JERUSALEM, LIES AND ANTI-SEMITISM

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN MEDIA

By Boris Shusteff

I would like to ask American journalists and newsmen, the ones that speak about the freedom of speech "How many of you can recite the first amendment?" Very few I am sure. And this is no surprise. People take it for granted that they can freely express their views and not be afraid to be punished for it. This is great as long as you are not disseminating lies. It can be argued that freedom of speech allows you to lie. However, from a moral standpoint, lies should not be encouraged, so if your conscience doesn't rebel when you lie, maybe you can hide behind the shield of the first amendment and maybe you won't be dragged to court today. But please, don't forget, that on the final judgment day, your lies will be remembered. It could happen even earlier, when you suddenly understood that your lies helped to nourish hatred, to murder innocent people and to facilitate atrocities. Sometimes, you do not realize that you are lying; it could be due to ignorance, or a hurriedly prepared report when you don't have enough time to verify facts. Though the harm from your lies is irreversible, you have a chance to correct your errors by loudly apologizing for wrongly presented information. But if you don't apologize that means you lied intentionally.

The recent events associated with Israel's decision to start construction in Har Homa present a glaring example of lies that lead to encouraging hatred and violence. Almost without exception, the leading American newspapers and television stations, describing the area where construction is ready to begin, used terms like "mainly Arab East Jerusalem," "predominantly Arab East Jerusalem," and "historically Arab East Jerusalem." These three phrases contain four lies. First of all, the construction due to happen is located in the southern part of the city. You might say that geography is not the press's favorite subject, but how about "mostly," and "predominantly?" If in this eastern part of the city live 155,000 Arabs and 160,000 Jews, how can you use the term "predominantly" to describe the Arab portion of the population? Apparently, neither mathematics, nor a knowledge of the English language is our journalists' strength either. There is only one remaining subject: history. Maybe the term "historically Arab" can survive. No, no, and once again, no! In history, our journalists are even less knowledgeable. For the city that is 3000 years old, the time period from 1948 to 1967, when the Jews were forcefully expelled from this part of the city, does not represent history. It is obvious that the entire story of this magnificent and unique city cannot be told in this article however in order to show the unfairness and inaccuracy of the term "historically," I need to make a short trip into history.

Jerusalem is mentioned in the Old Testament 656 times, while neither East nor West Jerusalem are mentioned in the Koran even once. Division into East and West is historically incorrect. There is the Old City and all its environs. In the Old City, there are four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. Out of all these, the Muslim is the youngest. It was artificially created by the British administration for political reasons, when Britain obtained the mandate for Palestine. In the main street of the Muslim quarter at the time of its creation, more than 70% of the households were Jewish, and the non-Jewish owners of small grocery stores along this street did not even open their stores on Saturdays because it was not profitable to keep them open on the Jewish Sabbath. Then, the British administration began to help Arabs expel Jews from this Muslim quarter, by saying that they could not protect the Jews from Arab animosity, and that when hostility subsided, they would be able to return. In spite of all the hostilities and massacres, in 1948, when the Arab nations unleashed the war for the annihilation of the newborn Jewish state, there were more than 2000 Jews left in the part of the Old City occupied by Jordan. All 34 synagogues in the "historically Arab" East Jerusalem were demolished. Jewish cemeteries in "historically Arab" East Jerusalem were desecrated in the most outrageous ways: the thousand-year-old tombstones were used to pave the way to the latrines of Jordanian army camps. Yes, those were historical events, between 1948 and 1967: the Arabs tried to erase all signs of the Jewish presence in the Old City. Yes, this was the first time in its 3000 year history that Jerusalem was physically divided. Yes, this was a historical time, when the Christian population of the Eastern part of the city, occupied by Jordan, decreased from over 25,000 to little more than 12,000 people. In 1948, there were 65,000 Arabs and Christians in the eastern part of Jerusalem. In 20 years, up to 1967, this number remained almost constant. When Israel liberated the city in 1967, it did not expel the Arabs. On the contrary, the Arab population of East Jerusalem experienced tremendous growth. In the next 20 years the non-Jewish population of East Jerusalem, grew from 67,609 to 155,000.

And now we come to the last point in the title. A recent survey conducted on March 10, 1997 among Arab adults of Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem answers any questions associated with East Jerusalem. When asked "Would it be acceptable, in order to compensate for the construction of Jewish housing at Har Homa to build the same amount of Arab housing in Arab parts of Jerusalem?" 46.7% answered "No." In the same survey, 40.8% said that they would support terrorist activity against Jews. The answer is clear, the main reason why Arabs are against Har Homa construction is their hatred of Jews. They do not want housing improvement for themselves, as long as Jews are not allowed to build either. The hateful Arab, anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli propaganda culminated recently in the terrible massacre of 7 Israeli schoolgirls, who (ironically) were murdered at an "Island of Peace."

After World War II, when six million Jews perished as a result of German genocide, it became clear that other nations' cooperation and/or indifference contributed greatly to this. Unfortunately, America cannot be singled out as a non-participant in this crime: as did many other nations, it shut its doors to desperate European Jews. Just one gruesome example is the well-known story of how Congress disallowed the debarkation of thousands of Jewish children, who had arrived by ship. I do not want this great country to take part in another crime -- the destruction of the Jewish state. You can like or dislike Israel, but, in either case, do not encourage lies; they are very dangerous. It was a practice of Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, to repeat lies over and over, until they were engraved in people's memories as indisputable facts. Do not follow in his footsteps; it will not bring you glory. By disseminating these lies, you nourish negative feelings toward Israel, you increase Arab expectations, and you spoil the rapprochement between Israel and the Arab countries. Before writing anything, go and see what the truth is.

Then you will learn that, for Jews, Zion and Jerusalem are synonyms. You will learn that for 3000 years Jerusalem, has been and now is a capital of the Jewish people. It was their capital for hundreds and hundreds of years when they had an independent state, and their temple was one of the most splendid buildings of the ancient world. When, 2000 years ago, Jerusalem was mercilessly destroyed by the Romans, it did not perish for the Jews; it remained their capital. It nestled in their memory, and, for 2000 years, they dreamed to restore it and to regain their statehood. While 2000 years ago, it was a flourishing Jewish city with over 100,000 inhabitants, after the majority of Jews were expelled, the city wilted. By 1840, there were only 14,000 people inhabiting the city, and even then half among them where Jews. It was a forlorn place located in the back yard of the Ottoman empire, but the stream of Jews returning to their eternal capital never diminished. Although the conditions of their lives were terrible, and, almost every year, thousands upon thousands of them were dying of epidemics, because the Turks did not allow them any sanitary improvements, they kept returning to the city. They settled in the Old City and began to expand outward westward and eastward, as well as to the north and south. The Jewish population grew much faster than that of other groups, one of the reasons for this being their devotion and love for their eternal city. It reached 100,000 by the time the Jews regained their statehood in 1948, doubled by 1967, and doubled again by 1992. They did not expel the Arabs, being ready to live together with them. This is why the fraction of Arabs has grown from 26% to 32% between 1967 to 1996.

Every city has its natural boundaries, and for normal development Har Homa is the most reasonable place for expansion in Jerusalem. This is why Israel wants to build at Har Homa. These will be residential buildings, not military installations. These will be kindergartens and schools. This will be housing for newlyweds and elderly people. People will simply live there and raise their children. Knowing all this, how can anyone object to building at Har Homa. Every city and every people are entitled to natural growth. Or maybe every people but Jews? [3/16/97]

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Boris Shusteff is a Russian immigrant who works as an electrical engineer. He is also a Freeman Center member.


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