Should Jews reclaim the words ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’?

MAGIC_1_PPPABy Richard Mather…

In a pair of recent articles for the Jewish Media Agency I explored the nature of Arab immigration in historic Palestine (i.e. before 1948) and also the way in which the names ‘Palestinian’ and ‘Palestine’ have been appropriated by Israel’s enemies for ideological purposes. I’m glad to say that both articles struck a chord with many readers and I was subsequently asked to write something that would combine both pieces of writing.

According to the most reliable statistics, most non-Jewish immigration to Palestine occurred in the 1800s and early 1900s (which explains why in the late 17th century not a single settlement had a name that was of Arabic origin). Demographer Roberto Bachi believes there were around 151,000 non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in 1540. By 1800, the Muslim and Christian populations had risen to 268,000, rising to 489,000 by 1890, 589,000 in 1922, and swelling to just over 1.3 million in 1948.

Many of the non-Jewish migrants to Palestine came for several reasons. The Ottoman authorities, for instance, transferred a great many people to Palestine to put them to work on infrastructure projects and to outflank Jewish immigration. Furthermore, the  Zionist project was very attractive to Arabs who were drawn to Palestine by the good wages and healthcare offered by the Jews.  Indeed, the Arab population of Palestine increased the most in cities where there were large numbers of Jews. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population grew by 290 per cent in Haifa, 158 per cent in Jaffa and 131 per cent in Jerusalem. By contrast, the growth in Arab-majority towns was less dramatic: 37 per cent in Bethlehem, 42 per cent in Nablus and 78 per cent in Jenin.

During the British civil administration in Palestine (1920 to 1948), restrictions were placed on Jewish immigration in order to appease Arab troublemakers. However, there was significant illegal Arab immigration from Egypt, Transjordan and the Hauran region of Syria. The Peel Commission reported in 1937 that a “shortfall of land” was “due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.”

Arab immigration continued at a pace until the Jews declared independence in 1948. By the time the Jews declared autonomy,  the Muslim and Christian population had risen substantially. The fact that non-Jewish immigration continued right up until Israeli independence is borne out by the United Nations stipulation that any Arab refugee who had lived in Palestine for a mere two years prior to Jewish independence was entitled to refugee status.

So while it would be silly to argue that there were few Arabs living in Palestine in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, the figures do show that the Arab population of Palestine largely comprised recent migrants from the Arab world and/or the Ottoman empire. This is important because it tells us that the postmodern notion of a deep-rooted Arab Palestinian culture is a sham. All the evidence points to the conspicuous absence of Arab culture. This explains why, historically, Arabs never talked about Palestinian identity – because there wasn’t one. They were Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Yemeni, Balkan, Sudanese and Ottoman Arabs, and many of them expressed allegiance to a Greater Syria or a supranational caliphate. (Many others, to their credit, became steadfast citizens of Israel.)

So the erroneous (but commonly-held) belief that colonialist Jews invaded a country called Palestine and displaced its native inhabitants is completely false. For a start, the people of Palestine who have the deepest roots in the land are the Jews whose relatives and ancestors have lived there  (to varying degrees) for several thousand years. Secondly, most of the Arabs who fled Palestine between 1947-49 did so because they were sure their Arab compatriots from Egypt, Iraq et al would be victorious in making Palestine Judenrein.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that a semi-coherent Arab Palestinian identity came into being. Until then, the Arabs had refused to call themselves the Palestinian people because it was a epithet reserved for the Jews. When people talk of a Arabic Palestinian culture or history, they are being disingenuous: the only Palestinian culture or history of any note is Jewish. Arabic-speaking Palestinianism started in the 1960s and even this was couched in fervently anti-Zionist and Judeophobic terms – hardly a stable platform on which to build a nation.

Despite their successful efforts in deceiving the world, many Arab Palestinian leaders know the truth about the origins of their people. Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat made this very clear when he said, “The Palestinian people have no national identity. I, Yasser Arafat, man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.” And in a conversation with Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, the leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa’iqa faction of the PLO, Zuheir Mohsen, remarked: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity […] yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Why else do the people who claim to be Palestinians regularly turn down the possibility of an independent state alongside Israel? It’s because the Arabs themselves don’t really believe in a State of Palestine. Their only interest is abolishing the ample Jewish presence between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Jewish self-determination is anathema to many Muslims who, since the time of Muhammed, have tried to keep the Jews in a state of subjugation and dhimmitude. When Arab and/or BDS protestors call for Palestine to be free “from the river to the sea,” what they are really calling for is the genocide (or at best the suppression) of the Jews.

