Israel’s critics are right: ‘Sheikh Jarrah’ exemplifies the Arab-Israeli conflict

Shimon HaTzadik is a neighborhood where Jews and Arabs could have lived side by side peacefully—had Arabs not tried to ethnically cleanse all of the Jews living there..Op-ed.

Micha Danzig , May 09 , 2021 11:59 PM Share
Jewish worshippers at the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik

Jewish worshippers at the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik Flash 90

(JNS) Last week, anti-Israel forces went into overdrive regarding the Jerusalem District Court’s decision authorizing the eviction of certain Arab families from homes in the “Sheikh Jarrah” neighborhood of Jerusalem. These critics have aggressively railed against Israel on social media and even started a trending hashtag, “SaveSheikhJarrah,” all while claiming that what is happening in this Jerusalem neighborhood exemplifies the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

And they are right. The dispute over “Sheikh Jarrah” does illustrate many of the principal features of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

But first, some history about this neighborhood is needed. “Sheik Jarrah” is an Arab neighborhood that was established in 1865. And before 1949, there was a separate Jewish neighborhood within it. For about 2,000 years before that, this area was known by the name “Shimon HaTzadik” (Simon the Righteous), named after the famous rabbinical sage whose tomb is located there.

For centuries, the Jewish presence in the area revolved around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, who was famously one of the last members of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the governing body of the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Commonwealth (after the Babylonian Exile). Shimon HaTzadik, whose full name is Shimon ben Yohanan, was so impactful that practically every Jewish kid going back 2,000 years learned his most famous verse in Pirkei Avot (“Sayings of the Fathers”), which was incorporated millennia ago into the Jewish morning prayers: “The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of God, and deeds of kindness.”

Because of the tomb and its significance to the Jewish people, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel purchased the tomb and its surrounding land (about 4.5 acres) in 1875. Shortly thereafter, it, along with the neighborhood of Kfar Hashiloah in the Silwan area of Jerusalem, became home to many, mostly Yemenite, Jews who had migrated to Jerusalem (Zion) back in 1881. Notably, by 1844, Jews were the largest ethnic population in Jerusalem.

Between 1936 and 1938, and then again in 1948, the British Empire assisted Arabs, incited by raw Jew hatred, in ripping Jews from their homes in Shimon HaTzadik (and in Kfar Hashiloah). The Yemeni Jewish community was also expelled from Silwan, for “their own safety,” by the British Office of Social Welfare. Essentially, the British preferred to force Jews out of their own homes rather than expend the resources to protect Jewish families and their property rights in Jerusalem.

Then, in 1949, after TransJordan (now Jordan) invaded Israel as part of an express attempt by the entire Arab League to destroy Israel and “push the Jews into the sea,” TransJordan’s British-created and British-led Arab Legion captured Judea and Samaria, all of the Old City of Jerusalem and many of its surrounding neighborhoods, including the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood. Then the Arab Legion either killed or ethnically cleansed every last Jew. Not one was allowed to remain. Not one. Even those whose families had lived in the region for centuries before the Arab invasion in the seventh century.

After Israel gained control of all of Jerusalem from the Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel passed a law that allows Jews whose families had been forced out of their homes by the Jordanians or the British to regain control of their family homes if they could provide proof of ownership and the current residents could not provide proof of a valid purchase or transfer of title. All of the homes that are the subject of these 2021 eviction proceedings, in addition to being on land purchased in 1875 by the Jewish community, were owned by Jewish families that had purchased those homes, and had deeds registered first with the Ottoman Empire (which governed the region from 1517 to 1917) and then with the British authorities (who controlled the area from 1917 to 1948).

These four houses, subject to the pending eviction notice, have already been the subject of extensive litigation in Israel, with appeals going all the way up to Israel’s very liberal Supreme Court and with all parties receiving representation and due process. The court determined last week that these homes must be returned to their legal owners and that another four homes shall be returned to their legal owners by the end of the summer. The court further determined that the people currently living in these homes had been illegally squatting in these homes for decades without paying rent or holding proof of ownership.

