Consequences on Jerusalem Will Be Devastating if UN Resolution Is Implemented, Say Representatives of Israeli Schools, Synagogues
JNS.org – The human consequences of implementing the recent United Nations resolution on Israel would be devastating, according to representatives of Israeli schools, synagogues and other institutions in areas of Jerusalem captured in 1967.
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 — which was adopted on December 23, with the US abstaining — asserted that all “Israeli settlement activities” in “the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” are “a flagrant violation of international law.” The resolution stated that Israel must “immediately and completely cease” such activities and also take action to “reverse negative trends on the ground.”
A number of major Jerusalem neighborhoods are situated in what the UN calls “East Jerusalem.” One of those neighborhoods is French Hill, a large urban area located in the northeastern part of the city.
“I live in French Hill,” award-winning Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi told JNS.org. “So the recent UN resolution has criminalized me and my family as occupiers.”
“I’m not illegal, and I’m not a ‘settler,’” said historian Maurice Roumani, a professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who resides in Armon HaNetziv (East Talpiot), a neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem with a population of 14,000. “These artificial definitions by the UN do not reflect reality.”
Teenage ‘settlers’ with disabilities
The institutions that could be adversely affected if the UN resolution leads to international boycotts or other actions include the Ilan Residential Home for Handicapped Young Adults, and the Beit Or Home for Young Autistic Adults; forests and housing projects sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF); and portions of the Hebrew University campus. Even the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives might be affected.
“My grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, going back seven generations, are buried on the Mount of Olives,” Washington, DC-based attorney Alyza Lewin told JNS.org. “Does the UN propose to ban Jews from using the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world? The notion that Israel is violating international law by burying its dead on this sacred spot is unthinkable.”
Princess Alice of Battenberg, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is buried in a small Christian cemetery at the foot of the Mount of Olives. A number of British royals have visited her gravesite over the years, including Prince Charles during his trip to Israel last October.
There also are Arab residents in many of these areas. “Some of my neighbors [in French Hill] are Arab Israelis,” Halevi noted. “Are they occupiers, too, or is it only the Jewish Israelis?”
Effects across denominational lines
Possible international action against these “occupied” sections of Jerusalem would cut across Jewish denominational lines, affecting Orthodox and non-Orthodox institutions alike.
The Masorti movement — the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism — sponsors a school and synagogue in French Hill, a school in Gilo and synagogues in the Ramot neighborhood and in Ma’ale Adumim. “The UN resolution is indiscriminate and historically obtuse,” said Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, who is one of the most prominent Conservative rabbis in the US.
Wolpe told JNS.org that, “Many of the areas the UN purports to ‘return’ are historically and by rights Jewish territory recognized de facto by the parties themselves. For the Masorti movement in Israel, enacting such a resolution would have terrible consequences religiously, economically and to the spirit of religious pluralism in Israel.”
The religious-Zionist social service organization AMIT is planning a “Yom Yerushalayim Mission” to Israel in May, which will include a number of events and activities in post-1967 parts of Jerusalem, including the Old City area. AMIT Executive Vice President Andrew Goldsmith told JNS.org that the UN’s action will not interfere with his organization’s work. During the past century, “we have witnessed many different political statements and efforts, none of which have had an impact” on AMIT’s work, he said, adding that the UN resolution “will not have an impact on our ability to serve our students.”
“David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s first prime minister) coined a phrase that accurately sums up how most Israelis feel about the United Nations,” said Mordechai Nisan, a professor of Middle East studies at Hebrew University. “The phrase was ‘Oom-Shmoom’ — ‘Oom’ is how the abbreviation for the UN is pronounced in Hebrew, and ‘Shmoom’ was Ben-Gurion’s way of dismissing its relevance.”
Nisan, who resides in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot Bet, parts of which are beyond the 1967 lines, told JNS.org, “Nobody is going to chop apartment buildings or streets in half in Ramot Bet or any other Jerusalem neighborhood. More than 250,000 Jews reside in parts of Jerusalem past the 1967 lines, and they are here to stay. The supporters of the recent UN resolution are delusional — they are living in their own little echo chamber, with no connection to reality.”
Hoping for a new position
Under the Obama administration, the US took a position similar to that of the UN, branding the post-1967 parts of Jerusalem as “occupied territory.” Many observers are hopeful that US policy will change under President Donald Trump. “It’s hard to imagine any American government being less favorable to Israel on Jerusalem-related issues than the Obama Administration,” Yossi Klein Halevi said. “I expect the new administration to be better, perhaps significantly better.”
Alyza Lewin said it is “imperative” for the Trump administration to “promptly recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.” Lewin and her father, Nathan Lewin, were the attorneys in a recent suit by a Jerusalem-born American citizen concerning his request to have his passport list “Israel” as his place of birth, instead of “Jerusalem,” which has been the State Department’s practice because the US does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel. The Supreme Court turned down that request in 2015, on the grounds that the American president has the exclusive authority to recognize foreign sovereigns.
“Since that is the position of the Court’s majority,” Alyza Lewin said, “President Trump should use his authority to promptly recognize Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.”