Danger on Jerusalem
July 29, 2000
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One of the talents of President Clinton is that he can damage Israel even when he is trying to help it. This is the case with his statement of yesterday, as reported in this morning's New York Times: "You know, I have always wanted to move our embassy to West Jerusalem. We have a designated site there. I have not done so because I don't want to do anything to undermine our ability to help to broker a secure and fair and lasting peace for Israelis and for Palestinians."
Watch out. The use of the phrase "West Jerusalem" by an American president at this juncture should set off alarm bells for Congress, Israelis and anyone who opposes a divided Jerusalem. "West Jerusalem" is a phrase that was used primarily from 1948 to 1967 to refer to the part of the city that was under Israeli control; at the time, the rest of the city -- "East Jerusalem" -- was under Jordanian control. It's an artificial distinction that was established by the barbed-wire boundaries of a wartime truce; since Israel took control of the entire city in the 1967 war, the city has been simply Jerusalem. During the period of "West Jerusalem" and "East Jerusalem" -- that is, 1948 to 1967 -- Jews had no access to the Western Wall, and the Jordanians used the gravestones from Jewish cemeteries to build army latrines. Synagogues in the Old City's Jewish quarter were destroyed.
Recognizing the importance of an undivided Jerusalem, the Congress has marked the point at least three separate times. In 1990, the Congress unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 106, declaring that Congress "strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected." In 1992, to mark the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 113, reaffirming congressional sentiment that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city. And in 1995, by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which became American law. The 1995 act stated as the "policy of the United States" that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected" and that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel." There is no reference in the 1995 act to "East Jerusalem" or "West Jerusalem," because its drafters, in their wisdom, realized that it wasn't worth redividing the city in order to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Times story this morning is totally oblivious to these nuances. The Times story also mischaracterizes the 1995 act, writing that "Congress called for moving the embassy five years ago." Hello? It's not that Congress "called for" moving the embassy, it's that it passed a law requiring the embassy to be moved. There was a provision allowing the president to invoke a national security waiver. But the waiver applies only to the financial penalty to the State Department budget that the act imposes if the embassy is not moved; the waiver does not apply to the requirement to move the embassy. The administration is in violation of the law right now, and one of the key senators behind the 1995 act, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is on the record saying that. (Not to the Times, of course, but to another newspaper.)
Psychobabble: The New York Times this morning presses ahead with its endless attempts to explain the presidential election in terms of personality and stagecraft rather than issues. This will continue so long as the Republican candidate is ahead in the polls. Responding to a remark by Al Gore that "You and I know this is not about show business," columnist Frank Rich responds, "What country does this guy think he's living in?" A long front-page article about George W. Bush probes his marriage, his religious practices and his drinking habits. Sure, readers want to know who the candidates are, just like readers want to know who the polls show is winning. It seems, however, as though the space the Times has been devoting to the personal biographical profiles has dwarfed the space the paper is devoting to the policy proposals of the candidates or to their records as public officials. As for the Texas governor's drinking habits, the thing that comes to mind is President Lincoln's response when someone complained to him about General Grant's lack of sobriety. "Find out what he's been drinking and send a case of it to all my other generals," Lincoln is said to have responded.
Burglary: The Times gives prominent display this morning to a violent burglary of an Upper West Side townhouse. There's a full-length story that begins on the front of the metro section. It was a terrible crime, no doubt, but itÕs also an example of the disproportionate attention the Times devotes to crimes that happen in wealthy neighborhoods and victimize wealthy professionals. To be sure, there's an argument that these crimes are more newsworthy because they are more unusual. But they are also a way for the Times to send its readers and advertisers a subtle message about the paper's intended audience.There were probably a half-dozen fatal crimes in Brooklyn and the Bronx in the last month that didn't get a tenth of the space in the Times that this non-fatal burglary of an Upper West Side townhouse got.
Mixed Signals on the Heat: It's been a cooler than usual July, so beaches and swimming pools are more crowded than usual. Or, it's been a cooler than usual July, so beaches and swimming pools are less crowded that usual. Take your pick -- a Times dispatch today on the weather situation manages to attribute both trends to the same weather. "At Jones beach, attendance this July was up more than 25 percent over last July, said George Gorman, director of recreation for the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on Long Island. . . 'Last year was a very hot, humid summer. We found that beach attendance went down and people went to more malls.'" A photo next to the story depicts an empty swimming pool, and a cutline says, "Lifeguard duty was boring yesterday at the village pool in Pleasantville, N.Y. Mild weather has meant less crowded pools this summer."
Hmm. Maybe when it gets really hot, fewer people go to the beach and more people go to pools?
Shift on Abortion: A news story in the international section of this morning's Times reports on a bombing in Germany that wounded 9. The article says, "One of the wounded, identified by the police only as Tatyana, 26, was 6 months pregnant. The unborn child was killed when shrapnel pierced her stomach." Wait a minute. If an "unborn child" can be "killed," then it must be . . . alive. We're not sure how that sentence got past the Times' editors, who generally consider a pregnant woman to be carrying not an "unborn child" but a "fetus" or a "choice."
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