Many of the problems experienced by Israel stem from something very simple but profound –  the change of name. While it is totally understandable that the leaders of the Yishuv chose the name Israel for their state (Judea was another option), it has had unfortunate consequences. By rejecting the labels Palestine and Palestinian, the Jews circumvented their own local history and identity, and bequeathed both the name and heritage of Palestine to modern-day Arabs who have only a tenuous connection to the land. So we are now in a perverse situation where Palestinian Jews call themselves Israelis and the Ottoman/Arab peoples call themselves Palestinians. What’s worse is the fact that the latter now claim to have been the indigenous people of Palestine all along (since before the dinosaurs?) – and the world (which has always been a sucker for conspiracy theories) believes it.

Isn’t it time to remind the Arabs and the international community that the Jews are the true Palestinians? Why else would there be a Palestinian Talmud or a Jewish newspaper called The Palestine Post. Why, until the creation of Israel, were the Jews known as Palestinians? Why did Immanuel Kant refer to Jews in Europe as “the Palestinians among us”? Why does the 1939 flag of Palestine have a Star of David on it? Why was the journal of the Zionist Organisation of America called New Palestine? Why was the Israel Electric Company’s originally called the Palestine Electric Company? Why was the major funding arm of the World Zionist Organization called the Palestine Foundation Fund?

The answer: Because the word Palestine is a descriptive for the land that, for thousands of years, was the incubator for Judean identity.

(I am not proposing for a minute that Israel changes its name back to Palestine. After all, Palestine was a name foisted upon the Jews by Roman imperial aggressors. But I am saying that Jews should not let the Arabs and their Israelophobic supporters hijack the names ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ as part of their delegitimisation campaign. Palestine was Jewish; it was never Arab. Language is everything. By relinquishing the proper use of words and removing them from their historical context, the truth of the matter is either degraded or lost altogether.)

All things considered, the Arabs since the 1960s claim to be Palestinians have done rather well. Having been on the losing side in various wars and skirmishes, and having sided with the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s, the Arabic-speaking people of Palestine have managed to appropriate centuries of Judeo-Palestinian heritage, have turned their dirty terror war into a bogus human rights struggle, have received billions of dollars in aid, are able to make huge demands on foreign policymakers, have been offered a state of their own on several occasions, and are a cause celebre on the Left and in the liberal media.

A critic of mine recently said, “Well, all this may be true,  but the people who claim to be Palestinians are Palestinians because they say  they are and, as such, they deserve our sympathy.” The trouble is, how can I trust these self-proclaimed Palestinians who lie about their history and who are engaged in a long culture war against the Jewish people? By perpetuating the ridiculous myth that they are the indigenous people of Palestine who were kicked out by the wicked  Zionists, they do themselves a great disservice. (Historians will no doubt look back on this period and wonder how on earth the world was so deceived by the Arabs.) If the Palestinians do want a viable state (and there is little evidence that they do) then they must start acting like grown-ups.

And this means being open and honest about their identity and admitting that they are, in fact, an invention of Arafat’s Third World nationalism. There’s nothing necessarily wrong in that, but why can’t they be honest about it? It also means accepting the existence of a Judeo- Palestinian country called Israel; it means apologising for their role in the massacres of Jews in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936 and 1947; it means apologising for the complicity of their leaders during the Holocaust; it means taking responsibility for the mistakes of the past and saying sorry for the countless deaths of Israeli civilians; and it means putting an end to the abhorrent anti-Zionist/pro-BDS propaganda that is fuelling anti-Semitism across the globe.

Only then will I consider the reality and destiny of an Arab-Palestinian people. Until then, they’ll get no sympathy from me.




By Richard Mather, JMA editor 

The House of Commons has voted to recognise the State of Palestine. But what is the State of Palestine? What are its borders and its currency? What and where are its legitimate international institutions? What is its government – the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?

