Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Egypt's Idea of Peace

by Shlomo Avineri, Israfax, January 24, 2001

In 1979 I was a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated the Cultural, Scientific and Educational Agreement with Egypt. One of the ideas we offered was a joint Egyptian-Israeli school textbook based on the post-World War II French-German model. Peace, we suggested… has to be anchored in people's minds and hearts. If, after generations of enmity, French and German scholars and teachers could together revise their school textbooks… so could we.

Or so we thought… I recently happened to come upon the… website of the Egyptian embassy in Washington… The section on Jerusalem is adorned by a spectacular view of the Dome of the Rock – and five photographs of Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian youngsters…

The text that follows starts with a simple statement: “All along human history, Jerusalem has always been an Arab Palestinian city… Historical facts proved that Jerusalem has witnessed Arab urban and human stability since the year 3000 BC”…

Then – only after mentioning Egyptian Pharaonic rule over Jerusalem – is there a minimal mention of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdom (two sentences) – not mentioning that they were Israelites or Judaeans. This very short reference to a Jewish presence then culminates in the following: “The Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar expelled the Jews from the two kingdoms. In 580 BC he destroyed the city, burned the temple and expatriated the Jews to Babylon in Iraq. Since then, namely 600 years BC, the political history of the Jews had ended in Palestine.”…

So there is no mention of the Second Temple, the Maccabees, the Hasmonean kingdom, Herod the Great, the Jewish wars against the Romans?

Not exactly – there is one reference… “Under the Roman reign, the Jews informed the Roman ruler about Jesus Christ 27 AD and accused him of atheism. Consequently, the Roman ruler… destroyed the city and established a new one where the Jews were inhibited [sic] to enter… Since then and for 1,361 years, Jerusalem remained a pure Arab city.”…

What is one to make of all this? Only this: If this version of Arab cultural imperialism and hegemonic exclusivism is the way the history of Jerusalem is presented in an official Egyptian document at a time when there is peace between Egypt and Israel, how different would the text look if we were at war?…

{Prof. Shlomo Avineri [Hebrew U.] is a former Director-Gen. of the Foreign Ministry, Jer. Post, Dec. 29, 2000}

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