Monday, November 28, 2005


From Israel:On Jerusalem, Arlene Kushner, November 28, 2005

From Israel: On Jerusalem

Arlene Kushner

November 28, 2005

I would like to devote this posting to the issue of Jerusalem as an undivided, Israeli city. This is prompted by the reprehensible and one-sided position the EU has just taken -- that the neighborhoods of east Jerusalem are "illegal occupied settlements."

A bit of history/background is necessary here:

It is 3,000 years since David made Jerusalem a Jewish capital, and Jerusalem figures large in Jewish liturgy and tradition: It is central to our sense of who we are. The Temple Mount is not just the site where the two Temples were built -- our tradition tells us it is Mount Moriyah, where Abraham was sent when commanded regarding the sacrifice of Isaac, and a great deal more as well.

In the roughly 2,000 years from the time of the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, no people made Jerusalem its capital. One would think that various peoples who occupied Palestine would have rushed to claim the city in this respect. But it simply is not so. The large number of occupiers who had control of Jerusalem in that 2,000 years (including different Muslim groups -- Arabs, Mamluks, and Ottomans) allowed the city to remain a backwater town and attached little importance to it -- not even making it a regional capital, as they ruled from their respective capitals elsewhere. Yes, approximately 1,400 and 1,300 years ago respectively the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque were constructed on the Temple Mount by Muslims, but Jerusalem remained third in sanctity for them, after Mecca and Medina. In 3,000 years Jerusalem has never been recognized as a capital except by the Jews. Always, there has been some Jewish presence in the city.

In modern times, for more than a hundred years now, the Jews have constituted the majority within the city.

In 1922, the Mandate for Palestine was assigned by the League of Nations to England -- for the establishment a Jewish homeland. All of Palestine (at a minimum from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean) was included in this mandate, which meant Jerusalem was to be part of that Jewish state; the mandate had standing within international law.

In 1947, a partition plan that projected a division of Palestine into an area for the Jews and an area of the Arabs was recommended by the UN General Assembly. (Recommended: General Assembly resolutions have no status in international law and this resolution did not supercede the earlier mandate.) Jerusalem, within this plan, was to be an internationally-controlled city with all groups permitted access to it.

In 1948, in the course of the War of Independence -- fought when the Arab League attacked after Israeli independence was declared -- the status of Jerusalem shifted. What went on at that point and in the years following is critical but is often not understood.

Israel acquired west Jerusalem, which is a modern city. Jordan, along with the acquisition of Judea and Samaria, acquired east Jerusalem. HOWEVER, the very heart of Jewish tradition in the area lies with east Jerusalem, not the modern city built later.

Anyone who has been to the excavations in the Old City and in the City of David --the remains of the original city -- outside the walls can appreciate this. (If you haven't seen it yet, I invite you to come and do so!)

But what Jordan did was to render this area Judenrein. No Jews were permitted in east Jerusalem, in spite of the fact that Judaism's holiest place was there. No Jews had access to the Temple Mount or to the Kotel, the Western Wall (then called the Wailing Wall), which is a supporting wall for the Mount. Jews not only were forbidden to live in these areas, they had no access to the several synagogues that existed in the eastern part of Jerusalem -- most, if not all, of which were destroyed by the Jordanians. They had no access to the Jewish cemeteries where their dead were buried; more than once the Jordanians used tomb stones from Jewish graves for building purposes, including the building of latrines. (I am not making this up.)

In the 19 years that this part of Jerusalem was closed to the Jews, and Jewish sites were desecrated, no voices were raised in the world in protest. No international clamor was heard because Jordan was occupying the area.

Certainly no one claimed that Jordan had to turn it over to the Palestinians. (Who was even talking about "Palestinians" as a distinct Arab group in 1948?) In fact, when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, it made a specific point of saying that it had no claim on areas controlled by Jordan.

