O Jerusalem — Silly me!

Silly me. I had been led to believe that the denial of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a reaction to Israel’s “occupation” following the Six Day War. The events of the last week made it clear how much I had been misled.

Trump’s announcement regarding Jerusalem was as tepid as one could imagine. It was an acknowledgement of the facts on the ground. The Knesset is in Jerusalem. The Supreme Court is in Jerusalem. Government agencies operate out of Jerusalem. Diplomatic meetings are foreign dignitaries are met in Jerusalem. Not only that, all of this has been happening since Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, decades before the war in 1967.

Even more, the declaration from Washington stated explicitly that this recognition was not intended to impact a single iota on the need for continued religious freedom in Jerusalem for three religions, nor was it intended to influence in any way the final status agreements to be ultimately negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yet from Moscow, Paris, Berlin, London, Riyadh, Amman, and Cairo, not to mention Ramallah and the UN, there was near universal condemnation and rejection of this brazen, unilateral, “illegal” declaration. Note the lack of specificity or substance regarding which international law was being abrogated. (Note also the lack of reaction to calls for violence from across the Arab and Muslim worlds. Why is a political statement worthy of condemnation, but calls to violence are acceptable and understandable?

And finally it dawned upon me. The problem was not that the world did not recognize Israel’s capture of Jerusalem in 1967, in a defensive battle it begged the Jordanians not to start. The problem was that the world did not recognize the armistice borders of 1948. That’s right. 1948.

You see, the UN Partition Plan of 1947 called for the division of what was left of Palestine, with the status of Jerusalem as an international zone. While the fledgling State of Israel accepted that plan the Arab world violently rejected it, launching a coordinated attack of more than twenty countries to drive the Jews into the sea. The result of that battle were the 1948 borders, which included West Jerusalem, which the world apparently still does not recognize.

Let us understand the significance of this. Cities like Acco, Nahariya and Rosh Hanikra were also not included as Jewish in the 1947 plan. Neither were Ashdod or Ashkelon, Bet Shemesh or the entire Western Galilee, or even Lod, the site of Israel’s central airport. All of the discussion about the 1948 borders is a just a ruse. It is only the 1947 Partition Plan which the world apparently considers legal. (That’s right, all those foreign dignitaries showing their diplomatic passports in Ben Gurion Airport are also violating international law.)

And there is the ultimate rub. The cynic in me (and I usually try to suppress that) looks at that Partition Plan and arrives at one single conclusion. It was doomed to fail, and everyone knew it.  One look at the map is enough. The state for the Jews would consist of three non-contiguous zones – one narrow strip on the coast, one bubble in the eastern Galilee, and a large swath of desert in the Negev. Completely indefensible, unless – maybe – it were located in Switzerland. It was the perfect final solution – the world could assuage its guilt by saying that is had given the Jews a place, knowing full well that it would not survive. As for Jerusalem (and the multiple surrounding villages), well, that would be held by the international community. The children in Palestine could not be trusted; only the mature “parents” of the international community could handle it.

Jerusalem was to be the last holdout of colonialism in a post-colonial world. Funny, that when the guns were formally laid to rest after the Israeli war of independence nobody complained that the Jordanians were illegally occupying Jerusalem. There was no outcry about the denial of Jewish religious freedom in Jerusalem, about the houses of Jewish worship which were systematically blown up, nor about the ancient Jewish cemeteries which were violated and whose headstones were used by the Jordanians to pave their roads.

The international hypocrisy was laid bare in the world’s reaction to the announcement from Washington. Shame, shame on you. The lies, schemes, betrayal, and double standard have finally been exposed. Silly me, at least now I understand.

About the Author
Zvi Grumet is a Rabbi and educator with more than 30 years of active involvement in Jewish education and Jewish life, both in Israel and overseas.