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Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on March 20, 2000

It's funny - but try to explain it...

by Uri Avnery

The pope is in bad health. Partly to blame for this is a young Turk, who 20 years ago tried to assassinate him in Rome. His motives have remained unclear.

My late friend, Haled al-Hassan, a central figure in the PLO with a very developed sense of humor, told me a joke about that. God, he said, appeared to the Turk in his dream and told him: Go to the holy city and kill that damn Pole. But instead of going to Jerusalem and kill Menachem Begin, the stupid Turk…

Now this Pole comes to Jerusalem. A symbolic gesture with far-reaching aspects: when he will trace the footsteps of Jesus in the Via Dolorosa, the efforts of little Israeli politicians to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish ghetto will seem ludicrous. Billions of Christians and Muslims around the world will see and be reminded that Jerusalem is their holy city too.

The Pope will also try to strike a balance between the two peoples of this country. He recognizes the Palestinian presence as he recognizes the Israeli one. So here we have it: One city, two nations (Israeli and Palestinian), two peoples (Jewish and Arab), three religions. No solution that does not take these facts into account will stand any chance of success.

On this historical background, the present events look like an absurd piece written by a mad playwright. He invents new gimmicks as he goes along, and each one is crazier than the one before. For example, the latest semantic invention: the "Jerusalem envelope". (Ma'atefet Yerushalayim" in Hebrew.)

A little town called Anata was to be turned over to the Palestinian self-government. Olmert and assorted settlers shouted to high heaven. Barak gave up, as usual. The argument: Anata is close to the Pisgat-Ze'ev settlement, which defends Jerusalem.

To understand how absurd this is, one has to remember recent history. Holy Jerusalem, the town sacred to Jews and others, is only the Old City within the walls and the close surroundings. A small town, indeed. Some 150 years ago, when space became too constricted, the population started to move out of the walls and create new neighborhoods, such as (Jewish) Rehavia in the West and (Arab) Sheikh Jerakh in the East. Neither of them is holier than the suburbs of Tel-Aviv and Haifa.

When the Israeli army conquered the Old City, the Israeli government grabbed the opportunity. Pretending to "unify the city", it annexed not only Arab East Jerusalem, but also wide spaces to the north, east and west. The borders were drawn up with much deliberation: uninhabited spaces were put in, many areas inhabited by Arabs were left out. One could call it "statistic annexation" - put in as many Jews as possible, leave out as many Arabs as possible.

From the geographical point of view, there is no logic in this map. Abu-Dis and Ezaryia, close to the Temple Mount, were left outside. Far-off Calandia was put in. No Hebrew prophet has ever preached in Calandia, but a small airport is located there. So it is holy, too.

United-Jerusalem-the-Eternal-Capital-of-Israel (for short: UJTECOI) is not sacred to Jews or anyone else. Only a tiny part of it is actually holy to anybody. But our pour brain has been washed with those phoney messages: Holy Calandia, holy Har Homa, holy Ramot.

The story does not end there. The swollen holy city, UJTECOI, has to be defended. The Palestinian authority must not be allowed to come close to it under any circumstances, so as not to endanger its security. Therefore, all the Arab neighborhoods which were not included in the municipal borders at annexing time, so as not to have too many Arabs in town, must not be turned over to Palestinian rule. Not Abu-Dis, not Ezariya, not a-Ram, not Beith-Hanina, not Bir-Naballa.

But even this is not enough. In order to defend the above-mentioned Capital of Israel, a security zone had to be established around it: settlements like Pisgat-Ze'ev and Giv'at-Ze'ev, Ma'aleh-Adumim and New-Giv'ona. Now the idea of the "envelope" has been created: no area close to these settlements must be turned over to the Palestinians. Because these settlements defend Jerusalem, they must be defended in turn. The logical continuation: set up new settlements to defend the old ones, prevent the areas close to them to be given to the Palestinians, and so on and so forth. Eventually, Jerusalem's security zone will reach Beirut, Baghdad and Cairo.

But try to explain that to a Goy, like the Pope!

Gush Shalom
[Visit the Settlement Special]

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