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East Jerusalem Housing Project:
  Doing What We Would Not Condone

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East Jerusalem Housing Project:
Doing What We Would Not Condone

Let us begin this consideration with a hypothetical or two.

East Jerusalem Housing Project:  Doing What We Would Not Condone

Consider Detroit, now a heavily Muslim largely black and terribly impoverished city.  For some reason (hypothetically), a developer wants to build a new community down town, upper middle class condominiums, a mall with stores like Target and Kohls, parks donated to the city, and space set aside to help bring Catholic and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues into the area.  It means construction jobs in the short term, retail employment in the long view, and hopefully the influx of support for the tax base.  Now suppose that several important African and Islamic countries object--Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria.  They say this is an effort to displace and scatter poor black and Muslim families; they threaten us with sanctions.

Or perhaps the example should be set in California, where there are many poor slums populated by (legal) Mexican immigrants struggling for a better life.  Someone is buying up the code-violating substandard collapsing buildings they rent and beginning the process of clearing that part of the city for such a development as just described for Detroit.  Mexico and several South American and Carribean countries threaten us with sanctions, insisting that we stop trying to drive Hispanic Americans out of their homes.

Whatever we might think of the notion of tearing down low-cost substandard housing occupied by the poor to build expensive housing to attract wealthier residents to the cities, we can probably all agree that Saudi Arabia and Mexico and other countries have no business dictating to us where our citizens are permitted to live.  We might think that displacing the poor is a bad idea which will require us to spend money to provide new homes for them; we might think that revitalizing the city with such projects will help pull many of them out of poverty and give the city a better tax base for dealing with its problems.  Where we probably all will agree is that it is our problem and our decision, to be determined by our government and our people--not a matter for discussion on the international stage.  It is arrogance for some other country to suggest that its opinion on the matter matters.

Middle East news sources report that President Obama is considering doing exactly that.  It pertains to a housing project in eastern Jerusalem.  Obama says that construction of such housing raises questions about Israel's commitment to peace with the Palestinians; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says that Jews in Israel have the right to live, and to build homes, wherever they wish within the country.

Certainly the Palestinian problem is vexing.  There is some evidence that at least some Palestinians will not be satisfied until there is no Israel at all--the same political maneuverings which created the Jewish homeland in the early twentieth century following World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire also created Jordan and Lebanon as Palestinian homelands, but the Palestinians keep pressing for more control over territory established as Israel.  Arguably Obama is correct that building Jewish homes in territory the Palestinians want to claim as their own is creating tension; just as arguably it is the Palestinians who ought to be conceding that Israel belongs equally to the Jews and their best hope is for an integrated country in which they are equal citizens (which they are).  It is not even as if planting Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory will affect voting districts, as it would in America--Israel's parliament is elected on a single national district basis, not by localities.  Whether it is a good idea for Jews to settle in such territory is a separate issue--but it is not one about which we ought to have any say.  We would be incensed were other countries to tell us how to integrate, or worse how to segregate, our own cities and states.  We have objected to segregation in places like South Africa.  Are we to object to integration in Israel because in our opinion it might be construed as provocative?

It does not matter whether it is provocative; it is Israel's decision to make under its own laws and government.  The present administration has made its point to their prime minister, and he has rejected it.  That should be the end of our interference.

This is quite apart from the fact that in this country it is political suicide to oppose Israel.  Support for the Jewish nation is one of the rare issues on which large segments of both conservatives (the Evangelical contingent) and liberals (the urban Jewish community) agree.  It might be politically foolish to impose sanctions, and a lame duck president might not care.  Perhaps, though, he might care if he recognizes that we would not tolerate this sort of pressure on ourselves for this type of issue, and we ought not presume to impose it on others.

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