THE SPINE APRIL 22, 2010
There are signs that he thinks he can. Barak Ravid reports in yesterday’s Ha’aretz that a high-level but unnamed U.S. official has complained about American Jews speaking up about how they feel and what they think about U.S. policy towards Jerusalem. I don’t particularly agree with what I’ve discerned as Ravid’s political views. But he is certainly a reliable journalist. He did not make this up.
It’s one thing, however unbecoming, for the Obami to lecture Israel about its capital. Still, truth be told, the U.S. not only is apoplectic about the 180-odd thousands of Jews who live (and have lived) in areas of the city beyond the temporary armistice lines of 1949, it has never recognized anything specifically Israeli in even western Jerusalem. If an American baby is born, for example, in Kiryat Yovel, an old Jewish neighborhood in the “new city” (or the “western sector,” as it used to be called), of Jerusalem, his or her place of birth will be registered by the American consulate not as “Jerusalem, Israel” but just as plain “Jerusalem.” How is that for the U.S. sticking its head in the sand? And, even though the Congress has legislated transferring the ambassadorial mission from shabby Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, several presidents have simply refused.
Look up “U.S. Consulate, Jerusalem.” It is eerie how unresponsive and indifferent to historical realities the site is. It’s almost as if Israel does not exist there at all.
In any case, the churlish American factotum cited above was upset that prominent American Jews had made their views known about Obama’s obvious hostility to Jewish Jerusalem in general. In fact, the president has never, NEVER acknowledged the special role of Jerusalem in Jewish history, in Jewish religion, in the Jewish present. Believe me: this is not an oversight. I wrote about this twice during Passover.
Apparently, the aforementioned person was especially distraught that both Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel had each taken out newspaper advertisements about the city that is holiest to Jews, holiest to Jews above all, whatever Obama seems to believe. This spiritual reality does not give Jews license to disrespect their Arab neighbors. But it should impel the president at least to recognize the tri-millennial Jewish bond to the City of David and Israel’s function as its guardian.
Both of the public letters are eloquent, especially Wiesel’s, with its quiet resonance of his communion with the horrors and ecstasies of the Jewish past. The disdain of the president’s errand boy for the Nobelist’s message is actually repulsive. But not more repulsive than Obama’s cavalier excision, crass excision, of Jerusalem from his almost proprietary Passover story.