Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ir Amim's latest newsletter - living together in a divided Jerusalem

Ir Amim web site

Dear Friends:

In a reality in which a political resolution does not appear possible in the foreseeable future, the city owes its ability to maintain day to day operations to delicate balances that enable the flow of daily life and a reasonable level of functioning. Strengthening these balances – not threats of draconian unilateral measures that push the Palestinians into despair and hopelessness – is the key to maintaining relative stability in the city at this time…

Jerusalem does not need more threats of closures and barriers but rather a policy of hope that recognizes the deep-seated connection of both peoples to the city and their right to lead lives of prosperity and dignity under any political constellation. There are steps that can be taken in the existing reality: To improve in a systemic and comprehensive manner the living conditions in East Jerusalem; to encourage economic and social development and oppose racism and violence in both parts of the city; to protect the holy sites of both peoples and the three major religions; and to enable the residents of East Jerusalem to build their institutions in the city and to manage their own lives within it.

From Ynet op-ed by Yudith Oppenheimer, Ir Amim Executive Director
Against the backdrop of protracted violence in Jerusalem and the stalled political process, Ir Amim recently published its proactive recommendations for how best to manage the city now and toward a political resolution of the Conflict:


Kedem Compound – Touristic Settlement in the Historic Basin

For more than two years, Ir Amim has been at the forefront of an ongoing legal battle against the Kedem Compound, a plan for a massive visitor center being promoted by the Elad settler organization in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. Last June the Appeals Subcommittee of the National Planning Council accepted some of the public objections to the plan, downsizing it nearly by half and imposing clear restrictions on the types of activities that can be conducted at the site.

Proving the influence of political pressure on the planning system and responding to a request from the Justice Ministry to reopen discussion, the National Planning Council voted to restore the Kedem Compound plan to its original dimensions, summarily reversing the Appeals Subcommittee’s decision and wiping out the achievement of Silwan’s residents, concerned NGOs and planning professionals.

Click here to read a full account of the latest developments.

Batan al-Hawa – An Entire Community at Risk

About 100 families are at risk of eviction in Silwan’s Batan al-Hawa neighborhood in the Historic Basin of Jerusalem. With full support from the State of Israel, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization is waging a campaign to displace an entire Palestinian community. Seventeen families have already been evicted, an additional 51 families have received legal threats, and more are at risk.

Learn how settlers are working with the backing of State authorities to settle the hotly contested Historic Basin: Haaretz report and editorial.

 Expanding Ir Amim’s English Social Media Presence

We are delighted to present our new Facebook page, a significant expansion of Ir Amim’s English language social media capacity and complement to our growing Twitter presence.

Our growing English-language social media presence affords us an opportunity to deepen our conversation with you by providing timely commentary and updates on Jerusalem in a political context.

Please follow our new page ( and share it with your friends and anyone you know who is concerned for Jerusalem’s future.

"Sons of the City: The Past and Future of Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem" Explores Shared History in the City

Last month Ir Amim honored Jerusalem scholar, expert and long-time supporter Prof. Menachem Klein and his latest book, Lives in Common. Klein’s book offers rare insights into the shared life of Arabs and Jews in three cities – primarily Jerusalem, along with Jaffa and Hebron –lessons for the present and a launch point for critically evaluating various unilateral separation plans now being promoted.

Featured speakers included writer Eli Amir, Dr. Omar Yousef of the International Peace & Cooperation Center (IPCC), and journalist Bambi Sheleg.

Click here to read an in-depth Haaretz interview with Prof. Menachem Klein on the common history of Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem.


Ir Amim: Recent separation proposal is detached from any understanding of the fabric of daily life in Jerusalem, and could lead to political, urban and humanitarian chaos.

New York Times, March 6

18-housing unit building plan in Jabel Mukaber being promoted by Elad settler group advances.

Walla! NEWS, March 30

Ir Amim’s Aviv Tatarsky: CCTV cameras on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif won’t lower tensions, don’t touch root of the problem: collective restrictions on Muslim worshippers.

+972, March 19


Ir Amim invites you to join one of our public tours – an opportunity to learn about the political, economic and social issues associated with Jerusalem’s role as the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to engage in dialogue about the future of the city. The tours provide an incisive and candid look at Jerusalem and how developments – from settlement building to revocations of Palestinians’ permanent residency status – impact our ability to negotiate a resolution to the Conflict.

Given the current situation, at present the tours do not enter Palestinian neighborhoods. Participation requires registration in advance and is free of charge.

The next tours:

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 9:30 AM: Study Tour of East Jerusalem in English (register here)

Friday, May 27, 2016 - 9:30 AM: Study Tour of East Jerusalem in English (register here)


Ir Amim works to inspire an informed public discourse on political issues related to Jerusalem, and to promote conditions for a more equitable Jerusalem today and towards a future, agreed-upon political resolution. We reach out to the general public in Israel and to our friends abroad by means of tours, lectures, press reports, social media activity, media campaigns and more.

Please consider making a contribution to Ir Amim as we work to monitor all of the current developments in our city, and conduct legal and policy advocacy to fight developments that undermine hope for a political resolution on the city. To donate, please click here.

