Riots in Jerusalem: It’s Never Been About Borders

November 11, 2014

Recent unrest in Jerusalem is once again fanning the fires of indignation regarding the very presence of Israel in certain parts of the country's capital city. Return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, so goes the peace calculus, and these long repressed victims of an unusually cruel foreign occupation won't have a reason to riot.

According to this line of thinking, the troubles in Jerusalem began on June 11, 1967, the day after what Israelis call the 'Six-Day War' and what is known in Arabic as 'an-Nakash' ('The Setback'), ended.

Thing is, the eastern part of Jerusalem was already occupied, long before Israel had the unmitigated gall to stave off annihilation at the hands of invading Arab armies. Between 1949 and 1967, Jordan conquered the area by an illegal act of aggression. As a result, the international community never accepted Jordan's sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem.

Israel's preemptive attack simply transferred this vacuum of sovereignty. In the absence of any other legal title owner, international law recognizes a country's claim to land acquired in self-defense.

With the status of eastern Jerusalem in limbo, Israel acted to clarify any legal vagaries. In 1980, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. The law states “Jerusalem, complete and unified, is the capital of Israel.” This Basic Law also asserts that Jerusalem is “the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government, and the Supreme Court.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his Hamas coalition partners and the criminals wreaking havoc on some of the most sacred sites to Judaism and Islam may want to note that while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of ethnically cleansing the Temple Mount, he is bound by the force of Israeli law to do just the opposite.

Specifically, the Basic Law guarantees protections “from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.”

United Nations Resolution 478, which declares that the Basic Law pertaining to Jerusalem is null and void is itself null and void: an amendment to the law in 2000 prohibits the transfer of authority to a foreign body, for example an international regime.

To those who take seriously the letter and intent of laws passed by freely elected parliaments, the status of Jerusalem is no more ambiguous than that of a once divided Berlin.

The arguments now being made by these hooligans' staunchest defenders around the world are based on moral and political claims, not legal certainties.

And there's nothing unique about a government needing to address moral and political issues raised by minority groups who reside within its legal jurisdiction.

When was the last time the United Nations passed a resolution in response to how Europe is dealing with its Roma population?  

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