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Post Jerusalem and Italy
Created by John Eipper on 02/20/18 4:27 AM

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Jerusalem and Italy (Luciano Dondero, Italy, 02/20/18 4:27 am)

Looking at all the brouhaha over the decision of US President Trump to finally recognize reality--that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel--I cannot but make a few considerations and parallels with Italian history in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Most Italians of my grandparents' generation, in the (benighted?) time before radio, TV, and the Internet, were well aware of the plight of the Jews for their homeland and their indestructible connection with Jerusalem via Giuseppe Verdi's operatic works.

Ironically enough, in light of my friend Eugenio Battaglia's adamant opposition to the State of Israel as currently established, the last Italian politician who nurtured that same kind of sympathy and understanding for the Jewish claim over Jerusalem and Palestine, and wanted a closer connection between Italy and the Jews, was nobody else but his beloved Benito Mussolini.

Of course this went on only until the Duce capitulated to the might of Hitler's Third Reich, and accepted his demented anti-Semitic policies--the antechamber to the mostrosity that was to become the Shoah--by enacting the infamous 1938 "racial laws" which will forever remain as a grievous offense to the dignity of Italy as a free and democratic country: truly "great" countries do not crush their own people.

Back to Jerusalem, another link with my old country is the outrage Italy suffered in 1860-61. At that time the culmination of the war of independence that had finally put an end to the fragmentation of the country was cut short by the meddling of a Great Power, France.

Ruled by the ridiculously named "Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte the Third," France saw itself as the defender of the last remnants of the Catholic Church's temporal power in and around Rome, and made it clear that the "Eternal City" was not to become the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Italy... or else.

It took another ten years and a crushing defeat for the phony "Emperor" at the hand of Italy's on-and-off ally Prussia to make it possible for the Italian Bersaglieri to smash through the Roman walls at Porta Pia on September the 20th, 1870, thus putting an end once and for all to the State of the Church.

Whether the city that is at the heart of the whole of Italian history could become its capital or not did not have much to do with history, religion or philosophy, but it depended upon a set of conjunctural and concrete events, centering around the defeat of Rome's rulers by the military force of the Kingdom of Italy, while the Church's protector was otherwise engaged--the fake Napoleon was indeed rotting in a Prussian jail, having being made prisoner at the 1870 Sedan debacle for the French armies.

Rome became the capital of Italy in 1871, and nobody has disputed this afterwards.

The Arab/Muslim hold over Jerusalem and the Holy Land was likewise based on military conquest, and it's only fair that they lost it entirely after having refused any kind of compromise and peace with Israel.

In 1967, just before the Six Days War that liberated Jordan-occupied Jerusalem-East, Israel had tried everything it could to keep Jordan out of the impending clash with Egypt and Syria, to no avail.

Yet, after 1967 Israel has granted the Jordanians control over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, while various Christian sects can freely bicker over who is to decide what to do at which Christian holy site, something that was impossible under Jordan rule. And still they all complain of "Israeli occupation."

Immediately after their 1967 defeat, again the Arab states refused to even discuss how to reach a peaceful settlement with Israel--the "Three No's of Khartoum," where the Arab League met to reject any notion of peace dealings.

Whatever problems remain today for Israel and their neighbors can be simply put this way: the Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians should just do a reality check, acknowledge defeat and behave accordingly, like Egypt and Jordan did finally signing a peace treaty with Israel, instead of trying to pursue a revanchist policy by presenting themselves as "victims of a foreign occupying power."

The "State of Palestine" could have been established in 1948, just like the State of Israel was, along the lines of the UN partition plan which the Jewish Agency accepted; except at that time no Arab state wanted that.
Or they could have set it up after 1949, in Gaza and the areas to the west of the Jordan river, which until 1967 were under Arab control. But again that did not happen.

And indeed in those years nobody even spoke of Palestinians (the locals themselves claimed to be either Jordanians or plain Arabs) nor of a Palestinian state--the idea only appeared after 1967, thanks to the brilliant concoction of somebody in the KGB Headquarters to further the "Great Game" of the Soviet Union in the Middle East.