At present, the State of Palestine is no more than a state of mind, a political-ideological fantasy dreamt up by Yasser Arafat and his Nazi sympathiser predecessor Haj Amin Al-Husseini. Palestine does not and never did exist in any concrete sense. It is a country of the imagination, residing in the warped minds of Islamo-anarchist Jew-haters.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the State of Palestine is a real place. What would it be like? For a start, it would be a colonial outpost of the Arab-Muslim world, which has been appropriating land since the time of Mohammed. It would be a racist state, a place where Jews (who are the real and original Palestinians) are ethnically cleansed from Judea and Samaria. And until Hamas revokes its charter calling for the mass murder of the Jewish people, it would be a genocidal state. The State of Palestine would be a rogue state financed and armed by extremist countries like Iran and Qatar. The State of Palestine would be a human rights nightmare where women and gays are oppressed or killed, where journalists are imprisoned, where dissident voices are quashed, where political opponents are thrown off the top of buildings, where Christians are hounded out.

Despite this litany of problems, the world seems intent on establishing the twenty-third Arab country at a time when the Arab world is falling apart. A State of Palestine, with UN backing, will probably be a reality in ten to fifteen years. Of course, Israel and the Jewish people are under no obligation to recognise the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. But perhaps I can be persuaded. Here’s my list of conditions:

I will only recognise Palestine if Jews are allowed to stay in their homes in Hebron and Ariel and Beitar Illit, and the Hamas charter is revoked. I will recognise Palestine when the Arabs recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation and the refugees (who aren’t really refugees at all but the descendants of half a million Arab immigrants to Palestine in the late 19th century) are resettled in Palestine and not Israel. I will recognise Palestine when the endemic Jew-hatred is renounced and purged from school textbooks. I will recognise Palestine when it rejects the dream of a greater Palestine from the river to the sea. I will recognise Palestine when the Palestinian Arabs apologise for their role in the Holocaust. I will recognise Palestine when they apologise for massacring Jews in Hebron in 1929 and Jerusalem in 1936. I will recognise Palestine when it apologises for starting the war in 1947-49. I will recognise Palestine when it acknowledges the mistakes it has made (rejecting several two-state solutions) and takes some responsibility for its past, present and future. I will recognise Palestine when it starts behaving like a state that wants to prosper instead of a terrorist basket case that wants to destroy the one good thing in the Middle East – Israel.

Palestine – it’s not worth it

One of the most alarming experiences as a European is to see how our politicians and the media continue to criticize Israel but not the Palestinians, whose pseudo-national aspirations garner more attention than Syrian war casualties, Chinese human rights abuses and the plight of women and girls enslaved by Islamic terrorists.

It is strange that the Palestinians – who have no historical, cultural or legal rights to the land of Israel – are endowed with international and economic patronage by the US, the EU and the UN. How did the Palestinians and their Arabist-Islamist backers manage to achieve such a feat?

Firstly, the Palestinians have learnt that violence is rewarded. Acts of terror against Israelis have only strengthened the West’s belief that a Palestinian state is of paramount importance. The latest round of fighting in Gaza confirms this.

Secondly, the Palestinians have managed to convince most of the world that they are a landless and suffering people, whose plight is equal to that of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. This is has to be one of history’s biggest hoaxes. And it is a very dangerous hoax indeed. Why? Because the “Palestinian issue” has enabled Europe to reconnect with its Jew-hating past by blurring the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

The fact that Jewish businesses across the world are being boycotted is testament to the perverse success of the Palestinian movement. Jews in France have been murdered. Synagogues in Belfast and London have been vandalized. Anti-Semitic chants and references to the Holocaust are commonplace in Europe’s cities. Countries that pride themselves on their enlightened and liberal societies – such as Sweden, Germany and Norway – are all places where Jews no longer feel safe.

At last, the shocking rise in anti-Semitism in Europe is garnering some media attention. But the issue is still not taken seriously by the liberal-left, the police and most politicians. This is because much of the anti-Semitic abuse is carried out by Muslims who claim it is retribution for their “brothers” in Gaza. And the liberal elite either agrees or looks the other way.

The situation cannot continue. It is incomprehensible that Jews are suffering the same hatred as they did during the 1930s and 1940s. The curse of anti-Semitism is once again strangling Europe’s hard-won freedoms. The post-1945 consensus that Jews will never again be made to suffer at the hands of fascists is falling apart.

