SILWAN, East Jerusalem – Ever wonder what a future America might look like if the Tea Party took over? Try today's Israel.
That distinctive brew of left-baiting, Obama-hating, poorly veiled racism, clergy-driven jingoism, clergy-fanned derision of the Supreme Court, the Luddite insertion of anti-government bile where an ideology should go, a majority which feels victimized and discriminated against and threatened by minorities of indeterminate legal status – it's all here. It just speaks Hebrew.
In fact, for a far-right segment of U.S. Jewry which, since the rise of Barack Obama, has mushroomed in volume and impact if not in numbers, anti-government animus has taken what may have been an inevitable next step: finding ways to betray in one stroke the policies and, in fact, the national interests of both the United States and Israel.
For proof, you need not rough it to the pistol-packing West Bank badlands, with their Bible-thumping libertarian homages to Dennis Hopper-strength nihilism.
Just leave the relatively friendly confines of West Jerusalem and stroll to the city's embattled Arab half. At any given Israeli prime ministerial visit to the president of the United States, right-wing Israeli Jews and their American vicarious Zionist groupies/bankrollers/plaque recipients will be hard at work leveraging settlement activity to jut a wrench into the works of anything smacking of a glimmer of a possible peace, or any effort at reconciliation.
In this regard, no one comes close to the Grand Old Man of befouling Jerusalem and U.S.-Israeli relations by remote control, the retired physician-turned-bingo parlor mogul Irving Moskowitz of Miami Beach.
For years, Moskowitz has played godfather to what may be called the Inpost Settlements – moving Jews into East Jerusalem enclaves of dubious legality but unquestioned incendiary impact on the Palestinian population and the prospects of a future peace.
This week, two days after more than a thousand Jews and Arabs marched peaceably through the streets of Jerusalem's Palestinian Silwan neighborhood just south of the Old City walls, work began on a new settler neighborhood in a particularly sensitive quarter of East Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah. The owner and operator: Irving Moskowitz.
So practiced is the good doctor at acts of sabotage by real estate, that the following Time article, now 14 years old, could have been written today, with the revision only of the name of America's chief diplomat:
"Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the world's only superpower, visits the Middle East and manages to accomplish nothing for the peace process. Irving Moskowitz goes to the region after her, and the next thing you know, the process is threatened anew with riot and rupture. Of course, it's easier to hurt than help the onerous business of negotiating peace, but that's what makes Irving Moskowitz arguably the most pivotal player in the Middle East at the moment."
To be fair, Moskowitz has a serious rival of late in the race to dismantle the U.S.-Israel relationship, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Not to be outdone by the Moskowitz initiative, Barkat this week leaned on his diplomatic Murder Incorporated, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Commission, to approve the razing of 22 Arab homes in the tinderbox neighborhood of Silwan, just south of the Old City walls, in order to make way for The King's Park, a pointed reference to the assertive if at times amoral David of the Jews.
Just a year and a half in office, Barkat has gone to great lengths – crowned by a spectacularly damaging post-Biden visit to Washington – to insult the U.S. government and embarrass his own.
But the Silwan affair sets the bar at a new low. The self-styled champion of authorized construction, Barkat rammed the project through the committee despite grave reservations on the part of Jerusalem City Engineer Shlomo Eshkol, Jerusalem municipality Legal Adviser Yossi Havilio, and the city the department which inspects building plans prior to their submission to the planning committee, which, according to documents obtained by Haaretz, found some 250 defects in the Silwan plan.
The thought occurs, that it is time to call the mayor by the name he has earned: Nero Barkat. If there is one man whose fiddling will cause this city to burn, this is your man. Not Raed Salah, not Irving Moskowitz, not Khaled Mashal. Nero.
This is dual disoyalty of an even more profound sort. In putting demagoguery and pandering to the far-right above the interests of Jerusalem Barkat is a true traitor to his city, and a true traitor to Israel. His actions go far beyond harming the fabric of life in this city of intolerable tensions and chronic woe.
In his recklessness and tunnel vision, Barkat is undermining the very legitimacy of Israel at a time when Israel can least afford it.
Forget, for the moment, that Palestinians universally, and justly, view East Jerusalem as their capital. Forget the issue of whether Israel has a right to claim all of Jerusalem – a claim which, having earned the world's (and America's) resounding non-recognition, has left Israel as formally the only nation on the planet without a capital.
Consider, instead, the issue of whether Israel is acting as a worthy custodian for this sacred city which, more than any other, belongs to the world. As Israel treats Jerusalem, so shall the world treat Israel. As Jerusalem goes, so goes Israel.
Mournful is the Holy City whose mayor is a shvontz.