(The following is a rebuttal to Diana Buttu’s piece in the Washington Post, The world should respond to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration with sanctions on Israel, which I submitted to the Washington Post on Dec. 10. I was tentatively hopeful they would print this, but as time dragged on and I received no response, I realized there was no interest in printing this opinion. I offer it here, instead, in a slightly modified version.)
After President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Diana Buttu in her piece, The world should respond to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration with sanctions on Israel, asserted that his actions were somehow an “aggression” that broke the law. Which is funny, because growing up, my mother taught me that sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me. This is completely analogous here, as Israeli cars are stoned daily with the (too often successful) intention of killing as many Jews as possible, for no other reason than that the drivers and their passengers are Jewish and driving on land Arabs covet.
Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, on the other hand, is semantics, words that cannot hurt anyone, and certainly abrogate no law.
Buttu writes: “Under the United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was never intended to be the capital of any country, but rather a shared city under an international regime with sovereignty resting with neither Israel nor Palestinians.”
That’s correct. Buttu, however, seems to have forgotten that the Arabs rejected Partition, opting instead to attack the fledgling State of Israel. Let’s get specific here and mention that this was some five Arab states attacking the new state of just 600,000 Jews. Who was the aggressor here? Who the bully and who the victim? If the Arabs wanted Jerusalem to retain its international status, as set forth by Partition, why then did they attack?
And the fact is, attack they did. To their detriment: they lost the war they initiated.
Buttu likes to cite rule of law, being a lawyer by trade, but seems to have forgotten that since five Arab armies launched a war against a tiny group of people on a small sliver of land, instead of accepting the Partition Plan, the Arabs, for all intents and purposes, took Partition off the table. The Arabs did that, not Israel, and not President Trump.
Israel had accepted Partition, though it would have meant a much reduced land mass, difficult to defend.
It was the Arabs who said no to Partition, and instead launched a war.
This is why Jerusalem is not today, the international city that Buttu mourns, the one called for by Partition, which the Arabs scorned, preferring to take their chances, attacking one small nation.
Buttu speaks of Israel taking 78% of the land for themselves in 1948. What she does not say is that Transjordan (today, Jordan) was created on 78% of the Mandate for Palestine, which had been promised to the Jews by Balfour in 1917. What happened here, is that after Balfour viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the Arabs complained: they wanted their national home in Palestine, too.
So in fact Israel did not “take control of 78% of Palestine in 1948,” rather, Jordan, by its very creation, took 78% of Israel. And Israel meekly accepted this situation. Any national home in Jewish indigenous territory was better than none. We were used to being meek, saying yes sir. Centuries of being occupied, expelled, forced to wander, and persecuted, will do that to you.
We would take any crumbs.
And with the UN Partition Plan, Israel accepted yet a further reduction of its land mass, gave away more bits and pieces, more crumbs.
But the Arabs were not going to settle for less than the entire land mass, all for itself, free of Jews. Which is why five Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948. And lost.
That should have been the end of the story.
But Diana Buttu gives the reader an “alternative ending,” in which she says that in 1948, Israel “occupied a large part of Jerusalem’s western half,” while in 1967, Israel occupied the “West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” and that “the eastern part of Jerusalem also came under Israel’s military rule.”
What actually happened is that in its defensive war of 1948, in which Israel was attacked by five Arab armies, the Jews succeeded in taking back part of their longed for holy city. Had the Arabs not attacked, Partition would have been fully embraced and adhered to by Israel, and Jerusalem would have remained an international city. But the Arabs did not accept Partition, and went to war.
It was Jordan, by the way, that occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1948. As Jordan was the aggressor, this was considered an illegal occupation by every single UN member state, with the exceptions of Great Britain and Pakistan, two states that had/have no love for the Jews.
Arab Legion soldier in the ruins of the Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem
In 1967, the Jews were once again forced to fight when the Straits of Tiran were closed, a casus belli. When this time, against all odds, the Jews recaptured their holy city, they were not in contravention of international law, because they were fighting a defensive war.
Occupation is defined by Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which states that “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” That would be Jordan, which attacked Israel in 1948, and took over part of Jerusalem, thus abrogating the terms of Partition. That would not be Israel in 1967, when, in the course of defending itself against hostile armies, the Jews managed to retake that same territory.
There is a vast difference between land taken in an offensive versus land taken during defensive maneuvers. A legal difference. In no way, can Israel be said to be an occupying force, when it is and was the entity attacked. To say otherwise is contrary to international law.
It is also important to note here the 49th article of the 4th Geneva Convention:
“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
This completely busts the myth of settlement of Judea and Samaria as somehow being in contravention of international law. Israel did not fight an offensive, therefore cannot be called an occupier. Settlers, furthermore, are not foreign to Judea and Samaria, (how could a Jew be foreign to Judea?), nor were they forcibly transferred. The settlers came willingly to the area. Joyfully even, eager to build homes in their native land.
