Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ZOA Urges State Dept: Stop Referring to Eastern J'lem As "Palestinian Territories"

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has written to the State Department urging them to stop referring to eastern Jerusalem as “Palestinian Territories.” Eastern Jerusalem is actually the eastern half of the city of Jerusalem, including the ancient Jewish section populated by over 200,000 Jews, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest sites. The ZOA has described this usage as factually and legally inaccurate, politically biased and prejudicial to the prospect of genuine peace negotiations.

In a press release this week, the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced several new projects pairing U.S. cultural institutions with foreign ones, including the pairing of the Minnesota Historical Society with the Palestinian Heritage Museum, located in the eastern half of Israel's capital, Jerusalem. The State Department press release stated that the program, 'Design Diaries International,' paired the Minnesota Historical Society with the "Palestinian Heritage Museum, East Jerusalem, Palestinian Territories" ('U.S. Department of State Announces Museums Connect Cultural Exchange 2013 Awardees,' State Department press release, July 10, 2013).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "The designation of eastern Jerusalem as 'Palestinian territories,' is factually and legally inaccurate, politically biased and prejudicial to the prospect of genuine peace negotiations, should these occur one day. There is no Palestinian sovereign controlling eastern Jerusalem, only a Palestinian Authority (PA) controlling half of Judea and Samaria (Gaza is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas).

"While many states have recognized the legal fiction of a 'state of Palestine,' there is no such state, let alone one that actually holds sovereign power in eastern Jerusalem. In particular, the United States does not recognize such a state and voted accordingly when the admission of 'Palestine' as a non-member state of the United Nations was voted upon last November in the United Nations General Assembly. Moreover, the PA is a signatory to the Oslo Agreements in which it committed itself to not altering the political status of the disputed territories, except by a negotiated settlement with Israel.  We must understand that Jordan illegally annexed eastern Jerusalem in 1948, and only one country recognized it.  Even the Arab states rejected it.

"How ironic that the U.S. government, which criticizes Jews living in or building homes in eastern Jerusalem or in Judea and Samaria because doing so supposedly alters the political status of the territories, actually baldly and falsely declares that eastern Jerusalem is part of 'Palestinian territories.' 

“The State Department’s erroneous public statement about eastern Jerusalem also shows a lack of respect for its ally, the democratically elected government of Israel.  In 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed a law affirming that a united Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.  Significantly, the law also affirmed the freedom of religion for all religious faiths in Jerusalem, a freedom that was denied when Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem.
Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places when it illegally occupied eastern Jerusalem.  Jordan also destroyed fifty-eight synagogues and 38,000 Jewish cemetery headstones.

“Indeed, eastern Jerusalem was seemingly unimportant to Jordan because it failed to provide even the most basic municipal services there.  Eastern Jerusalem’s residents lacked electricity, plumbing, health care services and even a steady water supply.

“It was Israel that began providing those badly needed municipal services to eastern Jerusalem, including to Arab homes and businesses.  Arab residents are given the choice of becoming citizens of Israel.  

"Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people twice in history in the two Jewish commonwealths. It has never been the capital of any other state or people. It is mentioned almost six hundred times in the Hebrew Bible, but not even once in the Muslim Quran. It has been the focal point of Jewish prayers and longing, well symbolized in the line of the Psalmist -- 'If I forget thee, o Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning' -- and the eastern half of the city contains the holiest Jewish sites. Indeed, Jerusalem is one of the four Jewish holy cities. In contrast, Muslims face Mecca, not Jerusalem in prayer and the city possesses only some sites holy to Christianity and Islam, but is not a holy city to these faiths.

"Jerusalem is part of the territory earmarked for Jewish settlement in the 1920 San Remo Conference and this determination was subsequently incorporated into the League of Nations Palestine Mandate. It has never been superseded or altered by any subsequent, internationally binding agreement. Under the illegal Jordanian occupation of the eastern half of Jerusalem during 1948-67, it did not become the Jordanian capital (which remained in Amman) and became a repressive backwater in which Christians were not permitted to repair or enlarge churches and had to teach the Quran. Over 50% of Christians left and Jews were not permitted to enter to pray at Jewish holy sites, contrary to the 1949 armistice agreement. Under Israel, however, the city has enjoyed growth, prosperity and freedom of religious expression for all faiths. The Palestinian Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem receive social welfare benefits from Israel, not from the Palestinian Authority, They also have been offered Israeli citizenship. Surely, the Palestinian Authority does not control eastern Jerusalem with its hundreds of thousands of Jews and other Israeli citizens. In fact, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly proclaimed that they won’t allow any Israelis to live under their rule.

"The State Department therefore has erred grievously in describing eastern Jerusalem as 'Palestinian territories.'

"This is not even a matter of the State Department regarding (wrongly) eastern Jerusalem as 'occupied territory' (as eastern Jerusalem did not form part of the sovereign territory of another country prior to Israeli taking control of it in 1967). Here, the State Department has gone further, asserting that eastern Jerusalem belongs to an entity called 'Palestinian territories.'

"The U.S. position has been that these territories are subject to negotiation. If that is so, it should not be pre-judging the issue and claiming that it belongs to one or another party. The Obama Administration should therefore publicly repudiate the designation of eastern Jerusalem as being located in 'Palestinian territories' and correct all US governmental statements, including this recent press release, that falsely and wrongly states that eastern Jerusalem is part of the ‘Palestinian territories.’"

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