Condoleezza Rice has got some nerve. First, the US Secretary of State had the hutzpa to compare Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to that meted out to US blacks during the bad old days of the segregationist South.
Speaking at a private session at the close of the Annapolis conference, America’s top diplomat said that having grown up “as a black child in the South, being told she could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, she also understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians.”
“I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian,” the Washington Post (November 29) quoted her as saying. “I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness,” she added.
Needless to say, the fact that American blacks were victims of violence and hate, while Palestinians are its proficient practitioners, seems to have escaped the secretary of state’s attention.
Moreover, Rice’s comparison between Israeli security measures and America’s Jim Crow laws is both intellectually dishonest and morally obscene.
There is no similarity whatsoever between Israel establishing a checkpoint aimed at catching Palestinian suicide bombers and the state of Georgia’s 1960s era prohibition against serving blacks and whites in the same restaurant.
To suggest otherwise is insulting and offensive, and Rice should know better. After all, by her logic, would Hamas terrorist-in-chief Ismail Haniyeh qualify as a Palestinian Rosa Parks? And yet, for all of her ostensible sensitivity to questions of discrimination, Rice did not hesitate to engage in some bigotry of her own last week when it came to the issue of building new homes for Jews in Jerusalem.
After Israel announced the approval of tenders for the construction of 307 housing units in the capital’s Har Homa neighborhood, Her Excellency went into what can only be described as a tizzy.
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, Rice told reporters that she had raised the issue of Har Homa with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – not once, but twice! “I did, in fact, bring up Har Homa, both earlier in a phone call and then today in our meeting,” Rice said. “I’ve made very clear about seeking clarification on precisely what this means. I’ve made clear that we’re in a time when the goal is to build maximum confidence between the parties and this doesn’t help to build confidence,” she proclaimed.
Confidence? Did she say “this doesn’t help to build confidence?” And what, Madam Secretary, of the constant Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and cities? Do they “help to build confidence”? Or how about the daily incitement to violence on official Palestinian radio and television? Or the murder last month of 29-year old Ido Zoldan by members of Mahmoud Abbas’ own Palestinian police force? Strangely enough, not one of these odious deeds merited a public comment from Rice about their impact on the “building of confidence” between the two sides.
And yet, when Israel decides to build some new apartments in an already-existing section of Jerusalem, Rice suddenly finds her voice? Who does she think she is kidding? But what was still more troubling about her statement on Har Homa is that it lends credence to the discriminatory notion that certain places should be off-limits to Jews simply because they are Jews.
Rice herself was born in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Ironically enough, just 105 miles north of her birthplace lies a town named Jerusalem, Alabama.
Were the Secretary of State to suggest that the right of Jews to live and build in Jerusalem, Alabama, should be restricted in any way, she would immediately be denounced as a racist and an anti-Semite, and rightly so.
Yet when she suggests that Jews should not be permitted to build freely in Jerusalem, Israel because they are Jews, it is inexplicably described as being a “confidence-building measure.” Call it what you will, Ms. Rice, but your opposition to Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem is nothing more than an archaic form of bigotry. You can’t post a “No Jews Allowed” sign, and expect us to view it any differently.
To suggest that Jews or any other ethnic group should not be allowed to live and build freely in a certain area because of who they are is something that went out of fashion in the United States four decades ago, and I can’t think of a good reason to begin applying it here in Jerusalem today.
The secretary of state knows full well that civil rights for Jews, like any universal human right, cannot be restricted in time or place. They must be applicable regardless of where a person chooses to live.
This is especially true when it comes to Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Our connection to the Holy City stretches back more than three millennia. Indeed, over 1,500 years before the advent of Islam, Jews were living, working and praying in Jerusalem.
Now, following in our ancestors’ footsteps, we have returned to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
So step aside, Ms. Rice, and please do not try to interfere.
Like it or not, nothing can stop this historical process from unfolding.
This was published in the Jerusalem Post on December 12th, 2007