It is no secret that Iran despises the Jewish State, with calls to annihilate the “cancer” that is Israel. Iran’s leadership also enjoys provoking the ire of Jews generally, as it puts on exhibitions of Holocaust cartoons. To add to the insults, the Iranian media loves to showcase Jews that bash the Jewish State. It’s a spectacle for the Coliseum.
Press TV is a 24-hour English language news organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, with headquarters in Tehran. The Iranian news organization’s favorite Jewish group for many stories is the Neturei Karta, an extremist anti-Zionist religious group that can be counted as featured speakers in stories about the Iranian nuclear deal, Palestinian rights and Holocaust revisionist history. What better way to convince people that Jews are evil, colonialist, parasitic liars than having Jews make such statements themselves?
In December 2017, Press TV found a new group of Jewish scholars to feature in its Israel bashing stories. In an article entitled “100 Jewish studies scholars sign petition condemning Trump’s declaration,” Press TV reviewed a petition signed by over 100 Jewish university scholars that denounced US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his decision to relocate the US embassy to the city. The news site quoted the petition almost in its entirety, it was that rich for the Iranian government. Below is the scholars’ statement (not the Iranian government’s) with fact-checking inserted after each paragraph.
“We write as Jewish Studies scholars to express our dismay at the Trump administration’s decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and authorizing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, outside of a negotiated political framework that ends the legal state of occupation and ensures respect for the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to Jerusalem.”
- “reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy.” The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed with bipartisan Congressional support and specifically made clear that: 1) Jerusalem should be an undivided city; 2) it should be the capital of Israel; and 3) the US should move its embassy to Jerusalem. The Act’s presidential waiver allowing for a deferral every six months only related to moving the embassy to Jerusalem and providing such funding. The recognition of Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel passed with bipartisan support in 1995 – the opposite of what the statement claimed.
- “outside of a negotiated political framework that ends the legal state of occupation” The “political framework “is to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the disputed land by mutual agreement. The statement’s language about occupation and rights makes it appear that 1) there are no rights currently; 2) the entire peace process is just about those issues; and 3) that recognizing Israel’s capital undermines any of those discussions. All false.
“Jerusalem is of immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is the focus of national aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city’s cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case.”
- “immense religious and thus emotional significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.” One would imagine that Jewish scholars would have a basic understanding that Jews, Muslims and Christians are not “alike” in their attachment to Jerusalem. Only Judaism reveres the city as its holiest location. That Jewish scholars could write such a statement – happily repeated by Israel’s enemies – is outrageous and dangerous.
- “We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access” It has only been under Israel that people have had equal access to Jerusalem. When the Arabs ruled the eastern part of the city from 1949-1967, they evicted and banned all Jews. When Israel reunited the city, it offered Israeli citizenship to any Arab that wanted it – and continues to extend such offer to this day. Quite different that Jordanians that denied citizenship to any Jews in the city. Further, the growth of the Arab population in Jerusalem surpasses the growth of Jews in the city. The “hope” of the scholars is the reality today- under Israeli rule.
“As the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem* has documented, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem endure systematic inequalities, including an inequitable distribution of the city’s budget and municipal services, routine denial of building permits that are granted to Jewish residents, home demolitions, and legal confiscation of property for Jewish settlement. In addition, Palestinians in the West Bank, unlike Jewish Israelis resident in that territory, require a special permit to visit Jerusalem’s holy sites.”
- “inequitable distribution of the city’s budget and municipal services, routine denial of building permits that are granted to Jewish residents” All Israelis – both Jewish and not Jewish – have their building permits go through the same approval processes. Some permits are approved and some are not. Under-investment in some predominantly Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem is a function of many factors, and something that the current mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat has been trying to address, but he faces constant opposition from the United Nations to make such investments. How do Israel’s critics not feel the least bit of hypocrisy as they both demand that Israel invest in Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, while also demanding that Israel abandon eastern Jerusalem altogether?
- “Palestinians in the West Bank, unlike Jewish Israelis resident in that territory, require a special permit to visit Jerusalem’s holy sites.” All citizens of Israel go through the same process of entering Jerusalem. Non-citizens must go through border control to enter anywhere in Israel, whether holy sites in Jerusalem or elsewhere. But they do have access and travel to Jerusalem’s holy sites every day – something that Jews were unable to do when Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs ruled the Old City illegally.
“In this context, a declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence. We therefore call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to deescalate the tensions resulting from the President’s declaration and to clarify Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.“
- “sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem” Are these scholars deliberately trying to be provocative? Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is a country that has a mix of Jews (75%) and non-Jews (25%), one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the entire Middle East. Israel has allowed the Jordanian Waqf to administer the Jewish Temple Mount since the country reunited the city in 1967. How do the scholars write “sole Jewish propriertorship” for an ethnically diverse country having sovereignty over a city in which it has allowed a Muslim Waqf to administer the Temple Mount, which denies the rights of Jews to pray at the site?
- “Palestinians’ legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem.” What makes the Palestinian claim on Jerusalem legitimate? Do they have a legitimate claim on Jaffa? On Nazareth? The Israelis and Palestinian Authority will decide between themselves what kind of settlement makes sense. Do these scholars think that the US should not recognize any city in Israel or the State of Israel itself until it recognizes a State of Palestine?
The Iranian government has found new Jewish friends willing to publicly undermine Israel. And for Iran, these Jews have the added value of looking like hippy college professors as opposed to the black hat Neturei Karta rabbis.
Rabbi Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus (left), one of the petition’s signatories, member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which supports BDS and the dismantling
of any Jewish privileges in Israel (like a Jewish star on the Israeli flag); and
Terri Ginsberg (right), who currently teaches at the American University of Cairo (she signed the petition as x-Dartmouth) who also blogs for the virulently anti-Israel sites Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada
Just because the scholars don’t dress in a radical fashion, does not necessarily mean that their actions and statements aren’t extreme.
The petition ends with a request for comments to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for rabbis that may or may not be on the list accidentally. Perhaps they would be interested in general comments as well.
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