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Jewish Journal

Jews should get offended

by David Suissa

June 19, 2013 | 11:48 am

David Suissa, President

David Suissa, President

If there’s one thing the Palestinians are great at, it’s saying no. For years now, many peace-loving Jewish heads have been bruised from banging against the brick wall of Palestinian rejectionism.

Well, these Jews and others will now have another wall they can bang their heads against: the Western Wall. 

In case you missed it, the Palestinian Authority announced last week that they are adamantly opposed to Natan Sharansky’s plan to build an egalitarian prayer section at the Kotel. Specifically, they will not permit Israel to change the entrance to the Temple Mount — which adjoins and looks down on the Wall Plaza — in order to expand the area for an egalitarian service.

As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary, “The motivation of this veto isn’t pure spite. Just as they have used their power to set off violence and riots to protest even the most harmless alterations to the area in the last 20 years, Palestinian leaders are determined to stop Sharansky’s scheme in its tracks because they regard all of the Old City as not only theirs by right but a place that will be theirs in the event of any peace deal.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already gone on record as denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and, in a conference in Ramallah this week covered by JPost, he pointedly excluded the Jews when he said:

“The responsibility for defending and restoring Jerusalem and purifying its holy sites is not that of the Palestinians alone, but the entire Arab, Islamic and Christian nation.”

Where does this chutzpah come from?

If you ask me, I think it’s been nourished by the fact that Jews rarely get offended by Palestinian insults that touch the core of our identity.

What does Israel do when its so-called “moderate peace partner” Mahmoud Abbas publicly and brazenly denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem? Instead of acting insulted, we prefer to act like stoic Zionists.

Given that Israel has let such insults and lies slide by for so long, is it any wonder that the Palestinians are now acting as if the whole Kotel area rightfully belongs to them?

Ever since Israel’s birth 65 years ago, way before any occupation, Israel has been putting up the two fingers of peace and getting a Palestinian middle finger in return.

Those insults haven’t just been about the four times Palestinians have said NO to having their own state — in 1948 with the United Nations partition plan and three times since. It’s more than that.

These rejections are symptoms of something deeper: a contempt for Jews, especially successful Jews who have their own state and claim a deep and historical connection to the Holy Land.

Having failed to express its own contempt for libelous insults, Israel has allowed the emotional narrative to slip away. It’s gotten so bad that there was hardly a peep in the Jewish world last week when Israel received the latest Palestinian middle finger denying the plan to make the Kotel more egalitarian. 

As Evelyn Gordon wrote in the Commentary blog, this might turn out to be a “teachable moment” for liberal American Jewry, who might now better understand that “dealing with the Palestinians isn’t quite so simple as they seem to think it is.”

I would go a step further. I would call this an “offendable” moment, a moment when Jewish groups the world over ought to draw a big, fat, red line and say loudly and clearly: “We are deeply offended that the Palestinian Authority is denying the 3,000-year Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and adamantly opposing our noble effort to add egalitarian prayer at our holiest site.”

Every Jewish group, including J Street, Peace Now and the Zionist Organization of America, should sign that statement. We might have honest disagreements about other areas, but all Jews should unite around this issue.

Jews are extraordinarily good at being offended by other Jews, but when it comes to responding to Arab insults, we clam up. Maybe we feel it’s just not “practical” to get too emotional in public.

But here’s the point — acting insulted when you feel insulted helps your case by making you look more real and more human. The Palestinians learned that lesson a long time ago.

In communication theory, one of the first things you learn is that people react more to emotion than to reason. And if there’s something Jews can get emotional about, it is certainly Jerusalem and the Kotel.

Whether or not the Palestinian objection can kill Sharansky’s plan (and the jury is still out on this), if a Palestinian leader has the chutzpah to tell the world that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem, we have every right to be deeply insulted and to call him on it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not only the right, but the obligation, to deliver this message to his Palestinian counterpart: “Jerusalem runs through the blood and bone marrow of the Jewish people. It has been that way for more than 3,000 years. When you say that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem, you know it is a lie. But for us it is more than a lie. It is an insult of the highest order and we kindly request an apology.”

That sounds pretty reasonable to me.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

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