By chris akiri
ON Tuesday, December 7, 2017, the US President, Donald J. Trump, declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, promising to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Following this declaration, there was mass hysteria in the Arab world, condemning the declaration as a dead set against the peace mediation process in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio and against International Law. I dare say that a sizeable crop of the anti-declaration protesters inveighs against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from the angle of vision of religion and cheap, emotional sentiments.
From a remote period of antiquity, except on those excruciating periods when it was conquered and occupied by more powerful enemies, the City of Jerusalem, located in the Judean Hills of Israel and appears 719 times in Bible verses, has been the capital of the United Monarchy of Israel over which ruled countless Hebrew monarchs, including, but not limited to, David and Solomon (1 Kings 1:37, 2 Samuel 8:11-21 and 1Kings 8:21). If any other group, including the original inhabitants of the City, the Jebusites (not Arabs), refused or omitted to lay claim to their city, such a group would be said to have slept on its rights and overtaken by the equitable doctrine of laches and acquiescence or prescription, for where were the Jebusites, the Perizzites, the Amorites, etc., when David and Solomon, for example, reigned over Israel, with its capital in Jerusalem, for 33 and 40 years on end, respectively? The hackneyed Latin maxim, vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt (the laws aid those who are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their rights) has been held to be valid from time immemorial. Jerusalem was the capital of Israel even when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. Israel was and remains “The Promised Land” and Jerusalem, its divinely chosen capital. According to the Almighty Father, in the Holy Writ, “Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build a house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel. But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel” (2 Chronicles 6: 5-6).
Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations forbids the use of force in the internal relations of States. Against that background, let us consider the following facts: Israel was created by the General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947 and, on May 14, 1948, became the sovereign State of Israel. Thirty-three Member States of the UN voted in favour of the Resolution; thirteen against, ten abstained and one was absent. No sooner did Israel become an independent sovereign State than all the Arab States launched ferocious attacks against the young State, in defiance of Resolution 181 of the UN. So, who is setting UN Resolutions at naught, if we must reason from cause to effect? The wonted discrimination against Israel in the UN, now hallowed by custom, explains why Michael Reisman contends that “Article 2 (4) was part and parcel of a complex collective security process”, emphasizing that the obvious collapse of the process had undermined the original understanding behind the sub-section. Correct!
Or how do you explain the fact that, although Israel has been referred to as the “Occupying Power” 530 times in General Assembly Resolutions, there has been no single reference to Indonesia, in East Timor, or to Turkey, in Northern Cyprus, to Russia, in areas of Georgia or in Ukraine’s Crimea, to Morocco, in Western Sahara, to Vietnam, in Cambodia or to Armenia, in areas of Azerbaijan as an “Occupying Power”? Anti-Semitism? Or giving credit to the Urhobo aphorism that the earthworm navigates its way through the softest part of the soil?
Since May 14, 1948, all Arab States and Iran have consistently vowed to remove Israel from the world map. In view of this, Israel has decided to hold on to certain Palestinian areas, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights (captured in the Six-Day war in 1967) as buffer states to prevent a direct incursion of Palestinian and other aggressor States into the Israeli State. And Israel is an “Occupying Power”?
Two of the great religions in the world, Christianity and Islam, have their holy places to which their adherents make annual pilgrimages– Christians to Jerusalem, in Israel, and Muslims to Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia. Besides this fact, Jerusalem has suffered untold hardships. In its long and chequered history, Jerusalem, in Israel, has been attacked fifty-two times, captured and re-captured forty-four times, besieged twenty-three times and destroyed twice. In April, 637 AD, the same year the Arabs started their conquest and occupation of North Africa, what later became “The Maghreb”, Caliph Umar travelled from Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem to receive the submission of Jerusalem to his army of conquest. The Arab conquest of that year solidified their control over Palestine, a control that was not to be threatened until the First Crusade in the late 11th century.
According to the Chronological Reference Points (Middle East Insight) of January-February, 1999), Jerusalem was conquered by the Canaanites (Jebusites) in 1200 BCE; in 1000 BCE, King David conquered Jerusalem. In 960 BCE David’s son, Solomon, built the First Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The first Arab conquest and occupation of Jerusalem spanned the period AD 637-1099, during which period the Dome of the Rock was built (AD 691) on the sites of the demolished Temples built by Solomon and other Jews.
The Byzantines (AD 324-614), who built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in AD 335; the Persians (AD 614-629) and the Byzantine Christians (AD 629-638) were successive conquerors of Jerusalem. Other conquerors of Jerusalem included the Umayyads, the Romans, the Abbasids, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans. The City was placed under British Mandate in 1917 after Britain drove away the Ottoman Turks during the First World War (1914-1918). The British hung on to the City till 1948, when the Balfour Declaration was considered and adopted by the UN.
Quite clearly, the common and unseemly threads that run through the kaleidoscopic history of Israel’s Jerusalem are conquests and reconquests, including the displacement, banishment, exile, dispersion and decimation of the Jewish nation as well as the expropriation of their property.
By reason of the historical facts above and of the gnawing question as to “What is Israel without an undivided Jerusalem?”, the 104th Congress of the United States of America passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, now a public law of the US, on October 23, 1995, “to initiate and fund the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, not later than May, 1999.” President Donald Trump’s decision is traceable to that extant Act, which his successive lily-livered predecessors had shied away from. Yet, the US already has a capacious Consulate building in Jerusalem, which Ambassador David Friedman could conveniently move into; the Israeli Knesset (Legislature), the Israeli President’s and Prime Minister’s official residences are in Jerusalem. Before Trump’s declaration, therefore, Jerusalem had been the administrative headquarters or constructive capital of Israel!
So, when, the other day, the General Assembly of the UN passed yet another anti-Israel Resolution by a vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions and 21 absences, demanding that President Trump rescind his declaration regarding Jerusalem, that biased, anti-Semitic body was warning America against executing its own laws!
Barrister Akiri writes from Lagos