Op-Ed: Jerusalem Reunification Day
Eli E. HertzEli E. Hertz is the president of Myths and Facts, an organization devoted to research and publication of information regarding US interests in the world and particularly in the Middle East. Mr. Hertz served as Chairman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.
Israel reunited Jerusalem as one city in 1967, after Jordan joined the Egyptian and Syrian war offensive and shelled the Jewish parts of the city.
One of Israel’s first acts was to grant unprecedented freedom to all religions in the city.
Israeli leaders vowed Jerusalem would never again be divided.
Despite the disgraceful treatment of the Jewish Quarter and the Mount of Olives under Jordanian control and despite their violation of their pledges to make all holy sites accessible to Jews and Christians, one of the first acts Israel undertook after reuniting the city was to guarantee and safeguard the rights of all Citizens of Jerusalem.
This included not only free access to holy sites for all faiths but also represented an unprecedented act of religious tolerance. Israel granted Muslim and Christian religious authorities responsibility for managing their respective holy sites.
Additionally, Israel granted Muslim administration of Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Eventually, however, the Waqf, which holds administrative responsibility over the Temple Mount, violated the trust with which it was invested to respect and protect the holiness of the Temple Mount for both Muslims and Jews.
At the same time, Palestinian Arabs have concentrated many of their terrorist attacks on Jews in Jerusalem, hoping to win the city by an onslaught of terror who seek to make life in the City of Peace unbearable. But this is not a new tactic. Arab strategy to turn Jerusalem into a battleground began in 1920.
Unfortunately, Arab leaders often turn to violence to gain what they were unable to achieve at the negotiating table. When talks broke down at Camp David in 2000, Palestinian Arab leaders unleashed the al-Aqsa Intifada, which amounted to a full-blown guerrilla war against Israel.
It began the day before Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, when Arab mobs hurled rocks from the Temple Mount onto Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall below. That rock attack turned into a steady campaign of terrorist attacks. As the priming powder for the Intifada, Palestinian leaders incited Palestinians and Muslims throughout the world with fables that falsely suggested that Jews began an assault on al-Aqsa when Ariel Sharon made a half-hour visit to the Temple Mount during tourist hours. The truth is that Palestinians’ plans for warfare had begun immediately after Arafat walked out of the Camp David talks.
Why do Palestinian Arabs focus terror attacks on the City of Peace? Because Palestinians, despite their rhetoric, fully understand Jerusalem’s symbolic and spiritual significance to the Jews.
Suicide attacks – on public buses and cafes, malls, and other crowded sites in the heart of the city – since the 1993 Oslo Accords, are designed to make life hell for Jewish Jerusalemites. Atrocities like the February and March 1996 bombings of two #18 buses that killed 26 people and the August 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria that killed 15 (including five members of one family), are part of an ongoing 120-year-old battle that Arabs have waged in opposition to Zionism.
In April 1920, a three-day rampage by religiously incited anti-Zionist Arab mobs left six dead and 200 injured in the Jewish Quarter. The attackers gutted synagogues and ransacked homes. Arabs planted time bombs in public places as far back as February 1947, when they blasted Ben-Yehuda Street, Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, leaving 50 dead.
This was all done before the establishment of the State of Israel. In the 1950s, Jordanians periodically shot at Jewish neighborhoods from the walls of the Old City. And after the city was united in 1967, Arabs renewed their battle for the city by planting bombs in cinemas and supermarkets.
The first terrorist attack in that renewed battle came with the 1968 bombing of Jerusalem’s “Machane Yehuda,” the open market that left 12 dead.
The plain facts about Palestinian Arab behavior clearly demonstrate that under international law they have forfeited any claim to the City of Peace. Their aggression cannot and should not be rewarded.