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JERUSALEM: CITY OF PEACE, CITY OF WAR


by Clarence Wagner, Jr.

"We shall not, at any cost, accept the Jewish plan to continue their occupation of Jerusalem," said Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in an interview with Saudi Arabia's daily newspaper "Okaz" last October. "Jerusalem is, and will forever be, the national capital of the Palestinian state," he said, emphasizing that Jerusalem should be surrendered to the Palestinians in accordance with U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.

How can one city be the capital of two peoples?

Obviously, Jerusalem can't stand as capital of two states, and if the Palestinians persist in their drive to declare a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, they are headed on a collision course that will embroil Israel and the Moslem world in a future war.

Har Homa has become a Symbol

The conflict over Israel's building the new Har Homa neighborhood in southern Jerusalem has once again raised the issue of Jerusalem to the forefront of world affairs. It has now become a symbol of the struggle for the city of Jerusalem. Palestinian statements, which are issued almost daily, never fail to describe this site as "a new Jewish settlement" in "Arab East Jerusalem."

For those of us who live here, this is obviously a propaganda ploy to create an image in the minds of the world that somehow "poor defenseless Palestinians" who have been living peacefully on their property for thousands of years have been wrestled off their land by the "mean 'ol Zionist Jews." Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an uninhabited hillock adjacent to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo being developed for housing units for Jews and Arabs in a growing city. But how would the world know when they constantly hear the erroneous Palestinian description of the project.

Let's examine both of these statements:

1) The Palestinians say, "Har Homa is a new Jewish settlement."

No, it is not a settlement. It is a new neighborhood within the city limits of Jerusalem, built in the same manner as other new neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Gilo, East Talpiot, French Hill, Ramot, Neve Yaacov, etc. It is being built on an uninhabited hillock of 465 acres which is 75% Jewish-owned and, located adjacent to the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. Additionally, the government did not just take the land, but paid handsomely for the land from the Jewish and Arab landowners. The project is not a new town or settlement in the West Bank, as the Palestinians claim, but a neighborhood housing development in the existing capital city of Israel: Jerusalem. 20,000 new housing units are being planned for the Jewish sector and 8,500 for the Arab sector - a ratio comparable to that of the Jewish and Arab populations in the city, e.g. 350,000 Jews and 150,000 Arabs, respectively. Furthermore, it is legal and permissible within the framework of the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinians.

2) The Palestinians say, "Har Homa is in Arab East Jerusalem, the part of Jerusalem that historically has had a majority Arab population."

No, this is not true either. Eastern Jerusalem comprises the Old City and the early neighborhoods built just outside the walls. This area was the ONLY Jerusalem until this century; there was no east or west. As far back as 1820, the Jewish community was the largest group in the city. Since 1875, there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem overall. The development of the city, due to the Zionist venture to restore the land of Israel, attracted large numbers of Arabs to Jerusalem as well. For example, the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina in the northern part of Jerusalem was a village under the British mandate, containing some hundreds of inhabitants. Today, it is a modern urban center of over 15,000 Arabs.

Jews and Arabs have always lived together in Jerusalem. The only time that Jews were not living in the Old City and areas in the eastern part of Jerusalem, was between 1948-1967, when the Jordanian army killed or evicted the Jews and destroyed over 53 synagogues and Jewish religious institutions. Jewish property was then confiscated by the Arabs, Jewish tombstones were used as paving stones and lining stones for Jordanian army latrines, and Islam overshadowed and marginalized the Christian institutions that remained (See next article for details).

Certainly, there is genuine frustration on the side of the Palestinians who have been indoctrinated by their leaders to strive for a dream that can never be realized, i.e., a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other country except Israel and the Jewish people. Even when the Moslems ruled in this region, their capital city was Ramle on the coastal plain near Israel's Ben Gurion airport. Yet, Palestinian leaders still tout this impossible dream of Jerusalem as their capital, which can never be if they want to co-exist with Israel.

Even the Palestinian Authority's concept of their state is much more than just Gaza and part of the West Bank. They see it, and official PA maps show it, as extending all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Even the most moderate among the Palestinians, who might be happy with a limited state in the West Bank and Gaza, see this as being "Judenrein" (without Jews). This is certainly unrealistic, considering that one million Arabs live in Israel who aren't being asked to move. Why should Jews who live in the West Bank and Gaza move from their homes?

