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"Jerusalem - One City, Three Faiths"

By Karen Armstrong

A Critique By Sid Laibson - President - PRIMER



The current Palestinian violence and deadly terrorism did not just happen. It's been actively brewing since the creation of Oslo in 1993. the message Arafat received during the past eight years has been crystal clear. Palestinian violence and terror induces intense negotiations, that is followed by agreements consisting of fresh new tangible "confidence building" concessions from Israel and some old warmed over previously ignored "promises" from Arafat. The international community that applauded the results played a major role in assuring the success of Arafat's strategy. the combined forces of the media, political leaders and scholars have effectively molded international opinion that steers the policies and actions of yasser Arafat. Without their support, Palestinian violence and terrorism would be short lived.

Karen Armstrong, a recognized scholar and author of "Jerusalem - One City, Three Faiths" (published in 1996) typifies the powerful role of international opinion makers in negatively molding public opinion. the intensity of Ms. Armstrong's bias permeates every chapter of her book. The enclosed essay, "Delegitimizing Israel Via Jerusalem" focused on this deep rooted bias. Unlike the usual broad brush stroked book reviews, this essay is structured in an easy to read form in the author's "own words" followed by brief comments. It is a point by point, chapter by chapter review of 428 pages of saturated bias.

"Jerusalem - One City, three Faiths" masquerades as an objective and historical view of Jerusalem's claim by three faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What initially appears to be an objective analysis of the history of Jerusalem's three faiths soon fades. Ms. Armstrong attempts to delegitimize the Jewish claim to Jerusalem while promoting the Palestinian Arab claim to the land. The text is filled with inaccuracies, egregious distortions, and revision of history. In the closing chapters, all pretext to objectivity evaporates with a scathing attack on Zionism and the State of Israel. Ms. Armstrong's historical development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is laced with a deep rooted bias that undermines the underpinnings of Judaism.


Comment: If Exodus is a "myth", god written with a small "g", and the Torah an "emblem", then the ancient Jewish claim to Israel is, in effect, invalidated. Characterizing Jews of Jerusalem as a "cult" and the Menorah as a "cultic instrument" creates a lens through which the reader sees a strange, mystical cultic people occupying Jerusalem. Defining the sacred Holy Temple in Jerusalem as an "act of conquest" is mystifying, and describing the "Torah and Temple" as "muddied" and merely "physical emblems", is an insult to the Jewish faith and reminiscent of Farakan's classic remark, that "Judaism is a gutter religion."


Comment: Although there were "rumors" that Jesus had "risen" and that after resurrection there were "visions" that he "walked and talked" and "revealed" himself to his people, Ms. Armstrong does not characterize these events as "myths."


Comment: There are no "mythical" characterization in the segment on Islam. Mohammed received "revelations" from God (capital "G") and was carried to Jerusalem on his heavenly steed. Islam is described as a religion of "peace and unity" and not "muddied" with mere "emblems"as the "Torah."

Chapter on "JIHAD"

The definition of JIHAD is "Holy War". Ms. Armstrong, however, adopts a rarely used definition "struggle", and devotes an entire chapter to JIHAD the "struggle". There is...

... "JIHAD for Jerusalem" a "struggle for social justice".
... "The building JIHAD" a "struggle to build in Jerusalem".
... The urgency in studying Muslim tradition a "JIHAD".

Chapter on "REVIVAL"

"In the 1820s the Arabs threw out all non-Arabs from Jerusalem an expression of Arab solidarity."

Comment: "Ethnic cleansing" is characterized as "Arab solidarity" -- an egregious distortion.

Comment: The Jewish claim to Jerusalem does not contradict or deny the existence of the "Bronze Age." Ms. Armstrong attempts to delegitimize the Jewish claim to Jerusalem with irrelevant archaeological discoveries. She ignores the Jewish Kingdoms and almost a millennium of Jewish sovereign control.

Comment: Here we go again "mythology".

Chapter on "ISRAEL"
This chapter peels away the transparent veneer of objectivity and impartiality. It reveals a raw anti-Israel bias.

Comment: No mention is made that the League of Nations, adopting the Balfour Declaration, mandated all of Palestine (including the area East of the Jordan River) as a "Jewish Homeland." Nor is there mention that, in 1922, 75% of the mandated "Jewish Homeland" was removed to create a new state, Transjordan (Jordan). Since the majority of the population within this new entity were Palestinian Arabs, in essence, a Palestinian state was created. Nor was there any mention that the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan took the remaining 25% of the original land mandated as a "Jewish Homeland", and further partitioned it, creating a small, vulnerable, truncated Jewish state (accepted reluctantly by the Jews) and a Palestinian state (rejected by the Arabs). In 1948, as a follow-up to the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, Israel declared its independence.

