Friday, August 15, 2014

Imperialism in Jerusalem

The City of Jerusalem.
Around 1967 something happened that changed the way the enlightened felt about Israel.  Several Arab nations decided it was time to get rid of them pesky Jews. While the first bully was still cocking his fist, Israel punched first, proceeded to beat 3 bullies at once, and then took their lunch money for good measure.  Israeli Jews were no longer victims to be pitied.

The anti-imperialist/multiculturalist set was all prepared to mourn the destruction of the Jews and send out the 1967 equivalent of hashtags.  Their demise would have meant as little to Europe as the demise of Christians and Kurds does now in the present day Arab nations.  But suddenly Israelis represented strength instead of victimhood, they represented self-determination rather than a pawn for the UN to posture over, they represented a militarily defensible democracy rather than another pitiable medieval theocracy.

Suddenly Europe wasn't so embarrassed about the Holocaust.  No longer content to wait in shtetls for the next progrom, Israelis not only demonstrated that an enterprising people could create wealth in an impoverished land but could defend it.

One of many things that amaze me about the anti-imperialist/multi-culturalist movement in Europe and North America is how sensitive they are to some tokens of conquest and not to others.  If Mount Rushmore had been the most sacred site to the Sioux nation, fundamental to their religious system for centuries, it would be difficult to feel as positive about its nationalism.  Wouldn't there be other places to make it after all?  Surely it would even be more embarrassing to have carved a Pilgrim holding a Bible.  Or if American Christians had carved a cathedral into the mountain?

Yet no one speaks about the message of religious imperialism that the Dome of the Rock communicates.  Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran.  It is central in the Jewish scriptures (what Christians call "the Old Testament").  Muslim imperialism built this mosque on the site of the Jerusalem Temple for two reasons: to demonstrate that the Muslims have a greater claim on Father Abraham (and the sites associated with him) than do the Jews, and because claiming the most holy Jewish site was a way of marking the territory of the former Israelite kingdom for political Islam.  As beautiful as the Dome is aesthetically, it is and always will be a deliberate symbol of conquest.  If there was an ancient cathedral built there, I think most Christians would feel (and should feel) a sense of embarrassment about it. (Not out of knee-jerk political correctness, but out of the fact that a 'building' is not the Lord's Church.)  Most evangelicals and fundamentalists in America would want such an edifice torn down.

The most visible landmark in all Jerusalem is a landmark of religious and political imperialism.  Jewish Israelis are much more tolerant of the existence of the Dome on their Temple Mount than most Palestinian Arabs and Muslims are tolerant of the existence of Israel in any part of Palestine.  If Jerusalem were unequivocally Israeli soil, the Dome would remain standing.  If it were entirely Palestinian, synagogues and temples would burn as Muslim crowds cheered and Americans tweeted their hashtags.

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