As long as the Arab leadership continues to sell their expansionist Islamic vision, the Arab masses will riot and work violently to stop any activity that will create co-existence and genuine peace between Jews and Arabs.

If anything, Har Homa could be a symbol of peace, with Jews and Arabs living in close proximity, working together for a better future.

However, what this controversy has shown is the Arab desire to keep the Jews out of Jerusalem. A PA spokesman made it clear in an interview on CNN, when he said they did not want the Har Homa neighborhood because Jerusalem is an Arab capital, and they did not want to deal with more Jews.

Islam's Goal

An inevitable war with the Islamic world over Jerusalem is coming into view over the horizon.

In fact, according to a poll published on April 3rd, most Israelis believe another war with Arab states is on its way if the crisis in the peace process is not defused. The poll shows that 59% percent of people questioned believe there is a "strong possibility of conflict" between Israel and the Arabs; and that faith in the peace process is on the wane in Israel, following violent Palestinian protests against the construction of the Har Homa neighborhood.

The Arab/Moslem reaction is far out of proportion to the scope of the project. It has become another symbol to provide the Arab/Moslem world with opportunity to squeeze more concessions out of Israel.

One of Islam's main goals is the acquisition of "Islamic territory."

Regarding Israel, they believe all the land comprising the State of Israel, from the Jordan River to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is Islamic territory. Therefore, for them, the "Peace Process" is a process of claiming territory for the Arab/Moslem world, not a real process of reconciliation and compromise that we understand and work to achieve in the Western world. The Western concept of "peace," as "to bury the hatchet and resolve the conflict" is a totally foreign concept in the world view of Islam.

Islam defines the world into two parts, the "Dar es-Salaam," the "House of Peace;" and the "Dar el-Gharb," the "House of War." All non-Moslems, including Israel, Jews, Christians and the Western world, are in the House of War, and therefore outside the realm of reconciliation with the Islamic, House of Peace.

While no one in Israel really wants a war or even this ongoing conflict, it is thrust upon Israel and the West by the Moslem world which sees war as a natural option to achieve their goals.

Furthermore, the Moslem world fully understands the Western concept of compromise to achieve peace, and that peace is preferred to war. This is not the case in the Moslem world, and they see our desire to compromise as a weakness.

The Arab/Moslem world is using the "Peace Process," which has become an idol to the West, as a tool to achieve their own goals. Just look at the "Peace Process" thus far, and you will see that when the Arabs are not getting enough concessions, they invoke the following formula: 1) take an issue and create a "mountain out of a molehill;" 2) spark terror and riots; 3) make war-like pronouncements, and then, 4) watch the Western powers and the UN run in and force Israel to concede territory and sovereignty, "for the sake of peace."

The Moslem world has our number and they are dialing it regularly!

This Spring we have seen three more suicide bombings in Israel; petrol bombs thrown at vehicles, one forcing a bus full of Israeli soldiers over a ravine; mass riots in the territory under Palestinian Authority control; the Arab League adopting a resolution calling on the Moslem world to re-establish the boycott against Israel; denunciations by Arab leaders against Israel; war-like pronouncements from Egypt and other Arab leaders; a trip by King Hussein to Washington; and then the ritual visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, to get scolded by the U.S. government about building on Har Homa and then coerced to give the Palestinians something else they really want.

The Inevitable Conflict

Israel is always the one being severely criticized by the media and by world leaders for exacerbating the situation in the Middle East and jeopardizing the "Peace Process"-never the Palestinians who are attacking or their leaders who are inciting. Now, Israel is being accused of bringing the world to the brink of war over Har Homa by insisting on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. However, the crux of the conflict is the fact that a sovereign Jewish state in the middle of the Islamic world is seen as an affront by Islam. The Islamic world can never reconcile itself to Israel and sooner or later it will come to a head.

Avraham Tal, a columnist for Israel's "Ha'Aretz" newspaper, wrote on April 2, 1997:

"It is easy to claim that the Netanyahu government is responsible for the crisis in relations with the Palestinian Authority. If it had refrained from sending the bulldozers up to Har Homa and had offered a more generous phase to the Palestinians, the attacks and the riots would not have occurred; the investors and the tourists would continue to arrive; and life would go on-more or less-as normal. It is easy to claim this, because it is true. But the question is whether the crisis would have been avoided or just merely postponed, only to come upon us in the not-too-distant future, with or without Netanyahu.