Perhaps Europe’s leaders should be asking themselves one simple question: is the creation of a Palestinian state really worth the aggravation? After all, the people who call themselves Palestinians have had at least seven opportunities since 1937 to establish a state alongside Israel and each time they have refused. Since it is clear that the Palestinians are not interested in peaceful co-existence, it is surely incumbent on the international community to focus on more important matters (such as the liberation of the Kurds from Islamist imperialism).

Will Europe listen? Or will it continue to advance the Palestinian issue until not a single Jew is left in Europe? Only time will tell. But in the meantime don’t be surprised if the number of Jews making Aliyah continues to rise.




Intimidation on the streets of Manchester

The British city of Manchester is currently under siege from a pro-Palestinian mob protesting the existence of an Anglo-Israeli shop on one of the city’s most upmarket streets.

The shop under siege is Kedem, a store that sells cosmetics made from minerals extracted from the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Kedem is not a political shop. It is a registered British company, paying British taxes. Nonetheless, Kedem is now the focus of the malignant boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The pro-Palestinians have declared Kedem an “easy target.”

For two weeks Kedem has been subjected to a daily eight-hour-long siege. But Kedem’s products have nothing to do with Gaza or even with the “settlements” in the so-called West Bank. It is just a shop selling soap and exfoliating cream. When the protests first started, the shop was forced to shut for four days. But a large contingent of Israel supporters has come to the rescue. Day after day, Manchester’s Jewish community have turned out to support the shop and to oppose the pro-Palestinian protesters.

The pro-Palestinian contingent is mixed. There are Islamic fundamentalists (including one man who claims to be Hamas’ leader in Britain), anarchists, hardcore leftists, self-styled peace activists, Pakistani gangsters, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and even Druids. Many of these people are already known to Greater Manchester Police, who have seen the same faces at anti-fracking demonstrations.

The protesters love to chant anti-Israel slogans. “One, two, three, four, occupation no more” is a particular favourite. “Palestine will be free, from the river to sea” is another. Pro-Israel supporters are regularly subjected to accusations of murder, baby killing, genocide, ethnic cleansing. One of my Jewish friends was told he was “not a Jew but a Nazi.”

Insults like “dirty Jewish pig” and “ZioNazi thugs” are commonplace. And yet the protesters continue to insist they are not anti-Semitic.

According to the BDS fanatics, it is not anti-Semitic to boycott a Jewish-owned shop. But we remind them that Jewish shops were targeted in the 1930s. But they don’t listen. They don’t care that Jews in Britain are genuinely afraid of where this situation is heading. For example, five cars full of men drove through a Jewish residential district in Manchester waving Palestinian banners and shouting anti-Semitic remarks including “Heil Hitler.”

Despite the hatred emanating from the pro-Palestinians, the Jewish community has been galvanized. Jews of all creeds – from atheists to Hasids – have come together to support Kedem and the State of Israel. On some days we have managed to outnumber the opposition. Plus, our speakers are much more eloquent (and often louder). Many Jews and non-Jews have stepped up to the microphone to make the case for Israel. Our arguments are cogent, intelligent and respectful. On many occasions we have drowned out the opposition. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian side seems to have been taken aback by the strength of Jewish support for both Kedem and Israel.

A former film maker from Canada is lending his support to the Israeli contingent. His name is David Semple and he is currently writing a book about Jerusalem. David is a righteous gentile. He is passionate about Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. He has a thorough knowledge of Middle East affairs and history. David’s speeches are utterly brilliant and they seem to have had a demoralising effect on the opposition.  One policewoman told me she had learnt a lot about Israel’s history thanks to David.

Another encouraging factor is the support of the public. I’ve had Jews and gentiles who work and/or shop in Manchester offering their support. American tourists have congratulated us for our efforts. On the other hand, some members of the public have accused us of “having blood on our hands.” One man called us “animals” and “scum.”

As well as making the case for Israel, we try very hard to highlight the hypocrisy of the boycotters. It is all too easy to boycott an innocent shop that sells soap but why don’t the protestors discard their USB flash drives and instant messaging software which were both invented in Israel? Why don’t they throw away their laptops and computers which are powered by Israeli Intel processors? Why continue to use Microsoft Office, Windows XP and Windows Vista when they were invented by Microsoft Israel? We tell them to stop using Google because Google uses an advanced text search algorithm invented by an Israeli student.

