of the urgent need to renew the negotiations as part of the peace process in the Middle East, to reach a resolution of the essential issues – the refugees, the status of Jerusalem, the settlements, the borders, security and water.

Channel 2 commented that at this stage in the draft, prisoner release is not one of those essential issues.

Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York and the game is on. Israel’s immediate response to his move will likely be to freeze the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the PA and to take from that money the $200 million plus the PA owes the Israeli electric company.

It’s a start.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/the-palestinians-were-in-no-hurry-to-sue-israel-at-the-hague/2012/11/28/

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