The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has written to the State Department urging them to stop referring to eastern Jerusalem as “Palestinian Territories.” Eastern Jerusalem is actually the eastern half of the city of Jerusalem, including the ancient Jewish section populated by over 200,000 Jews, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest sites. The ZOA has described this usage as factually and legally inaccurate, politically biased and prejudicial to the prospect of genuine peace negotiations.
In a press release this week, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced several new projects pairing U.S. cultural institutions with foreign ones, including the pairing of the Minnesota Historical Society with the Palestinian Heritage Museum, located in the eastern half of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. The State Department press release stated that the program, ‘Design Diaries International,’ paired the Minnesota Historical Society with the “Palestinian Heritage Museum, East Jerusalem, Palestinian Territories” (‘U.S. Department of State Announces Museums Connect Cultural Exchange 2013 Awardees,’ State Department press release, July 10, 2013).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The designation of eastern Jerusalem as ‘Palestinian territories,’ is factually and legally inaccurate, politically biased and prejudicial to the prospect of genuine peace negotiations, should these occur one day. There is no Palestinian sovereign controlling eastern Jerusalem, only a Palestinian Authority (PA) controlling half of Judea and Samaria (Gaza is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas).
“While many states have recognized the legal fiction of a ‘state of Palestine,’ there is no such state, let alone one that actually holds sovereign power in eastern Jerusalem. In particular, the United States does not recognize such a state and voted accordingly when the admission of ‘Palestine’ as a non-member state of the United Nations was voted upon last November in the United Nations General Assembly. Moreover, the PA is a signatory to the Oslo Agreements in which it committed itself to not altering the political status of the disputed territories, except by a negotiated settlement with Israel. We must understand that Jordan illegally annexed eastern Jerusalem in 1948, and only one country recognized it. Even the Arab states rejected it.
“How ironic that the U.S. government, which criticizes Jews living in or building homes in eastern Jerusalem or in Judea and Samaria because doing so supposedly alters the political status of the territories, actually baldly and falsely declares that eastern Jerusalem is part of ‘Palestinian territories.’
“The State Department’s erroneous public statement about eastern Jerusalem also shows a lack of respect for its ally, the democratically elected government of Israel. In 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed a law affirming that a united Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Significantly, the law also affirmed the freedom of religion for all religious faiths in Jerusalem, a freedom that was denied when Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem.
Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places when it illegally occupied eastern Jerusalem. Jordan also destroyed fifty-eight synagogues and 38,000 Jewish cemetery headstones.
“Indeed, eastern Jerusalem was seemingly unimportant to Jordan because it failed to provide even the most basic municipal services there. Eastern Jerusalem’s residents lacked electricity, plumbing, health care services and even a steady water supply.
“It was Israel that began providing those badly needed municipal services to eastern Jerusalem, including to Arab homes and businesses. Arab residents are given the choice of becoming citizens of Israel.
“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people twice in history in the two Jewish commonwealths. It has never been the capital of any other state or people. It is mentioned almost six hundred times in the Hebrew Bible, but not even once in the Muslim Quran. It has been the focal point of Jewish prayers and longing, well symbolized in the line of the Psalmist — ‘If I forget thee, o Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning’ — and the eastern half of the city contains the holiest Jewish sites. Indeed, Jerusalem is one of the four Jewish holy cities. In contrast, Muslims face Mecca, not Jerusalem in prayer and the city possesses only some sites holy to Christianity and Islam, but is not a holy city to these faiths.
“Jerusalem is part of the territory earmarked for Jewish settlement in the 1920 San Remo Conference and this determination was subsequently incorporated into the League of Nations Palestine Mandate. It has never been superseded or altered by any subsequent, internationally binding agreement. Under the illegal Jordanian occupation of the eastern half of Jerusalem during 1948-67, it did not become the Jordanian capital (which remained in Amman) and became a repressive backwater in which Christians were not permitted to repair or enlarge churches and had to teach the Quran. Over 50% of Christians left and Jews were not permitted to enter to pray at Jewish holy sites, contrary to the 1949 armistice agreement.
