Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Terminology shift--Jerusalem now part of the "West Bank"

Terminology shifts in the news media are interesting. They often signal historical changes in the wind. Now we find that the relatively conservative Washington Times has referred to neighborhoods in Jerusalem as "settlements in the West Bank."

Let me stress this: These are not far-outlying suburbs of Jerusalem. These are Jewish neighborhoods within the city limits of the city that is Israel's own capital, and apparently not even right at the edge, either (if that mattered). All of Jerusalem is governed by Israeli law. People who live in Har Homa (the neighborhood in question) are literally just Israeli citizens living within Israel's own capital city. That's it. And the building in this neighborhood was approved ten years ago. (Again, if that mattered.)

Now, I'm very interested in being corrected if I'm wrong, but as far as I know it has not previously been part of standard practice in the American MSM to refer to any part of Jerusalem proper as "the West Bank." Certainly even I, ignorant though I have been in the past of the entire Israeli situation, would have thought of "the West Bank" as being outside of Jerusalem. Israeli blogger Carl in Jerusalem confirms that the MSM has not previously referred to any part of Jerusalem proper as being "in the West Bank." Of course, Israel is so narrow that perhaps the entire country could be thought of as "the West Bank" of the Jordan river, if one construes "bank" broadly enough. An ominous thought.

But now we have Condoleeza Rice having a snit over building in Jewish neighborhoods within the city limits of Israel's own capital, and an American official with the insufferable, sickening, almost unbelievable arrogance to say of this, "We don't like chastising people, but we don't want people to do anything to make us chastise them." And Olmert was apparently trying good and hard to give away East Jerusalem to the "Palestinians" for their own capital (read "new rocket-launching pad") at Annapolis, but somehow he didn't succeed in doing so. And Israel may be caving on a plan to build housing in a different neighborhood, also within the limits of the city of Jerusalem, in the face of Condi's wrath. So the Washington Times reporter gets the idea from all of this that the places over which all this fuss is being made must be properly designated as "settlements in the West Bank."

I don't want to make too much of one line in one article. But I think this may be a (bad) sign of things to come for the Jewish inhabitants of East Jerusalem...and, one way or another, of all of Jerusalem.

HT to Dhimmi Watch for the link to the Washington Times article. HT to Carl in Jerusalem for information on the location of these neighborhoods and for links to the Jerusalem Post. But I noticed the line about "settlements in the West Bank" and what it was referring to all on my own and am waiting for my "place in history" badge for having been the first to notice. :-)


Rodak said...



But, why, do you suppose, the Washington Times, of all papers, would be the first to refer to a Jerusalem neighborhood as part of the West Bank? I don't read it, but I would expect the Times to be staunchly pro-Israel. No?

Lydia McGrew said...

Yes, that's part of my point. It's odd. My best guess is that the reporter was slightly out of touch with the usual use of the terminology and was taking his cue (or was it her? I'll have to look up the article again) from Rice's own outrage. In other words, the reporter assumed that any neighborhoods about which anyone would make such a fuss must be properly designated as "in the West Bank." That means that the treatment by Rice and Olmert of East Jerusalem as negotiable--itself something not supported by the Israeli public--is starting to influence reporting even in papers not otherwise particularly biased against Israel, which will in turn influence public opinion in the U.S., which will (probably) later influence policy, in a familiar feedback loop. (I might note, too, that before Annapolis it was "Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem" that were being discussed, even in Haaretz, as a possible "Palestinian" capital, not Jewish neighborhoods, which makes Rice's anger over the continuation of normal-status building in Jewish neighborhoods all the crazier.)

Rodak said...

When you get right down to it, the fact that there is a mosque on the Temple Mount pretty much moots the whole discussion.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm not quite sure I take your meaning, esp. knowing your opinions on Israel. Is your point that East Jerusalem _should_ belong to the Arabs, because the most recent religious building built there was a mosque rather than the Herodian Temple, or is your point that the Israelis' willingness to let the wakf control Temple Mount means that the Arabs have no cause for complaint (somehow I don't think that's your point!), or what?

Anyway, I'm not going to debate the whole Israel thing with you again, Rodak. I know quite well what you think from our other discussion.

