Jerusalem as a Symbolic Singularity
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 25 Dec 2017
Comprehending the dynamics of hyperreality as a challenge to conventional two-state reality.
25 Dec 2017 – Development of an argument presented previously (Symbolic Relocation of United Nations HQ to Jerusalem Vicinity: revitalization of Middle East peace process enabled by US-Israel initiative, 11 December 2017). Later amendments to that text have been removed from there for presentation below — in the light of decisions by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
The preceding argument focused on the decision of the President of the United States of America to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The decision has since been strongly opposed in historic processes within the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. The overwhelming opposition was evident despite the explicit threats made by the US against those failing to support the decision, and against the UN agencies in enabling such rejection (Trump threatens to cut aid to countries over UN Jerusalem vote, The Guardian, 21 December 2017). The US has since claimed it will go ahead anyway. Israel continues to assert that Jerusalem is unquestionably the capital of the Jewish people — has always been so, and will continue to be so (Netanyahu: Jerusalem “only ever the capital of the Jewish people”, The Times of Israel, 17 May 2005; Netanyahu: “Many” More Countries Will Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, The Algemeiner, 7 December 2017).
As argued previously, the highly controversial initiative of Donald Trump potentially offers an unprecedented opportunity to reframe the Middle East peace process and the highly problematic relations between Israel and Palestine. These relations have a particular focus in the symbolic status of Jerusalem for the Abrahamic religions. The current situation was of course originally engendered by the United Nations in envisaging its own administration of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. The US policy regarding such a relocation had however already been made by the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by the 104th Congress of the US (23 October 1995).
The previous argument regarding the controversial implications of the Judeo-Christian recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — highly contested by those of Muslim faith around the world — focused on the possibility of a fruitful reframing through a counter-intuitive balancing strategy with its own symbolic significance. Whether or not the US Embassy is moved to Jerusalem, there is the possibility of relocating the United Nations Headquarters to the Jerusalem vicinity. In terms of political credibility, those critical of the current US proposal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel are likely to favour relocation of the UN to its immediate neighbourhood — despite having been previously indifferent to any such move at all.
The credibility and desirabiity of such a move is now all the greater following the increasing disregard of the US for the UN and the manner in which it has been demonstrably isolated in the processes of the UN Security Council and General Assembly — irrespective of other arguments of US constituencies against the UN. The case for moving the UN HQ from New York is all the greater with the Prime Minister of Israel labelling the UN as a “House of Lies”, and the US Ambassador to the UN interpreting the votes as a mark of insulting disrespect for the US and its people (Israel’s Netanyahu calls U.N. “house of lies” before Jerusalem vote, Reuters, 21 December 2017; US ambassador attacks UN for “disrespecting” America with Israel vote, The Independent, 22 December 2017).
Those seeking an optimistic interpretation of the outcome to the UN resolutions have focused closely on the declarations of both Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the continuing possibility of a two-state solution — irrespective of how unrealistic this quest has as yet proven to be.
What follows calls into question the essentially outdated language through which the current situation is defined and in terms of which possible solutions are envisaged and discussed. The argument is introduced by the transformation to a knowledge-based civilization through the exponential development of information systems, currently exemplified by the emergence of social media and virtual reality. These points were developed in the previous discussion on Moving the United Nations into cyberspace and into virtual reality. This noted the importance of recognizing the opportunities offered by augmented reality now that widespread release of virtual reality headsets and smartglasses is expected within a year or so, if not in the coming months. The technology is predicted to develop very rapidly thereafter and will naturally be integrated into the so-called internet of things (Blake J. Harris, How the United Nations is using Virtual Reality to tackle Real-World Problems, Fast Company, December 2015). The question is how the United Nations and its processes might be “reformed” within that context and how “states” themselves might come to be perceived and defined.
The focus here is with the cognitive challenges to comprehension and communication of the symbolic nature of “Jerusalem” — and of “Israel” and Palestine as “states”. In particular it asks whether it continues to be appropriate for the UN to frame understanding in terms of “states”, their creation, their independence, their boundaries, and the possibility of a “two-state” solution. Might it be the case that the very language — through which the opportunities for the future are envisaged — is obsolete in some way, progressively less capable of communicating the subtlety of significance?
The point can be made otherwise by assumptions with regard to repeated calls by Benjamin Netanyahu for recognition of the “reality” of Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel — effectively espousing a process of “realpolitik”. By contrast, much has been made of the “surreality” engendered globally by Donald Trump. The nature of reality is however a continuing matter of active debate and speculation in a number of disciplines. This is especially the case in fundamental physics, in which both the US and Israel are proud to have particular expertise. Entrepreneurs and leaders generally — including Donald Trump — are increasingly appreciated or deprecated for their capacity to engender reality distortion fields (Trump’s Reality Distortion Field is Shattering, Washington Monthly, 27 March 2017).
In his own formal declarations, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN made strong assertions with regard to historical “facts” dating back over 3,000 years. No consideration is given to the “fact” that such facts, and their significance, are variously contested — especially by the other Abrahamic religions. This appreciation of facts takes no account of the challenging emergence of “post-truth politics” and “fake news” catalyzed by Donald Trump. It fails to consider the progressive obsolescence of facts, notably as documented in terms of the half-life of knowledge by Samuel Arbesman (The Half-life of Facts: why everything we know has an expiration date, 2012). It is within this context that the subtly enduring metaphysical significance of Jerusalem calls for imaginative consideration — at least commensurate with that accorded to fundamental physics.
There is therefore a case for exploring comprehension of the purported singularity of “Jerusalem” in the light of modes of creative thinking similar to those with which cosmology, the Theory of Everything, and quantum mechanics are explored. The latter is especially relevant to richer understandings of “state” and “two-state” conditions and the dynamics of what may need to be comprehended as “hyperreality” as an appropriate context for “Jerusalem”. What are then the implications for any “two-state” negotiation — worthy of the complex dynamic within which “Jerusalem” may indeed be embedded as a singularity?
To what extent is “Jerusalem” a conceptual surrogate for an integrative aspiration — a strange attractor — to which the Abrahamic religions have been unable to give fruitful form appropriate to a global civilization?
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