The Many Myths of Jerusalem: Part 430 Apr 2015
Part Four of our multipart series on The Many Myths of Jerusalem
###Myth Number 4: Jerusalem Must Be Divided for Peace
Followers of this series will remember that “East Jerusalem” is a completely modern construct with no basis in history. However, regardless of this fact, many of you may still be thinking: ok, it might be a new idea, but Jerusalem is holy to the Muslims, so it would have to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Leaving aside the fact that the Palestinians have consistently rejected every offer of statehood, consistent refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, and given Abbas’s current strategy of engaging in lawfare instead negotiations and paying terrorists instead stopping them, let us make one thing incredibly clear:
##Holy cities are not and never have been used as political capitals in Islamic history!
Ever since Caliph Ali moved the seat of the Caliphate from Medina to Kufa in 656, holy cities have never been used a capitals in Islamic history. That is why neither Mecca nor Medina is the capital of Saudi Arabia, Karbala is not the capital of Iraq, and none of the dozens of Shiite holy cities in Iran are its capital. This is in stark contrast to the central religious and national role Jerusalem has played for Jews and the State of Israel.
Many Israelis and Jews love to say “Jerusalem isn’t holy to the Muslims.” This is ridiculous. It’s none of our business to determine what is or isn’t holy to another religion, just like it is no one else’s right to tell us what is holy to Jews. Yes, Jerusalem isn’t mentioned once in the Qur’an and it certainly is interesting that Muslims the world over seemed to virtually ignore Jerusalem during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation, but that’s for another post.
So the proper response when someone says Jerusalem needs to be divided so Muslims can have half of the Holy City for their capital isn’t “they don’t really think it’s holy,” but rather, “Its holy status is completely irrelevant to its political status. Even though Jerusalem may hold religious value to Muslims, this should have no bearing on its political definition because it never has throughout Islamic history.”
But what about the holy sites? Shouldn’t those be divided accordingly?
In an ideal world, with no other factors, one could possibly make such an argument… but we do not live in such a world. In the real world, what is most important is that holy sites be protected and that members of all religions have free access to them. Given that Israel has been the only local authority to actively guard the holy sites of all religions and make them available to all, while the Palestinians (and Jordanians before them) have consistently destroyed Jewish holy sites and prevented access to any remaining, proves that only Israel can be trusted in this area.
Instead of building up Jerusalem, from 1948 to 1967, Jordan engaged in a campaign of de-Judaization, destroying ancient synagogues, mosaics, relics, tombstones, and anything that looked remotely Jewish. All Jews were expelled, even the non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews who had been living there for centuries, and no Jews were allowed to visit our holiest sites in the city. Israeli Christians and Muslims were also barred from the city while non-Israeli Christian pilgrims were forced to bring Baptismal Certificates to prove they weren’t Jewish before gaining entry.
You read that correctly, less than 5 years after the Holocaust, Jordan required visitors to present papers proving they weren’t Jewish.
What’s more, the Palestinian leadership not only continues to deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, it actually destroys Jewish archaeology on the Mount itself! The idea that authority over holy sites should be transferred from the one government that has a history of protecting them to another that has both a history and current policy of desecration and destruction goes against all logic.
Not only is “East” Jerusalem a modern, ahistorical construct, its status as a holy city completely irrelevant to its political future, and its holy sites only safe under Israeli control, but dividing the city would be disastrous for the economy of “East” Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
According to a Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies report from 2012 (p.42) 88% of employed Jerusalem residents work in the city. That means that if the city were to be divided, many those living on the Arab side would be unable to keep their jobs as they would be cut off from their places of business.
Additionally, “East” Jerusalem would come under the control of the Palestinian government, so not only would the Palestinians there have no jobs, but they’d be ruled by a corrupt, non-oil producing Arab kleptocracy. Within a very short period of time there would be wealthy and prosperous Jewish West Jerusalem and literally across the street would be poor and corrupt Arab East Jerusalem. How long could that situation last before the poor Arab side erupted in anger and violence at the terrible conditions the peace process brought them? (And who could blame them for being angry with that?)
Finally, we must recognize that largest practical impediment to the division of Jerusalem (and the rest of the land). Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is unable to maintain its grip on power without security cooperation with Israel. Last summer, the Shin Bet uncovered a plot by Hamas to stage a coup in Judea and Samaria much as it had done in Gaza in 2007. Despite the fact (or maybe because of) that Abbas was in a unity government with the Islamic Resistance Movement at the time, Fatah was completely unaware of the plot and was only save by Israeli intelligence and action.
Were Israel to withdraw from eastern Jerusalem (and the rest of Judea and Samaria), it would only be a matter of time before Hamas made a second attempt at seizing control leading to Hamas control of the territories or at least a civil war that would quickly spread to the streets of Jerusalem. Mortars would be fired over whatever barriers were erected in Jerusalem starting yet another war that would end up with Israel in control of the entire city again.
This is not pure conjecture, this is exactly what history shows us happens in such situations. After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah stepped into the power vacuum and built up its capabilities before starting another war in 2006. After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas ousted the PA and has plunged the territory into war with Israel almost every other year. After the United States withdrew from Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged to take power and large swaths of territory.
There is no reason to think that events would be any different with a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. In fact, they would only differ in that the consequences would be more dire as terrorists would have control of territory just across the street from Israel’s main population centers instead of its peripheral towns.
Far from bringing peace, any division of Jerusalem (or the rest of the land) would inevitably bring war.
You can read Part 1: The Internationalization of Jerusalem here
You can read Part 2: East Jerusalem here