No one forced these settlers to settle where they did.
The term “West Bank” is, in fact, a propaganda term. It refers to Judea and Samaria as if they were the West Bank of the Jordan river, looking out from Jordan. This is supposed to lend legitimacy to Jordan’s illegal occupation of the area between 1948 and 1967. The territory comprises far too much land, however, to be called a riverbank. This author lives in Efrat, located in the Judean Wilderness. Efrat is nowhere near the Jordan River. It is, on the other hand, not so far from the Dead Sea, though this body of water, too, cannot be seen from my apartment.
Buttu says that “despite numerous Israeli attempts since 1948 to have its declaration of Jerusalem as its capital recognized internationally, not a single country around the world has accepted its claims, for one simple reason: Acquiring territory by force goes against international law.”
Except that Israel did not acquire the land by force, but in pure existential defense. Israel did not abrogate international law in defending itself against five Arab armies in 1948. It did not abrogate international law in 1967, when an act of war forced Israel to defend itself against several Arab nations once more. This is not only not the legal definition of acquiring territory by force, it is also a lie to say otherwise.
Thus, Ms. Buttu is dishonest in the thrust of her piece, which states that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is by way of acknowledging that “might is right.”
It is the Arabs who were and are the aggressors when it comes to Israel. Israel has only defended itself. It reacquired its centuries’ old, biblical capital Jerusalem, only while fighting for its very existence, attacked by the might of five invading armies.
God wrought a miracle and the Jews won. And of course the Jews were going to declare Jerusalem their capital. The Jewish liturgy, canon, and customs are littered with references to Jerusalem, though the city’s name does not once appear in the Quran. Yet Buttu speaks of the “theft of Palestinian land” as if the Muslim Conquest never happened, nor all the other conquests that robbed the Jews of their land; land that belonged to them before there was an Arab people; land that belonged to the Jews before Mohammed was born.
President Trump said some words. No more, no less. He acknowledged a reality: The Arabs lost, the Jews won—they get to call Jerusalem their capital if they so choose.
And they do.
Why does anyone get to question that right?
Buttu goes on to talk about Israel’s security fence, which has saved thousands of lives, saying it has worsened the lives of local Arabs. Is that because it prevents them from killing Jews? Because that is the precise purpose of that ugly, expensive fence, that obscures the beautiful view. And it works. Proven. Is it inconvenient to the Arabs? Let them not resort to violence then. Let them live productive peaceful lives and see how quickly that ugly, expensive fence comes down.
Buttu speaks of “the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes for spurious bureaucratic reasons.” Here too, Buttu is disingenuous. Rooms of terrorists in their family homes are destroyed. Had they not murdered Jews, their family homes would remain intact. It’s a deterrent measure. Stop killing Jews and POOF, the demolitions stop, too.
It’s a choice.
Buttu speaks of expulsions (from homes built without permits), construction of “illegal” settlements, which are not illegal at all (Hague Convention, Geneva Convention, lather, rinse, repeat), which “scar the land,” which actually had lain rocky and barren, between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan illegally occupied the territory. Even now, Arabs like the fertile valleys. Jews have settled on the hilltops and made them bloom. No one has been dispossessed. It’s a lie.
Buttu speaks of checkpoints (made necessary by constant Arab terror), and about all the Arabs “squeezed—indeed suffocating—under Israeli military rule.” But why don’t the 22 land-rich Arab nations surrounding the tiny sliver that is Israel, absorb and settle their squeezed and suffocating brethren? After all, Israel absorbed the 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries since 1948!
In short, Buttu’s rant about President Trump’s statement of the obvious, is a lot of sound and fury signifying worse than nothing, because it signifies a big, giant, antisemitic lie.
That the world buys that lie is a choice. It’s a choice to honor aggression. Not Israel’s aggression, but Arab aggression, what Professor Ruth Wisse says is not an Arab Israeli conflict, but the Arab War against the Jews.
They Arabs were given Jordan: Palestinian State #1. Then they were given autonomy in their villages throughout Judea and Samaria: Palestinian State #2. Next, the Jews expelled 11,000 of their own people to give them a third state, Gaza: Palestinian State #3.
These are salami tactics parading as Arab nationalism. Cutting off bits and pieces of Israel, negotiating for a bit here, a bit there, under the guise of creating a Two-State Solution, when there are now de facto, fully three Palestinian states.
In addition to these three Palestinian states, there are 22 other states in the region where Arabic is the predominant language and Islam is the predominant culture and religion.
Israel, on the other hand, has just one tiny sliver of land where Jews can speak Hebrew in the streets and shops, with Judaism the predominant religion and culture.
It is not right to take away any more of it for the people who have so much land already. And of course Jerusalem is central to the Jews and has been for thousands of years.
President Trump said nothing more than the truth: Jerusalem is historically Jewish. Everyone knows this to be true.
To say otherwise is a lie.
To actually believe the lie is evil.
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