The UN fails History 101
The UN fails History 101

Was anybody really surprised when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”) adopted a resolution disparaging the Jewish connection to Jerusalem?  The UN has been undermining Israel since before its infamous Zionism-is-racism resolution in 1975, and the Arab-Muslim world has spent years denying the Temple ever stood in the Jerusalem.  Though Jerusalem always had Jewish inhabitants and never served as the capital of any sovereign Arab or Muslim nation, the UN’s actions have lent credence to the anti-Semitic fiction that Jews are colonial occupiers with no ancestral ties to the city or the land.   

Regrettably, many Jews won’t acknowledge the UN’s duplicity because it conflicts with their progressive worldview, which replaced traditional religious belief as they drifted away from Jewish observance, history and cultural literacy.  In public schools, children are taught that Franklin D. Roosevelt advocated for European Jewry during the Holocaust (he did not), and in nontraditional Hebrew Schools they are told that liberalism equals Jewish morality.  

For many assimilated Jews, Israel’s history begins in 1948 and is viewed through a revisionist lens.  They know little about critical chapters in Jewish history, such as the First and Second Jewish Commonwealths, the Jewish-Roman Wars, the genesis of the Diaspora, and the upheaval of the Muslim conquests.  Such knowledge is crucial, however, for understanding the legal and historical underpinnings of modern Israel and for responding to anti-Israel propaganda that dominates discussion of the Mideast.

Whereas Islam and Christianity are religions that seek conversion among diverse nations and peoples, Judaism is binding only upon Jews because of common history and heritage.  
Progressive antipathy for Israel arises from a refusal to acknowledge the Jewish pedigree of the lands comprising the modern state and her territories.  Instead, the discussion focuses on the rights the Palestinian Arabs – people whose national existence and connection to the land are political articles of faith with little or no support in the historical record.  The two-state paradigm is flawed because it presumes Palestinian Arab antecedence in an area where it never existed - as there was no ancient Palestinian culture and society.

The Jews, on the other hand, originated in the Land of Israel and have maintained a presence there since time immemorial.  Those who deprecate the Jews’ historical rights define them as “just a religion” in order to undercut their national claims.  Jewish identity, however, combines national and ethnic characteristics with religious belief and is inextricably tied to the land.  Whereas Islam and Christianity are religions that seek conversion among diverse nations and peoples, Judaism is binding only upon Jews because of common history and heritage.  

Jewish national identity was forged in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and it survived the first exile to Babylon.  In contrast, there was no nation of Palestine in antiquity or at any time thereafter, and no Palestinian national identity until well after the birth of modern Israel.

The borders of the First and Second Jewish Commonwealths extended well beyond today’s Green Line, and included Judea, Samaria, and large parts of Jordan and Gaza.  Knowledge of ancient Jewish geography is essential in light of the Obama administration’s efforts to define Judea and Samaria as ancestrally Arab while branding Jewish settlement there illegal.    

The argument that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are unlawful is a political one, not a legal one.  U.S. foreign policy before Obama never presumed the settlements to be illegal, but considered them negotiable based on political and logistical concerns, not legal or historical precedent.  This earlier policy vision reflected the understanding of prior administrations that Israeli land claims comported with international law.  Indeed, UN Resolution 242 did not require Israel to cede all territories taken in 1967, or any at all in the absence of Arab concessions regarding secure, recognized borders.  

Judea and Samaria can only be considered inherently “Palestinian” by denying Jewish history in favor of an incompatible, revisionist narrative.  These territories were integral parts of ancient Israel, which actually existed, not a fabled country of Palestine, which did not.  After Rome’s victory over the Kingdom of Judea in 135, the emperor Hadrian attempted to destroy Jewish national identity by exiling much (though not all) of the population, renaming the country “Syria Palaestina” after the long-gone Philistines, and making it a backwater province of the empire.  When Rome disintegrated, the land fell under Byzantine influence, followed by Arab conquest, and then Ottoman control until the First World War.

The name “Palestine” comes from the artificial appellation associated with the Philistines, not from a chimerical Palestinian-Arab people that did not exist.  Indeed, there were likely few if any indigenous Arab enclaves outside the Arabian Peninsula at that time (and certainly none in Judea), as the Arab conquests that expanded the borders of Islam would not begin until the seventh century.  When the Ottomans were defeated in World War I, their empire was divided into mandatory protectorates, and Britain was designated custodian of the “Palestine Mandate.”

