Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Where is Jerusalem?

by David Bedein - May 12, 2003

This is a sad story of an American citizen who was murdered in Jerusalem. Ben Blutstein was killed last July by Arab terrorists when he was sitting in a cafeteria at Hebrew University. His family now copes with the fact that the US State Department will not allow his US death certificate to state "Jerusalem, Israel".

This is not an arbitrary decision. This decision reflects an unchallenged US policy that recognizes no part of Jerusalem as part of Israel. For years, pro-Israel activists have worked on the wrong issue: asking that the US move its embassy to Jerusalem without asking that the US first recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel. The October 1995 legislation that passed Congress, which mandates the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, makes no mention of recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Four of our six children were born in Misgav Ladach hospital, in west Jerusalem. They hold US passports which state "Jerusalem", with no country.

The US Consul in Jerusalem, Jeffrey Feldman, met last week with Uri Lopolianski, the mayor of Jerusalem, to ask for an end to the construction of the Jewish neighborhood of Maaleh Zeitim, next to the Mount of Olives. This has been confirmed by the US press attache to the American Consulate in Jerusalem, Chuck Hunter, for Israel Resource News Agency.

The mayor politely rejected the American request, explaining that Jerusalem remains in sovereign Israeli territory. The US Consul did not accept that position.

This request occurred in the wake of a policy directive that came from the State Department after Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a speech at the AIPAC convention two weeks ago, asked for a cessation of all settlement activity. The US press attaché said that this directive also applies to Jerusalem. According to the CIA handbook, as it appears on the Web, 177,000 Israeli Jewish "settlers" live in 20 Jewish neighborhoods that were established by Israel in areas of Jerusalem that were annexed to Israel in 1967.

The neighborhood in question, Ma'aleh Zeitim, has hosted a Jewish community since the fifth century BCE, interrupted only by the Jordanian expulsion and desecration of the neighborhood and the nearby cemetery between the years 1948 and 1967. The Mount of Olives carries particular significance to the PLO, since the PLO was founded at the Intercontinental Hotel, smack in the center of the Mount of Olives cemetery, with Jewish gravestones used in the foundations of the hotel.

When asked if there was an issue of land appropriation from people who had title to the land or if there was any other irregularity involved in the establishment of the Jewish neighborhood of Ma'aleh Zeitim, US officials said that the US did not know of any improper land confiscation. The issue is clear: The US challenges Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem in a direct, unprecedented way.

Powell's comments on settlements may not be new. However, such US direct interference in Israeli policy in Jerusalem is without precedent. The Peace Now Movement, now headed by Moni Mordecai, who also serves as a senior advisor to Meimad leader and Labor MK Michael Melchior, had alerted the US State Department to the Ma'aleh Zeitim neighborhood, when Peace Now organized a demonstration calling for the eviction of the "settlers".

When Peace Now was asked if there were any Arabs with legal title to the land where the Maaleh Zeitim neighborhood is being constructed, they dispatched Eyal HaReuveni, a spokesman for Ir Shalem, an organization linked to Peace Now, to respond. HaReuveni replied that there were only two families who had lived there, that neither held any title to the property, and that there had been a garbage dump there beforehand. When HaReuveni was asked if it was not important to have a Jewish neighborhood next to a holy Jewish cemetery rather than a garbage dump, he responded that this was no reason to build a Jewish neighborhood. When asked about the fact that the garbage dump in front of the Jewish cemetery had become infested with drug addicts and other criminals, who used to mug visitors to the Mount of Olives cemetery, HaReuveni responded that he had no information about this.

Janet Aviad, in an e-mail written on behalf of Peace Now, has explained that Ir Shalem ["complete city"] is now running Peace Now's activities in Jerusalem. Aviad explained: "We decided to create a new entity, Ir Shalem, in order to draw into it people who did not identify with Peace Now on all issues, but who would on these specific ones related to Jerusalem." HaReuveni confirmed further that the activities of Ir Shalem were financed by the European Union, the association of West European governments. From documents obtained from the EU, we learned that the EU allocates 250,000 euros per annum to Ir Shalem.

So there you have it. European governments finance Israeli demonstrations to spark the US government into coordinated action to stop Israeli "settlement activity" in Jerusalem.

The US defines Jerusalem as an illegal settlement, extraterritorial to Israel. The question remains whether Israel's supporters will demand that the US recognizes Jerusalem as part of Israel. This is a real fight, unlike the symbolic issue of moving an embassy.

David Bedein is Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, located in Beit Agron International Press Center, Jerusalem (www.IsraelBehindtheNews.com).

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