In fairness to Professor Kemal, I encourage you view his article in a parallel window as I comment by right-clicking this link to open a new window, and then to minimize it to half the view port. Minimize my post into the other half of the view port.
Kemal’s thesis lies in his last paragraph. To paraphrase, U.S. President Donald Trump is imposing a unilateral understanding of the local reality without knowing much of its complex past and present.
I see nothing new here. It is a rare person who knows much of the complex past. In fact, most of the past is in dream time. The dream time for observers is only a view of their own dreams. Other observers are unaware of the specifics of my dream until I share it. Dream time is very real in the sense of how it impinges on present activities. For instance, conflict in Ireland and Northern Ireland was rooted in a dream time of dead generations. Peace and reconciliation in recent times changed the space of the island.
I am especially amazed that Kemal’s dream time is suffused with images of Canaanites, a culturally extinct people. Perhaps, a Canaanite dream time narrative is preferred today de rigeur in the halls of Harvard (he was a Visiting Post-doctoral Fellow) and even in the Hebrew University (he attained an MA in Israeli Society and Politics). However, where is the dream time of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)?
Dream time is very real in the sense of how it impinges on present opinions – le jour. Le jour is the place of journalists. Whether we think about a daily news cycle or a weekly one, time at a distance before these cycles is dream time. I rarely notice a journalist who has studied history from primary and secondary sources. Even more rare is the journalist who has a grasp of deep history. One who grasps deep history, studying from a panoply of sources, peels back dream time for the careful student.
Where does contemporary dream time begin? I suggest that a fait accompli is on the edge of where dream time morphs into le jour. I will not dispute different frames of le jour according to the availability of reliable sources.
One dream time leads up to the reunification of Jerusalem, the expansion of its municipal borders, and the de facto annexation when the laws of the State of Israel became the laws of the enlarged municipality of Jerusalem. Another dream time ends with the the Oslo Accord. A le jour for this second event is asking the questions “Why has Oslo failed?” or “How devastating has the Oslo process been for Palestinians and Israelis?” Most journalists are unable to write about these subjects as I explained above. Academics can compose cogent studies of the issues so long as they do not fall into the traps of rehashing partisan narratives, gossip, and innuendo.
A characteristic of dream time is that we cannot reenter it. We can propose counterfactuals, the more extreme ones as we reach farther back.
My own dream time
I visited Jerusalem on a summer program shortly after the Six Day War. I was not quite 16 years old and I neither understood nor spoke Hebrew. I have a distinct memory of reaching the construction where the Western Wall’s plaza stands today. Nonetheless, this event has a strong quality of dream time. I have lost contact with friends and acquaintances. In the summer of 1971, I began my junior year abroad at the Hebrew University. My transcript is evidence that these years are not dream time. At the same time, I mainstreamed into Hebrew-language geography courses. Since I still had no mastery of the Hebrew language, this time was virtually dream time, but my social life was not. By the time I returned to the U.S. during the summer of 1973, I was speaking basic Hebrew but well-versed in the Hebrew of the Bible and of the Mishnah.
For our son (born in 1982) my life before he was a toddler and even onward was his dream time.
I returned to Israel during the summer of 2003, mostly visiting Jerusalem and going native. I was fluent in Hebrew, although I was unable to figure out how that came about. This month in Jerusalem is vivid in my mind. I still keep in touch with people who I had met. The visit has not receded into dream time.
I again returned to Israel during the summer of 2007 and lived in Jerusalem for a month. A vivid part of the trip was learning a few Arabic expressions – ma feesh mushkala. “No problem.” The visit has not receded into dream time either.
These pictures in my mind can be validated somewhat from primary sources (I still keep in touch with some people) and they comprise a sort of history, a biography.
President Donald Trump’s fantasies
I have no quarrel with Kemal’s assertion that “U.S. President Donald Trump … is imposing a unilateral understanding of the local reality without knowing much of its complex past and present.” Even more so, President Trump, I can safely say, knows virtually nothing (perhaps even less than nothing) about contemporary Jerusalem and the related Israeli and Palestinian issues. I write this sober assessment as a U.S. citizen and from a nonpartisan viewpoint.
Then consider ignorance of nuances of a divided Israeli polity and a divided Palestinian polity. I am referring to evidence from primary and secondary sources, not from the binary mindset of American culture.
Consider studying –
- Ross, Dennis. 2004. The Missing Peace: the inside story of the fight for Middle East peace. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Ross was a chief Middle East peace negotiator in the presidential administrations of both George H. Bush and Bill Clinton – 1988 through 2001. Dennis Ross has also been a special advisor to President Obama and a senior director at the National Security Council for the Middle East.
