Why Jerusalem must not – and cannot – be divided

editor - 23 September 2011

In the life of every nation and person, there are moments when we have to make decisions that determine the kind of person we are. For the nations of Europe, the decision they will make about a Palestinian State in the next week or so is just one of those defining moments. This is as moment of truth for Europe. There is much at stake – no less than the existence of the Jewish nation.

“The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one uniform lesson: that the nations which received and in any way dealt fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered;  and that the nations that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own curse.” Olive Schreiner, South African novelist and social activist.

This week the U.N. General Assembly will be asked to recognise the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State based on the 1949 Armistice Lines.

In the life of every nation and person, there are moments when we have to make decisions that determine the kind of person we are. For the nations of Europe, the decision they will make about a Palestinian State is just one of those defining moments. This is as moment of truth for Europe. There is much at stake. The existence of the Jewish nation.

I am against the Palestinian State, but I am not against the Palestinians. I am not against the Arabs. The Middle East is in turmoil. Everyone wants to see Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the other nations of the Middle East live in peace. Our hearts go out to all the peoples of the Middle East – Jews and non-Jews. We are concerned about the Arab Palestinians, and especially those living in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

But there can be no peace without justice. Sooner or later a peace brokered at the expense of justice will fall apart, and the end of the matter will be worse than beginning. If we have learned one thing from history, it is that.

Peace in the Middle East cannot and must not be brokered at the expense of the Jews.

And that is exactly what the Palestinians are asking for. A vote to recognise the Palestinian State means a vote to evict over ½ a million Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem, and from cities like Hebron, Shilo and Gilgal which have been home to Jews for centuries. It will be a vote to allow Islamic extremists to destroy Jewish synagogues and desecrate Jewish graves. It will be a vote to prevent all Jews from praying at the Western Wall, the most precious place on earth for the Jewish nation. It will be a vote to create an apartheid State in which the hatred of Jews will be encouraged and fostered. It will be a vote to allow Hamas to launch renewed attacks on the heart of the Jewish people.

This is totally unacceptable. The Jews belong in Jerusalem. The Jews have a right to a safe homeland. Nothing, nothing must be allowed to compromise that. This is not a question of competing interests to land. It is a question of morality, of what is good and right. It is a question of truth.

Christians have Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, Moscow and Geneva. Moslims have Mecca and Medina. For Christians and Moslims Jerusalem may be important, but it is not essential. For the Jews it is completely different. The Jewish nation without Jerusalem is a nation without its heart. The Jews have only Jerusalem. Jerusalem, and especially the Old City of Jerusalem, is the soul of the Jewish people and faith.

Why will giving the Old City of Jerusalem to the Arab Palestinians not lead to real peace? Because they do not only want Jerusalem. They want all of Israel. They want Tel Aviv, they want Haifa and they want Asdod. Mr. Abu Mazen, also known as Mahmoud Abbas, has told us so. Destruction of the Jewish State is the goal of the Palestinian liberation movement, and it is stated explicitly in the Charter of his partner Hamas.

Europe must honour her commitments to the Jewish people. Her own future is at stake. In 1919, the nations of the world, including all of the nations of Western Europe, met in Paris to sign the Covenant of the League of Nations. In doing so, they decided that the peoples of the Middle East and Europe who had been dominated by Turkey and Germany should have their own homelands. The time of colonisation was over. The West would help them to achieve true national independence. These Mandates were so important they were called a “sacred trust of civilisation”.

In April 1920, Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States and Japan met in San Remo in Italy where they decided to create three Mandates for the former Turkish territories. Two were for the Arabs:  Mesopotamia (which led to the modern state of Iraq) and Syria (which resulted in Syria and Lebanon).  The Arabs got over 90% of the Middle East. And who paid the price? The Jews. As these new Arab states moved towards independence, between 1920 and 1948, over 600,000 Jewish refugees were forced to abandon their homes and possessions in these and other countries in the region – from Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran to Cairo and Tunis.

The third Mandate was Palestine. Palestine was to become a national homeland of the Jews, a place where they could live in peace and security.

The Mandate for Palestine was different from the other Mandates in two respects. First was the recognition that the Jews were reconstituting their former homeland which centuries before had been destroyed. It was a recognition that the Jewish people had been living for thousands of years in exile, banished from the land which lies at the heart of Jewish identity.

Second, the world was giving recognition to 2000 years of persecution – forced conversions, crusades, pogroms and ethnic cleansing – which had cost the lives of millions and millions of Jews in Europe. It was time to put an end to the suffering of the Jewish people. The ground of Europe was soaked in Jewish blood, because the Jews had no place they could call home. No safe haven. No place to hide. It was time to make amends.

