Gideon Levy: As always, worth reading

March 22, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

In the sea of (justified) mudslinging at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is also room for a good word. Intentionally or not, the prime minister has revealed the lies about Jerusalem and presented things truthfully. Intentionally or not, Netanyahu has put the capital’s occupied parts that the world does not recognize in their proper place: Ramot is the same as Psagot; Neveh Yaakov is the same as Kokhav Yaakov. There is no difference between Yitzhar and French Hill. They are all settlements, including Ramot, which was built in no-man’s-land. Intentional or not, you have to appreciate Netanyahu’s move.

A revelation has come forth in Jerusalem: Most of it is a settlement. After decades in which we lied ourselves to pieces and rendered kosher that which was not – only to ourselves, not to any other country – the truth has been revealed. It has been revealed after years in which no one thought to call the residents of these giant neighborhoods settlers. Years in which Teddy Kollek, a Labor Party man and a man of peace, of course, was considered a “builder” and not the greatest of settlers. He settled more Jews in occupied areas than any settler leader. Years in which doubting the settlement enterprise was tantamount to heresy and treason. So of all people, this right-winger, Netanyahu, proponent of the Greater Land of Israel, has lifted the veil.

The work of the righteous is sometimes done by others, as the saying goes. (Let’s not forget the assistance of the Obama administration – its only real achievement so far.) From now on we will have to conduct ourselves in the neighborhoods in the occupied areas just as we do in the settlements in the occupied areas. Any additional construction will come at a heavy political cost. House demolitions in the city have already been completely stopped; we can thank Netanyahu and Obama for that, too. Those who wanted it all may now lose it all, and that’s a good thing.

How pleasant it was all those years to think that Jerusalem was ours alone. We did what we wanted, we enacted the Jerusalem Law, we annexed areas that were not ours and believed that this was enough to whitewash reality.

Now, perhaps, it’s over. Thanks to the Obama-Netanyahu team, questions will arise: What exactly is the difference between this occupation, which we never admitted to, and the occupation we have admitted to? What’s the difference between the Shoafat refugee camp and the Deheisheh refugee camp? Why is it okay to issue blue ID cards to residents of the Shoafat refugee camp and allow them relative freedom of employment, and not to the residents of Deheisheh? Why does a Palestinian from Beit Hanina not endanger security when he drives on Israeli roads and even takes off from Ben-Gurion International Airport, while his friend from Abu Dis is a ticking bomb? After all, they are the same Palestinians – in Jerusalem as in nearby Bethlehem and distant Jenin.

Why, in the framework of negotiations “without preconditions,” are eastern and northern Jerusalem not up for discussion, when every provocative act of construction on the other side of the Green Line in the capital, which has hardly expanded westward at all, is intended to create unilateral “political facts” – in other words, preconditions? And we must not forget that this huge building project in Jerusalem is for Jews only; not one Palestinian neighborhood has been built in 43 years of occupation. Should that not be called apartheid?

Even the new magic and foolish solution of the greatest master of words, President Shimon Peres, has persuaded no one: Israel, the president now tells his guests from abroad, has the right to build in “Jewish neighborhoods.” And how, Mr. President, did they become Jewish, all of them on Palestinian land, if not by massive, illegal settlement, just like in Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, which are now within the “consensus” we invented for ourselves? Consensus? Only in Israel. And to a great extent this consensus, too, has been fabricated.

And we have not yet said a word about “sanctity,” another reason for demands for sovereignty and settlement. Since when is sanctity a value in a secular state? What does it have to do with sovereignty? And to how many Israelis in this city, in all its new Jewish neighborhoods and old Palestinian suburbs, is it indeed sacred? And is it sacred only to us?

These are the questions. The answers may be given soon, thanks to Obama and Netanyahu.