We remind them that mobile phones, voice mail and the mobile camera function were all invented in Israel. But the BDS fanatics either don’t believe us or don’t care. One protester said he didn’t want to throw away his Smart phone because he needed it to ring his mum and dad. Do such people know the meaning of the word hypocrisy?

We ask them why they single out Israel for criticism whilst ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy where one in five citizens are Arabs who have the right to vote and sit in the Israeli parliament. We ask them why they support Hamas when they use their own people as human shields and spend millions of dollars of aid money building terror tunnels. Their response: outright denial.

We admit that Israel isn’t perfect, just like the UK or France isn’t perfect. But constantly demonizing Israel –whilst ignoring the massacres in Iraq and Syria or the exploitation of workers in India and China – isn’t constructive criticism. It is racism.

Kedem is tired of being an easy target. The Jewish people are sick of being intimidated and abused. But after thousands of years of persecution, Jews are no longer prepared to be led like lambs to the slaughter. And as long as this horrible situation continues we will do all we can to support Kedem and the State of Israel, even if it means standing outside a soap shop for eight hours a day.




Top 20 Israel facts

  1. The name “Israel” first appears on an Egyptian obelisk from 1209 BCE. The twelve Israelite tribes, having escaped slavery in Egypt, settled in the land of Canaan between 1200 and 1000 BCE.
  2. Jews have had a continuous presence in the land (including the modern-day West Bank) for the past 3,300 years.
  3. Jerusalem has always been considered the focus of Judaism and Jewish identity. Jerusalem is mentioned at least 700 times in the Jewish scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Quran.
  4. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, ravaged the land of Judea and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews.  In an effort to de-Judaize the land, the Romans renamed Judea as “Palestine.” Many Jews fled, although a remnant remained, especially in Galilee.
  5. The word “Palestine” has always been a vague term denoting a mutable territory that is to the south of Syria, to the north of Egypt and to the west of the River Jordan.
  6. There has never been a country or a state called Palestine. But there have been several Jewish commonwealths in the land of Israel.
  7.  The word “Palestinian” does not denote ethnicity. Palestinian Arabs are ethnically and culturally identical to Arabs living in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
  8. Before the State of Israel, the word “Palestinian” usually referred to the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a distinct non-Jewish Palestinian identity came into being.
  9. The Palestinian Arab leadership actively collaborated with Hitler before and during the Second World War and there was talk of bringing the Holocaust to the Middle East in order to eradicate the Jewish population.
  10. In the 1948-49 war, local Arabs were encouraged to leave by their leaders who promised to purge the land of Jews.  Two-thirds of the Arab population evacuated (around 600,000 people). The remaining third were afforded Israeli citizenship rights.
  11. Israel is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democratic state.  Jews from Europe, Ethiopia, Russia, America and the Middle East live in Israel. A fifth of Israelis are Muslim and Christian Arabs, with full voting and citizenship rights. Minorities such as the Druze, the Samaritans and the Circassians enjoy full rights in Israel.
  12. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is the only country in the region where freedom of religion is observed and minority rights (e.g. gay rights) are observed.
  13. Following the creation of the State of Israel, nearly a million Jews who had lived in Arab lands for centuries were forced to flee due to anti-Semitic persecution and pogroms. Many came to Israel and are keen supporters of Likud, Israel’s best-known right-of-center political party.
  14. Many of the Palestinian Arabs who fled in 1948 and 1949 were recent economic migrants to the Holy Land. The United Nations has acknowledged that many had only lived in Israel/Palestine for two years prior to Jewish independence.
  15. The surrounding Arab nations have consistently refused to integrate the Palestinians, preferring to keep them in camps. The UN has perpetuated this problem by creating a unique agency for the Palestinians.  Since 1971 and for nearly ten years, the UN General Assembly condemned Israel every year for trying to rehabilitate the refugees.  This condemnation always had one requirement: “Send the refuges to the camps.”
  16. UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not call on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank but instead calls for a negotiated solution which would leave Israel with secure borders.
  17. Following the 1993 Oslo accords, the Palestinians were given full control over 55% of the West Bank population and administrative control over a further 41% of the population.
  18. Contrary to popular opinion, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria) are legal under international law. The League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine (1922) encouraged the Jews to settle the entire Land of Israel (including the modern-day West Bank). This legal instrument has never been superseded.
  19. Since 2000, the Palestinian leadership had three major opportunities to establish an independent state. Yasser Arafat walked away from the Camp David talks in 2000 despite being promised 92% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza and east Jerusalem. A resolution was also put forward by the Israelis in 2008, in which the Palestinians would receive Gaza, the majority of the West Bank, parts of east Jerusalem, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and the dismantling of settlements in the Jordan Valley and eastern Samaria. Unfortunately, Mahmoud Abbas did not give a final response on the matter and negotiations ended.
  20. Israel is not the only country to impose a blockade on Gaza. Egypt, too, has imposed a blockade because of Hamas. Despite the blockades, Gaza’s real GDP grew by more than 25% during the first three quarters of 2011. Gaza also boasts a five-star hotel, restaurants, a luxury shopping mall, vibrant markets and a thriving beach community.

