By CHARLIE MILLER
For the Voice
After 2,000 years of the Jewish people experiencing exile and brutal persecution, the international community decided that the Jewish people were finally entitled to a homeland of our own. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, which commemorates its 100th anniversary this year, supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. This declaration was incorporated into the San Remo Conference Resolution of 1920, which supported the creation of many nation states out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. The mandates from this conference became recognized upon the founding of the League of Nations and then merged into what we know today as the United Nations.
Interestingly, the place selected for our Jewish State was the only place we would ever fathom–the Land of Israel, the place of our eternal dreams and prayers. “Next Year in Jerusalem” was not a slogan conjured up in the past 50 years; rather, it had been a fervent prayer from time immemorial, from every wedding, through our daily prayers, and our final thought on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur.
The Jewish State was formed from the fire of a never-ending exile, finally reestablishing herself from the embers of the Holocaust, and it has remained under siege from its birth. Repeated wars have been cast upon her since 1948, with the expressed aim of her annihilation. All of these efforts have sought to uproot our historical rights within the Land of Israel, the land of our fathers, and in our holy Jerusalem.
Following the War of Independence of 1948, Israel and world Jewry finally had a return to our ancestral homeland, but the victory was bittersweet. Our historic rights to our holy places were violated. Despite international commitments to allow for free and unfettered access for the respective religious faiths to their holy places, such rights never materialized. The Jewish holy places were desecrated and burned to the ground, with not a single Jew left remaining in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jordan, the so-called moderate Arab state, under the leadership of the father of the current monarch, destroyed every synagogue in the Old City, desecrated the thousands upon thousands of graves on the Mt of Olives cemetery, and prevented worship at the Western Wall and our other holy places.
No outcry was forthcoming from the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) did not meet to rectify this humanitarian and religious persecution. Considering their unquenchable thirst to castigate Israel today for any and every perceived ill known to mankind, the silence of these international bodies during that time was deafening.
Neither Jordan nor her Arab world supporters were ever held to account for this true crime against humanity. The only ones to defend the dignity of our people to access to our holy places were the Jewish people themselves. Tellingly, neither Jordan, which illegally controlled East Jerusalem and the territory of the West Bank, nor Egypt, which controlled the Gaza Strip, ever created a separate Arab state in these areas during the period of 1949-1967. The obstacle to peace at that time, according to the Arab world, remained the existence of a sovereign Jewish state within any defined borders.
In June 1967, in an all out war to exterminate Israel and its Jewish people, the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and others were miraculously defeated, routed by the Israel Defense Forces over a period of six days. As a result, Israel conquered the Sinai and Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. The Jewish people finally returned to our holy Jerusalem and to our holy places. Thwarted from their expressed aim of annihilation and acquiring the territory of the Jewish State, the Arab world found themselves on the receiving end of lost territory.
In the aftermath of the Six Day War, United Nations Resolution 242 was adopted, which called for Israel to withdrawal from territories occupied in the conflict. It also spoke of the territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area. At the time, there was no state of Palestine. Tellingly, the resolution’s key sponsors, Ambassador Arthur Goldberg of the United States and Ambassador Lord Caradon of Great Britain stated that the resolution was deliberately written to avoid calling for a full withdrawal to the armistice lines that existed prior to the war’s commencement. Furthermore, from a military point of view, the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a memorandum in late June 1967 indicating Israel’s need to retain some of the captured territory in order to provide for defensible borders.
Both the UN and the United States government understood that things would not be returned to the way things were. Besides not calling for Israel’s full and complete withdrawal, the resolution never required Israel to compensate the Arab world with land swaps for any territory she might maintain as a result of turning back this war of aggression against her. Notwithstanding, the resolution was silent on the issue of Jerusalem. It failed to address Jewish rights to access to our holy places.
