During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:
Haaretz, February 26, 2017 (two articles)
These two articles report that the extensive restoration project underway at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher is continuing (see MRs November 2016 #1, February 2017 #2). The latest development is the removal of the iron cage-like structure put up by the British that has supported the aedicule since 1947. The work on the cage began last Tuesday, and is expected to end this week. This part of the restoration included the placement of titanium rods for support and injection of filler material into the cavities in the stones for strengthening. “The British did good work and it was a good thing that they put up the cage, but now our models have shown that the structure is stable and we can take it out,” said Prof. Antonia Moropoulou, head of the restoration team from the National Technical University in Athens, which is leading the work. The aedicule restoration project is expected to conclude over the next month, so the church will be ready for the Orthodox Easter.
Haaretz, February 26, 2017
This article is an in-depth analysis of Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s opinion of Jews, attempting to reconcile apparent contradictions on this subject. It begins by citing a 2014 speech given by Bannon at a Vatican conference on poverty, in which he repeatedly mentioned Judeo-Christian values and civilization, but which also appeared to encapsulate Bannon’s political philosophy that “a secular, materialist global elite is now being challenged by a global revolt of nationalist movements rooted in traditional religious values and social conservatism.”
Historically, “…Jewish capitalists were motivated by their Jewish faith in spreading the benefits of wealth throughout society,” Bannon said. However, the article takes issue with Bannon’s interpretation, saying that his claim that “the West was built for 2,000 years on Judeo-Christian values” cannot stand when compared with the way the Church treated Jews for most of that time, and that the “Judeo-Christian West” is in fact a recent invention.
The “predatory capitalist” and “rootless communist” stereotypes ascribed to Jews that were prevalent during the last century have been updated for the 21st century, says the article. It then goes on to cite the statement by Douglas Carswell, once British MP for UKIP, that “the British left hates Israel since she embodies beautifully the ideal of national self-determination”. In addition, the piece quotes Marine Le Pen’s warning that “French Jews who also hold Israeli passports will have to choose their nationality in the event of a Front National presidency.”
However, the article notes that this is where the apparent contradiction crystallizes: Does Bannon’s populist movement sees Jews as “archetypal nationalists” or as “cosmopolitans of unreliable loyalty”? While Donald Trump sees himself as a strong supporter of Israel, the article asks if “…a view of Jews, Israel and Zionism shaped by stereotypes… (allows Trump) to declare himself to be Israel’s greatest supporter, while being so tardy in condemning anti-Semitism within the U.S.” This view is what allows Bannon to “claim to speak on behalf of the Judeo-Christian West” while being aligned with a campaign that was characterized by speech that resonated with those holding anti-Semitic views. The article ends with a quotation from Pirkei Avot: “Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs.”
The Jerusalem Post, March 3, 2017
This article surveys the recent phenomenon of “people shouting about anti-Semitism almost every day,” when previously it was taboo to call any anti-Israel incident by this name. The article firmly objects to the opinion that the recent resurgence of anti-Semitic incidents are due to “white neo-Fascists empowered by ‘dog-whistles’ emanating from US President Trump and Steve Bannon,” or to the position of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. Rather, “anti-Semitic attitudes have been the left’s default position for years.” It has now come to the fore because of the 2015 Islamist terror attacks against Jewish targets in Paris, as well as the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. The article states, “The trail in Jewish blood leads straight back to the left for having supported, sanitized and incentivized Muslim Jew-hatred.” National-identity politics are merely the cover, and “the distinction between racist nationalism and the promotion of legitimate national identity is set to become one of the most fraught issues in Western politics.” Calling Western national identity racist or fascist is “ignorant and lazy…(and promotes) those who demonize the natural and legitimate yearning to belong to something called home.”
The Jerusalem Post, February 26, 2017
This article by David Parsons, vice-president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, is a survey of the current situation of Jerusalem through the lens of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. Beginning with senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D-New York) introduction of the issue in the early 1980s, Parsons then describes how around the same time, “strong bipartisan majorities in both Houses began passing annual resolutions in support of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” By 1995, Republican control of Congress and a growing interest in a resolution concerning an embassy move allowed a bill to be drafted proposing immediate U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital, immediate placement of the U.S. ambassador in Jerusalem and the beginning of plans to build a new embassy building. The bill was to be presented by Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), who was its original champion. However, the actual bill introduced by Dole and senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was an amended version so contrary to the original it “removed any means for congressional enforcement.” The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations took advantage of this deficit.
Over the years, most of the international community, including Arab leaders such as Anwar Sadat, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, has given de facto recognition of the Jewish claim and connection to Jerusalem. The fact that de jure recognition remains to be given and that the U.S. has never recognized even West Jerusalem as belonging to Israel is “a gross anomaly (and) a diplomatic slight,” says Parsons. Although this U.S. policy supports the original U.N. Partition Plan that called for Jerusalem to be recognized as an international city, it ignores the fact that this status was to be a temporary measure only, the fate of the city eventually to be decided by a referendum of its residents.
Since 1967, efforts “to deny Israel and the Jewish people their rightful place in Jerusalem” have continued without ceasing. These have often existed under pretexts such as not wishing “to prejudge the outcome of negotiations.” However, even this approach has been thoroughly contradicted by the UN in Security Council Resolution 2334, which prejudges the outcome of talks by calling east Jerusalem “occupied Palestinian territory.” The presidential waiver was added to the embassy act because of a potentially violent Arab response, says Parsons, and as a policy “has effectively granted the Palestinians a veto over US decision-making.” By moving the embassy the Trump administration would “remove a regrettable diplomatic stain, signal the Palestinians that the time for compromise has come, send a message to the world that America stands by its allies and that peace and progress for the region will no longer be a hostage of fear and intimidation. A collective return [of embassies] to the city would demonstrate the rightness of this move and thereby serve to diffuse tensions in the region.”
Israel Hayom, March 2, 2017
The Shack (2017, Summit Entertainment) opened in cinemas this week. A Christian religious film, it tells the story of Mack Phillips, who becomes depressed following a family tragedy. The film tells the story of how this man “…is sent to a remote camping ground and there meets the Trinity, who enable him to recover.”
The film is based on the book of the same name by William P. Young, self-published in 2007 and later an international bestseller and translated into 40 languages. Phillips is played by Sam Worthington (Avatar), the physical manifestation of God is played by Octavia Spencer (The Help), that of the Holy Spirit by Sumire Matsubara, and that of Jesus by Aviv Alush. “I saw a wonderful opportunity in playing Jesus because this is a story about free will. Life is short, and every day, every moment, you can choose to live your life in darkness or in light,” said Alush, adding, “Playing someone who touches the hearts of so many people- this is the reason I’m an actor. I want to touch people, and this is a great privilege for me.”
The Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2017
Yacoub Shahin, an Assyrian Christian from Bethlehem, brought widespread jubilation to his hometown when he won the pan-Arab singing competition Arab Idol on Saturday, February 25th. “It is an amazing feeling. I am so proud of Yacoub – he has raised all our heads,” said Ibrahim Sarhan (21), a local nurse. “This win shows that in Palestine it does not matter which religion you are, Christian or Muslim. You can achieve anything if you set your heart to it.”
Shahin began his musical studies at the Edward Said Conservatory in Bir Zeit, north of Ramallah. He began participating in competitions shortly thereafter, winning the New Star Palestine competition at 17. Although he has completed a degree in interior design at Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, he returned to a musical career after receiving his diploma.