And for a while their status was akin to those of the Padanians and Padania in Italy nowadays: the invention of some politicians in the Lega Nord pulling a "people" out of a magician's hat. But history did change and may change again: who knows? maybe to our grandchildren the State of Padania will be a reality, or at least a concrete project with UN resolutions to back it up!

Now, really, one only has to take a quick look at a map of Muslim countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, where you can barely see Israel as tiny as it is compared to them (it occupies an area the size of New Jersey against their USA-equivalent size), to figure it out. Instead of babbling about "foreign occupation," "apartheid" and similar drivel, if the Arabs and the Muslims were truly interested in the plight of their brethren and would aspire to living in peace with the Jews and with Israel, maybe they could devote some space and resources to make sure that no Palestinian has to be a "refugee" any longer!

Many millions of people were uprooted and deported all over the world after WWII and subsequently, especially in Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of them were Jews, many of whom were integrated in Israel. Some of them were Italians, who were integrated in Italy. Typically, all these people were refugees until they could settle elsewhere, their children becoming citizens or residents of other countries, but no longer treated as refugees.

Isn't it strange that the only people on Earth whose children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit the status of refugee from their elders are the Arabs from Gaza, Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank)?

How come they are treated differently, to the extent that the UN has a special refugee structure for them (UNRWA), set apart from the regular body (UNHRC), which takes care of refugees from everywhere else?

Might it be surmised that this is done in order to maintain a festering sore with which to plague Israel and justify all kinds of anti-Israel revanchism?  Might this have anything to do with anti-Semitism? Oh no, surely, not... yeah, right!

It is a true disgrace that all too many people in the West in their interaction with Arab and Muslim people are under the impression that they are dealing with people equally committed to a democratic and secular approach to societal problems, albeit within a different cultural tradition.

Unfortunately it is not so, and for reasons that are not too hard to discern, mainly related to the lack of any notion of a separation between Church and State in Islam.

Without a radical reformation, Islam is doomed to further pursue both the centuries-old civil war that eats it alive from within and the jihad against the non-Muslim world. And one can only hopes that it will not drown the whole planet in its own bloody convulsions.

The only autochtonous ruler who tried to deal with this issue was Kemal Ataturk, and in order to do so he had to crush the power of the Islamic religious authorities; and he did indeed abolish both the Caliphate and the Sultanate.

Nowadays, however, the current leader of Turkey is a tinpot despot and an aspiring Caliph/Sultan, whose approach toward Israel best outlines the true Islamic position, i.e., Israel must be destroyed to restore the full power of Islam to the area.
Meanwhile the murderous Ayatollahs in Tehran pledge their full military support to the terrorist gangs of Hizbollah and Hamas; the latter boldly stating--Islamists do have a way with words!--that they themselves will take care of removing the US embassy from Jerusalem.

And by the way, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since 1949. What the US current administration is doing is simply recognising that fact, in line with the decision adopted by the US Congress in the 1990s (see Brian Blodgett's excellent WAIS post about this, December 25th).

Foreign countries, and the lame UN General Assembly, may choose to accept the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel or not, but they cannot decide where the capital of Israel should be, short of invading it (once again...) or, god forbid, nuking it.

Finally, a couple of points about UN's "objectivity": the UN has named Israel as the world's top violator of women's rights while almost simultaneously naming Saudi Arabia (which has fewer women driving cars than Israel has flying fighter jets) to its commission on women's rights; and the UN calls Israel the world's worst violator of health rights while, at the same time, calling on Israeli medical teams as its first choice of responders in any medical disaster.

Really, it would not hurt if the world-at-large would stop using two weights and two measures, one for the Jews and the State of Israel (who apparently can do no good no matter what), and another one for everybody else.

JE comments:  Luciano Dondero's Jerusalem-Rome analogy gets me thinking.  Control of Rome was certainly disputed between the Papacy and the secular Italian state, but for the analogy to work, the Pope would have to occupy the role of the Palestinians.  (I think I got that right.)

