By Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an adjunct professor, Gulf Studies Center, Qatar University. He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires. Follow him on Twitter at @jricole
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Council on Monday that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” He continued that the historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel cannot be denied. He added that neither could the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. He insisted, “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.” He said, “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.” He told his applauding audience of 7500 that he was simply following the policies of all Israeli governments since the 1967 conquest of Jerusalem in the Six Day War.
Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.
So here are the reasons that Netanyahu is profoundly wrong, and East Jerusalem does not belong to him.
1. In international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory, as are the parts of the West Bank that Israel unilaterally annexed to its district of Jerusalem. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 forbid occupying powers to alter the lifeways of civilians who are occupied, and forbid the settling of people from the occupiers’ country in the occupied territory. Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, its usurpation of Palestinian property there, and its settling of Israelis on Palestinian land are all gross violations of international law. Israeli claims that they are not occupying Palestinians because the Palestinians have no state are cruel and tautological. Israeli claims that they are building on empty territory are laughable. My back yard is empty, but that does not give Netanyahu the right to put up an apartment complex on it.
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2. Israeli governments have not in fact been united or consistent about what to do with East Jerusalem and the West Bank, contrary to what Netanyahu says. The Galili Plan for settlements in the West Bank was adopted only in 1973. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave undertakings as part of the Oslo Peace Process to withdraw from Palestinian territory and grant Palestinians a state, promises for which he was assassinated by the Israeli far right (elements of which are now supporting Netanyahu’s government). As late as 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak claims that he gave oral assurances that Palestinians could have almost all of the West Bank and could have some arrangement by which East Jerusalem could be its capital. Netanyahu tried to give the impression that far rightwing Likud policy on East Jerusalem and the West Bank has been shared by all previous Israeli governments, but this is simply not true.
3. Romantic nationalism imagines a “people” as eternal and as having an eternal connection with a specific piece of land. This way of thinking is fantastic and mythological. Peoples are formed and change and sometimes cease to be, though they might have descendants who abandoned that religion or ethnicity or language. Human beings have moved all around and are not directly tied to any territory in an exclusive way, since many groups have lived on most pieces of land. Jerusalem was not founded by Jews, i.e. adherents of the Jewish religion. It was founded between 3000 BCE and 2600 BCE by a West Semitic people or possibly the Canaanites, the common ancestors of Palestinians, Lebanese, many Syrians and Jordanians, and many Jews. But when it was founded Jews did not exist.
4. Jerusalem was founded in honor of the ancient god Shalem. It does not mean City of Peace but rather ‘built-up place of Shalem.”
5. The “Jewish people” were not building Jerusalem 3000 years ago, i.e. 1000 BCE. First of all, it is not clear when exactly Judaism as a religion centered on the worship of the one God took firm form. It appears to have been a late development since no evidence of worship of anything but ordinary Canaanite deities has been found in archeological sites through 1000 BCE. There was no invasion of geographical Palestine from Egypt by former slaves in the 1200s BCE. The pyramids had been built much earlier and had not used slave labor. The chronicle of the events of the reign of Ramses II on the wall in Luxor does not know about any major slave revolts or flights by same into the Sinai peninsula. Egyptian sources never heard of Moses or the 10 plagues & etc. Jews and Judaism emerged from a certain social class of Canaanites over a period of centuries inside Palestine. (See Daniel Lazare’s Harper’s article on the archeological disproof of the Bible, preserved at this website (I am not endorsing the web site).
EDITOR’s NOTE: The Muslim Times is not political. We only provide information from all sides so that the readers can form their own opinion