I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over this one. But I’m definitely filing it in my Humor category because if you didn’t laugh at the preposterousness of this story you’d have to cry. Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi got together with some “wise men” and came up with the brilliant idea of expelling Gazans from Gaza and building them a new home “like Arizona” in the Sinai desert. And there you have it–presto chango–the Palestinian conflict is solved (the relevant portion of the video begins around the 4:00 mark):
Metzger has been quoted as calling for Gazans to be transferred to the Sinai Peninsula, to a Palestinian state which he said could be constructed for them in the desert.
In an interview in English with the British weekly The Jewish News, the chief rabbi also said that while peaceable Muslims should be allowed to pray in Jerusalem mosques, they should recognize that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Muslims have Mecca and Medina, he was quoted as saying, adding that “you don’t need a third place.”
Metzger called for Britain, the European Union and the United States to assist in the construction of a Palestinian state in Egypt’s Sinai Desert.
According to Metzger, the plan would be to “take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona – we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city. This will be a solution for the poor people – they will have a nice county, and we shall have our country and we shall live in peace.”
“A wonderful new modern country…like Arizona…” I swear could you even make this up if you tried??! The self-regard and hypocrisy of the follow passage needs no explanation:
“I have thought about it with some wise people only in the last two weeks, and I think it is a great idea – nobody spoke about it before.” He expressed his intent to discuss the matter with Olmert and anticipated that the idea would find popularity among Israelis. He prefaced his comments by pointing out that he could not advise on political matters as he is a religious leader in Israel, noting that according to the law he “cannot be involved in political situations.”
Why, of course, this proposal is entirely non-political and chas v’chalilah the good rabbi wouldn’t want to mix in political situations…
And as if Metzger hasn’t done enough damage, here he denies any Muslim bond with Jerusalem:
Metzger also called for Muslims to have the freedom to return to pray in mosques on condition that they do so peaceably: “We will welcome every Palestinian man who wants to pray in his mosque. Every Friday they can come, but with one condition, without violence. We have the same feeling about prayers, we want to give you respect but let us live and believe our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to us. You have another place, Mecca and Medina, you don’t need a third place.”
In the interview Metzger also described Jerusalem as “the capital city forever to the Jewish nation.” He argued that Muslims have no connection to Jerusalem commenting that “behind the Kotel we have a mosque. But when they pray even though they are in our holiest place, they face Mecca. Their back is to Jerusalem. So you can see from only one sign that it does not belong to them. They have nothing – no connection.”
I do so enjoy theologians who are so confident of their abilities that they give advice to religions about which they know nothing as Metzger has done here. Why certainly Muslims should renounce any connection to Jerusalem. If Rabbi M. says so then it must be halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai, right? I know it’s not nice to call a rabbi an idiot, but what can you say about someone who argues that Muslims don’t deserve to call Jerusalem sacred to their religion because they face Mecca instead of Jerusalem when they pray?
Metzger’s plan will resonate in a Zionist ear in one very unfortunate way. One of the alternatives that Herzl proposed was to settle the Jews in Uganda if settling in Palestine wasn’t practicable. That idea was shelved about as quickly as this one will no doubt. Though before it is it will be trotted out by every radical imam and Islamist as an example of both the chutzpa and numskullness of the Jews when it comes to Islam. My hope is that the only damage it will cause is the peals of laughter it will induce in any Muslim (or other reasonable person for that matter) who reads this interview.
Rabbi Metzger has one thing in common with Rachel Neuwirth, by the way. She too proposes expelling Palestinians and moving them to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps Rabbi and Rachel should have a tete a tete and combine their programs. If they did they’d certainly have a winning ticket.
NOTE: One of my we’re-here-to-keep-him-honest readers points out that the good rabbi never used the term “expel” in his interview. This reader would have us believe that Metzger made this proposal solely out of the goodness of his heart and out of humanitarian concern for the fate of Gazans. Yes, certainly Metzger didn’t use the term “expel.” But how would he propose to lure Gazans to this new ShangriLa? Of course, it would be a Dubai-like economic powerhouse (though being in the middle of nowhere it’s not exactly clear how the place would function economically) so Gazans would be falling all over themselves to move there. That, of course neglects the fact that Palestinians (& Jews as well) have an almost mystical attachment to their land and the land of their fathers. The idea that they would simply pack up & move Gaza to the middle of nowhere is preposterous.
The interviewer neglected to ask a fateful question which was: if Gazans will not move there on their own how would you propose to get them there? Or would you be content to allow any Gazans who wish to, to remain in Gaza? The entire point of his proposal is that moving Gaza out of Gaza would remove the security threat to Israel. To leave Gazans there would negate the entire purpose of his proposal.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.