Double standards: Jerusalem and the UN

Congress declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel 22 years ago, passing the Jerusalem Embassy Act by a vote of 93-5 in the Senate and 374-37 in the House.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu responds to UNESCO vote on Temple Mount, Western Wall
OVER THE last two years, various declarations have been made by world actors concerning Jerusalem. Ironically, the one that merely reflected an indisputable reality caused a large uproar whereas those that blatantly disregarded Jewish history and delegitimized Jewish culture, thereby harming the prospects for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, were supported by much of the international community.
Although considered provocative, US President Donald Trump’s measured decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be seen as a necessary correction to recent anti-Israel resolutions adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Security Council.
Three times – in April and October 2016 and May 2017 (on Israel’s Independence Day, no less) –UNESCO passed wildly unbalanced resolutions rejecting the legitimacy of Israeli claims to any part of Jerusalem. Similarly, in December 2016, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, which defines east Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods, the Jewish quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
Notably, many of the criticisms directed at Trump for refusing to maintain the absurd fiction that Jerusalem isn’t the capital of the Jewish state readily apply to these UN resolutions. Trump’s decision, it’s claimed, reverses decades of US policy and will make the two-state solution virtually unattainable. It doesn’t, and it won’t. Congress declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel 22 years ago, passing the Jerusalem Embassy Act by a vote of 93-5 in the Senate and 374-37 in the House (such bipartisanship is almost unheard of today).
By contrast, former president Barack Obama allowed Resolution 2334 to pass by refraining from using the US veto in the Security Council. In doing so, he broke with decades of American diplomatic precedent, which, until then, had shielded its strategic Middle East ally from the consequences of one-sided UN actions.
With respect to the two-state solution, it’s a question of what the permanent borders to be drawn between Israel and a Palestinian state will be. Nothing in the president’s decision precludes the negotiation of a settlement of this issue, including the possibility of a future Palestinian seat of government in east Jerusalem.
On the other hand, the aforementioned UN resolutions just fuel Palestinian maximalist positions, making peace much more difficult to achieve. With the UN already declaring that Israel has no legal or historical rights anywhere in Jerusalem, what is there left to negotiate? Moreover, if Israel’s right to exercise sovereignty even in west Jerusalem is open to question, why stop there? The same must hold true for Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Shortly after Trump’s announcement, a group of 130 Jewish studies scholars from American universities issued a statement expressing “dismay” at the decision, claiming that it “appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem… and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence.”
But acknowledgement that Israel’s de facto capital is the city where its parliament, Supreme Court and prime minister’s residence are located – all of which are in west Jerusalem – hardly equates to a determination of permanent Jewish sovereignty over the entire city. Additionally, one wonders why these progressive Jewish scholars didn’t feel the need to condemn Palestinian threats of bloodshed over what amounts to a largely symbolic action (never mind that Trump’s move sparked only muted protests in the region).
Most importantly, where were these same scholars in 2016, when UNESCO adopted resolutions that completely ignore Jewish historical and religious ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall? Does a resolution that refers to these holy sites solely by their Muslim names not imply exclusive Palestinian and Muslim proprietorship? Yet, not a word of protest against this historical revisionism was heard from these academics.
Actually, UNESCO lost all credibility long before it adopted its anti-Israel resolutions. That happened 16 years ago when the Palestinians tried to turn the entire 36-acre Temple Mount compound into an exclusively Muslim site by erasing every remnant and memory of its Jewish past, including the destruction of archeological evidence of that past.
During the construction of new underground mosques at the site, the Palestinian-appointed waqf (the Islamic religious authority) removed to city garbage dumps thousands of tons of rubble that included precious artifacts from the Second Temple period. UNESCO, which talks of wanting to preserve Jerusalem’s “historical status quo,” did nothing.
If Israel were a normal country, such rank hypocrisy would be considered detrimental to the peace process, there would be international outrage over continuous efforts to deny Jewish historical rights in Jerusalem and the US Embassy’s relocation to Israel’s capital wouldn’t be newsworthy.
Israel, however, has never been treated normally. Naturally, then, it took an American president who’s anything but normal to defy this insidious double standard.
Robert Horenstein is community relations director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon