Thursday, March 20, 2014

“Why Isn’t Aelia Capitolina On Your Map?”


In May 1948, a minority of Palestinian residents, mostly recent settlers from Europe, declared an independent state against the wishes of the majority. This was the latest in a series of inter-communal disturbances that had followed the passage of the UN Partition Plan, and one which precipitated an expected intervention of Arab armies from neighboring states. At the end of the war, Palestine was partitioned by the new State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Egypt. Most of the inhabitants of Palestine, Palestinian Arabs,  had been forced out of areas they had lived in, directly or indirectly. Some, much fewer, Jews suffered the same fate. Over the next few years, five hundred Palestinian villages were destroyed; Palestinian place names were changed, many of the native Palestinian, including Palestinians living in the state who should have been considered citizens according to the Declaration of Independence, were not allowed to return to their homes. In many cases. Jewish refugees were resettled in those homes.  In a space of a few years, Palestine was literally and figuratively wiped off the map.

In light of the above, I am disturbed that Jewish students at Barnard are disturbed by seeing a map of Palestine calling for Justice in Palestine that doesn’t have the State of Israel on the map. If they are disturbed by the thought that the State of Israel is not on the map, why aren’t they disturbed at the actual destruction of Palestine that occurred in 1948? Do they think that Palestine ceased to exist after the British Mandate expired?  That Palestinians have no homeland? That they came from Brigadoon or Atlantis?

“You can’t go home again,” wrote Thomas Wolfe. Tell that to the Zionists who to this day claim the Land of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.  Just as the Land of Israel exists, Palestine still exists, and will always exist as along as Palestinian Arabs remember it and wish its continued existence.  I simply cannot fathom how any Zionist cannot understand this. Imagine the Romans saying to the Jews of their time, “Wishing to return to Jerusalem is personally offensive to us. Why isn’t Aelia Capitolina on your map? You lost. Get over it.” Would that carry any weight with Jews then or during the ages? Would it carry any weight with Zionists today?”

At Barnard the Students for Justice in Palestine hung a banner stating, “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” (see above) and the administration took it down.

I don’t want to get into the free speech vs. private institution issue.  If I did, I would say that I am pretty much a free speech absolutist, especially when it comes to college campuses.

I want to talk about the sign itself. I understand why pro-Israel students are disturbed by the sign,  but from a moral standpoint, they should get over it.  To this day, I am viscerally disturbed by some aspects of Christianity, and going into churches is not easy for me. That’s because as an orthodox Jew, I get  that there is a fundamental incommensurability between the two religions,such that if I am right, they are wrong, and vice-versa.  But while I do not agree with the belief that Jesus was the messiah, I can’t imagine protesting a banner that expresses this Christian belief. I would oppose, of course,  a banner that says, “All Jews/Christians are going to hell” or “Throw the Zionists/Palestinians into the sea”.

So while it is understandable that some Jewish students have a visceral response to the banner, I would hope that they would have the sensitivity to understand, even if they don’t agree, that Palestine is eternal for the Palestinians, just as the Land of Israel is eternal for the Jews. 

As for the J Street students who think that such banners are “unhelpful” for a two-state solution, I ask, “Why so?” After all, even if the Palestinians accept a small, truncated state in Palestine, it will never replace Palestine for them, no more than that state will have any effect whatever on Eretz Yisrael for me.

What I am saying is not rocket science. I live in what will forever be Occupied Palestine for Palestinians, and Eretz Yisrael for Jews.  I will not support any ideology that wants to bring chaos and suffering to people who are justifiably in their land. I will try to seek for solutions that will maximize justice.

To my fellow Jews I say right now – Palestine never went away and is not going away. Palestine remembered is Palestine forever. Please read my post here about how Jews should relate to Palestine.

After all, the primary victims of the Zionist movement have been the Palestinians – so if sensitivity is required, then sensitivity for the weaker and more aggrieved party is in order, isn’t it?


Michael W. said...

I'm not going to comment about the banner issue but I'd like to respond to the introduction.

Re: "Some, much fewer, Jews suffered the same fate."
- Since you've added the armies of some of the Arab states, shouldn't we expand the arena (temporally also) of the conflict to the entirety of the Middle East (From Morocco to Iran)? Doesn't the number of displaced Jews change?

Re: "In many cases. Jewish refugees were resettled in those homes."
- Has this ever been quantified?

