Jerusalem Syndrome

Gershom Gorenberg

And here’s my take on the slightly unhinged discussion of Jerusalem’s place in the Democratic Party’s platform:

When I first read that the Democratic platform said nothing about Jerusalem, I was quite impressed. Quietly, by omission, the party had brought a moment of honesty to the fantasy-ridden American political discussion about Israel.

Alas, honesty is ephemeral. Republican attacks, news editors eager for a daily controversy, and Democratic wimpishness have defeated it. In Wednesday night’s voice vote, the Democrats added some words to the platform: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel … It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.” The first part is an implied promise that after re-election, Barack Obama will officially recognize Jerusalem’s status as capital and move the U.S. embassy there. The second piece pretends that Jerusalem is presently united and accessible to all.

This is hallucinatory for at least three reasons: First, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, independent of what is or isn’t written in American party platforms. Second, no American administration will formally recognize it as the capital before an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Third, virtually no one in America will decide how to vote based on this issue.

Listen, folks, I live in Jerusalem: not the city described in church hymns or old Hebrew songs, but the real place, where the streets aren’t swept often enough, where the schools are under-budgeted, where the dust-heavy overheated wind from the desert could make a saint punch her grandmother. Believe me: It’s Israel’s capital. Nearly all of Israel’s government ministries are here, which is good, because they are the main source of paychecks. The parliament is here, and the prime minister’s residence, and the demonstrations in front of the parliament and prime minister’s residence. Foreign embassies are in and around Tel Aviv, but when prime ministers and presidents visit, they come here, and their motorcades clog our streets and make our cabbies curse. Using “Tel Aviv” as a synonym for the Israeli government, as still happens in foreign media, is like using “New York” to refer to the American government.

But undivided? Please. That’s another sentiment for speeches. …

Read the rest here.

1 thought on “Jerusalem Syndrome

  1. As an Angelino, I was proud to see our mayor, Villaraigosa, act as chair for the convention floor vote on reinstating the plastform language. It can be seen on the Colbert Report Sept. 6 show – . It’s fascinating to hear the “yeas” and “nays”, which to me sounded about even, and then the chair declares that in his opinion the measure passed by 2/3 acclamation.

    Clearly a move meant to disarm one of Romney’s anti-Obama talking points, a silly talking point right up there with “I don’t like what the President is doing in Afghanistan, I will talk with the generals about how to stay and win the war”, and “we should spend 4% of GDP on defense instead of following the Gates/Obama plan to cut $400 billion in defense spending”. Those voting for Romney better figure out how they’re going to cover the costs for his huge muscle-bound, Cold War style military that, at least in his campaign rhetoric, he plans to apply from Tripoli to Kabul to preserve American greatness.

    For those younger than 50 let me clarify – the Cold War was not the good old days.

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