Trump's decision on Jerusalem pleases Israel's hardliners and much of his "base" in the US.  But it has only stiffened the resolve of Israel's enemies in the Middle East.  Most of Europe is outraged, too.  So if peace is any sort of goal (and maybe it is not), Trump has proven his tone deafness.

Carmen Negrín has worked in Palestine and knows the Palestinian people well.  I hope she'll comment.

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  • Palestine, Israel, and the Jerusalem Question (Carmen Negrin, -France 02/21/18 3:02 AM)
    I was indeed reading Luciano Dondero's post (20 February), and wondering whether to respond or not. My main hesitation was mainly because I sense in Luciano's comment an excessive, maybe even irrational, anti-Islamism.

    Indeed Jerusalem has been established as Israel's capital, but one can also wonder why the Israeli administration and all the embassies are established in Tel Aviv. Have the different Israeli governments perceived that perhaps they were going too far?

    What I would mainly say is that when I worked with the Palestinian Authorities as well as with the Israeli Authorities, right after the Oslo agreements, I was impressed by the Israeli disregard for most UN agreements--as though the UN had nothing to do with their own existence. I was also struck by the constant oppression of the Palestinians, and candidly surprised to learn that the most extremist Palestinians group had been created and financed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups, now in power.

    The Oslo agreements had been signed quite hastily because Arafat had heard about the "urbanist" Israeli project of the "Great Jerusalem," which included Bethlehem. This expansionism had to be stopped if Palestine was to survive, thus--in a real shortcut!--the agreement was hurried and sloppy. The settlements never stopped proliferating, in spite of the danger they represented. The respect for non-Jewish heritage was and is non-existent. The Al Aqsa mosque was in the hands of the Jordanians, but it was impossible to preserve it properly because of Israeli impositions. Along these lines, a door was opened in the Great Wall from one day to another, under the pretext that it was David's door to the Temple, while in fact there was absolutely no proof that the door ever existed, at least not there. Umayyad archeological findings were destroyed in search of possible earlier Jewish relics.

    I could go on for hours, but I won't. All I will say is that even with a diplomatic passport, going to Gaza was a profound humiliation.

    Jerusalem is a marvelous city, full of action, history and modernity. Yad Vashem is breathtaking, specially if like myself, you have lost family in the Holocaust, but part of the city's charm also comes from East Jerusalem.

    I think it is important to know that many Israeli people want to make peace with the Palestinians (and vice versa). Unfortunately they are silent or silenced right now. Treating the Palestinians as the Jews were treated in a not-so-distant past is definitely not the right solution. Those in the camps cannot return to their homes. They are a core part of the unsolvable peace discussions. Thus the UNRWA camps.

    And a last word about the Arabs (different from Palestinians). Most of their countries did not exist when the vote on the creation of Israel took place. Their solidarity has indeed been rather mild, fortunately, because if it hadn't been the case, we would certainly not be here discussing Jerusalem.

    My worry at this point is not Jerusalem, but rather, the possibility of a confrontation between the US and Russia at the expense of the Kurds in Syria, with a leap over to Iran using Israel as a pretext.

    JE comments:  Thank you for responding to my invitation to comment, Carmen!  Some (naive?) questions:  What do we know about the Palestinian extremist group created and funded by the ultra-Orthodox community? Why would they do that? To sow discord?  And regarding Arabic solidarity being "mild"--what about the alliances against Israel that led to war in 1948, 1967, and 1973?

    Finally, is there a prevailing Palestinian view of the Syria crisis--especially who's at fault, and how it might be resolved?

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    • Israel, Palestinian Refugees, and the UN (Luciano Dondero, Italy 02/23/18 3:40 AM)
      I would like to thank Carmen Negrín (21 February) for her fascinating recounting of her experience in the field after the Oslo agreements. I wonder if there are internet venues where one can find a broader description of them.

      Unfortunately, chivalry can only go so far, and I have to disagree with certain views expressed by Carmen.

