Back in 2003 I warned in several columns and editorials that by acquiescing (for seemingly pragmatic reasons) to the delegitimization of settlements we also delegitimize our standing in Jerusalem.
“For much of the world,” I noted in an editorial for Jerusalem Day 2003, “many sections of Jerusalem are settlements – no less than Ariel or Ofra. The neighborhood of Gilo, home to more than 45,000 Jerusalemites, is routinely described abroad as ‘the Gilo settlement.’ This can impact on the continued development of many city quarters. It’s not inconceivable that the Arabs will decry any development as an infringement of strictures set in the ‘Roadmap to Peace’ while the International Quartet, slated to oversee the process, may well agree.”
At the time, I recall, the reaction was that I had “exaggerated wildly” and “stretched things out of all proportion” to make a point that was in itself quite outlandish, if not outright scaremongering. No way would our claim to Gilo ever be compromised and no way would any friendly force ever dare insist we curtail construction in so quintessentially an Israeli neighborhood.
So a short while later, by way of defending my “peculiar predictions,” I elaborated on them in one of my Another Tack columns. “Too many professed Zionists regard settlers as enemies, frequently heaping more scorn upon them than on Arab terrorists,” I observed.
“Settlers are often political pariahs, whereas it’s politically incorrect to refer to any Arabs as enemies. There are only potential peace-partners on the other side, and they can be placated with the sacrifice of a few settlements we’ve never been to, inhabited by folks we don’t wish to associate with.
“And if the small sacrifices won’t do, they’ll be followed by bigger, more painful concessions … Via a process of rationalization we convince ourselves that what we cede is ‘undesirable.’ No beyond-the-Green-Line community is immune. This is why it behooves us to constantly bear in mind that overseas the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo is called the ‘the settlement of Gilo.’
“But in Arab parlance Petah Tikva too is a settlement (though founded in 1878). This point is lost on us. Ideologically fatigued, we shrink from supporting the settlements, particularly those founded by political opponents. We refrain from reminding the world that we aren’t like the greedy French in Africa, the presumptuous Brits in India or even the expansionist Americans in Texas. We are literally at home, both in terms of geographical proximity and historical pertinence. Failure to realize this is tantamount to adopting the Arab view of Jews as foreign interlopers (which some of our more sensitive leftist souls already have).”
That was eight and a half years ago – almost a decade. Sadly my premonitions were vindicated.
As Jews around the world ushered in the New Year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of all foreign heads of state, couldn’t contain herself and phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to vent about permits to construct 1,100 housing units in Gilo because, heaven forefend, Gilo is beyond that sacrosanct Green Line (and we all know what sticklers for the rules Germans, alas, are).
This of course leads us to wonder why it was that Germans/Europeans kept so strictly silent when seven Arab armies forcefully defied 1947’s UN Partition Resolution that earmarked Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (separate entity), to be overseen by international administrators.
Nobody squawked when, in violation of that resolution, Arabs besieged Jerusalem’s Jewish areas aiming to starve out and evict their inhabitants.
Nobody complained when, in 1948, the Jordanians divided Jerusalem and occupied its east illegally. They remained for 19 years, destroyed 58 synagogues, sadistically despoiled the incomparable ancient Jewish veritable-pantheon on the Mount of Olives and denied Jews the right to pray at the Western Wall and other hallowed shrines.
German cool and world composure were immaculately maintained as the Jordanians erected public urinals at Judaism’s holiest site to underscore the desecration and disdain. The Germans and the rest of the righteous international community stayed remarkably mum vis-à-vis the expulsion of every last member of the ancient Jewish community of Jerusalem’s Old City, which was rendered perfectly Judenrein (as per the then-recent German blueprint).
Clearly Jews are perceived as portable and may be uprooted without excessive commotion.
Indeed there was no global outrage until, in 1967’s Six Day War, Israel undid the Arab illegality (only following extreme belligerent provocation). Only then did it emerge that the Arabs’ 19-year illegality was perceived as the legality that must be restored. It still is. Just ask Ms. Merkel.
Arab conquest and barbarism must be rewarded and recognized by all decent onlookers as the status quo ante. Thus it’s forbidden to develop Gilo and avail Jews of housing in a city that was ever only their capital and theirs alone, in which their history dates back 3,000 years and where Jews constituted Jerusalem’s largest ethnic group as far back as the first obtainable testimonies and records of the earliest decades of the 19th century (borne out by noted travelers like Richardson, Carne and Scholtz).
The first official census of 1844 showed 7,130 Jews and 5,760 Muslims in Jerusalem. By 1875 the number of Jews exceeded 12,000 and the Muslims increased to 7,560. At the outset of the 20th century the Jewish majority was incontrovertible – 45,000 Jews and 12,000 Muslims in 1909. On the eve of the 1948 Arab contravention of the UN Partition Resolution and the Jordanian Arab Legion’s illegal occupation of east Jerusalem, the city included some 100,000 Jews and 36,680 Muslims.
But facts won’t interfere with the expedient opinions of Merkel and her like. Netanyahu, therefore, made a tactical error when he retorted to Merkel’s meddling by stressing that “Gilo isn’t a settlement.” Thereby Netanyahu drew distinctions that the morally obtuse world anyhow doesn’t accept and never did.
As I warned in my aforementioned then-disparaged “peculiar predictions,” our confidence in any artificial distinctions we make – and subsequently take for granted – is misplaced. If we renounce the settlements, we forfeit everything. Hence, Netanyahu merely amplified yesteryear’s fundamental errors.
He’d have done better to paraphrase and update what David Ben-Gurion said when in December 1949 the UN reiterated its proclaimed internationalization of Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion saw no logic in unilateral Israeli adherence to impotent decrees and defiantly declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, explaining tongue-in-cheek that:
“We do not judge the UN, which did nothing when member-nations of the UN declared war on its resolution of 29 November 1947, trying to prevent the establishment of Israel by force, to annihilate the Jewish population in the Holy Land and to destroy Jerusalem, the holiest city of the Jewish people.
“Had we not been able to withstand the aggressors who rebelled against the UN, Jewish Jerusalem would have been wiped off the face of the earth, the Jewish population would have been eradicated and the State of Israel would not have arisen. Thus, we are no longer morally bound by the UN resolution of November 29, since the UN was unable to implement it.
“…The attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel will not advance the cause of peace in the Mideast or in Jerusalem itself. Israelis will give their lives to hold onto Jerusalem, just as the British would for London, the Russians for Moscow and the Americans for Washington” – or the Germans for Berlin, as Netanyahu should have added for Merkel’s benefit.