The distorted half-truth, that Zionists created a Jewish state, ignores the above narrative, and the prior history of Jewish involvement in the land.

Comment: This distorted half-truth is misleading. Western Jerusalem is uncontested by all Jews and the international community. East Jerusalem is claimed by the Palestinian Arabs, and supported by the Arab world and segments of the international community. Most Jews, however, are in agreement that a unified Jerusalem should remain under Israeli control.

Comment: What Jewish maneuvers carried what day? There is no mention that Arab maneuvers of expelling U.N. peace-keepers and amassing their troops on the borders in preparation for an attack against Israel precipitated the 1967 six day war.

Comment: Reminiscent of old anti-Semitic canards...Jews have power...Jews control the world. . .Jews are "canny." Jews got "everything"? In fact, 75% of the land set aside by the League of Nations as a "Jewish Homeland," was carved out and turned over to Transjordan (Jordan) in 1922. The second partition plan of 1947 (U.N.) was rejected by the Arab world and then followed by three Arab wars and unrelenting terrorism. There is no mention, that during the 19 years of Jordanian control of the West Bank (1948 to 1967), the Palestinian Arabs did not ask for an independent state. Not until the creation of the PLO in 1964 was an Independent Palestinian state demanded, encompassing all of Israel. This was to be accomplished by JIHAD. However, recognizing that driving Israel into the sea cannot be attained militarily, the "Phased Plan" amendment to the Covenant was established in 1974, calling for interim acceptance of any portion of the West Bank and Gaza. The final goal, the ultimate destruction of Israel remains unchanged.

Comment: Again no mention is made that the invading Arab armies of 1948 precipitated the plight of the "homeless, uprooted Palestinians". Nor is there any mention, that the Arabs that remained in Israel have homes and full Israeli citizenship. Those who fled to the West Bank and Gaza were placed in refugee camps. The Arab world steadfastly refused to absorb them into their communities. Aid offered by Israel to help move the Arab refugees from the camps to homes, was refused. In stark contrast, Israel welcomed and absorbed Jews that fled or were driven from the surrounding Arab nations following the 1948 war. Comment: Fantasy? The Kingdom of Israel was the last sovereign state in Israel. Jews have maintained a presence in the land ever since. Israel and Jerusalem have been at the very core of Jewish yearning and prayers for 2000 years. Comment: Prayer is "oratory"? A degrading expression.

Comment: Palestine was never a sovereign Arab country. Since the destruction of the Temple over 2000 years ago, the land was occupied by many nations until the re-birth of the state of Israel in 1948. Comment: Language of incitement that is often used by the PLO. How could a nation that never existed be "wiped off the map"?

Comment: A shameless attempt to revise history, ignore Egypt's expulsion of U.N. observers, the blockage of the Gulf of Aqaba, and the continued threat to destroy Israel. Comment: The Rabbi emotionally and inappropriately responded to years of Jewish banishment from these cities.

Chapter on "ZION?" In this chapter titled, "ZION?", the question mark places a cloud over Zions legitimacy.

Comment: Again, the distorted lens of a history revisionist. Viewing Jordan as a defender of the Holy City against the Israeli invaders is a reversal of fact. Jordan attacked Israel and seized East Jerusalem in 1948. It was also Jordan who ignored the pleadings of Israel not to enter the war with Egypt and Syria. If Jordan heeded Israel's pleadings, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, would have remained under Jordanian control. No mention is made that during Jordan's 19 years of illegal annexation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Arabs destroyed and desecrated the Holy City's synagogues and toppled gravestones in Mt. Olive Cemetery. Many of the gravestones were used for roads, military barracks, and latrines. Indeed "in defense of the Holy City"?! Nor is there mention, that during Jordan's 19 year control of the Holy City, Jews were not permitted to enter East Jerusalem, or pray at its holiest site, the Western Wall. Today, Under Israeli control, people of all faiths are permitted to live and pray in Jerusalem.

