AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I published the vision of Jerusalem as two open capitals without a barrier between them as part of my “Letter to Yasser Arafat” in Al Bayader Assiyasi (Jerusalem, March 24, 1984), and it was published later as part of my “Declaration of Peace,” the forerunner to my “Covenant of Peace,” in Al-Fajr (Jerusalem, April 18, 1984). In each publication the vision concerning Jerusalem was part of an essay that set out an extensive vision of world peace that involved respect, nonviolence, power-sharing, decision making by a consensus process, self-rule for all peoples who want it, an end to the weapons race, global disarmament, etc.
Back then, the thought of two capitals in Jerusalem without a barrier between them was a radical, unheardof idea, for that was the time of the “Iron Curtain” and the Berlin Wall.
Hanna Siniora, the former editor of Al-Fajr, told me a few years ago that he never heard of this Jerusalem vision until I shared it with him.
At that time the Palestinian leadership was not asking for any part of Jerusalem to be their capital. They just didn’t want any part of Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, instead they wanted Jerusalem to be an “international city” in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 181, passed in 1947.
I would tell the Palestinians, “It’s our capital, and it can be your capital too, without a barrier between us.” However, now I realize how much nonviolence and an end to incitement are necessary to achieve this peaceful vision. And I realize that peace begins at home. The so-called “honor” killing of a female relative for sexual rumors must be brought to a stop, and only when the “honor” killings stop will a deep and lasting peace between Arabs and their neighbors become possible.
In late 1983 and in 1984 I made a tremendous effort to lobby the Palestinian Arab leadership in Jerusalem and the West Bank with my ideas and visions concerning Jerusalem, power-sharing, peace, etc. I met with Palestinian leaders Faisal Husseini, Bassam Shaka’a, Anwar Nusseibeh, Karim Khalaf, Elias Freij, Hanna Siniora, Mahmoud Abu Zalaf and others.
(I can’t remember now if I ever met Bethlehem mayor Elias Freij in person but I do remember the many long and wonderful phone calls we had).
I shared the two open capitals vision of Jerusalem and the Declaration of Peace with the PLO when I visited its Cairo office in 1984 and its London office in 1987. I met with Faisal Husseini, the PLO’s leader in Jerusalem, several times a week for several months at his Arab Studies Center in Jerusalem.
Faisal Husseini was so impressed with Declaration of Peace that he printed up 1,000 copies of it for visitors to his office, and he promised to put it in the school curriculum of a future Palestinian state.
Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Jericho, was also impressed with the Declaration of Peace, so much so that he sent it to Yasser Arafat three times asking him to respond to it. We never received a reply from Arafat.
On several evenings in 1984 I went to see Mahmoud Abu Zalaf, the editor of the Jerusalem newspaper Al-Quds, and he would always ask me to share my two open capitals vision of Jerusalem with the other people sitting in his office.
I left Israel around the end of 1984 and did not return until the summer of 1989. A while after returning to Israel I set up a meeting with Husseini in Jerusalem. At that meeting I asked him for his thoughts on Jerusalem.
He said that Jerusalem should become “an international city.” This surprised me because I thought I had made some real headway with him in 1984 all those times I had tried to convince him to accept my Jerusalem vision of two open capitals.
I then again described my vision about Jerusalem to him in that 1989 meeting, and he said something like, “So what you’re suggesting is two capitals without a barrier between them, that sounds interesting.”
That was probably the last time we ever saw each other. Within a short time I began hearing on Israeli media that the Palestinians were demanding their capital be in eastern Jerusalem.
And after the Palestinian Authority was formed it certainly must have held discussions with Israel about Jerusalem serving as two capitals without a barrier between them – this was on the agenda at Camp David in 2000.
Of course Jerusalem must never become two capitals with a barrier between them. The physical integrity and wholeness and completeness of Jerusalem must be respected. But before it comes to pass there must first be an end to “honor” killings and jihad killings and incitement.
The author, a native of Los Angeles, is a peace activist, Holocaust researcher for the Emmy-award winning film The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, and the creator of peacecircle.org, a website dedicated to international peace and the goal of bringing an end to incitement against Israel and the Jewish people.