Jewish Studies Scholars Sign Statement Condemning Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital

'Adds insult to ongoing injury' committed against Palestinians

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is seen amongst buildings in the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is seen amongst buildings in the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel / Getty Images
December 12, 2017

Over 150 Jewish studies scholars have signed a statement condemning President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying it "adds insult to ongoing injury" committed against Palestinians.

The faculty and doctoral students lent their names "to express our dismay at the Trump administration's decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel."

"We hope one day to see a world in which all inhabitants of the land enjoy equal access to the city's cultural and material resources. Today, unfortunately, that is not the case," continue the letter-writers, citing "systematic inequalities" faced by Jerusalem's Palestinian residents.

Palestinians deal with "inequitable distribution of the city's budget and municipal services, routine denial of building permits that are granted to Jewish residents, home demolitions, and legal confiscation of property for Jewish settlement," according to the statement, citing the work of B'Tselem, a controversial NGO that monitors Israeli governmental and military activities against Palestinians.

Critics say B'Tselem works to delegitimize Israel on the world stage and makes charges against the state without conducting proper investigations, relying instead on uncorroborated allegations.

The Jewish studies statement goes on to say that given the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "a declaration from the United States government that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence."

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, said she signed the statement as she objects to Trump making a "unilateral assertion" about the capital.

"Such things should be done in context with allies, with bringing aboard people in the Arab world who will also support this," she said. "Do it in way that won't foment violence, but diplomatically. In international affairs, the way you do something is very important."

Heschel, daughter of prominent 1960s civil rights activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, said, "Trump always touts himself as someone who makes deal. Where is the deal here? You don't just declare something."

The Jewish relationship to Jerusalem precedes the existence of the United States by centuries, she added, and "any statement, or where the government is located, or where the embassy is located—it's irrelevant."

Heschel said she was not involved in the composition of the statement and didn't "parse every bit of [it]" to ensure she was in agreement with all elements of the short letter.

"No statement will agree with what I believe 100 percent," she said.

Since Trump's Wednesday speech recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announcing his intention to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv, in compliance with a 1995 law passed by Congress, protesters have come out in force around the world calling for violence against Jews.

The practical ramifications of Trump's decision remain unclear, as the president later signed a waiver delaying the embassy move by six months and Jerusalem still won't be listed as the capital in official documents, passports, and maps, according to State Department officials.

Published under: Israel