Photo Credit: Jewish Press
When discussing Jewish rights in Jerusalem, it would seem nothing would be more natural to a Bible-believing world than the acceptance of these as self-evident.
Jerusalem has been central to Judaism and the Jewish nation for some four millennia, ever since Avraham nearly sacrificed his son Yitzchak on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22; see also Nachmanides to Gen. 14:18). A thousand years later, King David made it Israel’s capital (Samuel II, 5) and in between the Torah charged us specifically regarding the “place G-d will choose” (Deut. 12:18; 14:23; etc.), i.e., Jerusalem.
Ever since then, Jerusalem has been the center of our national and spiritual existence. We mention it constantly in our daily and holiday prayers, which we recite while facing in its direction; we remember its centerpiece’s destruction on special annual days of mourning, by leaving our homes unfinished, by smashing a glass at weddings, and more.
In terms of numbers, Jerusalem – not even including Zion – is mentioned directly in the Bible approximately 650 times. By way of comparison, it is not mentioned even once in the Koran – and Muslims actually turn their backs on Jerusalem when they pray.
What about politically, however? The point often made by hostile TV interviewers and others is that King David lived a long time ago, much has changed since then, and Jews and Israel have few if any international rights on the Holy City.
For instance, Jacques Gauthier, a non-Jewish Canadian lawyer who spent 20 years researching the issue, has concluded: “Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, by international law.”
His doctoral dissertation on Jerusalem and its legal history, based on a non-broken series of international treaties and resolutions of the past 90 years, concludes that the League of Nations and the United Nations gave the Jewish people title to the city of Jerusalem.
The process began at the famous San Remo Conference of April 1920, when the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I – Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan – agreed to affirm the Balfour Declaration and create a Jewish national home in what is now the Land of Israel. The San Remo resolutions were confirmed by all 51 members of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.
It’s fascinating to note that the resolution’s wording made sure to grant the Arabs of the Holy Land individual civil and religious rights – but specifically not those of a national political nature. Calling for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” it emphasized that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
The League of Nations then took over, resolving to recognize “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” Note that no such recognition of Arab rights in Palestine was granted, nor was any distinction made regarding Jerusalem.
When the United Nations succeeded the League in 1945, it assumed the latter’s commitments and obligations. However, its Resolution 181 of 1947 made two major changes: It granted the Arabs political rights in western Palestine, and also proposed, non-bindingly, a special international regime for Jerusalem. This regime was to last for ten years, at which time the residents of the city were to vote on the future governance of the city.
These arrangements never took effect, as the UN took no action when Jordan blatantly violated them by conquering eastern Jerusalem in 1948. Jordan even violated its Armistice agreement with Israel by refusing to allow Jewish access to the Western Wall, desecrating and destroying synagogues and Jewish holy sites, and more.
In 1950, Israel proclaimed Western Jerusalem as its capital – something no other nation in history had ever done.
After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel regained and reunited the entirety of the Holy City – and UN Security Council Resolution 242 authorized Israel to retain all its newly liberated land until “secure and recognized boundaries” were attained. Resolution 242, which says nothing about Israel’s presence in and control of Jerusalem, has been the basis for all peace talks ever since.
Demographically, Jerusalem has for a long time unquestioningly belonged to the Jewish people. The city has had a Jewish majority for nearly 150 years. In 1864, 15,000 people lived in Jerusalem, including 8,000 Jews, 4,500 Muslims and 2,500 Christians. By 1914, the city was quite predominantly Jewish – 45,000 Jews, 20,000 others.
Legally, international law expert and jurist Stephen Schwebel, who later became president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, wrote in 1970 that “Israel has better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt.”
It is instructive to note that even Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords for Israel, could not envision giving up Jerusalem. “If they told us that the price of peace is giving up on a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty,” he told a group of Tel Aviv schoolchildren shortly before he was killed, “I would respond, ‘let’s do without peace.’ “
For more information on how to participate in keeping Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem–Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund.He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism.Hillel Fendel is the senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7 and an author. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.