It was really a no-brainer to predict that the settlement freeze dispute with the United States would lead to a dispute over the status of Jerusalem
(see Will Jerusalem be a frozen settlement?
). It was a no-brainer, but it seems, predictably, that almost nobody saw it coming.
Now the problem is upon us. The United States has tried to stop a plan
by Irving Moskowitz to renovate a hotel in East Jerusalem that had been property of the Israel government for many years and create a relatively small number of housing units. US protests were reportedly
deliberately leaked by Israeli officials to the media, in order to announce limits to the settlement freeze and to reassert the Israeli position regarding Jerusalem. Israel has rejected the calls
. PM Netanyahu said:
[Jerusalem is the] "unified capital of Israel and the capital of the Jewish people, and sovereignty over it is indisputable...".
"Hundreds of apartments in the west of the city were purchased by Arabs and we didn't get involved. There is no prohibition against Arab residents buying apartments in the west of the city and there is no prohibition barring the city's Jewish residents from buying or building in the east of the city."
"We cannot accept the notion that Jews will not have the right to buy apartments specifically in Jerusalem.
.A peculiarity of this round of the US - Israel settlement freeze fracas is that only Israel is talking about it in public. An Ha'aretz article headlined "No difference to U.S. between outpost, East Jerusalem construction", but the body of the article stated,
Asked to comment on these remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in New Delhi, said the administration is trying to reach an agreement with Israel on settlements, and "the negotiations are intense."
There is no hint in the article that any US or Israeli official made the statement ostensibly quoted in the headline. Nor has there been any other direct quote by any US official for public consumption, though Ambassador Oren was called in and apparently read the riot act by US officials. The Obama administration is now playing at make believe regarding the pressure on Israel, especially on the Jerusalem issue, both because Jerusalem is politically sensitive and because the US stand on Jerusalem is indefensible and makes no sense. It made no sense for the United States to ignore the existence of Communist China until the Nixon administration. It would have made even less sense if US ally Taiwan had reconquered the mainland, but the US refused to recognize a nationalist government in China.
The Jerusalem question is not new. The United States never formally recognized Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem, even before 1967. The US stance is consistent with "international law" since the UN declared Jerusalem to be internationalized in General Assembly Resolution 181 and reaffirmed its status as a "Corpus Separatum" in General Assembly Resolution 303. General assembly resolutions are not binding in international law, but there have been a number of Security Council resolutions condemning Israel for upsetting the international status of Jerusalem. Though there was no Security Council resolution regarding Jerusalem as a Corpus Separatum, there were several such resolutions (252, 298, 478) that condemned Israeli actions such as having a military parade in Jerusalem and the annexation of Jerusalem in 1980. The annexation was condemned as against "international law" even though no law had been passed and no security council resolution had declared Jerusalem to be internationalized. The UN never condemned Jordanian annexation of Jewish East Jerusalem.
US Presidents continually and farcically side-step a congressional requirement to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem and to register Jewish Americans born in Jerusalem as born in Israel.
A US appeals court recently upheld the refusal of the United States Department of State to list Israel as country of birth for U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem. This is done, "because of fears that recognizing the city as Israeli would pre-judge Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations." Of course, Arab countries recognize Jerusalem as not part of Israel, so the negotiations are already prejudiced, and the US insistence on a settlement freeze in Jerusalem prejudices the negotiations by labeling Jerusalem as a "settlement."
The fictive and farcical nature of the Jerusalem internationalization resolutions and the sad history of their non-implementation are related in the book "O Jerusalem," by LaPierre and Collins. The resolutions were opposed by the Arabs at the time, but were maintained in order to satisfy objections of the Catholic Church to Jewish rule in Jerusalem. Though Israel had agreed to internationalization initially, the United Nations made no real attempt to implement it or to send troops to save the besieged Jewish part of the city.
The internationalization issue is a dead horse, but the United States continues to ride it in order to appease Arab opinion. During the 19 years when Jerusalem was illegally occupied by Jordan, there were no UN resolutions condemning the Jordanian annexation of Jerusalem, or the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem by the British officered and supplied Jordan Legion in 1948. Palestinians and their supporters regularly complain of the "Ethnic Cleansing" of Jerusalem of its Arab inhabitants by Israel, notwithstanding the fact that more Arabs live in Jeruslaem today than have ever lived there in all of recorded history.
Israel and the Jewish people have been tardy and confused in pursuit of Jewish rights in Jerusalem. Perhaps it was because the Arab claims in Jerusalem seemed to be too absurd to merit opposition, or perhaps because of internal Zionist divisions over the importance of Jerusalem. David Ben-Gurion realized its symbolic national importance. Alas, the practical commanders of the Haganah and the IDF had more urgent objectives in 1948. Ben-Gurion had to pound the table to get them to open the road to Jerusalem in Operation Nachshon, but the gains of that operation were lost when troops were withdrawn, and the road was definitively closed when the Haganah failed to hold Latrun in the Israeli War of Independence, and then failed to retake it from the Jordan Legion. That meant no supplies, including military supplies or troops, could get to Jerusalem in the critical period, and led to the loss of East Jerusalem.
After the Six Day War the annexation of a large area called "United Jerusalem" was announced with much fanfare, and a lot of money and effort were invested in construction, renovation and tourist attractions of dubious taste. This effort was not accompanied however, by any diplomatic or other moves. Israeli policy in Jerusalem was erratic, fitful and inconsistent. It achieved the maximum in the way of providing propaganda for pro-Palestinian "rights" groups and annoying international opinion, while registering no gains in staking an Israeli claim to East Jerusalem. Apart from proclaiming each year on Jerusalem Day that "United Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel," the Israeli government did virtually nothing. Occasionally it would destroy a few illegally built Arab houses, perhaps a few hundred a year out of thousands built illegally. These symbolic demolitions were sufficient to occupy the attention of squads of "rights" advocates like Jeff Halper and his ICAHD, which made a career of rebuilding the same house that was demolished repeatedly.
