I'm a lifelong Bugs Bunny fan, and a situation today reminded me of the 1950 cartoon, "Homeless Hare." In that cartoon Bugs fights to defend his rabbit hole from a construction worker trying to build a high-rise building over it. Bugs wins in the end...and tells the audience why his home was worth fighting for. "After all, a man's home is his castle."
So what made me think of that classic cartoon? Actually, it was a visit by former President Jimmy Carter to a group of protesters in East Jerusalem. Carter, and other members of a group called "The Elders," spoke to the protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. According to an account of the meeting in the Jerusalem Post, "Carter addressed the crowd, stating that he does not believe that destroying houses or evicting families from homes they have inhabited for generations are just actions that can lead to peace."
And now perhaps you can see why the Bugs Bunny cartoon came to mind. On the surface it would appear that Carter was voicing a classic American value--one shared with the likes of Bugs Bunny--when he stood to support those protesting the forced eviction of families and the destruction of their homes.
But is this the whole story?
In an interesting twist, I also came across another story today about the destruction of 22 Arab houses in the area of Silwan in Jerusalem. The article, in Arutz Sheva, was an interview with Edna Friedman who holds the Israeli Heritage portfolio in the Jerusalem municipality. She provided a different perspective on why the homes in Silwan were being demolished. "For centuries, including under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule, the Gan Hamelech compound was open, forested space – preserved by the ruling powers for its historic and archaeological value....Beginning in 1967, however, Arab squatters began building illegal structures in the compound, and today there are some 120 buildings there. It is these illegally built squats that are at the heart of the controversy in the Silwan neighborhood today, as demonstrators riot against Israel's intentions to clear the site of the illegally built structures...."
So the buildings being destroyed in Silwan are not homes that had been inhabited for generations. They are relatively recent, and they were constructed illegally. That's certainly a different perspective than one would get from listening to President Carter. But isn't it still wrong to single out just the homes of Arab residents? It might be, were that true. But it's not.
Friedman sets the record straight. "This is not about discrimination against Arabs, but I believe that the law must be enforced for everyone. If the authorities can move against Beit Yehonatan, a Jewish-owned building in the neighborhood, on the grounds that it is too tall and that zoning laws prohibit a multi-story building, certainly the laws have to be enforced against Arabs who built homes illegally."
I'm disappointed President Carter chose to present just one side of the story in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The situation is complex...and simplistic generalizations won't help resolve complex issues.