I wasn’t in Charlotte, North Carolina to personally hear and observe the three votes that Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic National Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa had to take on the same motion before he could muster enough courage to claim that there was a 2/3 voice vote to pass it. On television it sure sounded like it was not even possible to determine that there was even a simple majority for the motion to amend the platform to put god back into the platform and to contend that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That Antonio had to take the vote three times and the looks on his face, his looking around the stage as though he was looking for signals or cues as to what to do convince me that he himself did not believe in good faith that there was a 2/3 majority.
I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that in the entire convention of thousands of people, many of whom are well versed in parliamentary procedure, that not one rose to a “Point of Order” and made a procedural motion for either a “Division of the House,” or for a “Roll Call Vote.” Even if not allowed by Convention Rules, just as the underlying motion itself was brought to the floor by a “Motion to Suspend the Rules” either procedure could have been made the same way. Either way, if that happened, Antonio didn’t recognize anybody who may have sought the floor to make such a motion.
It was pathetic. I would call it a disgrace, but I’m not now nor have I ever been a Democrat so I’ll leave that to my Democratic Party friends to determine for themselves.
Either way, as a Jew, as a supporter of the rights of Jews and Palestinians, as a supporter of peace, as the Great-Great Grandson of Rabbi Moshe Ber of Kiev, and as a Rabbi-Tlamatini of the Jewish Existentialist World Society (JEWS, http://www.janbtucker.com/jews) I nevertheless have to speak truth to the power of the Democratic Party and truth to the insanity of the religious fanatics and right wing freaks amongst my own people.
I do have a degree in Political Science and I actually did graduate work in International Relations so I speak with some elementary knowledge of the subject. Even without such academic study, it is intuitively obvious that if the United States wants to be an honest broker and serve a mediating role between the Palestinians and the Israelis to achieve a lasting and honorable peace, it is best done by not prejudging (and thereby prejudicing) the issues that need to be negotiated. First and foremost amongst the sticking points on achieving peace is the sovereign status of Jerusalem.
Let’s look at Jerusalem from the Jewish perspective (as opposed to the political Zionist perspective). It’s emotional and ingrained in the Jewish consciousness for the past 2000 years. Every year for 2,000 years at Passover, Jews have toasted to Next Year in Jerusalem (La Shanah, Ha-Ba-ah, Bi Yerushalayim). When the famous Bielski brothers– leaders of a Jewish partisan unit in Belarus (where my grandfather was from) in World War II who saved 1,200 Jews from certain death by the Nazis–established their forest base camp to hide from the German Army, it was named “Jerusalem in the Forest.”
From the Muslim perspective, it is the third holiest city of Islam, after Mecca and Medina. At the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, it is believed that Muhammad ascended to heaven to reside with Allah, the one god.
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis want Jerusalem to be the capital respectively of Palestine and Israel. There has to be a compromise if the ultimate goal is peace.
Let’s look at this theologically. The Jews and the Arabs both claim to be descended from Abraham, the Jews through Isaac and the Arabs through Ishmael (Abraham’s first son). The fanatics on both sides who refuse compromise do so on the basis of religion, so a fundamental question really needs to be asked. Do you actually believe that god is more concerned with who exercises formal political sovereignty over Jerusalem or whether the children of Abraham, the Israelites and the Ishmaelites, can learn to live together as cousins in peace? If god exists, maybe that is the real test that god is testing us with.
The Old Testament, the Torah, provides an ethical lesson on the issue of human/child sacrifice in the story of Abraham being ordered by god to sacrifice Isaac and god intervening at the last minute to stop Abraham from going through with it. By his willingness to sacrifice his son, Abraham had proven his love and obedience to god. So, what does god want more: for the Israelites and Ishmaelites to fight each other for a piece of land or to learn to live on that land together in peace, in brotherhood and sisterhood? If you believe in god’s existence and in the basic message of the Bible and how god tests its adherents, this may be just as formidable a test as that to which he put Abraham.
As an existentialist and a Jew, I no more agree with most of the Orthodox theology of my own people than I agree with Orthodox Muslim or Christian theology or for that matter, the Orthodoxy of any religion. So for me, this whole thing comes down to ethnicity and tribalism. Ethnically, I’m an Ashkenazi (European Yiddish speakers to make it simple), although my DNA shows I’m of Italkim descent on my father’s side (my ancestors probably were Southern Syrian Judeans deported to Sicily by the Romans at the end of the Jewish rebellion in 70 c.e., and then expelled by the Spanish Inquisition from Sicily on July 31, 1492).
Another thing my DNA shows is that I’m more closely related on my dad’s side to most Palestinians than I am to most Jews by blood. My Y Chromosome is Sub-clade G2b of Haplogroup G (recently re-designated from G2c). Only about 8-10% of Jewish males are in this category. However, at least one study showed that around 3/4 of all Palestinian males are in Haplogroup G, making them far more closely related to me than most Jews. What do people say, blood is thicker than water?
So what ideas can be on the table for the status of Jerusalem to achieve peace:
- Divide the city into two separate sovereign entities, one the capital of Israel and one the capital of Palestine
- Create a free city like Vatican City where both nations can establish their capitals
- Create a legal fiction of joint sovereignty (just because it’s never been tried doesn’t mean it can’t be invented and worked out)
- Create a Commonwealth of nations, such as Israel, Palestine and Jordan, with Jerusalem as the joint capital of the Commonwealth to gloss over the issues of technical sovereignty (this would also be a great way of achieving reunification of China, by calling the Peoples Republic, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore a Chinese Commonwealth of Nations so that nobody loses face and is seen as surrendering sovereignty)
What else needs to be done to achieve peace and democracy in the region?
- Israel should rename itself the State of Israel and Ishmael so that Arabs will not feel or be treated like second class citizens
- Abolish the authority of religious courts in Israel to govern the family law enforcement of “official” religions and establish one secular law for all to govern domestic relations, including equal rights for same-sex couples.