Large numbers of Arabs were allowed to settle as squatters for years in Siloam (Silwan). No attempt was made either to regularize their status or to make them leave until recently. By now they have established a "fact on the ground" and the entire world believes that the squatters who arrived mostly in 1967 are direct descendants of the conquerors of Omar and Saladin, if not of the ancient Jebusites.
No Israeli government ever tried to get the U.S. government or the UN to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, or to end the farcical fiction of internationalization. No real protest was made regarding the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Jerusalem in 1948. Imagine the uproar that would have been caused if, in 1967, Israel had expelled all the non-Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem and dynamited every Arab and Christian holy place! There would have been a special UN day to protest this war crime, as well as several resolutions condemning the Zionist barbarians. Muslims would have an Annual al Quds Nakba day where they carried pictures of all the destroyed mosques as well as the keys to their non-existent houses. But that is precisely what the Jordan Legion did to the Jews of Jerusalem in 1948, and it was commended as "humanitarian" because the Jews were not all massacred.
The Israeli government did nothing much when, not long ago, the last of the foreign embassies were removed from Jerusalem. The Israeli government never made a serious attempt to integrate the Arab sections of Jerusalem, and more or less ceded control of these areas to the PLO some time after the start of the first Intifada or the Oslo accords. For that matter, Israel did little to integrate the Jewish part of Jerusalem into the rest of Israel or the twenty first century. After Menachem Begin got stuck in the permanent traffic jam on the road to Jerusalem, he finally ordered the construction of a modern highway to Jerusalem. But the Jewish population of Jerusalem has a large representation of ultraorthodox Jews who are more anti-Zionist than the Arabs, and who riot from time to time over excuses like violation of the Sabbath and the right of an ultraorthodox mother to abuse her child. Nobody tried seriously to confront this element or to bring modern industries to the city that would make it an attractive place for Zionist Jews. Jerusalem really did remain a Corpus Separatum in a sense.
Israel had very much on its side in attempting to establish Jewish rights in Jerusalem. Most of the world accepts, or accepted until recently, that Jerusalem was under Jewish sovereignty in ancient times, as attested not only in the scriptures but in the Arch of Titus in Rome, which shows the spoils captured from the temple, and in archeological finds such as the inscription in Hezekiah's tunnel. In modern times, the Jews were the largest minority in the old city of Jerusalem as far back as 1844, and Jerusalem had a Jewish majority since the 1890s (see here). The injustice of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, the injustice of Jordanian rule which shut out Jewish worshippers from the old city of Jerusalem and the contrast with the freedom of religion offered in Jerusalem since 1967 should all have made a compelling case for Israeli sovereignty among fair minded people. Israel had a lot on its side, but it did almost nothing with it.
The Arab Palestinians and their Muslim allies had very little basis for justifying their claim to Jerusalem. Many of the Arabs in Jerusalem had moved there during mandatory times because of the prosperity brought by the mandate and Jewish development. The "historic" claims of the Arabs in East Jerusalem rest on solid facts as opposed to Zionist myths: On his night journey, Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on his horse and tied it up in the Western wall. Jerusalem was never a capital of a Muslim state, and it achieved important Muslim holy status only briefly, when it was set up as a rival to Mecca and Medina. In 1917, when General Allenby arrived in Jerusalem, it was a quiet and overcrowded backwater in the Ottoman Middle East. At one time, there were over 5,000 Jews living within the old city with dozens of synagogues.
The Arabs, however, unlike the Jews, understood the importance of Jerusalem immediately. It has nothing to do with holy rocks or holy places or "humanitarian" issues. Since the time of the Crusades at least, whoever controls Jerusalem, is thought to control all of the land. Jerusalem of course, is not the new city set up by Jews, but the walled old city. Israel could be ignored until 1967 because Israel did not control the old city. The Arabs set to work with a vengeance, beginning with the resourceful Nazi collaborator, Hajj Amin el Hussayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who raised money to renovate the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and then led repeated pogroms in Jerusalem to ethnically cleanse the Jews of the old city in stages, until their final expulsion in 1948.
A generation of Arab "scholars" like Nadia Abu el Hajj constructed a new "narrative" in which Jerusalem never was a Jewish capital in ancient times, and this was proclaimed as a fact by Yasser Arafat, by the Mufti of Jerusalem and others. The title "Arab East Jerusalem" was invented to generate the impression that this area had been exclusively Arab, and the Jewish population that existed there before 1948 for hundreds of years was simply written out of history. The Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem (a mantra that should be repeated thus: "APalestinianStateWithItsCapitalInJerusalem") suddenly became first a Palestinian "demand" and then a "right" that they inevitably claim is backed by "international legitimacy," along with all the other fictitious rights they claim. The Ma'an News Palestinian news service, paid for by Europeans, writes of Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine. In their imagination and perhaps in the minds of others, there was once such a state with such a capital, and it is only a matter of time before it is re-established.
In 1948 Israel missed an opportunity to defend its rights in East Jerusalem by negligence and due to weakness. Jerusalem has been united under Jewish sovereignty for 42 years, after almost 2,000 years of exile. If we want to safeguard any Jewish rights in East Jerusalem, we have better get to work, not just by building a few apartments and not just by repeating empty formulas about "United Jerusalem." We have to tell our story to the world and make sure it is understood.
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Replies: 2 Comments
For more on Israel and eastern Jerusalem, take a look at www.jcpa.org
judyinjerusalem, Tuesday, July 28th
Oy Va Goy, Saturday, July 25th
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