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A beautiful spot for some ugly words

Mid-morning, December 26th, touring the Haram al-Sharif with visiting relatives: An older woman emerges from the Dome of the Rock and asks us where we are from. When we reply the United States, she shouts at us angrily, “All buildings in America burn! And Obama too!”

Mid-afternoon, December 26th, just outside the Old City: a man with an Israeli flag t-shirt and a clipboard approaches us, explaining that Jerusalem should be the eternal and undivided capital of the “indigenous” Jewish people. As part of his argument he claims, “Obama is pro-Islamist.”

Two angry people, both willing to express intense emotion to strangers. Both believe that the United States, to put it mildly, is pursuing the incorrect foreign policy in Israel/Palestine. Both personalized the argument, speaking about President Barak Obama.

Of course, there were also many differences. One spoke fluent English, having been born as he described it  “in exile in New York.” The other spoke halting English and was probably born within minutes’ walk of where we were speaking. One explicitly advocated violence (unless she was using metaphor). The other did not describe the methods he would use to remove the c. 200,000 residents of East Jerusalem that were not the “indigenous” Jewish population. One was part of some form of fundraising and advocacy movement; the other seemed to have no immediate goal other than expressing her opinion. One spoke in language calculated to be most appealing to his audience, the other could not have chosen a more worrying and hostile statement.

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