We continue in this issue to examine the lies collated by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre that are commonly presented by Israel’s opponents in the Israel-Palestine dispute.

Lie # 6

Plans to build 1,600 more homes in East Jerusalem prove Israel is ‘Judaising’ the Holy City.

Simon Wiesenthal Centre response

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre responds: “Enemies of Israel exploit this phony issue. Jerusalem is holy to three great faiths. Its diverse population includes a Jewish majority with Muslim and Christian minorities. Since 1967, for the first time in history, there is full freedom of religion for all faiths in Jerusalem. Muslim and Christian religious bodies administer their own holy sites. Indeed, the Waqf is allowed to control Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, even though it rests on Solomon’s temple and is holy to BOTH Jews and Muslims. Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s municipality must meet the needs of a growing modern city. The unfortunatelytimed announcement during U.S. Vice President Biden’s visit of 1,600 new apartments in Ramat Shlomo, was not about Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, but for a long established, heavily populated Jewish neighbourhood in Northern Jerusalem, where 250,000 Jews live (about the same population as Newark, N.J.) – an area that will never be relinquished by Israel.”

Background

The announcement of the building approval of 1,600 units for Jewish residents in Ramat Shlomo and the subsequent US reaction occurred in 2010.

The US sensitivity about the building of Jewish units in Jerusalem is based on the US administration’s attempts to negotiate a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian dispute with East Jerusalem as the capital of the proposed Palestinian State. The US considers that building homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem in particular undermines the possibility of a successful negotiation of a two-state solution.

The idea that the increased building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem is displacing Palestinians is part of the Palestinian narrative that, since 1967, Israel has been Judaising East Jerusalem. An example of the comments often found in the Middle East and international media is one from Electronic Intifada: “The Israelis are implementing the final plan to Judaise Jerusalem completely,” Suhail Khalilieh, head of the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem settlement unit, told IPS. “The plan began when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. The last stage of the plan involves the completion of the barrier with the specific aim of manipulating the demographics and limiting the balance of the Palestinian population to a mere 15-20%, with the remainder being Jewish,” said Khalilieh.

The barrier

Whenever the barrier is mentioned in the media, more often than not, it is represented as a barrier built for the sole purpose of separating the West Bank from Jerusalem and is presented as evidence of a policy of ethnic cleansing and Apartheid. This is despite the fact that the barrier was built to stop the terrorist attacks of the second Intifada.

During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security barrier at the end of July, 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment of the wall at the beginning of August, 2003, and the end of June, 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three were in the first half of 2003.

Destruction of Palestinian homes

Israel’s opponents often mention other strategies which, they say, the Israeli authorities use to limit the growth of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, the most dramatic of which is the demolition of Palestinian homes. Most of the properties destroyed are buildings that are erected without the appropriate building approval. Illegally built Jewish properties are also destroyed but these attract little media attention.

Increasing Palestinian population

According to the Jerusalem Centre for Israel Studies the Arab population of East Jerusalem has grown by 291% from 1967 until 2009. In the same time the Jewish population has grown by 186%. The population of the Palestinians as a proportion of the total population of Jerusalem has grown from 26% in 1967 to 36% in 2011.This data would imply that there is no Israeli policy to Judaise the city or else the Israeli government has been singularly ineffective in implementing its policy.

Israel not perfect

Israel, of course, like any other nation, is not perfect and we do not support the politics of any particular government. No doubt the Israeli government has not been as sympathetic to the needs of its Palestinian population as it should have been. However, this does not excuse the biased reporting that takes place in the media with regard to Israel. Israel’s sins are enthusiastically reported and invariably distorted and exaggerated and Israel’s enemies fueled by a growing anti-Semitic spirit, judge her by a different standard to the rest of the nations.

Jerusalem a burdensome stone

One of the main obstacles to previous peacemaking efforts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been the issue of dividing Jerusalem.

The Palestinian position views eastern Jerusalem as part of the West Bank, which it considers Arab territory that Israel is illegally occupying. While Palestinians reject Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, they claim eastern Jerusalem with holy sites to three religions as the capital of their future state. They view the permanent status of western Jerusalem to be subject to final negotiations.

The Israeli position considers Jerusalem both western and eastern the country’s eternal, undivided capital based on its historical, religious and political claims to the Holy City. Since Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, following 19 years of division during which Israeli Jews were excluded from the eastern part, the government, through successive administrations has vowed never to re-divide the city again. In 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed a Basic Law declaring reunified Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel, while providing for freedom of access to each religion’s holy sites.

It is therefore no wonder with these competing demands that it has not been possible to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and once again the negotiations have ended in failure. With the recent peace talks in trouble, Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to release the Palestinian prisoners as required by the peace talks agreement. Chairman Abbas then breached his agreement not to seek any further recognition of the Palestinian State from UN agencies by seeking recognition from 15 UN agencies. As a consequence, the Israeli Government then approved further building of Jewish houses in Gilo in East Jerusalem.This has effectively ended the peace talks.

In Zechariah 12:3 God speaks of His intervention against the nations invading Israel and says He will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for those who burden themselves with it and they will be cut in pieces. In a sense Jerusalem has been a burden and a source of trouble to both Israel and the Palestinians and we wonder what will happen next. Is it possible for the peace talks to be resumed? Is the two state solution dead?

Whatever the short-term future may be, we do know that eventually Jerusalem will be the joy of the whole earth and we pray now for the peace of Jerusalem.