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APN Responds to Wiesel Ad on Jerusalem

You probably saw Elie Wiesel's ad in the Washington Post today. A similar ad ran in the Wall Street Journal.

In response to the ad, we today mailed Elie Wiesel the following letter.

We attached to the letter a map of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which shows the entanglement of Palestinian population centers and Israeli settlements there.

Here is the text of the letter:

April 16, 2010

Dear Mr. Wiesel,

Your ad in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal ("For Jerusalem," April 16 2010) brought tears to my eyes, for more than one reason.

How can one be unmoved by your evocative style and your ability to express our attachment, as Jews, to the city that has been the focus of Jewish yearning and Jewish suffering throughout history?

But your ad also saddened me. Because to follow your advice - to indefinitely postpone Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over Jerusalem - amounts to a future of blood and tears for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is not a prescription for trust and hope, but for perpetual strife.

I would have loved to agree with you that Jerusalem is above politics. Perhaps, as a transcendent symbol, it is. But Jerusalem is not just a Jewish symbol. It is also a holy city to billions of Christians and Muslims worldwide. It is Israel's capital, but it is also a focal point of Palestinian national aspirations. It is home to some 400,000 Israeli Jews, but also to more than 200,000 Palestinians. It is a city of people and of traffic jams, of playgrounds, of sewer systems, hospitals, schools and monstrous housing projects. It is a city in which Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, with conflicting national narratives and aspirations are entangled in an untenable embrace of enmity.   

Far away from the emotionally charged national-religious rhetoric that so often surrounds discussions on Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will need to address the complex realities of this city, so their people can live their lives in peace, security and dignity. Jerusalem is not just the Western Wall, the Israel Museum and the Knesset, which nobody suggests will ever be under Palestinian control. Jerusalem is a large metropolis that includes vast Palestinian neighborhoods and villages - even a Palestinian refugee camp - that were annexed to Israel after 1967.

Without negotiations over Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians, a two-state solution would be impossible. And if the two-state solution is impossible, the only possibility is a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which would be neither Jewish nor democratic, a chaotic entity that would perpetuate the conflict between Jews and Arabs.

That is not how any lover of Zion would like to see the future of Zion.

Mr. Wiesel, I am attaching to this letter a map of East Jerusalem and of the West Bank, produced by our Israeli sister organization, Peace Now. Please look at it. Come to terms with the reality that to continue this status quo means death and destruction. I know that is not what you want.

Next time you visit Jerusalem, Mr. Wiesel, I invite you to tour East Jerusalem with one of Peace Now's experts. I guarantee that it would give you a new perspective on Jerusalem.


Debra DeLee
President and CEO
Americans for Peace Now