Jewish settlements are legal, EU is told

A petition, containing the signatures of over 1,000 respected diplomats and legal experts from around the world, has been delivered to the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

According to the text of the petition, the EU is wrong to believe that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are illegal, and that the term “1967 lines” does not exist in international law.

Legal scholars from South Africa, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Greece, Malta, Holland, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, have signed the petition.

The man responsible for the petition is British-born Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

It comes as the EU considers whether to introduce separate labeling for products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria, a policy that would apply to all 28 EU member states.

In an interview with Israeli news organization Arutz Sheva, Mr Baker explained why it is incorrect to distinguish between Israel and Judea and Samaria, saying there is “no such thing” as the 1967 lines.

“There never was such a thing. The matter of the borders is on the agenda of the negotiations. The EU cannot dictate a subject that is on the agenda of the negotiations. The pre-1967 lines are [1949] armistice lines. These are not recognized lines or security lines. In the Oslo process, it was agreed between us and the Palestinians that the matter of borders will be negotiated.”

He continued: “The term ‘1967 lines’ does not appear anywhere in our agreement with the Palestinians, therefore it is a legal and factual aberration to determine that these are our lines.”

Mr Baker also told Arutz Sheva that the settlements should be considered legal under international law because Jewish settlers have freely chosen to live in Judea and Samaria; they have not been forcibly transferred to the territory by the Israeli government.

Given the opportunity, I am sure Mr Baker would draw upon several other lines of argument to support the case for the Jewish settlements. In his stead, I shall attempt to outline the main legal underpinning of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

We have to go back nearly a hundred years to discover the origin of the settlements’ legality. Firstly, there was the 1920 San Remo conference, in which Britain (following the collapse of the Ottoman empire) was instructed to establish a Jewish national home on territory covering what would become Israel, Jordan and part of the Golan Heights.

Then came the British Mandate for Palestine, a legal commission established and confirmed by the League of Nations (an early version of the UN) in 1922, which formalized the creation of two states – a Jewish homeland in “Palestine” and an Arab homeland called Transjordan (now simply Jordan).

Significantly, the Mandate not only legalized the immigration of Jews to Palestine, it encouraged close settlement of all the land, including Judea and Samaria.

Two years after the Second World War, the British handed the Mandate to the UN, which recommended (rather than enforced) a partition of the nascent Jewish homeland. Despite already having Transjordan, the Arabs rejected the offer of partition and declared war on the Palestinian Jews. This resulted in the Jordanian annexation of Judea and Samaria (and renamed the West Bank). At the insistence of the Arabs, the 1949 armistice line was “not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary.”

In 1967, Israel won control of the West Bank after a war of self-defense. UN Security Council Resolution 242 recommended Israeli withdrawal from territories in return for the right “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” At a conference in Khartoum the Arabs refused to negotiate or make peace with Israel. In fact, they refused to recognize Israel at all.

Israel’s critics sometimes employ the Fourth Geneva Convention to argue that the settlements are illegal. But the Fourth Geneva Convention pertains only to cases of occupation of a sovereign entity. Because of the Arab refusal to reach an agreement in 1948, the West Bank never became the legal territory of any sovereign entity, not even Jordan.

A territory is only occupied if it is captured in war from an established and recognized sovereign. Jordan was never an established or recognized sovereign of the West Bank. Therefore, Israel is not an occupier and the West Bank is not occupied land.