“Under Israel, however, the city has enjoyed growth, prosperity and freedom of religious expression for all faiths. The Palestinian Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem receive social welfare benefits from Israel, not from the Palestinian Authority, They also have been offered Israeli citizenship. Surely, the Palestinian Authority does not control eastern Jerusalem with its hundreds of thousands of Jews and other Israeli citizens. In fact, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly proclaimed that they won’t allow any Israelis to live under their rule.
“The State Department therefore has erred grievously in describing eastern Jerusalem as ‘Palestinian territories.’
“This is not even a matter of the State Department regarding (wrongly) eastern Jerusalem as ‘occupied territory’ (as eastern Jerusalem did not form part of the sovereign territory of another country prior to Israeli taking control of it in 1967). Here, the State Department has gone further, asserting that eastern Jerusalem belongs to an entity called ‘Palestinian territories.’
“The U.S. position has been that these territories are subject to negotiation. If that is so, it should not be pre-judging the issue and claiming that it belongs to one or another party. The Obama Administration should therefore publicly repudiate the designation of eastern Jerusalem as being located in ‘Palestinian territories’ and correct all US governmental statements, including this recent press release, that falsely and wrongly states that eastern Jerusalem is part of the ‘Palestinian territories.’”
July 15, 2013
Mr. Michael A. Hammer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Hammer:
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., to bring to your attention a significant and disgraceful substantive error in a press release issued by the State Department last Wednesday, July 10, 2013. We urge you to correct the error immediately.
The press release, entitled “U.S. Department of State Announces Museums Connect Cultural Exchange 2013 Awardees,” states that the Palestinian Heritage Museum is located in “East Jerusalem, Palestinian Territories” (emphasis added). The State Department should not be referring to East Jerusalem as part of the “Palestinian Territories.” The statement is inaccurate, contradicting longstanding U.S. policy that the status of Jerusalem is as yet undetermined and must be resolved in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.
Besides contravening U.S. policy, the State Department’s statement about East Jerusalem is also an affront to the Jewish people. It disregards over 3000 years of Jewish history and the unbroken Jewish connection to all of Jerusalem – especially East Jerusalem, where the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, are located.
Even when the Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel, Jerusalem was the focus of their prayers and uppermost in their hearts and minds. When Jews pray, they face Jerusalem. Muslims, by contrast, face Mecca. Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Jewish Torah. By contrast, the Koran does not mention Jerusalem at all. Even after the Arabs captured and occupied East Jerusalem, it was never the capital of any Arab entity. Jordan’s capital remained Amman. Only one country recognized Jordan’s annexation of East Jerusalem; every other country, including the Arab states, rejected it.
The State Department’s erroneous public statement about East Jerusalem also shows a lack of respect for the democratic government of Israel. In 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed a law affirming that a united Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Significantly, the law also affirmed the freedom of religion for all religious faiths in Jerusalem, a freedom that was denied when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem.
Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places when it occupied East Jerusalem. Fifty-eight synagogues and 38,000 Jewish cemetery headstones were destroyed.
Jordan also imposed restrictions on Christian worship. Christians had limited access to their holy places, opening Christian schools was restricted and the Koran had to be taught in them, and Christian religious and charitable groups were prevented from acquiring real estate in Jerusalem. Approximately half of Jerusalem’s Christian population left Jerusalem because of Jordan’s oppression.
Indeed, East Jerusalem was seemingly unimportant to Jordan because it failed to provide even the most basic municipal services there. East Jerusalem’s residents lacked electricity, plumbing, health care services and even a steady water supply.
It was only when Israel reunified the city that the Arab mistreatment of East Jerusalem ended. It was Israel that began providing those badly needed municipal services to East Jerusalem, including to Arab homes and businesses. Arab residents are given the choice of becoming citizens of Israel. Even those who decide not to become citizens can vote in municipal elections and are involved in administering the city.
For the State Department to now publicly proclaim that East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinian Arabs ignores and disrespects the fact that it is Israel that has safeguarded all of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, for people of every religion.
Please ensure that the error identifying East Jerusalem as part of the “Palestinian Territories” is corrected immediately on the State Department’s Web site, and that the error does not recur. It sends the wrong message to the American public, to our ally Israel, and to the rest of the world.
Very truly yours,
Morton A. Klein Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
National President Director, Center for Law and Justice