The lost promise of Jerusalem
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., December 6, 2002) – As anyone knows who has ever visited or lived for a while in Jerusalem, it is a magical city on a hill. In Jerusalem, ancient meets modern, east meets west, and heaven meets earth. There is arguably no other place like it on earth.

The New Yorker

For many years, Jerusalem also offered the greatest promise that Jews and Arabs could live together in peace in a binational state of Israel, as Ari Shavit describes in “No Man’s Land” in the December 9 issue of the New Yorker.

Shavit’s ancestors began visiting Jerusalem in the late 19th century, and his grandparents moved there about 75 years ago. Shavit, who still lives in Jerusalem, describes life in a multicultural city where Jews and Arabs lived and worked together side by side for generations.

Then, in the fall of 2000, Palestinians responded with terror and suicide bombs to Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer to pull Israeli troops out of the West Bank. The hope and promise of Oslo and Camp David went up in flames with the Netanya hotel bombing on Passover, and with the dozens of bus shelters, restaurants, and cafes that became targets for the bombers.

This tore the very fabric of Jerusalem apart, and Shavit’s article is really an elegy for the lost promise of Jerusalem. “Mighty religious and cultural forces are at work, tearing the city apart,” he writes, in an essay that offers little in the way of hope for a solution. About the best he can rouse up is that “for the time being, amid the shootings and the explosions, I cling to the idea of the Jerusalem that my family came for and to the hope that it will someday be possible.”


In the December issue of Commentary, Efraim Karsh’s “Saddam and the Palestinians” is the prescription for those naifs who think that there might be something to the claims by the Bin Ladens and Saddam Husseins of the world that what really irks them above all is the lack of a homeland for Palestinian Arabs.

Karsh reminds us that the Arab world has always played the Palestinian card as a political ploy whenever it is useful, and then been just as quick to discard it when it becomes an irritant. “As occupiers after 1948 of, respectively, the Gaza Strip and the West Band, neither Egypt nor Jordan ever allowed Palestinian self-determination,” writes Karsh. “Their purposes were better served by forcing the Palestinian refugees to remain in squalid, harshly supervised camps, where they could serve as a rallying point for anti-Israel sentiment.”

Karsh brings this up not to rehash old history, but as a response to those who are falling for the notion “that the U.S. must at least attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before confronting Saddam Hussein.”

This wrongheaded linkage of two unrelated problems can only serve the purposes of our enemies. Moreover, says Karsh, holding out hopes for linkage between Iraq and the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict only offers false encouragement to those who would hold out for pressure on Israel to succumb, thereby delaying efforts toward a negotiated peace.

“The pretense of pan-Arab solidarity has long served as a dangerous elixir in Palestinian political circles,” writes Karsh, “stirring unrealistic hopes and expectations and, at key junctures, inciting widespread and horrifically destructive violence.”

The Weekly Standard

It was recently widely reported that the Saudi royal family, in the person of Princess Haifa, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., has been caught in a financial relationship with two of the September 11 hijackers. In “The Princess and Her ‘Charities’” in the December 9 issue of the Weekly Standard, Stephen Schwartz -- senior policy analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of “The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror” – explains why this should not at all come as a surprise.

“Since September 11,” writes Schwartz, “the Saudi representatives and their apologists have composed numerous pseudo-explanations for the presence of 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers.”

As Schwartz demonstrates, they are having a hard time coming up with excuses, because of the inextricable ties between al-Qaeda and the Saudi governing elite. The high proportion of Saudis in al-Qaeda is a reflection of “their profile in the Islamofascist international,” writes Schwartz, part and parcel of “the indoctrination of Saudi society in the Wahhabi mentality” that serves as the ideological underpinning to Osama bin Laden’s war on the West.

The Atlantic Monthly

For tragicomic relief I strongly recommend “Bobby Fischer’s Pathetic Endgame,” a profile of former world chess champion Bobby Fischer by Rene Chun in the December issue of the Atlantic. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the portrait of the pathetic loser Fischer has become. Whatever glimpse of genius he once demonstrated as a young chess prodigy has devolved into a simmering, putrid stew of insanity that has led him down a self-destructive path in which he squandered his natural gifts and turned his celebrity into a means of spewing hatred and conspiracy theories of the most outlandish kind.

Since 1992, Fischer has been a fugitive subject to arrest if he returns to the U.S. (his crime was going to Yugoslavia at the height of the Balkan war). Instead of playing chess, Fischer spends his days giving radio interviews around the world in which he accuses the U.S. government of persecuting him. On September 11, 2001, he “applauded” the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in a radio interview on which he signed off saying, “Death to the U.S.” Mostly, Fischer is obsessed by what he sees as a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against him. Among the “Jewish conspirators” he names are former president Bill Clinton.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on December 7, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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