      1. Re: UNRWA, the main issue is that, unlike the UN body involved with refugees in every other part of the world, this "for Palestinian-only" agency is extremely overbloated. With 30K + employees, it is the the UN's largest, and 99 percent of them are Palestinians and refugees themselves--conflict of interest, anyone? But more significantly, since it is a "refugee" agency, its main activity consists of perpetuating the refugees as such, and in fact expanding their status to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original people.

      2. Israeli officials (and presumably a wide majority of the populace as well) dislike the UN for cause. Between the years 1975 and 1991, the UN was on record denouncing Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination"--i.e., some kind of Nazi regime. The infamous UN resolution adopted by an unholy coalition of Soviet clients and Muslim countries was rescinded only when the USSR was on its death throes, and the Arab states were begging the US to stop Saddam Hussein after he had gobbled up Kuwait. Nonetheless, one might surmise that US diplomacy had to use some duress to compel this about-face. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_3379 .

      See also the beautiful speech by US spokesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/danielpatrickmoynihanun3379.htm

      3. Israel does not exist "thanks to the UN," but because the Israelis fought hard against their aggressors, in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973--and all the years in between.  They are still prepared to defend their homes. The 1947 UN resolution that partitioned the former Mandate of Palestine was never implemented.  The Arabs did not want either a Jewish state or another, independent Arab state in Gaza and Judea and Samaria.  And nobody really wanted an "internationalized Jerusalem."

      4. Most ludicrous of all is the statement that the Arabs' solidarity has indeed been "rather mild"--fortunately, in Carmen's words, because if it hadn't been the case, we would certainly not be here discussing Jerusalem. Tell that to the various generals from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere who bit the dust after proclaiming that they would walk all over the Jews! They fought hard, albeit with serious defects in various occasions, and the Israelis themselves recognised that, for instance, Ariel Sharon did so regarding the 1973 Sinai operations by the Egyptians. And the Syrians lost hundreds and hundreds of modern tanks on the Golan that same year. Not to mention all the modern jets that the Soviet Union supplied to them and to other countries in the Middle East, and which ended up as twisted debris, shot out of the sky by Israeli Avias, Spitfires, Mirages, F-104s, F-14s and so on over a period of decades.

      5. What is true is that things did not got blown out of all proportions, and that's why we are "here discussing Jerusalem," presumably because both the USSR and the USA played within the unspoken rules of the "MAD game" [Mutually Assured Destruction], and nukes were not actually used.

      6. But today's threat against Israel--and against the world in its entirety--comes from a country which is on the verge of building the bomb, namely Iran. This is due in part thanks to the stupidity and cowardice of Western (NATO) countries, and in part thanks to the power plays of both China and Russia vying with the US for world domination. Please see my "Iran Treaty: A New Munich?" https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=95227&objectTypeId=78717&topicId=62

      JE comments:  In his July 2015 comment above, Luciano Dondero made a forceful comparison between the Iran nuclear deal and Munich in 1938. Godwin notwithstanding, it's already been two years since the accord, and no war yet.  By 1939, Europe was already in flames.

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      • UNRWA and Palestine's Refugees; Lindsay Acker Responds to Luciano Dondero (John Eipper, USA 05/14/18 10:12 AM)
        [JE: I received this essay from Lindsay Acker, a student of Peace and Development Studies at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Lindsay spent the fall semester of 2017 in Palestine and Israel, living with host families in both nations. She writes in response to Luciano Dondero's post of February 23rd.  To review Luciano's post, click below.]


        Lindsay writes:

        1. First, the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) is Palestinian only because at the time that the UN recognized the need for aid for Palestinians, they did have any structure in place to provide it. The UNHCR wasn't created until 1950. Anybody in aid will tell you that putting locals on the ground in charge of their own aid is actually the right way to go about aid and development; it is not a "conflict of interest" as Luciano claims.  If outsiders, namely Westerners, impose aid, it is not sustainable and often ignores or breaks down community/cultural structures that help the people. Development without community input and involvement is costly and short-lived. Also the claim about UNRWA "perpetuating the refugees as such" is a common settler way to write off the refugee crisis. The claim that the people in those camps are choosing to live there, and that they stay to get international attention and money, completely ignores the reality of these camps. The UN recently reported a $540 million shortage for the UNRWA for 2018. Refugees are not staying for international attention and money; they're not getting any to make that tactic desirable. If you want to see what happens when Palestinians try to build new homes on affordable land, look into building permits (or the lack thereof) and home demolitions.

