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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801

August 11, 2009

Palestinian Fatah demands control of 'all of Jerusalem' before peace talks can be conducted with Israel

Dear Friend of FLAME:

As if President Obama's attempt to hold Israel completely responsible for moving Middle East peace talks ahead wasn't unrealistic enough, the West Bank Palestinian party has now demanded complete sovereignty over Jerusalem as a precondition for any negotiations. The announcement came at last week's Fatah conference in Bethlehem, which also re-elected Mahmoud Abbas as its leader.

This bizarre demand reminded me of a BBC report I heard on NPR early last week about nine Palestinian families being evicted by Israel from their East Jerusalem homes. The report, in typical BBC style, focused on the eviction of some 50 people whose families had lived in the houses for 50 years, and one of the angry Palestinian evictees was interviewed. Sad story. The U.S. State Department has since protested the evictions.

But wait. One thing was missing from the story---the obvious question for any reporter (except those of the BBC?): Why were the Palestinians being evicted? The answer, which I discovered after 30 seconds of research: Following decades of litigation, the Israeli supreme court (and many courts before it) had ruled that the houses belong to Jews, who owned them before the Jordanians seized them in Israel's 1948 War of Independence. Indeed, the neighborhood had been Jewish for many decades before it became a spoil of war and a home to Arabs. The Arab paperwork alleging ownership of the property, the courts found, was forged. Hmmmm. That changes the story.

As you may know, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, and between 1948-1967, when Jordan controlled the city, no Arab leaders ever visited it. Yet Fatah in its recent statement claims Jerusalem is the "eternal capital of Palestine, the Arab world and the Islamic and Christian worlds." (Notice anyone missing from this list?)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu clarified the Israeli position on Jerusalem and where people can live in it: "[U]nited Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged . . . This has been the policy of all Israeli governments . . . This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city."

Wow, what a radical position. If you rent or own the property, you can live or build there. No racial or ethnic housing discrimination allowed. Why does the U.S. government oppose this?

This week's article, by the always-incisive Jeff Jacoby, gives you the perfect quick briefing on who owns Jerusalem and why we should oppose U.S. pressure on Israel to stop populating the Jewish state's capital with Jews.


Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


If you agree that U.S. pressure on Israel to give up all or large parts of Jerusalem is unfair and ill advised, please review the recent FLAME position paper---"Jerusalem (2): Should the U.S. Embassy be moved to the capital of Israel?" It's a perspective the Obama administration would profit from. For this reason, we have sent it to the President's office, as well as that of every U.S. Senator and Representative. Most importantly, we've published this piece in national media (including college newspapers) delivering more than five million impressions to the American public each month. (You may enjoy another excellent article recently posted on our website, showing why the Palestinians among themselves cannot even agree on peace terms, let alone manage an independent state: "Myth of Palestinian Unity" by Moshe Elad of Ynet News. Please check it out.) Above all, if you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations for Israel is important and valuable, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion comes from Israel's supporters like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies. To give him your opinion about Israel's rights to its undivided capital city, Jerusalem, please write the President---right now.

Who Owns Jerusalem—Can It Really Be One City, Undivided?
by Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, July 22, 2009

Late last week, the Obama administration demanded that the Israeli government pull the plug on a planned housing development near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The project, a 20-unit apartment complex, is indisputably legal. The property to be developed—a defunct hotel—was purchased in 1985, and the developer has obtained all the necessary municipal permits.

Why, then, does the administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.

It is impossible to imagine the opposite scenario: The administration would never demand that Israel prevent Arabs from moving into a Jewish neighborhood. And the Obama Justice Department would unleash seven kinds of hell on anyone who tried to impose racial, ethnic, or religious redlining in an American city. In the 21st century, segregation is unthinkable — except, it seems, when it comes to housing Jews in Jerusalem.

It is not easy for Israel's government to refuse any demand from the United States, which is the Jewish state's foremost ally. To their credit, Israeli leaders spoke truth to power, and said no. "Jerusalem residents can purchase apartments anywhere in the city,'' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. "There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews building or buying in the city's east. This is the policy of an open city.''

There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews—many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. "As they left,'' the historian Sir Martin Gilbert later wrote, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and . . . the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing.''

For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Jerusalem's most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn't until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided.

And not only Israelis. US policy, laid out in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizes Jerusalem as "a united city administered by Israel'' and formally declares that "Jerusalem must remain an undivided city.''

As a presidential candidate, Obama said the same thing. To a 2008 candidate questionnaire that asked about "the likely final status of Jerusalem,'' Obama replied: "The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement . . . Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided.'' In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council, he repeated the point: "Let me be clear . . . Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.''

Palestinian irredentists* claim that eastern Jerusalem is historically Arab territory and should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In reality, Jews always lived in eastern Jerusalem—it is the location of the Old City and its famous Jewish Quarter, after all, not to mention Hebrew University, which was founded in 1918. The apartment complex that Obama opposes is going up in what was once Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish neighborhood established in 1891. Only from 1948 to 1967—during the Jordanian occupation—was the eastern part of Israel's capital "Arab territory.'' Palestinians have no more claim to sovereignty there than Russia does in formerly occupied eastern Berlin.

The great obstacle to Middle East peace is not that Jews insist on living among Arabs. It is that Arabs insist that Jews not live among them. If Obama doesn't grasp that, he has a lot to learn.

*Irredentist: One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government.

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