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News for Sociology of Religion -- Wed Feb 19 04:14:47 EST 1997

  • FRESH CRISIS BREWS OVER NEW SETTLEMENT

    c.1997 The Independent, London FRESH CRISIS BREWS OVER NEW SETTLEMENT From PATRICK COCKBURNJERUSALEM - The construction of a Jewish settlement on the greenhill of Har Homa, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is starting to . . .

  • COMMENTARY: JEWISH RIGHT, ARAB LEFT
    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service CASABLANCA, Morocco _ When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahusigned the Hebron withdrawal accord it signaled a fundamental spliton the Jewish right in Israel. Those who argued that for religious, . . .
  • COMMENTARY: THE ALBRIGHT QUESTION
    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service CHICAGO _ At a dinner party last Saturday night, I found myselfseated among some of the most loyal of Clinton enthusiasts in thismost loyally Democratic of cities. But when I raised the question . . .


    FRESH CRISIS BREWS OVER NEW SETTLEMENT

    FRESH CRISIS BREWS OVER NEW SETTLEMENT

    c.1997 The Independent, London

    FRESH CRISIS BREWS OVER NEW SETTLEMENT From PATRICK COCKBURNJERUSALEM - The construction of a Jewish settlement on the greenhill of Har Homa, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is starting toprovoke a fresh crisis in relations between Israel and thePalestinians.

    Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is likely toapprove within the next few weeks the construction of a Jewishneighbourhood with an initial population of at least 25,000 on landcaptured by Israel in 1967, say Israeli officials. ``I fear that itwill bring a wave of uprisings,'' says Faisal Husseini, thePalestinian leader in Jerusalem. ``What happened after the openingof the Western Wall tunnel is nothing compared to what is liable tohappen now.``

    Har Homa is a long steep hill covered with dark green pinetrees, set between the heavily Christian Palestinian township ofBeit Sahour outside the city and the Jewish suburb of Jerusalemcalled Ramat Rakhel. Designated a `green area' by Israel after1967, it was expropriated in 1991 and there have been continuingskirmishes between Israseli soldiers and Palestinian farmers whohave lost land. Some 6,500 apartments will be built under the firstphase of the project, but the overall plan is to expand thesettlement to house 70,000 people.

    Mr Netanyahu is under intense pressure to begin work at Har Homafrom parts of his own right-wing coalition, nervous that he isbacksliding over his election pledge to make no compromise with thePalestinians over Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert, the mayor of Jerusalem,has threatened to send in bulldozers on his own account to startconstruction work. ``No Israeli politician has ever lost a vote bybeing too tough on Jerusalem,'' says Danny Seidemann, a lawyeropposing the project before the courts on behalf of localPalestinian communities and the Israeli peace group, Ir Shalem.

    It is not clear how Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, willreact if construction goes ahead. Unlike the opening of the tunnelin the Old City of Jerusalem last September, which provokedfighting in which 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians died, Har Homa isnot close to any Muslim religious shrines. On the other hand AmiAyalon, the head of the Shin Bet security agency, said yesterdaythat even if Mr Arafat did not want violence ordinary Palestiniansmight still react strongly ``bcause of the volatility of theJerusalem situation.`` Har Homa also occupies a strategic location.``It is the place, not the numbers which matter,'' says Prof AmiramGonen, a specialist on the geography of Jerusalem. He says that HarHoma would create a rampart of Jewish settlements on the southernboundary of the city, breaking the continuity of Palestinianneighbourhoods. Some 78 per cent of the 600,000 people in Jerusalemare Jewish, but the figure is deceptive because Prof Gonen pointsout that in the metropolitan area of the city Jews make up only 55per cent of the population.

    Mr Netanyahu appears eager to avoid a confrontation over HarHoma, which might undo his efforts to present a more moderate imagein the aftermath of the partial Israeli withdrawal from Hebron.Danny Seidemann says: ``The same people who failed to stop thepeace process by voting against the Hebron agreement are now tryingto do the same thing by building at Har Homa.'' In constrast toHebron, however, the building of a new settlement in Jerusalemenjoys strong support from centrist politicians like Ehud Barak,expected to be the next leader of the Labour party.

