Separating Jerusalem, Again

The 28th of Iyar, corresponding this year to 1 June, marks the day Jerusalem was reunified in 1967.

The 28th of Iyar, corresponding this year to 1 June, marks the day Jerusalem was reunified in 1967.

Separated from the Jewish people by the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem was to have been corpus separatum, an area legally separate from its environs. The UN decreed, “In view of its association with three world religions” it would be “accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control.” Believing, naively perhaps, that “effective United Nations control” would ensure access by Jews to Jewish holy places inside the UN zone, Israel agreed. The Arabs did not, and the Jordanian Legion overran the eastern part of Jerusalem and expelled and then banished the Jews. The wall that split Jerusalem, cutting Jews – not only Israelis – off from their heritage, was every bit as effective as the Berlin Wall. And behind it, the Jordanians cut roads through the Mount of Olives Cemetery and used the tombstones for paving and latrines in Jordanian army camps. More than 50 synagogues, libraries and Jewish schools were deliberately destroyed or defaced. The Cave of Shimon the Just was used as a horse stable.

In 1967, the King of Jordan miscalculated, shelling the west side of the city from behind the UN barrier. In response, Israel made Jerusalem whole again.

As candidate for President, Barak Obama visited Jerusalem. He said, “As a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute” a division of Jerusalem. No, it wouldn’t be – ask the Jordanians. In any event, he wasn’t suggesting a wall as he added “I think that it is smart for us to, to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem, but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city.” Fair enough.

Why then, in official American government documents, has the Administration severed Jerusalem from Israel? It made the news last month when the State Department announced the visit of Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg to “Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank.” Pressed, the State Department said it was not intended to denote a change of policy, but rather the United States “trying to be a fair interlocutor.” (Between who and what?)

The spokesman added that the formula separating Jerusalem from Israel has been used in the past in similar statements. In fact, that’s not true. We are indebted here to the website for examples of recent State Department announcements:

  • March 7, 2010: “Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will depart Washington, DC, for the Middle East on the evening of Sunday, March 7. They will travel to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues.”

  • October 29, 2010: “Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez Travel to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

  • September 13, 2010: “Secretary Clinton Traveling to Sharm e-Sheikh, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.”

  • From April 20, 2011: “Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer will Travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank from April 15 through April 22.”

The separation of Jerusalem from Israel appears to coincide with the President’s recent speech on lines, land swaps and contiguity between Palestine and Jordan. The 1967 lines – including the line through the heart and soul of Jewish Jerusalem?

According to Eric H. Cline in Jerusalem Besieged, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It was divided only once, for 19 years, in defiance of the will of the international community.

It has been the capital of the Jewish people – and the capital of no other people – for 4,000 years.