Wasserstein's Jerusalem

Discounting the Jewish claim to Jerusalem in the name of evenhandedness is no way to achieve a just settlement.

Issue: Summer 2002

Bernard Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 432 pp., $29.95.

Bernard Wasserstein is driven by an obsessive commitment to symmetry. His title, Divided Jerusalem, refers not merely to the reality of a city torn between two estranged national and religious communities, but to the moral and historical claims that reinforce that separation. Wasserstein divides these two elements of Jerusalem's division into balanced equations, priding himself on fairness. Indeed, dispassion is his passion. Yet, in his ideological commitment to balancing the centrality of Jerusalem for the Jewish people with the often ambivalent relationship of Islam and Christianity toward the holy city, he transforms a virtue into a distortion. Divided Jerusalem is an inadvertent warning against false evenhandedness-a curse with which the Middle East conflict, often reduced by outsiders to a "cycle of violence", is routinely afflicted.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!