A recent opinion piece in Great Britain’s “Jewish News” – essentially a critique of the modern Zionist venture to reclaim the long-desolate Land of Israel for its native inhabitants, the Jewish People – demands a Zionist response. Here it is.
First, some background on the author of the Jewish News piece and the organization she represents: Author Atira Winchester is the Director of Programming and Content in the UK branch of the New Israel Fund, a radical-left organization once described as the “largest foreign donor to progressive causes in Israel.” These causes most notably include “human rights” for “Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.”
Ms. Winchester writes that she went to visit Silwan, formerly and currently the City of David in Jerusalem. Her main thrust is that the small Jewish minority in the neighborhood has “taken over” from the Arab majority, whose presence is made to appear “invisible,” and that Israel in general makes the Arabs’ lives miserable. She did not mention the polls showing that most Arabs in the Jerusalem area would rather live under Israeli control than under a Palestinian Authority regime.
Ms. Winchester was accompanied to Silwan by a representative of Ir Amim, a similarly far-left group and NIF grantee that works to “halt evictions and demolitions.” They were soon joined by a local Arab resident and activist “who is deeply involved with Ir Amim’s work in the area… fighting the evictions in the neighbourhood and the demolitions.”
Accompanied by a prominent local Arab, it’s no wonder the author writes that it did not “feel unsafe for us to walk unguarded in the neighbourhood.” This was just three days after a Silwan terrorist resident opened fire on an Israeli bus near the Old City, seriously wounding eight people, including a pregnant woman. As Ms. Winchester herself notes, the Jewish residents are constantly accompanied by government-paid armed guards.
The article is replete with phrases such as “the contested notion of King David’s presence in Jerusalem,” “the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian community: birds flying free, a blazing sun, flowers in the colours of the Palestinian flag,” and “forced evictions, land grabs, demolitions…” Beginning with her false assertion that “Jewish settlement start[ed] only relatively recently in the 20th century,” and continuing with what she calls “exploitation” of Israeli law, the picture painted is one of Israeli colonization of the “Palestinian” neighborhood.
In actuality, the facts show that the Jewish People’s return to Silwan – a corruption of the original, Biblical name of the area, Shiloah – is historically justified and even indicated, as well as legal and logical. But first let us see how the return to the City of David, Shiloah, is a glorious example of living Zionism.
The Bible, officially accepted by over 55% of the world’s population – Christians, Muslims, and Jews – tells us that the Land of Israel is the Land of the Jews. Around two millennia ago, most of the Jewish Nation was evicted from their homeland – until some 150 years ago, when their non-stop prayers, hopes and dreams to return home began to be realized.
Amazingly, though basically predicted by the Bible and Jewish sources, the Land “waited” for the Jewish People throughout the nearly 2,000 years of its desolation. No other national entity ever made its home in the Land – not even Arabs, Palestinians, or other Muslim grouping. Only individuals resided here.
The connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel was reflected in the wording of the Balfour Declaration (later accepted by the San Remo Conference, the League of Nations, and the United Nations): “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people… nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” [emphasis added]. In simple language: Individual rights for Arabs – yes, national rights – no.
As such, the very use of the term “Palestinian” to indicate a national Arab entity in the Land of Israel clashes head-on with the intentions of those who originally set the Land’s international legal status.
Viewed in this light, the establishment of the City of David project, and the return of hundreds of Jews – and hopefully many more – to live in this area, are glorious expressions of Zionism: the wondrous project that rights the historic wrong of the Jewish People’s exile from its home.
Specifically regarding Silwan, the facts are these: Kfar HaShiloah dates back to Biblical times, and was a Jewish farming village through the late middle ages. Today’s modern village was settled by Jewish families on land owned by the Jewish benefactor Boaz HaBavli. In the early 1880’s, he gave half of his sizeable property (“16,000 amot,” according to documents from the time) to a group of newly-arrived Yemenite Jews. The Ottoman Empire then registered the land to the Jewish community and approved its construction plans.
At its peak, the Jewish village was home to over 160 Yemenite families as well as dozens of Sefardi families. Keep in mind that this land – the entire area on today’s heavily-populated slopes of the Mount of Olives – was then completely barren; not a single structure stood there, and certainly no Arab village as there is today.
Following the Arab riots of 1929, the Jewish community of Silwan was evacuated by the British rulers. Only then did Arabs begin to move in – where else but to the empty Jewish properties. More Arab construction soon followed, and lo and behold, an Arab village was formed. In 1950, Jordan illegally occupied the area, making it impossible for Jews to reclaim their property or to return to their homes.
“While left-wing radical groups speak of Judenrein areas in Jerusalem,” wrote Daniel Luria, Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim, seemingly speaking directly to Ir Amim and Ms. Winchester, “slowly but surely, one can actually see small signs of basic coexistence taking place [such as when] Jewish and Arab families in Shiloah/Kfar Hateimanim worked together to get the Jerusalem Municipality to invest money in lighting and new access alleyways in the neighborhood.” Balfour Zionism at its best: Jewish and Arab individuals working together to improve the national Jewish infrastructures! Regrettably, Ms. Winchester chose to ignore this aspect, and instead provided a distorted picture of today’s Kfar HaShiloach, slanted with glaring omissions.
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