Comment: The distorted lens of a history revisionist. "Conquest" implies an offensive war for the sole purpose of conquering land. Israel "capturedd" not "conquered" East Jerusalem in a defensive war. By characterizing the holy city as "myths and legends" for Jews, the author attempts to delegitimize the Jewish claim to Jerusalem Comment: Again, Israel the "conqueror" the aggressor, eliminating Arabs from Jerusalem. This egregiously false "ethnic cleansing" label ignores the fact that there are more Arabs in Jerusalem today then in 1967. Comment: Absolutely false. "Next year in Jerusalem" has been in the thoughts and prayers of Jews from time immemorial. Comment: How can an old passion be "new"? Again, the authors "myth" lens. Comment: Again, the authors biased lens of word images "seized acts of conquest, destruction." Israel did not "seize" Arab land. After the 1967 War, Israel inherited large tracts of state land that had been under British control during the British Mandate. The sale of privately owned Arab land is negotiated and purchased as any other private land would be. In fact, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority recently declared that any Palestinian who sells land to a Jew would be executed. Comment: Disingenuous inaccurate distorted. When Begin made peace with Sadat, the new Likud government overwhelmingly supported Begin, and not in "horror". They yearned for peace as all Israelis do, and they trusted Sadat. Comment: The author uses an isolated incident by an extremist in a 1980 plot to avenge the murder of six Yeshiva students, to make a false and sweeping charge of a religious spirit of murderous hatred emerging in Israel, but ignores the fact that these extremists are condemned by most Israelis. In contrast, the "murderous hatred" directed against Israeli civilians are proudly claimed by Islamic religious organizations and hailed as martyrs by Yasser Arafat. Comment: An outrageous distortion conveying brutal behavior against innocent "mothers and children". There is no mention that the "demonstrators," primarily young men, often used Molotov cocktails and other lethal weapons. Nor is there any mention that the PLO often placed children on the front line as an effective propaganda weapon. Comment: This misleading half-truth omits the fact that a united Jerusalem is overwhelmingly shared by all segments of Israeli society. Comment: A classic tactic of a propagandist "If you repeat a lie frequently enough it will be accepted as truth". Comment: The authors familiar demonizing "Lens" Israel, the predator, "crouches" for his victim, the Palestinians. There is no mention that Jews were not only not welcomed in East Jerusalem for 19 years (1948-1967), it was also "Judenrein". Comment: An immoral equivalence. Unprovoked and with religious zeal, the Crusaders attacked and conquered the Holy Land. Israel, however, was established as a sovereign state following the U.N. partition plan of 1947. Ms. Armstrong concludes by shamelessly comparing Israel's deep concern for "security" and 50 years of terrorism with the Crusaders brutal aggression. Comment: The authors hateful sarcasm "sweetness and lights", ignores Israel's continued struggle with terrorism and war with a hostile Arab world, that clearly does not welcome Jews with "sweetness and lights." Comment: The slur, "Goyim" inappropriately used by Rabbi Kook is sarcastically adopted by the author. Although the assassination of Prime-Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a loner was condemned by Jews around the world, however, Ms. Armstrong uses this tragedy in a sweeping outrageous generalization, that "Jews will kill one another for the sake of that land." Comment: Claiming that Jewish suffering and persecution in exile has now been passed to the Palestinians, is an egregious falsehood. The author then proceeds to justify terrorism with insensitive sarcasm "Palestinians have not always behaved in an exemplary fashion," but ignores the Palestinian Arabs unrelenting campaign of terrorism and their foreswearing Israel's destruction. Ms. Armstrong concludes by reversing history. It was the Jew, not the Palestinian Arabs who "struggled for survival."

* * *

Jerusalem was never the declared capitol of a sovereign Muslim state. It was, however, the declared capitol of a sovereign Jewish state, that was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and then by the Romans in C.E. Finally, after 2000 years of longing and waiting, a Jewish state was re-born in 1948, with Jerusalem once again its declared capitol. The Palestinian National Covenant of 1964 does not mention Jerusalem. Not until 1968, shortly after the 1967 six-day war, was Jerusalem politically identified in the PLO's constitution as the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Jerusalem is not mentioned in The Koran nor recited in Muslim prayers. Conversely, the Holy City is revered in the Torah and frequently recited in Jewish prayers.

"JERUSALEM - ONE CITY THREE FAITHS" masquerades as an objective study of the historical, religious, and cultural roots of the three great religions. Distortions, untruths, half-truths, omissions, history revisionism all classic tools of a propagandist are shamelessly utilized by the author in an insidious attempt to delegitimize the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and erode the very foundation of its claim to the land of Israel.

It is a well known fact that if a lie is repeated frequently it will be accepted as truth. It will mold public opinion that steers public policy. Unchallenged, it can adversely effect Israel's future and survival.

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