For decades, the United Nations, ostensibly formed to protect the world from the scourge of ruthlessness and wanton violence, has become a haven for the despots of humanity. In an Orwellian sense, the wolves of humanity are running the hen house, where supposed international norms are established by committees containing the likes of Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Democracies, including our United States, are supposed to contain the damage from what has become a demonic institution. From declaring the nation state of the Jewish people a form of racism, to their sadistic infatuation with demonizing Israel on a daily basis, the United Nations has ceased to be relevant in any productive way in the eyes of those who love Israel.
That is why there is such outrage and disgust at the actions of the Obama administration in its lasts days in power. For eight years, President Obama has purposefully promoted a policy of distance and animosity toward the only democracy in the Middle East. Early in his presidency, Obama condemned any and all building by Israel over the 1967 lines, including in Jerusalem, in areas that he knew Israel would never relinquish. Obama disavowed an express commitment from President George W. Bush, at the time Israel left the Gaza Strip, acknowledging Israel’s right of retention of its settlement blocs in any future peace negotiation over the status of the disputed territories. Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acquiescing to Obama’s demand for a 10-month moratorium on settlement building, Obama never held the Palestinian Authority to account for its failure to negotiate with Israel.
I’ve had a front row seat for many of the events surrounding the so-called peace process over the years. As a White House military aide under President Clinton, I was at the White House on the day that Yasser Arafat told the president that there never was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. To Clinton’s dismay, Arafat denied any Jewish historical rights to the city. A homicidal intifada soon followed. The Palestinians continue this historical libel against Judaism to this very day.
I participated in conference calls as a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wherein Obama’s National Security Council advisor, Phillip Gordon, told us that the White House would look the other way while Hamas members joined the Palestinian government. I listened incredulously as Obama’s Middle East Envoy, Martin Indyk, scolded us for supporting any Jewish presence in the territories. Almost as an afterthought, he then ended his diatribe against Israel by casually hoping the Palestinians would stop indoctrinating their five-year-olds to go out and kill Jews. Thanks for caring Martin.
For eight years, the Netanyahu government has extended a hand in negotiations without any pre-conditions. The Palestinians have repeatedly refused, and have never faced an iota of consequence for their obstinacy. Moreover, they have sought to turn the conflict into a religious war by continually denying any Jewish link to Jerusalem or our holy places.
This past year, we witnessed UNESCO shamelessly pass a resolution that denied any historical links of the Jewish people to our holy places in Jerusalem. Their pointed aim was to condemn Israel and the Jewish people for our “occupation” of Muslim places of worship.
With one foot already out the door, Obama has now allowed the passage of a binding UN Security Council resolution that, in the words of Ambassador Michael Oren, makes the Jewish residents of the Old City into war criminals. Contrary to all past international agreements, including the Oslo Accords, the resolution declares that all lands held by Israel from the Six Day War are occupied Palestinian lands. Even President Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, told the Security Council in 1994 that the United States does not support the description of the territories controlled by Israel since 1967 to be categorized as occupied Palestinian territory.
The recent UN Resolution condemns any Israeli presence in any of these areas as “illegal” and “illegitimate” and calls for the cessation of such presence. Such language, taken to its logical conclusion, defines the Western Wall, Jewish Quarter, Mount of Olives cemetery, Kever Rachel and the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron as occupied land that needs to be cleansed of any Jewish presence.
The Jewish people have come to expect the scum of humanity at the United Nations to support such grotesque language. However, the United States was supposed to be the light of morality and truth. It was supposed to protect us from the false dictates and the denigration of the Jewish faith from those who sought our annihilation.
