Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why I signed the Jewish Studies scholars statement on Jerusalem

I signed this statement criticizing Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the American embassy to Jerusalem. I signed not because I think that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel (the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and most government ministries are there - it's obviously the capital of Israel, no matter what other nations say), but because Trump's announcement does not acknowledge that Palestinians also have a legitimate claim to Jerusalem. I believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinians state. 

Jerusalem is one of the central issues to be decided in any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and predetermining its status forecloses upon the possibility that the city could be a capital of both states.

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. 
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. 
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.

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.

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