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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Jerusalem/s

‘You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous.’ - Winston Churchill

Introduction

This succinct article on Jerusalem deals with the religious and political history of Jerusalem, primarily of the post-1948 period. It does not cover the various ‘peace processes', political shenanigans or the problem of borders. It deals more specifically with ‘Jordan’s Jerusalem’ and how that throws some political light on many contemporary issues and claims.

History: Ancient to 1967

It is the case that many Jewish prayers speak of Jerusalem, or Zion, or the Land of Israel. There is even an injunction ‘not to forget Jerusalem’.

Jews also pray towards Jerusalem, just as Muslims pray towards Mecca. These prayers often include the words 'next year in Jerusalem’, which is recited every Passover.

Jews have constituted Jerusalem’s largest single group since the 1840s. Indeed Jews have been living in Jerusalem for nearly 2,000 year. That is around 700 years before the arrival of Muslims in that part of the Middle East.

Teddy Kollek neatly and powerfully captures what Jerusalem means to Jews throughout the world. He writes:

'For three thousand years, Jerusalem has been the centre of Jewish hope and longing... Throughout centuries of exile, Jerusalem remained alive in the hearts of Jews everywhere as the focal point of Jewish history, the symbol of ancient glory, spiritual fulfilment and modern renewal... if you want one simple word to symbolise all Jewish history, that word would be “Jerusalem”.’

In 1948, the time of the partition, a Jewish community was living in the eastern part of Jerusalem. This area also included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The area also contains the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. More modern institutions and buildings, such as the Hebrew University, can also be found here.

It is the case that the only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, which was the time when Jordan occupied - yes, occupied - the area and ethnically cleansed it of all Jews, as well as many Christians, who had been living there for many years.

When Jordan invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, in May 1948, this was the first time that the city was divided. Not only that. The Jordanians ethnically cleansed thousands of Jews from East Jerusalem. These Jews had lived in Jerusalem for many centuries. In 1948, then, many Jews of Jerusalem were driven into exile.

Even other Arab countries, as well as the Arab League (inactive at the moment in Syria), did not recognise Jordan’s invasion and occupation of East Jerusalem, and all territory west of the Jordan river. Indeed the Arab League even considered expelling Jordan from the organisation.

At present, there are around 500,000 Jews living in Jerusalem. As for Arabs, there are around 200,00 Arabs living in the the city.

Jordan’s Jerusalem

Many Muslims, as well as liberals and Leftists, are keen to tell us that Arabs and Christians got on just fine in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, ‘before the Jews arrived’. Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan ruled East Jerusalem. In 1955 and again in 1964, Jordan passed laws which imposed strict controls on all Christian schools in the area. In specific terms, restrictions on the opening of new Christian schools were imposed. This included Jordanian control of school finances and even the appointment of teachers. And, as you might have guessed, it was also required that every Christian school taught the Koran to its Christian students (in the spirit of InterFaith?)

Above and beyond all that, Jordan brought in laws which denied these Christian religious and charitable institutions the right to acquire real estate (land) in Jerusalem.

It will be obvious that these punitive and discriminatory laws and actions against Christians had a largely negative effect. For example, between 1948 and 1967, many Christians fled from - or just left - Jerusalem. More precisely, the number of Christians declined from 25,000 in 1949, to less than 13,000 in 1967. In other words, more than 12,000 Christians left Jerusalem as a result, effectively, of Jordanian ethnic cleansing. (Jordan itself, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states, have ethnically cleansed Jews from within their borders.)

In the end, rather than Christians and Arab living happily together until the ‘Jews arrived’, the exact opposite was in fact the case. In 1967, Israel abolished all the discriminatory laws against Christians as a result of Jerusalem’s new post-1967 unity.

Of course the Jews had it worse than the Christians in the 1948-1967 period. In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, 58 synagogues were either destroyed or ruined by the Jordanians and Palestinians. Other synagogues were turned into stables and even into chicken coops. The icing on the cake were the Arabic slum dwellings which were built next to the Western Wall.