The Mandate for Palestine, which was unanimously approved by the League of Nations in 1922, contemplated a Jewish national home west of the Jordan River and an Arab entity to the east – not a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.
The Mandate for Palestine, which was unanimously approved by the League of Nations in 1922, contemplated a Jewish national home west of the Jordan River and an Arab entity to the east – not a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.  When Britain created Transjordan on nearly eighty percent of the Jewish homeland pursuant to the Mandate and the Transjordan Memorandum, it arguably fulfilled the League’s intent regarding Arab sovereignty.  Nevertheless, Israel agreed in 1947 to the UN’s proposed partition of the remainder, which Transjordan (now Jordan) rejected before seizing Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem in 1948. 

Israel can claim lawful ownership of these lands today because she was acting defensively in 1967 when she ousted Jordan, an aggressor nation that had taken them by belligerent conquest.  Although detractors often cite the Law of Belligerent Occupation and the Fourth Geneva Convention to accuse Israel of unlawful occupation, these standards only apply to sovereign territories seized by belligerent conquerors.  They do not apply to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem because, among other things, they were not recognized sovereign territories when Jordan seized them illegally or when Israel subsequently liberated them.  

Under prevailing legal standards, moreover, Jordan’s illegitimate occupation could never give rise to lawful ownership.  Thus, when Jordan transferred its putative land rights to the Palestinian Arabs at the beginning of the Oslo Process, it actually possessed no lawful title to convey.  The Palestinians therefore cannot rely on derivative Jordanian rights to claim legal interest superior to Israel’s.  Nor can they establish more valid chronologic claims given the more than 3,000-year history of indigenous Jewish presence that long predated the Roman, Arab and Ottoman conquests.

When Jordan first seized Judea, Samaria and the Old City, it expelled the Jewish inhabitants and destroyed their synagogues, shrines and holy sites.  Until Jordan’s illegal annexation, Jews had lived in Jerusalem, Hevron, the Etzion region, and throughout Judea and Samaria since ancient times.  Because Jordan’s land grab violated international law, Israel’s capture of Judea and Samaria in 1967 effectuated liberation from foreign occupation; and Israeli settlements thereafter constituted repatriation to Jewish land.

History, however, is lost on those whose political agenda elevates the revisionist Palestinian Arab narrative and impugns Israel’s national integrity.  Although useful idiots on the left pontificate that Palestinian culture is rooted in history and that Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest city, neither claim withstands critical scrutiny.  

There is overwhelming archeological, literary, and linguistic evidence confirming the continuous presence of Jews in Israel for millennia, including, the ruins of ancient Jewish dwellings, synagogues, and mikvas; treasure troves of ritual objects, artifacts and writings (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls); and Hebrew inscriptions aplenty.  There are also living landmarks, like the Temple Mount, the Kotel, and the ancient Jewish town of Peqi’in.  In contrast, there is no evidence of an ancient Palestinian presence as identified by language, literature, culture, social institutions or archeological footprint.  Today’s Arab population is largely descended from itinerant latecomers attracted by Jewish-created economic opportunities.

The UN embraces the myth that Jerusalem is integral to Islam, but this is a political contrivance not found in Muslim scripture.  Indeed, the Quran does not mention the ancient Jewish capital at all, whereas the Tanach contains more than eight-hundred specific references to Jerusalem or Zion.  The Dome of the Rock was not built over Judaism’s holiest site because it had any significance in Islamic tradition, but rather to show that the Jews were subjugated and regarded as dhimmi in their homeland.  This same doctrinal motivation compels modern jihadists to assert religious supremacy by building mosques over the destroyed sacred places of the vanquished.

The Islamic world sacralized Jerusalem only when the Jews reasserted dominion and control over their ancestral capital.  But this claim is political and apocryphal, not scriptural or historical.

Unfortunately, anti-Israel revisionism has been repeated so often that it is believed by those who don’t know any better, and has become dogma in progressive society where political correctness inhibits any challenge.  Jews who accept such myths without question are subverting Jewish national claims and sowing the seeds of their own cultural destruction.  

Though truth is often said to be a silent casualty of war, its loss has perhaps the loudest and most enduring impact.