My point in this post--and I think it's an interesting one--is that this terminology (and for that matter Rice's rhetoric) implies that the Israelis have _already_ agreed that all of East Jerusalem is now off-limits for any building for Jews (a "no more Jews allowed" sign, you might say!) and are violating some sort of agreement by continuing normal life there including normal building already authorized. The "settlements on the West Bank" terminology furthers this impression, since the Israelis have at least implied that w.r.t. to some of what _they_ call "settlements on the West Bank" they will allow only "natural growth." But they never agreed to any building restrictions in Jerusalem proper, which is their capital, at least not that anyone knows of publically. That is, if Olmert did so, he did it secretly. So this ambiguity on the phrase is implying that the Israelis are doing something shakier *on their own terms* than they are.

Oh, by the way: Israel and Fatah allowed Hamas to broadcast from Temple Mount in the last couple of days. Charming. Just shows what sort of neighbors they'll get themselves in Jerusalem if they ever do agree to divide it. _Which_ ones were the good terrorists, again? I never can remember.

Rodak said...

My point is that the Muslims control the most holy--to the Jews--place in Jerusalem. So, in what sense is Jerusalem truly the Israeli capital?
Certainly the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Via Dolorosa don't signify for the Jews...

Lydia McGrew said...

It was probably stupidly nice of the Jews to let the Muslims continue to have "administrative control" over the Temple Mount. They shouldn't have, in my opinion. Aside from anything else (like this folly with Hamas broadcasting) it has allowed the Palestinians to destroy architectural artifacts, something I have reported on elsewhere--an irreparable harm to the entire world, and in particular to the Jewish people, as they are Herodian temple artifacts that have been wantonly and deliberately destroyed en masse. At least the overarching Israeli control means that they _could_ have stopped this destruction. The wakf's authority is under theirs and is permitted, not absolute. They should end it tomorrow, or yesterday. But they lack the will even to stop the wakf from doing the harm it does.

The Wailing Wall remains, though the turning over of Temple Mount to the wakf has allowed harassment of Jews at the Wailing Wall. Moreover, East Jerusalem is the old city, and it is a simple historical fact that Jewish history is rooted in that particular location, going back through thousands of years. Hezekiah's tunnel, just to name one of many places, is an historical testament to the ancientness of the Jews' connection to Jerusalem. That historical significance cannot be erased by the attempts of the much later Muslims to wipe it out, and certainly not by their building a mosque on Temple Mount, nor by the Israelis' misguided wimpiness in giving the Muslims administrative control of that mount.

Moreover, Jerusalem is their capital in the straightforward sense that it is a city in Israel and that Israel, a sovereign nation, has declared it to be its capital. "In what sense"? In the same sense that Washington DC is ours. If you don't like that and would like to see the entire city, or even the eastern part of the city, turned over to the Arabs for what they would do with it, too bad.

Rodak said...

If I had my 'druthers, Jerusalem would be an international city, under the control of no nation, but rather administered locally by some kind of multicultural group, with the protection of its antiquities as that group's main focus.
As it is, I'm afraid that Jerusalem is destined to one day either be destroyed in war, and/or to become an Arab city where Christians are not welcome.

William Luse said...

administered locally by some kind of multicultural group

The insanity is everywhere.

Rodak said...

"The insanity is everywhere."

That's true. But we have to do the best we can with what we've got.
Jerusalem is currently administered by a nation of one cultural orientation, but with the strong presence of several others. Even the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is divided up among Christian sects.
I believe that Jerusalem should be accessible to Jews, Christians, and Muslims from anywhere in the world, without having to deal with a national government to get there.
I realize that this will never happen, but I wish that it could.

Lydia McGrew said...

If the Israelis would be more firm about preventing the destruction of their _own_ artifacts, the Israelis would be your best hope for what you want, Rodak. They certainly allow access to Christian pilgrims. Their only hesitation is over people likely to be terrorists which, face it, are mostly Muslim. That way, the Christian pilgrims don't get blown up by suicide bombers. Even your "international multicultural group" would have to deal wiht the fact of evil in the world.

Rodak said...

Yes. I see no easily workable solution.

Rodak said...

By which I mean that, as long as the Dome of the Rock is there, there will be a Muslim presence in Jerusalem.

Lydia McGrew said...

Even if it weren't, they would still push. If it's been part of the house of Islam, it should always be, on their view.

Rodak said...

Perhaps. But the mosque is, of course, solid evidence of both legitimate ownership and territorial rights.