This is how the current controversy and conflict surrounding the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood is emblematic of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict:

Shimon HaTzadik is an area that holds deep historical and religious significance to the Jewish people. It is a place where the Jewish people developed—as Ben-Gurion said in Israel’s Declaration of Independence—their “spiritual, religious and political identity.” It is a place where the Jewish people “first achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance.” It is land that was part of the only independent state that has ever existed west of the Jordan River over the last 2,000 years (that wasn’t part of some foreign colonizing empire). All of this, of course, also applies to every inch of the land of Israel.

Shimon HaTzadik is also where Jewish organizations purchased land and built homes during the Ottoman Empire and British Empire’s control of the region. The Yemenite Jews who moved to the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood in the 1880s came with the dream of living in Zion and re-establishing the Jewish homeland. This applies to every Jewish community established in the land of Israel between 1870 and 1947.

Shimon HaTzadik is a neighborhood where Jews and Arab could have lived side by side peacefully had Arabs—incited with antisemitic fervor by Nazi ally and collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini and then by five of the most powerful armies of the entire Arab League—not tried to ethnically cleanse all of the Jews living there. This also applies to every Jewish community established in the land of Israel before 1947.

In Shimon HaTzadik, Jews are trying to move back into homes which were purchased peacefully and legally by their ancestors on land that is part of the Jewish people’s indigenous, historical and religious homeland. They are trying to move back into homes on land that was conquered by a foreign Arab army and renamed to erase the historic Jewish connection and character of the area. This, too, applies to every inch of the land of Israel before 1948.

Shimon HaTzadik and Sheikh Jarrah: the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell.

Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including Stand With Us, T.E.A.M. and the FIDF. This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

Tags: Micha Danzig Shimon HaTzaddik Sheikh Jarrah

Tennessee governor: We will act for Israeli sovereignty and against Palestinian state

Binyamin council head Yisrael Gantz is in US, meeting with US officials to garner support for settlement in Binyamin region.

Ido Ben Porat , May 09 , 2021 11:04 AM Share
Gantz and Lee

Gantz and Lee Binyamin spokesperson

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Binyamin Council Chairman Yisrael Gantz met in the United States to discuss ways to strengthen settlement of Judea and Samaria and the Binyamin area.

In these days when Joe Biden’s new US administration is formulating its policy positions regarding the Middle East, the head of the Binyamin Council sees importance in harnessing prominent forces in American politics especially during this period to protect and strengthen settlement.

Yisrael Gantz’s meeting with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a representative of the Republican Party, took place at the governor’s office, who gave his wishes for the strengthening of Binyamin and said that the residents of Binyamin, Judea and Samaria can see him as a partner who will do everything possible to prevent a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel. He said the US will also later help bring about Israel’s full application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.

At the meeting, the head of the council and the governor discussed the challenges in this area and the potential that the Binyamin area has among the millions of American citizens who see it as the land of the Bible intended for the people of Israel.

Gantz said to the governor: “The people of Israel are happy and proud to meet partners in the path of truth that know how to differentiate between good and evil and strengthen the State of Israel and settlement. As governor of Tennessee, I am happy that Binyamin has found a close friend who will work to preserve our important and shared values with respect to protecting the Land of Israel, and in general.”

As part of the trip to the United States, CGantz is holding additional meetings with government officials in the United States to promote cooperation and connections between communities in New York and communities in the Binyamin.

He met with a number of senators, members of Congress and government officials from New York City. In the meetings, Ganz described the significant development that is taking place in settlement of Judea and Samaria and in the areas of the Binyamin Regional Council that surrounds Jerusalem, in the process of developing construction, infrastructure, improving employment centers and establishing an advanced medical center. Gantz emphasized the main challenge he faces, which is the development of transportation infrastructure in all of Binyamin and the Jerusalem envelope area.

