[(Continued from p.8)]number any other group, and even in what journalists call "Arab East Jerusalem" Jews constitute nearly half the population.
Never before Israel's rule was Christian and Moslem access to holy places as easy and safe as it has been since 1967. (In 1971, the National Coalition of American Nuns declared that "Jerusalem is now available to all faiths and never before have the holy places been so protected and maintained.") Needless to say, Mecca and Medina are far less welcoming to "infidels" and both Jews and Christians are barred from praying on the Temple Mount lest they disturb Muslim "sensitivities."
During the nineteen years of Jordanian occupation of the Holy City, synagogues and Jewish cemeter-ies were systematically destroyed to obliterate the Jewish presence. And the Arab riots on the Temple Mount that have been an integral part of the Oslo Land for (No) Peace process have been orchestrated by a political leadership that makes the Jordanians look almost benign.
At least since the time of the bloody September 1996 riots protesting the opening of a new entrance to the ancient Hasmonean tunnel several hundred yards from the Temple Mount, Arafat and his spokesmen have been insisting that, in the words of Abd al-Malik Dahamshe, an Arab member of Israel's parliament, "the Western Wall is not associated with the remains of the Jewish Temple" and that "It's prohibited for Jews to pray at the Western Wall." The Holocaust denial that pervades Arab countries has now developed into Judaism denial, as in the words of Arafat aide Hanan Ashrawi, who has warned against "the Judaization of Jerusalem." The existential realization of this Judaism denial has been the relentless destruction of Jewish archaeological antiquities in the Temple Mount area by the Muslim authorities, a campaign of vandalism that has provoked protest from every part of Israel's political spectrum in recent months.
Many people who acknowledge all that we have said here will nevertheless insist that without Israeli surrender of sovereignty over the Temple Mount or the Old City or East Jerusalem, there can be no peace. But calamity cannot be bought off by appeasing an appetite which only grows by what it feeds on. This lesson was most eloquently stated, in the century of blood and shame just ended, by Winston Churchill: "Herr Hitler gave Mr. Chamberlain the choice between war and dishonorable surrender; he chose surrender, and he got war."
Edward Alexander is professor of English at the University of Washington. His most recent book is Irving Howe: Socialist, Critic, Jew (Indiana University Press).
In the national elections of 2000, the ultimate barrier for American Jews was toppled. Senator Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, was chosen by presidential candidate Al Gore for vice president on the Democratic ticket. The election was notably free of bigotry and although the Republicans won the election, more Americans actually voted for the Democratic Party candidates.
The irony is that this extraordinary event occurred at a time when Jewish political influence is on a steep decline, and the American Jewish community is well on its way to what some writers--basing themselves on the rate of intermarriage and growing disinterest of youth in religious and communal institutions--have called a vanishing point.
Only a few decades ago American Jews were full of pride, optimism and confidence. Much of this optimism stemmed from the rise of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust and its success in defending itself against well-armed enemies. Fearful during World War II that if they focused on the fate of European Jews the war would be labelled "a Jewish war," American Jewish organizations sought to make up for their failure in that dreadful period by mobilizing in a massive, epic effort on behalf of the survivors and of Israel. To fulfill this purpose, they set aside traditional rivalries and competing agendas to establish two umbrella organizations that would give the community much of its influence in the years ahead: the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, known as the Presidents' Conference, and AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The "Jewish lobby," as AIPAC came to be
called, turned into a political powerhouse. After
President Kennedy commenced the first sale of weapons to
Israel, a growing number of legislators and candidates
began to court Jewish groups for fundraising as well as
endorsements. Israel's toughness, bravery, and resilience
impressed grass roots Americans, and legislators
enthusiastically backed foreign and defense aid to the gallant
embattled nation, without facing opposition from
their constituents. Legislators perceived as hostile to Israel
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March 2001 - 9 - Outpost