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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Defending the Freedom of Jerusalem

Filed under: BDS and Delegitimization, Jerusalem

Last year, President Trump moved the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As is well known, he honored a longstanding American commitment that hadn’t been fulfilled by previous administrations.

This commitment was in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, proposed back then by the Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and adopted by an overwhelming majority of 93-5. It called for American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the establishment of the U.S. Embassy there.

I was privileged to be at that opening ceremony.

I recalled back in 1999, when I was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and I sought instructions from my foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, about how to respond to a Palestinian provocation against us at the UN, involving a resolution calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

Sharon told me to read over the Knesset speech of our first prime minister, David Ben Gurion from December 1949, in which he bravely declared before the world that he was moving Israel’s capital to Jerusalem.

Ben-Gurion reminded the international community that the people of Israel had “faithfully honored for 2,500 years the oath sworn by the first exiles by the Rivers of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem.”

Ben-Gurion honored that oath and moved the capital. But the question of the U.S. Embassy remained unresolved for years to come.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem has been under a steady assault in all the main UN bodies, particularly over the past 15 years, propped up by that organization’s notorious bloc voting.

Within days of President Trump’s announcement, the UN General Assembly convened to oppose the move.

This was the latest action taken at the UN to replace historical truth with fake history in order to advance a hostile diplomatic agenda against the State of Israel.

One year earlier, in 2016, UNESCO, the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization, asserted that the Temple Mount was connected to Islam, but it refused to acknowledge any Jewish connection whatsoever, or, for that matter, any Christian connection.

In its resolution, UNESCO used only Islamic terms for the area, namely the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.

The words Temple Mount were completely missing in the UN document.

Israel’s adversaries and their allies took this campaign to the UN Security Council as well with the infamous Resolution 2334, adopted in December 2016 during the transition period in Washington between the outgoing Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration.

By yet again branding Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory,” the UN was insinuating that Israel had no standing in Jerusalem and that its Old City, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall were Palestinian!

It was as though a Palestinian state once existed and controlled Jerusalem, which is of course completely false.

This fit perfectly with a Palestinian assertion that came to life at the July 2000 Camp David Summit between President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

It was there that Arafat declared that there never was a Temple in Jerusalem. Arafat knew exactly what he was doing: If there was no Temple, then Israel had no historical claim to Jerusalem.

Arafat had said: “There is nothing there.” His loyalists would say, “Go prove it!”

But President Clinton responded that “not only the Jews but I, too, believe that under the surface there are remains of Solomon’s temple.”

What Clinton did not have to spell out was that the Temple was also significant for Christianity. Denying its history entailed an affront to the Christian faith as well.

So what have the UN resolutions on Jerusalem accomplished? They have legitimized doubt beyond the walls of the UN in the mass media and in academia.

You see, words matter.

The New York Times entitled an article in October 2015, “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place.”

What does elusive mean? It means hard to prove.

Then there is the infamous Prof. Juan Cole of the prestigious University of Michigan, who argued in 2010: “archaeology does not show the existence of a Jewish kingdom” in Jerusalem.

No Kingdom, no Temple – no historical connection for Israel.

Is all that true? It came, after all, from one of the big ten schools in the U.S.

You want the truth?

These are seals from the royal family of the Kings of Judah.

They were found at the foot of Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

They all carry the names of descendants of King David in ancient Hebrew.

But the core of the international debate caused by UNESCO has been focused on whether a temple once stood on the Temple Mount and the veracity of our Judeo-Christian narrative.

Anyone here read ancient Greek?

This 2,000 year old stone, found next to the Temple Mount, is an original sign in ancient Greek marking rules of entry to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

The stone on the left is from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but the full text of the Greek inscription is in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

It makes specific reference to the “Temple Precinct.”

The word highlighted in orange on the right, “OIERON” (pronounced hieron) is the Ancient Greek word for the Temple.

Fast forward to the year 70 of the Common Era.

The Roman Empire sent Titus to march on the Kingdom of Judea.

Titus, who went on to become Emperor of Rome, vanquished Judea, conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.

You see here the boulders toppled by the Roman legions, which tell the tale of that destruction to this very day.

The Romans did not have polaroid cameras or CNN, but to celebrate their victory over the Jews, they created this bas-relief, which you can see if you visit Rome and go to the Arch of Titus. It’s right near the Colosseum.

You can see Roman soldiers carrying sacred treasures looted from the Temple in a “victory march.”