But in the course of those 19 years, Muslim Arabs moved in and took over the area.
Then, when we regained the eastern part of the city in 1967, with the victory of the Six Day War, the claim was made that this part of Jerusalem was "Arab."

No so! An enormous historical injustice.

Yet to this day, a good part of the world functions with the notion that western Jerusalem is Jewish and eastern Jerusalem is Arab. Voices of protest are raised when Jews move into neighborhoods where they "don't belong." This offends the Arabs.

The irony of the entire situation would be fairly amusing if it were not so very deadly serious. We Jews, forbidden by Arabs to access our holy places when they were in control, then turned around and declared that the holy sites now under our control would be open to all religions, including Muslim. And this is how it has been.

In fact, we did even more than give them access. In an act that some might consider magnanimous, and which I consider colossally foolish, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, shortly after the end of the Six Day War, called in the Muslim Waqf (trust) and told them that while we would retain over-all and security control, they would have control of day-to-day happenings on the Temple Mount. We got it, and for all practical purposes we gave it away.

In 1967, Israel offered all of the Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem full Israeli citizenship. It was declined in most instances, it not being politic to become a citizen of the land that just defeated you. Arabs living in Jerusalem are, however, given status as residents of the city, which entitles them to a vast number of services available to Israel's citizens -- health care, social security, etc. What is not permitted in the city since Oslo began in 1993 are political institutions associated with the Palestinian Authority. (Remember the shutting down of Orient House.)

The 19 years from 1948 to 1967 represents the only time in 3,000 years that the city has been divided. Yet the world assumes that those 19 years represents some sort of norm, and that the acquisition of eastern Jerusalem by Israel represents a deprivation of the rights of the Arabs.
An historical distortion.

In 1967, Israel took down all barriers separating the two parts of the city and declared Jerusalem as a united city the capital of Israel. In 1980, the Knesset passed the "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel", which restates the position that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel."

And yet in the main the world won't recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. I am not aware of a single other instance in which the world denies a country the right to declare its own capital. But the vast majority of embassies are situated in Tel Aviv. There seems a great reluctance to "offend" the Arabs by recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli.

This applies, by the way, to the U.S., whose embassy is in Tel Aviv, in spite of legislation calling for its move to Jerusalem. (This situation exists because Congress, which passed the law, is far more sympathetic to Israel than U.S. presidents, charged with enacting the law in line with security interests.) What is so strange about this is that the U.S. embassy is slated to be in west Jerusalem, which theoretically should not be under dispute. Babies born in west Jerusalem of American parents, secure U. S. birth certificates that certify the birth was in Jerusalem, but do not say Israel. This is not only deeply offensive, it is an outrage.

All of this dovetails with the mindset of the people over at the European Union. There is no way that any neighborhoods of Jerusalem can be deemed "illegal occupied settlements." But the battle for Jerusalem is quite critical.

For years we've been hearing that the goal of the Palestinians is a state "with its capital in Jerusalem." The Palestinians work diligently to stake their claim to the city, or -- at least for starters -- to part of it. They have no claim, I will insist. Yet the issue of "Jerusalem" keeps showing up on lists of outstanding issues to be negotiated.

Totally aside from all of the reasons of history and moral justice that argue against the Palestinian claim for Jerusalem to be divided, there are purely pragmatic issues: The fact is that the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods are so intertwined that separating them, as belonging to two different states, would be an impossibility. To drive from one Jewish neighborhood to another would require going through Arab neighborhoods that belonged to another state. Issues of security and road maintenance and a host of other factors would be just about impossible to handle.

The Palestinians are working overtime to disabuse the world of the recognition of Jewish roots in Jerusalem. They claim, in their writings and various TV programs, that we never had Temples here. Arafat made such a statement to President Clinton, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas is on record as having said this as well. They distort and attempt to erase our history.

But the fact is that the very heart of our right to be here, and of our devotion to the land of Israel, lies within Jerusalem. Jerusalem United.

Writing in Jerusalem

I hope Israel can improve health care as many lack coverage.
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