Of course, no one at that stage could have known that within 25 years the European Jewry would be almost entirely wiped out, gassed and burned on European soil.

Did the world forget the Arab Palestinians when granting Palestine to the Jews? No. The Palestinians got their State. In 1922, Transjordan was separated off in order to give the Palestinian Arabs a homeland of their own. They achieved full independence in 1946 when Transjordan became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

This means the Arab Palestinians already have their homeland.

Are we to give them another one, again at the expense of the Jews, just because they don’t like what they were given?

We in Europe should never forget that 100 years ago our forefathers sacrificed their lives in the First World War to free the Arabs and Jews from Turkish Ottoman rule. That hard-won freedom opened the way for the creation of independent nation states in the Middle East, like Syria, Iraq and Jordan. It also led the way to the modern State of Israel. We should honor our forefathers’ vision and sacrifice.

The Arabs need to recognize that they are not the only people who have been living in the Middle East. In fact, the Arabs are not the original inhabitants of most countries in the Middle East. In 1881, for example, the total population of Palestine comprised 30,000 Jews, 55,000 Christians, 65,000 nomads, (bedouins) and about 141,000 Muslims (comprising Arabs, Turks, Kaucasians, Bosnians and Druzes.

Today, the Middle East is being ethnically cleansed of Jews. Jews are forbidden to live in Iraq, in Iran, in Jordan, in Egypt, in Syria, in Saudia Arabia. And now they want to cleanse Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jews.

If you go to Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli, Amman or Baghdad, you will probably not see a single Jew. If you go to Jerusalem, you find a thriving metropolis where Jews and Arabs have complete freedom of movement.

In Israel there are over a million Arab Israelis, who have the same rights as Israeli Jews. What does that tell us?

It tells us that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like every democracy, it is not perfect. But under Jewish sovereignty, Arab citizens have equal access to the court system, equal voting rights, equal opportunity to have representation in the Knesset.

It also tells us that the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is not about competing claims to land. It is much more fundamental than that. It is about whether the Arabs, and the rest of the world, are prepared to accept and embrace the existence of a Jewish nation in their midst. That is the bottom line.

The existence of a Jewish nation in the Middle East is anathema for the Islam. It is simply unacceptable that non-Muslims should have sovereignty over land that once belonged to Islam. That is why Jerusalem is so important for the Arabs. That is why the Arabs rejected the 1947 Partition Plan. That is why Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel on 14th May 1948, and again together with Saudi Arabia in 1967. That is why Yasser Arafat refused to accept Prime Minister Barak’s offer of 95% of the West Bank at Camp David in 2000. That is why, as former Israeli leader Abba Eban once said, “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. Because what the West sees as an opportunity, the Arabs see as a threat.

If the Palestinians gain control of the Old City of Jerusalem, and of all of Judea and Samaria, the very existence of a Jewish nation will be threatened. This is not rhetoric, this is reality. Israel will be reduced to what Mr. Eban called “the Auschwitz borders”. Radical Islamic forces will use this as a platform to launch ever more fatal attacks on Jews in Israel.

We appeal to the European nations. In particular we appeal to Great Britain, France and Italy. You carry a huge responsibility in the coming weeks. The fate of the Jewish nation is at stake.

Our appeal is simple. Honour your commitments to the Jewish people. Do what is right. Act with integrity. Do not give in to political expediency. Do not turn your back again on the Jewish people once again.

Mr. Cameron, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Berlusconi, this is your opportunity to show that you are true statesmen, men of valour, leaders of courage and principle.

Your nations laid the foundations for modern Israel at San Remo in 1920, and enabled the Jews to return home. Your nations undertook a solemn and deep obligation to make sure that the Jews would be able to rebuild their homeland in Palestine.

But from that moment on, you let the Jewish people down. You closed the borders of Palestine to the Jews, and turned the refugee boats back. In your desire to achieve Peace at all costs, in Munich in September 1938 , you met with Mr. Hitler and entered into the Munich Agreement that was supposed to bring peace. Instead of facing reality, you chose appeasement. We all know the tragic consequences. Within a year, Europe was at war, the lives of millions of your own citizens would be lost, and and six million Jews would be slaughtered on European soil.

Are you prepared, this time around, to put principle before gain?

The future of the Jewish people is in your hands.

If you make the right decision, you will be reaffirming the values that have made Europe and your nations great. And you will be blessed.

If you make the wrong decision, the blood of the Jewish people will be on your hands.

And Europe will ultimately pay the price.

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