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Ir Amim: Things have never been worse

July 5, 2011

Yehudit Oppenheimer, the CEO of Ir Amim, has an op-ed in Y-net today (Hebrew). Ir Amim is an Israeli NGO dedicated to promoting peace in a divided Jerusalem. As such organizations go, they’re not bad. I fundamentally disagree with them, of course, but over the years I’ve had some cordial interactions with them, and have found them to be a source of interesting data, which needs to be handled with care but no more than most data being supplied by most politically motivated organs.

Oppenheimer is apparently responding to a recent statement by Shimon Peres, in which he made the plausible point that the current de-facto peace in Jerusalem may be the best possible outcome, and perhaps the ideas to trade it for all sorts of schemes may be misguided. Of course, I’d be the first to note that if that’s the direction, there is actually quite a bit that Israel could and should do to improve matters in East Jerusalem, which are currently embarrassingly far from perfect.

Oppenheimer, however, doesn’t take my line. Instead she reprimands Peres for not seeing reality, and goes so far as to state that “in the real Jerusalem, things have never been so far from a semblance of peace”

ירושלים של מטה מעולם לא היתה רחוקה יותר מדימוי השלום, ולו גם “השלום המעשי” שמצייר פרס

OK, so when writing an op-ed it maybe permissible to engage in a wee bit of hyperbole. Why not. Politicians do it, bloggers do it, why not op-ed writers? The thing is, Oppenheimer’s statement is palpably wrong, or at the very least extremely exaggerated. I’m not even referring to the city’s millennia-long history, which has seen so much violence it’s hard to imagine. (See Jerusalem: The Biography for a recent description). Even if we’re comparing things only to the past 65 years, today is obviously better than average. Even if compared to the past decade.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. LaughingAllTheWayToTheWestBank permalink
    July 5, 2011 3:44 pm

    “dedicated to promoting peace in a divided Jerusalem.”

    “Promoting Peace”? Who said? Does it believe that Jews have a right to peaceably reside anywhere in Jerusalem? Or in Mecca, Malmo and Medina, even?

    If you work toward establishing the Caliphate – you cannot be peaceable. Peace means Muslims tolerate the Kufr and that Jerusalem, Malmo, Medinah and Mecca become “Jews welcome everywhere” areas.

  2. Silke permalink
    July 5, 2011 7:39 pm

    Maybe by Israel’s standards that passes for a peaceful time, by German standards just one of those Qassams would have the country in uproar. And that is not mentioning all the dangerous jobs Israelis have to do to prevent more than the altogether 5 incidents listed here.

    Israeli Air Force Thwarts Rocket Launching Attempt
    Posted on July 5, 2011
    A short while ago, a squad of terrorists preparing to launch rockets at Israeli territory from the central Gaza Strip were identified by an (Israeli Air Force) IAF aircraft that thwarted the attempt by firing at them. A hit was confirmed.
    In a separate incident, terrorists lightly injured the driver of an IDF vehicle, damaging it. The IDF vehicle was performing routine activity near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip.
    This week alone, terrorists in the Gaza Strip targeted Israeli civilians by launching three Qassam rockets into Israel. The terrorist organization Hamas–responsible for all terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip–is not enforcing a policy of restraint over the other terrorist organizations operating out of the Gaza Strip.

    • July 6, 2011 12:02 am

      You’re right, Silke, but the focus here is on Jerusalem, not the whole region. Jerusalem – contrary to what Oppenheimer says – is mostly at peace. Gaza and its surroundings, not so much.

      • Silke permalink
        July 6, 2011 1:11 am

        but Jerusalem is your capital …
        isn’t a capital affected by everything that happens in the country? or is in that sense Tel Aviv more your capital than Jerusalem like in Germany Bonn wasn’t our capital in that sense?

        as to the Christians in Jerusalem or attending services in Jerusalem – whenever I hear from them in that religions slot I am listening to on German radio they are complaining about Israelis this and Israelis that.

        The way they go about complaining about Israelis and presenting them as really treating them disrespectfully and/or badly I don’t see much of a difference between them and what I hear from Arabs. All in all I am made to believe that Israel is the much greater problems for Christians as compared to Palestinians.

  3. NormanF permalink
    July 5, 2011 11:43 pm

    Jerusalem has never been more prosperous or at peace at any time in its history than in the past half century since the Six Day War. Re-dividing the city is like cutting up Solomon’s baby. It won’t work. The lives of Jews and Arabs are too inter-meshed to make that happen. Jews now live in formerly all Arab neighborhoods and Arabs live among the Jews. It might have been possible to keep the city divided in 1967 if Israel had chosen to maintain the division. It opted for a different approach. There is no going back no matter how much some people want to invest efforts in a scheme opposed by the city’s inhabitants. And Israel’s current government is committed to a united Jerusalem.