        2. As pointed out, that UN resolution was rescinded, but it was passed in a time when Zionists did not differentiate themselves from militant-esque anti-Arab Israelis. There are many different forms of Zionism, and back then the loudest Zionist voices were racist. There's really no way to deny that. Also, notice the use of "Muslim" and "Arab" to describe all the countries in the region. Right-wing Israelis use this to unify all the Arab states and equate them to Islam, which many right-wing Israelis think is fundamentally opposed to Judaism. They create a false united Arab front that has never existed. The "Arab World" includes countries like Sudan, Morocco, Djibouti, Mauritania, and countless others that are never mentioned when discussing Israel. Even when the countries surrounding Israel worked together in wars, they all had different motives and this got in the way of their communication. Israel did not win the Six-Day war because they had a stronger military (though you cannot deny that aid and mandatory service has not made it strong). They won because Jordan wasn't 100% behind Egypt and hesitated, then made a back-door deal with Israel. Now many often refer to the expulsion of Jews out of traditionally Muslim countries after the creation of Israel. If that is the united front referenced here, there is some validity to that. In the years directly following the creation of Israel, some Arab countries did expel Jewish communities to Israel. Around 700,000-1 million Arab Jews moved to Israel while 700,000-1million Palestinians fled to the West Bank (numbers are contested).

        3. Two main points here. One, Israelis think the UN is a joke. Notice how the resolution "was never implemented." Israel wasn't going to implement it unless forced, and the UN has no power to force it. Israelis laugh when you bring up UN resolutions (unless it's the Zionism one--that one they yell about a lot). Two, anytime you hear somebody refer to "Judea and Samaria," they have a settler's mindset. It's what settlers use when they are justifying where they live. They don't live in the "West Bank," a Jordanian name given to land that should not be Palestinian, they live in "Judea and Samaria," the land of their biblical forefathers, the land that God promised Abraham, and that is rightfully Jewish. I don't bring this up to discount Judaism or Jewish history. I spoke to some settlers who have no problem with Palestinians but want to remain in "Judea and Samaria" because of this historical and religious connection. Settler Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger told me outright that if a two-state solution was agreed on, he would stay in Palestine and become and Palestinian citizen if it meant he could still live where Abraham lived. That being said, the majority of settlers are very aware of their rhetorical manipulation and are purposefully undermining Palestinian identity and rights as they speak.

        4. I'm not entirely following Luciano's argument here, but again, see #2. The list of Israeli victories, if anything, proves my point that Arab countries aren't united and didn't communicate well. Also, side note, notice the "lost tanks in the Golan" reference. Very few people talk about how the Golan Heights was originally part of Syria until Israel annexed it.

        5. Also not really sure what the argument is here, but international influence is undeniable in the region's history.

        6. This shot at Iran and the cowardice of the West is textbook. Seems like Cold War is alive and well in the Middle East.

        Lindsay Acker

        Student, Peace and Development Studies

        Eastern Mennonite University

        JE comments:  Lindsay Acker's dad, Bruce Acker of the Confucius Institute, University at Buffalo (NY), is a dear friend from our Dartmouth days, and we spent the glorious summer of 1985 as roomies in Leningrad/St Petersburg.  Bruce's son Kevin and daughter Lindsay have both pursued their interests in some of the world's most interesting places:  Kevin (if I remember correctly) studied in China and India and Lindsay, as mentioned above, in the Middle East.

        Thank you for your excellent essay, Lindsay!  When time permits, I'd like to hear more about your experience with the Israeli settlers such as Rabbi Schlesinger--namely, those who place their "Judean/Samarian" identity above that of Israel itself.  Do you see any scenario by which a Palestinian state would allow the Israeli settlers to continue living in their (now Palestinian) settlements?

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