    Har Homa is not the only sign of struggle for Jerusalem heatingup. The 170,000 Palestinians in the city say that Israel is makingincreased efforts to deprive them of their Jerusalem identitypapers, if they go abroad for any extended period for work orstudy. Some who were born in Jerusalem but have foreign passportshave been told that they must choose between their Jerusalemidentity papers and their passport. Because of the growinginsecurity of their position an increasing number of Palestiniansin Jerusalem have taken Israeli citizenship which they rejected inthe past. The campaign to reduce the number of Palestinians inJerusalem started under the last government but has gathered pacesince Mr Netanyahu came to power.

    ^(Distributed by New York Times Special Features)@=

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    COMMENTARY: JEWISH RIGHT, ARAB LEFT

    THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service

    CASABLANCA, Morocco _ When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahusigned the Hebron withdrawal accord it signaled a fundamental spliton the Jewish right in Israel. Those who argued that for religious,nationalist or security reasons Israel must never cede one inch ofthe West Bank were left behind, as a large segment of the Jewishright joined the land-for-peace camp, creating a broad new center.Now the only debate left in Israel is not whether there will be aPalestinian state in the West Bank, but what size will it be: Asize 15 wide, a size 10 narrow, or a size 7 small?

    The answer to that question will depend, in part, on whether thesplit on the Jewish right will be mirrored now by a split on theArab left. Up to now the Arab intellectual left, as well as theunions of Arab doctors, lawyers and writers, have refused toreconcile themselves to Israel, even though their regimes have.

    For the first time a tiny split in the Arab left is opening, butit has a long, long way to go before it becomes a politicallysignificant movement that could really influence the debate inIsrael. This week some important Arab media, such as Al-Mussawarmagazine, the widely watched television show featuring Egypt'sHamdi Qandil and even leftist newspapers like Al-Ahali have beenfilled with this budding debate: Was it proper for Arabintellectuals, led by Egypt's Lutfi al-Kholi and Abdel Moneim Said,to take part in a recent dialogue with centrist Israeliintellectuals in Copenhagen? The Arab intellectual left hadpreviously decreed that only a dialogue with non-Zionist Israeliswas legitimate.

    But those who went to Copenhagen argued that it has not been theboycott of Israel by Arab intellectuals that has brought thePalestinians their first chunks of land from Israel. Rather it wasthe pressure first of the Palestinian uprising and then of theIsraeli peace movement. Therefore if Arab intellectuals really wantto help Palestinians, they will engage directly with the peaceforces in Israel, even the Likud, and try to nurture theland-for-peace lobby there. The Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian authorNaguib Mahfouz told Al-Ahram: ``Accusing those who participated [inCopenhagen) of treason is nonsense. I support the advocates ofpeace on the Arab side getting in touch with the advocates of peacein Israel. This is a patriotic act.'' Added Mohammed Sid Ahmed:``Negating Israel is impossible. What is possible is to changeIsrael.''

    But this is still a minority view. I just participated in aroundtable discussion with 50 Moroccan professors at King Hassan IIUniversity in Casablanca, and I heard attacks on Israel that wereso bitter I finally said to them: ``I feel as if I've entered atime warp and woken up at an Arab League meeting in 1960.'' Forthese Moroccan intellectuals, Hebron didn't exist, Oslo didn'texist, Yasser Arafat was misguided. They spoke from the heart aboutthe ``rape of Arab land'' that the Jewish state represented. QadriHifni, an Egyptian expert on Israel, summed up their mindset inAl-Mussawar, saying: ``The cultural domain is the last bastion ofnormalization. Let us [intellectuals) be careful. If boycottingIsrael would hurt it, let's maintain that strategy.''

    These hard-line Arab intellectuals seem to be seeking notIsraeli withdrawals, but Israeli atonement. They want anideological victory, they want an apology, they want the Jews tostand up and say, ``Sorry, we never should have built a statehere.'' Further complicating the picture is a new element: SomeArab intellectuals today seem to be either intimidated by therising influence of Islamic fundamentalists or fascinated by theirpower, and would like to mobilize it. Mohammed Imara, a leadingEgyptian Islamist, argued that the role of the Arab intellectualwas ``to nourish the memory of our nation about the entirety of itsrights until the balance of power can be corrected.''