Follow us on Twitter: @IrAmimAlerts and Facebook ( to keep current on Ir Amim’s positions on unfolding events in Jerusalem and be the first to access our latest resources. Stay tuned for updates on Ir Amim’s growing English language social media presence.

With thanks for your continued interest and support,

The Ir Amim team

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Protocols of the Elders of Crazy"

When this article was published a few years ago in the Harvard Crimson, I didn't see it. It is an interesting perspective on the antisemitism experienced by a Crimson writer when living and studying in Jordan and Egypt.

Protocols of the Elders of Crazy
On anti-Semitism in the Arab world

“When someone is acting heartlessly, we say, ‘Your blood is blue.’ And then we normally add, ‘Like the Jews.’” The other students chuckled and some glanced in my direction, waiting for my response or perhaps my permission. I laughed. After all, this language lesson’s bigotry was very tame compared to other conversations I had had in Jordan. One of my parents is Jewish, and my Jewish identity has always been light, but for those Americans and Arabs I discussed my heritage with, I might as well have been wearing payots, tzitzis, and a star of David skullcap.

After all, I was a demon, of sorts. Belief of my damning existence was everywhere, but I was definitely not supposed to actually be there. In Jordan, every day and nearly every facet of society was a reminder that I was dirty—the very embodiment of an “Other.” A whole genre of anti-Semitic “history” and literature mocked me in every bookshop, a whole field of anti-Semitic media from historical documentaries to music videos followed me on every television, and an interpretation of Islam that demonizes Judaism frequently bewildered me in conversations.

I heard and overheard countless anti-Semitic remarks in the summers I have spent in Egypt and Jordan. In my experience, arguments about politics almost inevitably turned to “those Jews,” and conspiracy theories wafted comfortably through a room like cigarette smoke. It was suffocating.

I anticipated encountering anti-Semitism, but I expected it to be avoidable. I could not anticipate, nor could I have truly imagined, its systemic nature.

National. Liberal. White. Pick two.

As Clay Shirky says: "The glory of the Democratic party in 2016 is that it looks like America ca. 2046. They've figured out how run in the country we're becoming." Read this whole Storify (a series of tweets) on why an electoral strategy for the Democratic party that depends on taking the votes of a majority of white people cannot succeed.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Antisemitic comments at the New York Times

Roger Cohen published a beautiful column today in the New York Times, A Time of Bullies. It begins:
Every Jew of the second half of the 20th century was a child of the Holocaust. So was all humanity. Survival could only be a source of guilt, whether spoken or unspoken. We bore the imprint of departed souls. 
The silence that descended was the silence of the lost. It seems to me that I was raised in silence and that I was far from alone in that. Language could not accommodate such a volume of ashes. Death’s German mastery lingered. The new European prosperity was an epilogue to the unspeakable, its disguise. 
Beneath the gleaming postwar surfaces there lurked the indelible stain of barbarism. A human stain, the bruise of complicity in all its shades. 
After a while I wanted to understand the things unsaid in the rush to build on the ruins. The covered-over came after me. As a child of the repetitively displaced, I was perhaps a natural target for smothered memory. I wanted to understand where I came from. I wanted to understand my mother’s madness. Never should it be forgotten how onerous it is to forget.
He ends:
I feel a great unease. We have embarked on the 21st century with the painful yet essential knowledge of the last one slipping from us. Last month, some American Jews cheered a dangerous demagogue. 
Two thousand years ago Hillel admonished us: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?"
But the comments to this article.... some are moving and compassionate. Others - are antisemitic. I can't usually bear to read the comments at the New York Times whenever they publish an article that has to do with Jews or Israel. There will always be antisemitic comments - at the newspaper of record. Why do they publish them? (All NYT comments are premoderated). Why don't they refuse to publish them?

There are quite a few comments to this column that take the position that, unfortunately, Jews did not learn the correct lesson from the Holocaust – as if the Nazi aim had been to teach Jews something, rather than to exterminate us. One person refers to the “Holocaust narrative,” in a derogatory way. Some of the commenters who criticize Cohen for not mentioning the Palestinians in a column that had nothing to do with the Middle East seem never to have read any of his other columns, where he fiercely criticizes the Israeli government and calls for an end to the occupation.

Antisemitic comments to Roger Cohen’s column of 4/1/16, with my (sarcastic) comments

“Holocaust narrative” - such a pesky thing

Outside the Box
"Jews cheered a demagogue."

Let's stop pretending this is something grand and call it what it is: plain selfishness. Everyone is the same. Everyone votes his own interests.

Cohen is struggling to hold together the Holocaust narrative. The is no lesson, just crass politics.
“Jewish people who themselves suffered so much can treat another people with such unremitting cruelty.”

"Jewish people who themselves suffered so much" - isn't it terrible they didn't learn from the Holocaust?

Brendan Holleran
Dublin, Ireland

The fact is that all classes and creeds of people have the capacity to be bullies. The Germans were mainly responsible for the Holocaust of Jews and others. It was a most horrible crime that should always be remembered.