Ross, Dennis. 2009. Myths, Illusions, and Peace : finding a new direction for America in the Middle East. New York: Viking.
Ross, Dennis. 2015. Doomed to Succeed:
the U.S.-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama. New York:, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
I apologize for citing only one author from one part of the world.
Kemal quotes Oscar Wilde, “Truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Wilde’s conceit here is to speak of truth, a nebulous proposition. Does he refer to the truth of your or my dream time? Concerning history, Arnold J. Toynbee studies history; he authored A Study of History – just one person’s study.
(As it is, I am only somewhat familiar with the abridgment of his ten volumes.)
Most of Kemal’s reportage concerns dream time. In dream time we can pose counterfactuals and then proceed to a present that probably differs little from le jour.
If there had not been a Lord Arthur Balfour, another peer might have taken his place.
Whether Jerusalem’s inhabitants lived in mixed neighborhoods at the beginning of the 20th century is a factoid. What does it mean?
Jews preferred to use Islamic Sharia courts rather than their own rabbinical courts, writes American historian Amnon Cohen. Why? As excerpted by Kemal, this is a factoid without context.
Cohen is again quoted. “Jews of Ottoman Jerusalem enjoyed religious and administrative autonomy within an Islamic state, and as a constructive, dynamic element of the local economy and society they could – and actually did – contribute to its functioning.” How is this different from Moorish Spain until the invasion of Berber fanatics? Compare and contrast Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century with Jewish life in Fatimid Egypt (the time of Maimonides). In both cases Jews enjoyed the same advantages.
During the above times, and perhaps at other times and places in the world of Islam, Jews enjoyed autonomy and citizenship – second class citizenship with disabilities but citizenship nonetheless. So long as Jews paid the head tax, the jizia, they enjoyed protection. Until the age of modernity, Jews were not citizens in Christian countries, although they did enjoy autonomy at times. One period was in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Cossack invasion of 1648.
These periods are not Jewish dream time. Primary and secondary sources support the framework of historical accounts.
The defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the Allies
But what has happened since World War I? The Ottoman Empire was defeated. The Sharif and Emir of the Hejaz (primarily Mecca and Medina), Hussein bin Ali, had agreed to open a front against the Ottomans by attacking the port city of Aqaba. As a reward, an Arab kingdom would be realized from Mecca northward into Damascus. However, in a secret agreement with Britain, France’s foreign office insisted that Damascus and Syria be within their sphere of interest. The League of Nations mandated Britain to supervise an entity called Palestine whose borders were drawn by colonial powers.
From about 1917 until 1924, Sharif bin Ali continued to rule the Hejaz. However, the ibn Saud clan conquered and annexed the Hejaz without a peep from the British. This led to the hegemony of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The British Foreign Office consoled Sharif Hussein bin Ali by elevating one of his sons, Abdullah, to rule Transjordan — British mandated Palestine east of the Jordan River. The British exited Transjordan in 1946 and recognized the fully independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Its kings have been descendants of Abdullah.
British and French colonization of southwest Asia is not in dream time either. The rare journalist who has studied history and ethnography of the region may possibly mention Lord Arthur Balfour, but this same journalist will fail to mention the flip-flopping British politician and diplomat Sir Mark Sykes who initially seems to have supported the Balfour Declaration. However, Sykes then negotiated a secret agreement with French diplomat François Georges-Picot that would marginalize Jews and Arabs in favor of British and French colonial enterprises. This became realized as both nation’s foreign policy.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement Map
Map of the Sykes–Picot Agreement showing areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916 (lower right corner).
I won’t argue whether Lord Balfour had “limited knowledge of the local reality” of Palestine, as Kemal writes. I insist, though, in mentioning Sykes and Picot who also had “limited knowledge of the local reality” of people living and migrating in southwest Asia during the early 20th century. What they seem to have known very well was how to exploit the region to the benefit of France and Britain.
The juridical aspects concerning the status of Jerusalem that Kemal mentions are colonial jurisprudence. Nation states serve nationalistic and colonial purposes more than they serve law and order within their jurisdictions.
The most infamous institutional juridical failure since World War II has been the United Nations. What the world trumpets as international law has come about from a vote of five (initially) colonial powers. Sometimes the colonial nature of the members of the U.N.’s Security Council are pushed out of sight. Instead, the five are called “world powers.”
The United Nations is one of a several international institutions with notorious “democratic deficits” (see Domingo, The New Global Law).
Still a work in progress.