Gantz told representatives he met with that “if the countries of the world really wanted to help the Palestinians, they would strengthen the hand of the Israeli government to apply sovereignty, for the development of roads and the region.” He said that “it is the Palestinians who turn to the council and ask for help in these areas. The Palestinian Authority does not care about any of this.”

At the meetings, the participants were given a special gift – a copy of an ancient urn from the Mishkan site in ancient Shiloh.

Tags: Yisrael Gantz

Pre-State Israel: Jewish Claim To The Land Of Israel

Jewish Virtual Library

by Mitchell Bard

A common misperception is that the Jews were forced into the diaspora by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years. A national language and a distinct civilization have been maintained.

The Jewish people base their claim to the land of Israel on at least four premises: 1) God promised the land to the patriarch Abraham; 2) the Jewish people settled and developed the land; 3) the international community granted political sovereignty in Palestine to the Jewish people and 4) the territory was captured in defensive wars.

The term “Palestine” is believed to be derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the 12th Century B.C., settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain of what is now Israel and the Gaza Strip. In the second century A.D., after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judea (the southern portion of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. The Arabic word “Filastin” is derived from this Latin name.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel formed the first constitutional monarchy in Palestine about 1000 B.C. The second king, David, first made Jerusalem the nation’s capital. Although eventually Palestine was split into two separate kingdoms, Jewish independence there lasted for 212 years. This is almost as long as Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States.

Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in Palestine continued and often flourished. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the 11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea.

Many Jews were massacred by the Crusaders during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the next 300 years. By the early 19th century-years before the birth of the modern Zionist movement-more than 10,000 Jews lived throughout what is today Israel.

When Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in large numbers in 1882, fewer than 250,000 Arabs lived there, and the majority of them had arrived in recent decades. Palestine was never an exclusively Arab country, although Arabic gradually became the language of most the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine. When the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said: “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” In fact, Palestine is never explicitly mentioned in the Koran, rather it is called “the holy land” (al-Arad al-Muqaddash).

Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:

We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.

In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: “There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”

The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said “Palestine was part of the Province of Syria” and that, “politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.” A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank.

Israel’s international “birth certificate” was validated by the promise of the Bible; uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel’s people in decades of thriving, dynamic national existence.


Sources: Moshe Kohn, “The Arabs’ ‘Lie’ of the Land,” Jerusalem Post, (October 18, 1991); Avner Yaniv, PLO, (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Study Group of Middle Eastern Affairs, August 1974), p. 5; Encyclopaedia Judaica.

Aboriginal (Indigenous) Title & a Trusteeship Agreement

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided that, where a “First Nation” maintains demographic and cultural connections with the land, aboriginal title (including self-government rights) can survive both sovereignty changes and the influx of a new majority population, resulting from foreign conquest.Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, [1997] 3 SCR 1010 (Case Number 23799).

This jurisprudence is an important decision because it is only Jews who are indigenous to “Palestine” (Eretz Yisrael) that have maintained an “indigenous demographic and cultural connection” to the Land of Eretz Yisrael, have survived foreign (Arab) conquest/colonialism and were guaranteed POLITICAL rights to self-government within Mandate for Palestine “Treaty Territories” pursuant to the San Remo Resolution!

(The Arabs acquired independence, as contemplated by the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement via the Kingdom of the Hejaz, were guaranteed political rights at the San Remo Conference via the Mandates for Syria, Lebanon, and Mesopotamia (Iraq) and are indigenous to Arabia!)

The Canadian Treaty Land Entitlements Agreements process, and the Jurisprudence decided in behalf of Indigenous First Peoples provides a useful model that could be negotiated as part of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement under a ‘post-OsloTrusteeship Agreement as contemplated by Chapter XII (Articles 75 through 85) of the UN Charter, to “set aside” Land Reserves for “close Jewish and Arab settlement” in historical “Eretz Yisrael” (Palestine) both East and West of the Jordan River.