Following through on his aim to allow daylight between himself and Israel, Obama demonstrated outright contempt for the Jewish people, for Jewish history and for the cause of peace. A United Nations Security Council resolution carries the weight of international law, subjecting its detractors to sanctions, arrest and pariah status. Obama, Kerry and their followers certainly knew this, yet they shamelessly placed a mark on the backs of every Jew who resides anywhere in these areas. Every Jewish grave on the Mount of Olives, including that of my brother-in-law, is now illegal in Obama’s eyes, and our rights to our other holy places are illegitimate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer hides his disdain for Obama and Kerry, the principle architects of the anti-Israel policy of this administration. When can we ever recall an Israeli prime minister referring to a sitting US President’s action as “shameful and absurd.” Netanyahu continued, “Half a million people are being slaughtered in Syria, tens of thousands slaughtered in Sudan, the Middle East is in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to pick on the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
Alluding to the incoming Trump administration, Netanyahu told world Jewry to keep its head held high, as the old world bias against Israel is coming to an end, and that we are entering a new era. For those of us who instinctively understood Trump’s affinity for Israel and the Jewish people, including his naming of David Friedman as his incoming ambassador to Israel, his January 20 inauguration can’t come fast enough.
Paradoxically, The UNSC Resolution and the recent UNESCO pronouncement only solidifies the notion in the minds of Israel and world Jewry that we can never allow Jerusalem or our holy places to be in the control of others. Deeming the Jewish people illegal stakeholders in Jerusalem and our respective holy places is the nail in the proverbial coffin for dialogue and constructive understanding. The international community will have to suffice with the incredible tolerance of the Jewish people, wherein we respect the rights and dignity of people of all religious faiths to access their places of worship. Israel has done just that and will continue to do so.
Incapable of gracefully exiting the world stage after the Obama administration’s eight years of failed diplomacy, John Kerry delivered an hour-long indictment of the sole democracy in the Middle East, calling out Israel’s duly elected leadership and casting aspersions on her commitment to peace. Kerry repeatedly defined Israeli settlements as the crux of the conflict’s problem, as if Arab rejection of Jewish sovereignty from 1948 through 1967, before there were any “occupied territories,” never existed. Kerry pompously declared that there can be no other resolution of the conflict other than Israel accepting another Jew-hating state on her borders. After futile efforts to get the Palestinians to recognize a sovereign Jewish state or to negotiate peace with Israel, Kerry could never conceive of any other alternative ideas to address the conflict, such as Egypt providing land in the Sinai for Gaza residents, or for the Palestinians to find independence via a confederation with Jordan, where they already constitute a majority of Jordan’s population.
Possibly realizing the disastrous failure to acknowledge any Jewish religious rights in Jerusalem or the territories within the recent UN resolution, Kerry tried in vain to undo the severe damage. He stated, “I want to stress this point. We fully respect Israel’s profound historic and religious ties to the city and to its holy sites. We’ve never questioned that.” Unfortunately, to the Obama administration’s eternal shame, the resolution the US allowed to pass provided just that. It denied any Jewish claims or connection to the holy places in Jerusalem, calling our return to our holy places illegal acts, and throwing Jewish religious sensibilities in the trash. Nothing Kerry can say now can correct that shameful legacy.
In declaring such malicious falsehood on the eve of the festival of Chanukah, this odious resolution is a sign that those seeking to destroy our faith never falter. President-elect Trump recognizes the futility and irrelevance of the United Nations to world peace. He promises a fresh approach that unapologetically stands with those who cherish freedom and human dignity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once recounted a meeting he held with the Lubavitcher Rebbe many years ago, as he was about to begin his term as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. During that meeting, which took place on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the Rebbe told Netanyahu that he was entering a place of complete darkness and lies, but that it was his job to shine the light of truth and morality to the world. Netanyahu never forgot that eternal lesson, and despite the invective thrown his way, he proudly defends Israel’s rightful place in the international community.
During Chanukah, we took solace in the light of the Menorah and in the righteousness of our cause. Our destiny to be a free people in the Land of Israel, in our glorious capital of Jerusalem, will never again be extinguished.
Charlie Miller is an attorney in New York City and a resident of Woodmere, NY. He is treasurer of the National Council of Young Israel and he served on active duty in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1994-2000, including a year at the White House in the Military Aide Office. He grew up in Cherry Hill.