Re: "Imagine the Romans saying to the Jews of their time, “Wishing to return to Jerusalem is personally offensive to us. Why isn't Aelia Capitolina on your map? You lost. Get over it.” Would that carry any weight with Jews then or during the ages? Would it carry any weight with Zionists today?"
- If you are trying to reach the wider Zionist community, you should address all the points of context within that wider passage that they disagree with. I'm not going to list them here but I hope you are aware that they exist and what they are. Do you know what they are, the points of context? Not just in the 20th century, but during the entire history of the Diaspora.

Jerry Haber said...

Jews displaced from Arab lands have no relevance to this article -- unless you want to make the claim, which I am sure you do not, that the Palestinians who were forced to leave from Palestine are somehow
balanced with Jews who were forced to leave (when they were forced to leave) Arab countries. I am sure you don't want to make that claim because of its deeply racist implications, as if somehow the Palestinians should suffer because of the forced immigrations of the Jews of Arab lands. I don't think the suffering of the Jews should be balanced with the suffering of the Palestinian Arabs, do you? I am said this so many times. The attempt to balance was a Zionist ploy to avoid responsibility for ethnic cleansing.

Jerry Haber said...

Well, most homes were destroyed but in the cities, especially Jerusalem, Jews were settled in Palestinian homes. Come to South Jerusalem, and I will show you. To be fair, some Palestinians were settled in Jewish homes, especially in East Jerusalem.
That's not the important issue. As I pointed out Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank was also wiped off the map, but there was a lot less of that.

Jerry Haber said...

I don't understand your final question. But it seems to me that you agree in principle that a people that yearns for its homeland should be allowed to represent its homeland in the map that speaks to it. So Jews during the centries were not under any obligation to deny this yearning to return to their homeland. And in that case, you would accept the point that Palestians would be in a similar situation.

Reines Zionist said...

The reason Jews are disturbed by this map is, because for them, it basically says - there is no Israel. And even if there is something called Israel, sooner or later it will cease to exist and this will be the true justice for Palestine. So as much as it disturbs lots of Arabs (not only a Palestinians) to see a map where the name "Israel" is printed over it, the other option disturbs Jews (and Israeli ones especially).

Unknown said...

The Land of Israel was hardly a homeland. It was a spiritual concept. The Hasmonean and Herodian rulers never called themselves Kings of Israel. They used titles like Kings of Judea, Judean Kings, and Judaic Kings. Were they anti-Semites for delegitimizing Israel? As far as I am concerned, my heritage is Eastern European Slavo-Turk, and my ancestors were superficially Judaized, but nowadays few if any of my family genuinely practice the religion, and the idea that we and people like us have any rights to territory in the Levant is simply a psychopathy to justify heinous crimes against humanity.

David Sucher said...

I think your history is so flawed as to get exactly the answer you desire which I assume s to feel guilt.

Unknown said...

How was Colonia Aelia Capitolina perceived at the time of its establishment?

Josephus, Judeans, Jerusalem, and the Romans

Iosephos writes about Judeans, Galileans, Peraeans, Idumeans, who are the ancestors of modern Palestinians and not of modern Jews.

Just as the Palestinian populations of that time period faced a relentless technologically superior foe convinced of his own moral superiority, Palestinians today face a relentless technologically superior foe also convinced of his own moral superiority.

Of course, the Romans did not make the claim that they were the native inhabitants, but they did claim to represent the rule of law in a dangerous neighborhood.

The Romans never expelled any of the inhabitants of Judea despite the common erroneous beliefs of modern Jews.

The Romans asserted that they had to take over the religious worship in Jerusalem because it had been desecrated by the Judeans.

Colonia Aelia Capitolina (the city built by the Romans in the Jerusalem ruins) honors Hadrian because Aelius is his nomen gentile, but it is also a pun on the high God El, whom the Judeans worshiped.

Capitolina refers to Capitolinus, and the chief God worshipped in Rome was Jupiter Capitolinus, whose temple stood at the end of the Clivus Capitolinus, which started at the Temple of Saturn, who was a veiled God, whose face like that of El was hidden. On the Titan calendar, the 7th day (Saturday) belonged to Saturn or to his Greek counterpart Kronos, who was often worshipped in the Orient as El-Kon-Arz (El Creator of the Earth) or as El-Kronos in Hellenistic formulation.

Thus, the Romans were making an assertion of greater rights in the small district where the Jerusalem Temple had stood because they served the gods properly.

In contrast, the criminal murderous racist genocidal conquest of Palestine has resulted in an actual expulsion of Palestinians that corresponds to the mythic expulsion of Judeans that never happened in Roman times.

Unknown said...

I don't feel guilt. I feel toward those that attempt to enmesh me and my family in their crimes.