"The drafters of the Oslo Accord erred in assuming that negotiations and concessions would lead to reconciliation and to concessions on the other side. The opposite is true: they gave rise to increased expectations and more forcefulness in the demand to implement them. The current crisis can be eliminated at the price of halting construction on Har Homa and promising a generous second phase. The confrontation can be postponed in the coming months through significant concessions in implementing the rest of the interim agreement. However, every crisis that is prevented will only be postponed to the next stage of negotiations; and in every crisis the threat of terrorism will hover over us, riots will take place at roadblocks, and the Arab states will stand united behind the Palestinians and exert political and economic pressure, as they are doing in the wake of the Har Homa crisis.

"In retrospect, there is a link between the pace of Israel's concessions on territories and authorities and the amount of tension in relations with the Palestinian leadership. As long as Israel fed the process with concessions, tension and conflicts were prevented. This would hold true in the future as well: continued calm in the process is conditional on Israel's readiness to continue feeding it with withdrawals and other concessions.

"The events happening now enable us to see what is anticipated, like in a crystal ball. It is possible that the Netanyahu government brought the confrontation closer, but if so, it only brought closer the inevitable. From Israel's standpoint, the question is when, and from what lines, is it preferable to arrive at the moment of truth."

Where will this all end? Surely the climax of the Arab-Israel conflict will be over Jerusalem-two opposing forces want the same territory, and now, the same capital city.

The Battle for Jerusalem

The battle for Jerusalem is now very real. At the height of the riots, subsequent to the start of the Har Homa building project, my family and I were eating dinner with CNN on in the background. We saw the scenes of rioting youths, tear gas, gun fire, Israeli troops, and Palestinian police all caught in a web of violence. However, unlike you, all of this was happening just over the hill from our house. It was rather surreal as we sat eating dinner in an envelope of apparent peace and tranquillity, watching violent scenes that seemed a continent away - yet knowing it was all happening just over a mile away.

The Bible is not silent on the subject. Read the prophet Zechariah 12:2-9, and see the prophecy of the future war over Jerusalem, complete with UN sanctions as all nations work together to lay siege on Judah and Jerusalem to force concessions from the Israeli government. However, the Messianic promise is that God will prevail, His people Israel and Jerusalem will survive, and God will judge those who came against His people Israel and His plan for His nation (see Zechariah 14).

The injunction to " "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"" (Ps. 122:6) is needed now, more than ever-not for a man-made peace, but for God's peace to prevail.


CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH RIGHTS UNDER JORDAN: 1948-1967

In 1990, liturgical church leaders in Jerusalem remarked that "the integrity, cultural and religious autonomy of the Christian, Armenian and Moslem Quarters of the Holy City" had been "honored by all previous rulers of Jerusalem." History reveals that it was terrible for the Jews and not at all good for Christians under Jordanian Moslem rule.

The church leaders did not mention the integrity of the Jewish quarter, because it was destroyed. After 1948, the Jordanians attempted to obliterate the Jewish presence and signs of Jewish identity from the Old City, including the destruction of 53 synagogues along with Jewish academies and libraries. They built a road through the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and used Jewish gravestones as paving material and lavatory seats in Jordanian camps. The Jordanians even evicted the Jewish residents of the Old City and subsequently prevented Jews and Israeli Moslems from entering the Old City to pray at their respective holy sites.

As for the Christians, in 1965, a Jordanian ordinance was enacted curtailing the further acquisition of land or property by Christian institutions in Jerusalem. Prior to this, Christian schools had to be closed on Fridays (the Moslem holy day), and they were required to have their Christian students taught the Koran by Moslem teachers. Mosques were built next to churches to prevent the expansion of the Christian churches. Even the members of the Order of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were ordered to become Jordanian citizens in a law passed in 1958, although they had maintained their Greek citizenship since the Order was founded in the 5th century.

Clarence H. Wagner, Jr. 
Bridges for Peace
International Headquarters
Jerusalem, Israel
May 9, 1997

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