Thursday, October 08, 2009

Jerusalem: 'We win, you lose'

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Oct. 7, 2009, by Gerald Steinberg, head of NGO Monitor and is on the political science faculty of Bar-Ilan University:

Since the deadly 1929 riots, the struggle over Jerusalem has been at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and, as recent events show, nothing has changed. For the Palestinians and their supporters, any Jewish presence in Jerusalem that is not under Arab control is not only unacceptable, but seen as threatening. And every ancient text, archeological find or property claim that validates the 3,000-year Jewish historical and religious heritage in this most sacred of cities, is angrily rejected as "Judaization." These allegations are used to promote and justify violent attacks, from rock-throwing to mass terror.

... Jerusalem ...has been and remains a zero-sum situation. ...any concessions from one side are necessarily victories for the other, making compromise not only difficult but inconceivable. ...compromise based on acceptance of different perspectives is impossible.

Thus, for the Arabs, recognition of the history and legitimacy of Jewish claims is a threat to their own narrative and legitimacy, particularly for the Muslims. Trapped in this social rubric, shared control based on mutual acceptance and recognition, as imagined in many peace programs, is impossible.... For most Palestinians, and indeed, much of the surrounding Arab and Islamic world, there is absolutely no readiness to acknowledge even the most basic historical facts that would require compromise on Jerusalem.

...For Jews, the total failure to implement the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement guaranteeing, on paper, free access to sacred sites, remains a traumatic memory. Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Arab occupation, the Jewish Quarter, including synagogues and cemeteries, was systematically desecrated, and the "international community" did nothing to enforce the agreement.

Since then, the periodic waves of Arab violence in Jerusalem revive the concerns that agreements based on shared sovereignty or "international control" would lead to the same unacceptable situation. With no sign of movement towards a realistic compromise, Jewish Israelis worry that unless their presence in the city is strengthened, they will eventually be pushed out, yet again.

In the zero-sum cycle, the Jewish responses to this history and ongoing threats are denounced by the Palestinians and their supporters as more "occupation" and "Judaization" of Jerusalem. This feeds the escalating violence and reinforces the sense that there is no sense in talking, as no one is listening or willing to compromise.

...the first goal must be to open Palestinian and Arab society to hearing the Jewish version. This would allow for the transition from the zero-sum black-and-white conflict framework to what is known as a "win-win" framework, which allows for coexistence and equality, despite basic differences in narrative and ideology.

This is where the various would-be peacemakers and NGO funders, particularly from European governments, should put their money and focus their activities. As long as the Arab and Muslim position slams the door to block Jewish history, Jerusalem will remain a battleground in which the Jewish nation will have no choice but to use force when necessary to defends these rights.

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