The Jewish Right to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria
During the recent Herzliya Conference, billed as the platform for articulating Israel’s national policy, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu departed from the usual script of Israeli premiers. Instead of focusing on security, Netanyahu talked about Israel’s Jewish heritage and the right of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria (termed the West Bank by the media) and Jerusalem. In this article I’ve taken much from my friend Jerry Verlin, who has literally written a book on the subject. (See below)
The media use the descriptions “Arab East Jerusalem” and “Jewish West Jerusalem.” But what is called (capital-E) “East Jerusalem” was only separated from the rest of Jerusalem for nineteen of the past 3,000 years, from 1948 to 1967. For all except those years, plus the 43 years since 1967, “East Jerusalem” was ruled as an undifferentiated part of Jerusalem by either Jews or foreigners, but never by Palestinians.
Thousands of years ago, when Jews defended Jerusalem against invading Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and later Muslims and Christians, the Jews were defending what the media term “traditionally Arab East Jerusalem”! The construction of modern Jerusalem began only during the nineteenth century, by Jews, when the city was under the waning Turkish rule. Obviously, modern Jerusalem didn’t exist three thousand years ago. But even “new” Jerusalem is not called “traditionally Jewish” by the media.
An 1859 British Consulate document recorded that “the Mohammedans of Jerusalem are less fanatical than in many other places, owing to the circumstances of their numbers scarcely exceeding one quarter of the population – and of their being surpassed in wealth (except among the Effendi [landlord] class) in trade and manufactures by both Jews and Christians.” The British Consulate was referring to the city that today’s media calls “traditionally Arab East Jerusalem.” Jews have been living in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel
throughout the last 3,000-plus years, waxing and waning in different periods. In the modern era, since the time of this British Consulate document, Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority.
For over four hundred years, from around 1,000 to 586 BCE, Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish biblical kingdom of Judah, which defended it, albeit unsuccessfully, against the mighty empires – Assyria and Babylonia – of the early first millennium BCE. This is no fable. The Assyrians and Babylonians both attested that this really happened, not to mention the Jewish writings.
Those who remained in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE (only the upper classes were taken to Babylonia) and Jews returning from Babylon, rebuilt the Second Temple in what became the Persian Empire’s Jewish province, Yehud. In the second century BCE, in a long series of battles, the Maccabee-Hasmoneans wrested renewed Jewish independence from the Seleucid successors (the Hellenists) of Alexander the Great.
Judah, renamed Judaea by the Romans, then fought four ferocious wars of independence against Rome. From the Romans’final 135 CE defeat of Bar Kochba until the reestablishment of Jewish independence in Israel in 1948, the Land of Israel was CONTINUOUSLY FOREIGN RULED and was NEVER the capital or even part of any native state. In fact, it was never a capital at all, except under ancient and modern Jewish rule.
Israel’s conquerors were (in brief):
Rome and Byzantium – 165 CE to 614; Persia – 614 to 638; Foreign Arab-led Muslims, who were progressively dominated by Turks – 638 to 1099; European Christian Crusaders – 1099 to 1187; Muslim forces led by Saladin, a Kurd, followed by Mongol invaders – 1187 to 1260; Egyptian (non-Arab) Mamluks – 1260 to 1517; Ottoman Turk Empire – 1517 to 1917; British/Mandate – until 1948; Jordan (Judea and Samaria) – 1948 to 1967; Egypt (Gaza Strip) –1948 to 1967.
How “traditionally Arab” would you score Jerusalem’s last two millennia’s rule by these folks? Very little. Was there Palestinian rule at any time? Never. But the Palestinian Arabs and a sympathetic media have stitched together a biased, untrue picture of a “traditionally Arab” Palestine including Jerusalem. Some of the fragments making up that mosaic include: the “Palestinians’ displacement by Israel’s founding” after the Arab attack on Jews in 1948, which resulted in a resounding Jewish victory; the “founding of Israel” in the 1948 War of Independence, as if there had never been Jewish rule in the Land of Israel dating back to King David’s time; the designation of Jerusalem’s heart as “traditionally Arab East Jerusalem,” and of Jewish residences therein as “Jewish settlements,” in denial of historical fact.
While researching a recent article on India, I noted that the CIA World Factbook began its article on India: “The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world’s oldest, flourished during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE ...” In contrast, here is the beginning of the Factbook article on Israel: “Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the U.N. partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states ...” Unfortunately, this intentional disregard of the Jewish origins of the State of Israel is ubiquitous. The general public has been educated to accept the Palestinian narrative of Israel’s “founding” rather than the historical record of the Jewish people. The Palestinian narrative describes a nation called “Palestine,” whose inhabitants, the Palestinians, had lived there since time immemorial and whose country had been stolen from them by
European Jewish usurpers, who suddenly
appeared in Palestine in the early 20th century, and especially after the Holocaust. The Palestinian-Arabs became the victims of European guilt for the Holocaust when the United Nations established a Western colony – Israel – replacing Palestine.
For the record, “Palestine” is derived from the name the Roman Emperor Hadrian gave to the Land of Israel to denigrate its Jewish significance, after the Bar Kochba rebellion. The Jews born in Palestine in the first half of the 20th century called themselves “Palestinians.” After 1948, the Jews called themselves “Israelis” and the Arabs gradually adopted the name to describe themselves.
The false narrative disseminated by the Arab world has captured the imagination of many world leaders and the general public. For example, in his vaunted 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, President Obama said, “ ‘The Jewish people were persecuted . . . anti-Semitism . . .culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust . . . Six million Jews were killed . . . On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.’ This parallelism amounts to the fictitious Arab narrative that the deliberate mass murder of six million Jews for the crime of being Jewish is analogous to a Jewish-driven violation of Palestinian rights.”(Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow, Hudson Institute)
At the Herzliya Conference, Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to awaken the Israeli public to its heritage in the Land of Israel: “Today I would like to speak not of disengagement, but rather of engagement: engagement with our heritage, with Zionism, with our past and with our future here in the land of our forefathers, which is also the land of our children and our grandchildren. ... I believe that this education starts, first and foremost, in the Book of Books – in the Bible – a subject that is close to my heart these days. It starts there. It moves through the history of our people: the Second Temple, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, leaving the ghettos, the rise of Zionism, the modern era, the wars fought for Israel’s existence – the history of Zionism and of Israel. A people must know its past in order to ensure its future. ... Our purpose today is to reignite the flame, to introduce a new spirit into the blaze of our lives and reconnect with this land – our land – the unique and singular Land of Israel.”
It is imperative that Jews in Israel and the Diaspora re-acquaint themselves with their homeland, their history, and their ancient aspirations. If you want to expand your knowledge of the Jewish right to the Land of Israel with further reading, I recommend Jerry Verlin’s book, “Israel 3000 Years: The Jewish People’s 3000 Year Presence in Palestine.” Look for it on Amazon.com or email Jerry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s important to know that the Jews’ right to their homeland is not superseded by any other peoples. Notwithstanding that, it’s also important to know that Israel doesn’t necessarily have to include every inch of its historic homeland, but any compromise would be an excruciating concession, requiring Palestinian reciprocation, rather
than a give-away.
Stephen Kramer resided and worked in the Atlantic City area until 1991, when he moved to Israel with his wife, Michal Langweiler, and two sons. He can be reached at Sjk1@jhu.edu.