However, the bullies in Israel/Palestine are not the indigenous population who have suffered and continue suffer under Israeli ethnic cleansing, arbitrary killings, land theft and denial of almost all rights that a human being needs in this world to ever hope for some sort of normal life. No fair-minded person who reads the history of the Israel and who believes in justice for all, cannot but be saddened by the fact that Jewish people who themselves suffered so much can treat another people with such unremitting cruelty.

Of course, none of this could continue without the unrelenting support of Israel in the USA and the determination of US media not to tell the truth about Israel. People like Roger Cohen either know the truth or don't want to know. Either way it is most shameful !

Seattle 2 hours ago
It is clear that Mr. Cohen possesses both the superb skills at generating prose that at once projects a three dimensional vivid image of the Jewish plight in both historical and passionately personal terms. I wonder if he could see his way clear to apply those skills to describe the world from the perspective of dispossessed and displaced Palestinians.

"Jew are not the center of the universe" - there were lots of other people who died in WWII - why do we still have to pay attention to the Jews?

CT 2 hours ago
60 million non-Jews were also killed in ww2. did Rog forget about them?
“Jew are not the center of the universe.”

Bob Baskerville
Sacramento 2 hours ago
How about the 20 million Russians who died in WW 2-- the 15 million Germans and millions of other innocent women and children. Jew are not the center of the Universe.

“Because their ancestors experienced the Holocaust… the Israelis have absolutely no excuse for inflicting pain on the powerless under their control” - but apparently everyone else gets a free pass?

William Taylor
Nampa, ID 2 hours ago
One of the great tragedies of history and the hurt lingers on. That is why it puzzles and pains me that the Israelis have become brutal bullies. They have driven the Arab Christians out of their borders. On the West Bank, illegal settlements sponsored by Israel are slowly squeezing the Palestinians to death. And then there is Gaza, the world's largest prison camp, which Israel keeps forever on a the brink of a humanitarian disaster. Because their ancestors experienced the Holocaust and suffered so badly in other places, the Israelis have absolutely no excuse for inflicting pain on the powerless under their control.

"Where is your compassion man?"

Baltimore 2 hours ago
I feel your pain. No one should have to go through a genocide. I read your article with anticipation of some mention of the miserable plight of the Palestinians. Nothing, not even an iota of mention. Shocking really. Decent civilizations who go through trauma emerge out of out with renewed compassion. Where is your horror when Palestinian civilians get carpet bombed (happened very recently), when Palestinian children get shot while throwing stones, when an injured incapacitated Palestinian gets executed by a headshot at the hands of an Israeli soldier? Where is your compassion man? Is it ok to enslave the Palestinians behind walls? As a Muslim - here is my compassion - if you are ever attacked even at the hands of Muslims, I give you my word I will come to your defense.


And then there is the comment by someone Jewish who thinks that Trump will actually protect Israel and the rights of Jews in America.

Vermont 2 hours ago
I have to admit feeling a level of discomfort with some of what Trump says and with some of his followers. But what else do we have to work with? I want a safe secure Israel. At this point I will vote with that foremost in my mind. Jews have to have a place that will always take them in; we know this from our history. I can't trust either of the Democratic candidates to protect Israel. Thus it falls to voting for a Republican.

While I wish that the leading Republican contender was more articulate and thoughtful, I'm not so sue that Cruz, while a better speaker, is any less of a potential demagogue.

As for worrying about the rights of others, especially Moslems, they have plenty of countries to call their own. Jews have only one Jewish state, the country of Israel. And one only has to look at what Moslem immigration to Europe has reaped to have serious concerns. I'm just not gong to agonize over the "rights" of those who would kill me and mine.

And then this comment by someone who just realized that Mr. Trump is not a joke:

Brooklyn 2 hours ago
I was enjoying Donald Trump picking apart the Republican Party until Wednesday, when for no particular reason it suddenly hit me how horrible his rounding up of 11 million hispanics would be. It would split America like nothing before it. We would never tolerate it; certainly not peaceably in a country armed to the teeth. Are we really that crazy to vote for such a person?

And finally, to cleanse the palate:

Yve Eden
 NYC 2 hours ago
So beautifully written, as usual.

I am a white man from northern Michigan, and within days of college graduation moved to NYC. The homogenous nature of my upbringing really bothered me, somehow I sensed that the world was not all white people and I wanted to be in the middle of that. There was virtually zero ethnicity in my home town. Sadly there still isn't, and now I'm 51.

In college, also in Michigan, and immediately upon arriving in NYC, somehow I became friends with many Jews. Without being aware of it or having any connection to it. I wound up marrying one. Many of my friends over the years have called me an honorary Jew, which is part joke but also partly sincere.

So, while a white man with all the inherent benefits that come from that in this country, I have to say I really do relate to this piece. I am so worried about the state of politics, humanity, bigotry, etc. The fear of that which is different, THAT is something to be feared. For my part I will always try to do what I can to remind people of the "essential knowledge" of the suffering of the last century. I have faith in humanity, but it is not always easy to maintain it.