Condoleezza Rice has got some nerve. First, the US Secretary of State had
the chutzpa 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
"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
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,"
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
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
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.