    Even those Arab intellectuals ready to engage Israelis today doso on the assumption that Israel will return to the 1967 lines. Butthe real debate in Israel will not be whether to return 100 percentof the West Bank, but whether to return 40 to 50 percent or 80 to90 percent. I'm not sure even the most dovish Arab intellectualsare ready to take sides in that debate. In that sense, Ali Salem, aprominent Egyptian writer, may be right when he said: ``The callfor a dialogue with the peace camp in Israel is justified, but itcame too late.''

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    COMMENTARY: THE ALBRIGHT QUESTION

    FRANK RICH
    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service

    CHICAGO _ At a dinner party last Saturday night, I found myselfseated among some of the most loyal of Clinton enthusiasts in thismost loyally Democratic of cities. But when I raised the questionof Madeleine Albright's sudden discovery of her roots, there wasonly eye-rolling and sarcasm. One prominent Jewish friend of boththe Clintons and the secretary of state didn't hesitate tocharacterize Albright's professed ignorance about her past: ``Shedidn't want to know from Jewish.''

    The question of what Madeleine Albright knew about her past andwhen she knew it is hardly of Watergate significance. Her religion,whatever it is, is irrelevant to her job, for which she isabundantly qualified. But her story isn't going away just yet, inpart because it upsets more than a few American Jews, and in partbecause she seems to be shading the truth. In the classic Clintonadministration manner, so reminiscent of Bill Clinton's shiftingaccounts of his draft history or Al Gore's varying recollections ofhis misadventures at a Buddhist temple, Albright has with her ownwords turned a fascinating, poignant but potentially short-livedstory into what might be called (though presumably not by her) abig megillah.

    When Michael Dobbs of The Washington Post first reported thatAlbright's parents were Jewish converts to Catholicism and that shehad lost three of her grandparents (among other close relatives) tothe Holocaust, she pronounced these revelations ``obviously a majorsurprise.'' But it turned out that others had written letters totell her of these facts in years past _ including the mayor of herfather's hometown and a Jewish first cousin who lived with her andher parents in exile in London during the war. Her paternalgrandparents' deaths are also recorded on a memorial list publishedin Terezin in 1995 of Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

    Now Albright _ whose much-admired catch phrase until recentlywas ``I tell it like it is'' _ is changing her story. In arelentless interview by Lally Weymouth in this week's Newsweek,Albright says that her initial response to The Post's findings wasmisquoted. ``I was not surprised about my Jewish origin,'' shesays. ``What I was surprised about was that my grandparents died inconcentration camps.'' But as recently as in a ``60 Minutes''interview aired on Feb. 9, she told Ed Bradley that both her Jewishorigins and her grandparents' fate had been ``totally'' unknown toher.

    This prevarication, unlike her family history, does reflect onAlbright's credibility as a public servant. But what is moretroubling to many Jews, myself among them, is her lack of curiosityabout her roots from the start, no matter whether she found out thefacts this month or years ago. What smart, serious, sensitivestudent of history, let alone Nazi refugee, makes no effort to findout how her grandparents died? Or turns her back on a cousin withwhom she lived like a sister during her most formative years?

    Such a determined ignorance about one's own family is so out ofcharacter for a woman of Albright's intelligence and quality,Jewish or not, that it has prompted a floating nationalkaffeeklatsch of armchair psychoanalysis. Deborah Lipstadt, aprofessor of Jewish studies at Emory University who has longcharted America's conflicted relationship with the Holocaust,argues that for Albright to question her father's version of herhistory would be tantamount to destroying the hero and role modelwho most shaped her life.

    But whatever the explanation, Albright's story also fascinatesand troubles because it exposes a raw nerve in American Jewishhistory. In the postwar America in which Albright came of age, itwas not, as Ms. Lipstadt puts it, ``convenient to be Jewish'': notif you wanted an unimpeded path to Wellesley or the nicest suburbsor the best jobs. It was the time for heavy-duty assimilation, forname changes and nose jobs and reform synagogues that bordered onthe Episcopalian; even the Holocaust was not talked about tooloudly among American Jews in the 1950s.

    However unintentionally, Madeleine Albright actually lived thedarkest fantasy of the most assimilationist American Jews of thattime. Her family's obliteration of its Jewish past _ extreme casethough it may be _ wouldn't resonate so loudly if it didn't awakenguilty memories in so many other American homes.

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