  4. July 6, 2011 9:56 am


    Jerusalem is the capital. How that plays out, and how it compares to other capitals, is an interesting question, and the answer probably isn’t all that simple. I rather doubt the comparison to Bonn is justified; on the other hand, the Washington-New York comparison certainly works. Tel Aviv is the business center, like NY.

    Tho remember: the drive from TA to Jerusalem takes about an hour – more at rush hour, less if the roads are clear. Once the super-train gets built, it will be a half-hour ride. Brooklyn to Manhattan takes more; indeed, Bethesda to central Washington takes more, too.

    All of this misses the point, however. The discussion began when Peres mused that perhaps the current calm is the best we can have, and might be preferrable to grand schemes of division which won’t work at all. On that level, rockets from gaza are beside the point. The question is about Jerusalem. Peres says things are actually quite good. Oppenheimer says they’re horrible. I saw she’s detached from reality because of her ideology, although there’s major room for improvement.

  5. July 6, 2011 11:36 pm

    Silke –

    I see I neglected to respond to your comment about the Christians in Germany who report about all the bad things the Israelis do in Jerusalem.

    Part of the thesis behind this research project of mine is that just about everyone with anything to say about Jerusalem, or at any rate, anyone with the ability to reach an audience, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s ideology, not fact-driven reporting. I’m trying to figure out what the facts are, and they often tell a diferent picture. The one about the Muslim women moving to Jerusalem for example: if you think about it for a moment it contradicts everything the media tells regularly tells you, doesn’t it.

    • Silke permalink
      July 7, 2011 5:34 am

      of course it is stupid and ignorant nonsense but how is one to tell if one gets told by a highly respectable radio station while driving or doing the dishes and never ever any of the much more interesting stories you tell?

      My guess is that only fabricators are spending time with our “journalists” hanging out in their watering places.

  6. Joe in Australia permalink
    July 7, 2011 5:20 am

    I am absolutely charmed by the fact that the CEO of a secular Israeli NGO with no apparent desire to be poetic uses a phrase like “ירושלים של מטה” with its implicit distinction between the earthly and the Heavenly Jerusalem.

  7. July 7, 2011 1:31 pm

    As a long time resident of Jerusalem and also someone who has read “Jerusalem: The Biography” I agree with Yaakov 100%. Over the last few weeks I seem to have spent a lot of time taking friends and family around the town, especially in the Old City. Things seem to be better than they have been for a long time.

    Whilst visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we saw a procession of Latin clergy, including the Primate go in and pray. Taking a historical perspective I got a great thrill over the fact that this is all happening under Israeli sovereignty. Those who ignore the generally free access to their places of worship by Jews, Christians and Muslims do so for narrow political and ideological reasons. If we need to restrict the age of those Muslims praying on the Temple Mount because of fear of rioting, that is better than letting people get hurt and things spinning out of control. The fact that only Muslims have free access and control to the Temple Mount and keep everyone else out except at set times is totally ignored.

    Despite the above I definitely feel that Jerusalem is a collection of villages in totally different dimensions. If I can, I like taking visitors from outside Jerusalem (even from Tel Aviv!) on Friday morning to the market at Machane Yehuda, then 10 minutes walk to Geula and Mea Shearim and then round through Musrara into the Old City by the Damascus Gate and see the crush of Muslims exiting the Mosque after midday Friday prayers. We generally try and stop for apple strudel at he Austrian Hospice. Talk about multiculturalism.

    Of course, as Jew, with a modest historical perspective, I can only look at the present situation as a temporary one and wait in trepidation for someone to do something stupid and for the whole situation to deteriorate yet again.

  8. Barry Meislin permalink
    July 10, 2011 4:54 pm

    Ms. Oppenheimer has a point (though it may not be the point she wants to make): Violence in Jerusalem can break out at any time, for any reason, over any “provocation” (whether it be fabricated or imagined).

    The real villain is Israeli sovereignty—Jewish authority—over a united Jerusalem.

    And I suspect that she—along with “[t[hose who ignore the generally free access to their places of worship”—is greatly disappointed because Jerusalem—that is, Jewish Jerusalem—has not yet been turned into Sderot.

    Or Sarajevo.

    Not that she’d say so—or dream so—in so many words. She’d merely prefer to create the situation by which such a result would be inevitable.

    File under: The only thing worse than a peaceful Jerusalem is a peaceful Jerusalem under Israeli control.

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