Photo Credit: National Photo Archives / GPO
The traditional flag parade on the occasion of Jerusalem Day in the city streets. (archive)

What happened 50 years ago to the city of Jerusalem that would cause Israelis to celebrate today?

If one was unfamiliar with the history of the city, their information would be from what they read in the press. The standard theme carried in the media is that 50 years ago, the Israeli military “captured the eastern part of the city”.


For example, the Associated Press in “Jerusalem Still Suffers from Divisions, 50 years after war” writes:

Parades, light shows and festivals are being held throughout the city as Israeli Jews celebrate the capture of Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordanian troops half a century ago.

Are Israelis celebrating a military “capture?” The wording implies that Israel used force to take something that was not theirs. What kind of society would hold parades to commemorate seizing another country’s lands?

What is missing from many of these articles is critical context explaining why many Israelis are celebrating the events of 1967.

There was a vibrant Jewish community living in Jerusalem for thousands of years. Throughout most of history, there was no “east” or “west” Jerusalem. The entire city was contained within the walls of what today is referred to as the “Old City.” There are some families who can trace generations of ancestors living in the same neighborhood.

All that changed in 1948 when Israel declared independence and was promptly attacked by both its neighbors and its Palestinian residents. The Jordanian Legion, working alongside local Palestinian Arabs, surrounded and then conquered the Jewish community. Many of the Jewish residents were massacred. The rest were expelled from their homes.

A systemic attempt was then made to eradicate any evidence that a Jewish community had ever lived in the area. Every synagogue was burned down, tomb stones from the Jewish cemetery were used to pave roads, Jewish holy sites became garbage dumps.

Jordanian snipers stationed on the walls would shoot at any Jews who came too close. For the first time in history, not a single Jew lived within the city’s ancient walls.

The military occupation lasted for 19 years. During that time, the city did not flourish under Jordanian control. Little infrastructure was built, the economy languished.

Meanwhile, the Jews who had been expelled dreamed of returning to their family homes. Those dreams became a reality after Israel retook the eastern part of the city after being attacked.

The language that is used to describe this event is of utmost importance. Today, the future status of the city is subject to negotiations with both the Israelis and Palestinians claiming it as their capital.

If Israel “captured” or conquered” the city, then its claim is weak and lacks legitimacy. The Geneva Convention is quite clear that the acquisition of territory by military force is inadmissible.

Yet if the territory had actually been conquered by the Jordanians and “liberated” or “reunified” in 1967m that changes everything. The Israeli claim in that case becomes not only reasonable, but more more legitimate than the Palestinian claim.

Today, Jerusalem is indeed a city of contrasts. It is true that there are differences in the Arab and Jewish sections of the city and the media is right to point this out. But without providing the full context of what happened 50 years ago, readers will not understand Israel’s position.

Or even why we celebrate today.

Read more at The Camci.Report.

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Yarden Frankl is the Executive Director of CAMCI, the Center for Analyzing Media Coverage of Israel. He was a senior editor for HonestReporting for 11 years. He made aliyah in 2005 and now lives in Neve Daniel. He has been published in various media internationally.