Where you have slums you also have other problems. After the capture of the Old City in 1967, the Israelis discovered that most of the city of Jerusalem didn’t have a steady water supply, plumbing or electricity. However, after the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, municipal necessities were extended to the Arabs.That is, to Arab homes and businesses in East Jerusalem.

Even that arch-anti-Zionist, Jimmy Carter, once admitted - perhaps through clenched teeth - that religious freedom had dramatically improved in the post-1967 period. He said that it was without ‘doubt’ true that Israel did more for religious freedom, including safeguarding access to the city’s holy places, than did Jordan. More precisely, Jimmy Carter said that there ‘[was] unimpeded access’ after 1967. And that that ‘wasn’t the case from 1948 to 1967‘.

The Palestinian/Islamic Narrative

Despite that admittance of Jimmy Carter’s, elsewhere the same man gives us the Muslim/Arab ‘narrative’ of Jerusalem.

For example, Carter once said that ‘Christian and Muslim Arabs had continued to live in this same land since Roman times’. Apart from the fact that there were no Muslim Arabs, or Muslims of any kind, in ‘Roman times’ (Islam appeared on the scene some five centuries after the death of the Roman empire), one has to ask why he didn’t mention the fact that Jews too had lived in Jerusalem almost continuously until 1948.

Part of this story is that there was an ‘exodus of Christians from the Holy Land’, as well as from Jerusalem. Edward Said, the hip academic fabricator, made the same (intentional) mistake about Hebron, when he said that

‘the town of Hebron is essentially an Arab town. There were no Jews in it before 1967.’

As can be seen. Edward Said conveniently forgot that it was in fact a Jewish town until 1929, when it was ethnically cleansed of Jews by Arabs/Palestinians.

Yasser Arafat’s Jerusalem

It couldn’t have helped the ‘peace process’ when, during the 2000 Camp David Summit, Yasser Arafat said that no Jewish Temple had ever existed on the Temple Mount. The Mufti of Jerusalem, later, in 2001, went further than Arafat. He said:

‘There is not even the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place [Temple Mount] in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history.’

Yet the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount dates back more than 3,000 years. Ironically enough (or not), the Koran describes Solomon’s construction of the First Temple (chapter 34, verse 13) and also tells us about the destruction of the First and Second temples (17:7).

Even Bill Clinton grew tired of Yasser Arafat’s Jewish/Jerusalem denialism. He said that he’d listened to Arafat’s ‘archaeological evidence’ that Solomon’s Temple was not in Jerusalem and even, believe it or not, that Jerusalem was not a holy place to the Jews. Because Arafat took his lying - or taqiyya - so seriously (i.e., Jerusalem must be Arabic/Islamic ‘by any means necessary’) that Clinton told Arafat that such bullshit would not get the ‘peace process’ anywhere, let alone solve the problem of Jerusalem.

It is the case, of course, that Muslim or Arabic claims are the real bogus ones. Jeff Jacoby trounces Muslim claims about Jerusalem in this way:

‘From 1948 to 1967, when East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were under Muslim rule, they were ignored by the Arab world. No foreign Arab leader ever paid a visit, not even to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians placed so low a priority on Jerusalem that the PLO’s founding charter... makes no reference to it. Only when the Jews returned after the Six Days War did the Arabs grow passionate about Jerusalem.’

That’s the Palestinian/Muslim historical claims dispatched, what about the Koran and Islam itself? Jeff Jacoby continues:

‘Nowhere in the Koran is there anything like the 137th Psalm with its aching love of Jerusalem. Indeed, nowhere in the Koran is Jerusalem even mentioned. For it is Mecca, not Jerusalem, that Islam venerates above all other places...’

More particularly, what about the famous el-Aksa mosque? To go on:

‘... it is crystal clear that Muhammed could never have had this mosque in mind when he compiled the Koran... So much for the Muslim claims based on the Aksa Mosque that Jerusalem is their third holiest city.’

More importantly than all this, it is the case that Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Muslim/Arab state or entity. In fact, it can easily be said that Palestinians have no legal or special claim to the city. Despite that, many Palestinians still demand that it be their capital alone.

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