As such, Judea and Samaria is unclaimed Mandate land and should therefore be referred to as “disputed” territory. Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967 merely restored the territory to its legal status under the Mandate of 1922, which has never been superseded in law, not even by the 1947 partition plan.

In short, the settlers are simply enacting the Mandate and they should be allowed to continue with this enterprise without interference or condemnation. This legal truth should form a core part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Temple Mount belongs to the Jewish people

The traditional Tisha B’Av walk around the Temple Mount will be held next week on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. This year, the walk will depart later than usual (11:30pm) so that Muslims worshippers can complete their Ramadan celebrations on the Temple Mount.

The decision has been made by police who cite security concerns. But organizers of the walk have described it as a “disgrace.” Nadia Mataro, co-director of grassroots Zionist organization Women in Green, told Arutz Sheva that “the Arabs ascend the Temple Mount but the Jews can only pray at the Western Wall. In a sovereign state, the Jews’ events will only be held after the Arabs’ events are finished. Why? Why can’t they start their events later, so that we can march earlier?”

Israel should never have relinquished control of the Temple Mount. During the Six-Day War, the Jewish state captured the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assured that “no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.” Israel passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law and agreed to leave administration of the site in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, an Islamic trust that has controlled the area since the 12th century.

This was a massive mistake. Yes, it was a magnanimous gesture designed to demonstrate Israel’s goodwill and religious tolerance. But it has allowed the Muslim authorities to rob the Jewish people of their cultural inheritance and delegitimize Israel’s historic right to Jerusalem.

As well as turning a blind eye to vandalism, the Waqf allows illegal digging to take place. Palestinian excavations of Temple Mount have damaged its structural integrity, and valuable artifacts and important historical remnants have literally been thrown away into rubbish dumps.

Among finds uncovered in rubble removed from the Temple Mount are: the imprint of a seal belonging to a priestly Jewish family mentioned in the Tanakh; more than 4,300 coins from various periods, many of which are from the Jewish revolt that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE; and arrowheads shot by Babylonian invaders 2,500 years ago.

The throwing away of evidence is a central tenet of Palestinian nationalism, which denies there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The phenomenon known as “Temple denial” started when Yasser Arafat used the Camp David Summit in 2000 to insist that a Jewish Temple had never existed in Jerusalem. The idea immediately caught on and has become a mainstay of anti-Zionist discourse.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Jews who visit the Temple Mount are pelted with rocks and hassled by hostile Muslims. At other times, Israeli police have clashed with Arabs rioters after being attacked with stones and firebombs. There is also institutional harassment of Jews. In 2012, a young British Jewish student was accosted by the Waqf who demanded that he remove his “offensive” yarmulke. The student later told reporters that while he has experienced anti-Semitism in England, he “never thought that in Judaism’s holiest site I would be subjugated to such discrimination.”

It is plain to see that Islamic control of the Temple Mount is motivated by politics, not religion. If the site is so important to Muslims, why didn’t a single foreign Arab leader come to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque during the two decades of Jordanian occupation? And why do Muslims pray with their backsides towards the Temple Mount? And why is Jerusalem not mentioned once in the Koran?

In contrast, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s most holy and revered site. Judaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest. According to the Talmud, it was from the Temple Mount that God gathered the dust used to create Adam. The site is also the location of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, and of two Jewish Temples, both of which were destroyed by foreign invaders. Many Israelis believe there should be a third Jewish Temple. In 2010, a public opinion poll conducted by Channel 99 showed that 50 per cent of Israelis want the Temple to be rebuilt.

This is the aim of The Temple Institute, a Jerusalem-based religious organization that has started to restore and construct the sacred vessels for the service of the Holy Temple. According to the institute, “Jewish history has a trajectory, which began when the patriarch Abraham smashed his father’s idols. That trajectory has spanned the millennia, and it is obvious that we are rapidly approaching climactic times, in which the Holy Temple will once again become the focal point for mankind’s spiritual focus.”

It is time for Israel to once again make history and recapture the Temple Mount, thereby rescinding the authority of the Waqf. The symbolic importance of taking control should not be underestimated. It would send a clear message to the Palestinians and to the world that Jerusalem is a Jewish city and will never be divided. Reclaiming the Temple Mount will also make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel is an eternal fact on the ground.