Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/Gulf News

Israel, like a child, always sees itself blameless. This is partly thanks to its supporters, who include some key members of the well-entrenched American Jewish community, who cannot see the light of day. It is as if they are blindfolded.

Here is one prominent example (and there are many), in which the author of a full-page advertisement, costing tens of thousands of dollars, and which appeared in key US newspapers, made a fool of himself this week, even as some fellow Jews recognised.

Elie Wiesel, a prominent Holocaust survivor and a 1986 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is the author of the ad titled ‘For Jerusalem', in which he expresses his attachment to the city — and yet he has never chosen to live there. In the ad, which was reportedly paid for by a friend and which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has supported, Wiesel makes outrageous claims. He says, "Contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE [author's capitalisation] allowed to build their homes anywhere in [occupied Jerusalem]."

Wiesel is definitely out of touch, or has been in a deep slumber while this hawkish Israeli government has been kicking Palestinians out of their homes in occupied east Jerusalem and allowed Israeli Jews to move there. In fact, Professor Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi of Hebrew University challenged Wiesel "to find three Muslim families in all of west Jerusalem." He pointed out that "a growing group of Jerusalemites, Jews and Palestinians, stand in protest every Friday afternoon in the parking lot in Shaikh Jarrah [an Arab neighbourhood], across the street from where Jewish [colonists] have brutally displaced Palestinians based on some doubtful claim to Jewish ownership prior to 1948."

As a matter of fact, Jewish ownership of property in west Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1948, is less than 30 per cent. Professor Salim Tamari, author of Jerusalem 1948 The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, explains that Arabs owned "close to 40 per cent of the property in west Jerusalem [and] another 30 per cent was owned by religious waqf [trust] foundations, mostly Greek Orthodox."


Wiesel also claimed that Jerusalem is "not [mentioned] a single time in the Quran," while it is mentioned "more than 600 times in [Jewish] Scripture." He is obviously unaware of Laylat Al Israa wal Miraj, in which the Quran details the journey of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), guided by the Archangel Gabriel, from the Haram Mosque in Makkah to Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where he met the earlier prophets, including Adam, Moses and Jesus, and then ascended to paradise, where he experienced Allah's creation, and was also shown hell. The Miraj is nowadays popularly celebrated with readings of the legend on the 27th day of the Muslim month of Rajab, called the Lailat Al Miraj (‘Night of the Ascension').

Occupied Jerusalem, known as the Holy City, is also sacred to Christians, as it is where Jesus Christ is believed to be buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Interestingly, right across from the church is the Mosque of Omar, named after the Muslim Caliph who upon visiting Jerusalem turned down requests from his followers to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for fear that his followers would turn it into a mosque. Graciously, he stepped a few metres away and prayed in the open yard, where the mosque now stands.

All this outrage by some in the American Jewish community stems from the unclear stance of the Netanyahu government and his extreme right-wing Cabinet members — such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who last Tuesday told a group of foreign diplomats that Occupied Jerusalem would remain the eternal capital of Israel and would never be divided  "neither directly nor indirectly", a line once uttered by the late Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin.

This view is contrary to the positions taken by former Israeli leaders, such as Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, according to Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now, a Zionist organisation. "Without a deal on [occupied] Jerusalem there will never be peace for Israel," she said, adding, "without a strong effort to step up the peace process, the status quo prevails." She went on to say that her organisation "will continue to back [US] President [Barack] Obama as he takes steps to help Israel make peace." Otherwise, the status quo "could mean Israel's continuing into pariah-state status."

Israel was viewed favourably by only 19 per cent of respondents to a recent BBC poll. Only Iran (15 per cent), Pakistan (16 per cent) and North Korea (17 per cent) fared worse. In brief, as Ari Shavit of the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote, Israelis are starting to realise that "in order to save [their] home, [it] is necessary to act at once to end the occupation; it is essential to effect an immediate and sharp change in diplomatic direction".

Will Netanyahu start to listen? If not, he may find himself on a slippery slope, thanks to supporters such as Wiesel and Lieberman, among others.

George Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at ghishmeh@gulfnews.com