We know from Roman sources that the spoils from the Temple were used to pay for erecting the Colosseum.

Thus, the holiest site in Ancient Israel financed the place where Jews and Christians were thrown to the lions.

Now, people sometimes ask, what is all the fuss about the Temple?

Well, in the Bible, the Temple’s construction was the only event dated in relation to the Exodus from Egypt – 480 years earlier. It was where the two tablets with the Ten Commandments were housed.

Therefore, the Temple symbolized freedom and national identity.

The Romans did not manage to snuff out the will for freedom.

Some 60 years after the Temple’s destruction, a Judean general named Bar Kochba rose up in rebellion and fought six Roman legions. His letters have been discovered, like this one right here.

Bar Kochba articulated the goal of his Revolt on coins that were minted at the time and found today.

They call for the Freedom of Jerusalem

למען חרות ירושלים!

Speaking of the Romans – one last historical fact before we continue.

After crushing the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE, the Roman occupiers decided to annihilate all Jewish hope for freedom. They feared that freedom would be contagious, and that revolts would soon spread across the Roman Empire.

So they renamed Jerusalem “Aelia Capitolina.”

And they also gave the land of Judea a new name – Syria-Palestina. This is the actual origin of the name “Palestine.” This was an attempt to erase Judea from the world’s consciousness.

That was the methodology then – and that is the methodology today: attacking our very identity.

Today, it is called the delegitimation of Israel, and it lies at the heart of the BDS movement.

Well, let me tell you something: It didn’t work then – and we’re not going to let it work now.

There are those who say that after Bar Kochba’s defeat and the Roman annihilation of Judea, there were no Jews left with any connection to the past.

Yet according to Christian and Jewish sources brought forward by Prof. Moshe Gill, in his monumental study, A History of Palestine, published by Cambridge University Press:

“The Jewish population residing in the country at the time of the Moslem conquest in the 7th century consisted of the direct descendants of the generations of Jews who had lived there since the days of Joshua bin Nun.

And then there are those who claim that the rebirth of Israel represents a foreign colonialist implant. The facts show otherwise. Thousands streamed back whenever they could.

In the 1400’s, Jewish immigration increased to such a scale, that the Franciscans petitioned the Pope to issue an edict prohibiting Christian sea captains from carrying Jewish passengers to the Holy Land.

If there was no deep Jewish connection to Jerusalem and no surge in immigration, why would the Franciscans need to petition against their travel?

Here, you see an ancient firman, an official document of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

It is dated 1584. It calls for an investigation of the increase in Jewish synagogues in the land of Israel.

By the mid-19th century, the British Consulate in Jerusalem determined, according to this diplomatic cable here on the left, that Jews had already restored their majority in Jerusalem in 1863 – long before Theodore Herzl, before the British Mandate, or the establishment of the State of Israel.

And on the right is William Seward, President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. In 1870, after he completed his term in office, he visited Jerusalem, and his memoirs show that he made the same observation about a Jewish majority.

Therefore, you cannot attach the Jewish return to Jerusalem to the European colonialist locomotive of the late 19th century.

Fast forward to 1948: The newly-proclaimed State of Israel found itself attacked by five Arab armies, assisted by the colonial powers.

The Old City of Jerusalem was besieged.

Its Jewish population was ethnically cleansed, as you see on the left; its holy sites bombarded, which you can see on the right.

The United Nations didn’t lift a finger to stop the wanton destruction.

Israelis were prevented from reaching their holy sites. Jerusalem remained divided until its reunification in 1967 by the Israel Defense Forces.

Today, the threats to religious freedom have not ended.

Across the Middle East, the holy sites of all the great faiths are under a new assault by the forces of jihad.

In Afghanistan, 2,000 year-old Buddhist statues were destroyed by the Taliban. In Syria, the legacies of thousands of years destroyed by ISIS.

In Egypt, Coptic churches burned, their worshippers killed.

Across the entire region, Christians are persecuted and driven from their homes.

Even mosques are destroyed by the same violent intolerance.

Right next to Israel, joint units of the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas invaded the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002, which you see here, desecrating it and taking its clergy hostage.

Here, you see the tomb of the biblical Joseph in Nablus, which was overrun by mobs carrying hammers and crowbars to dismantle it.

What is clear today, more than ever, is that the only force that will protect Jerusalem for all the great faiths is the modern State of Israel, which has not forgotten how its enemies sought to forcibly cut its connection with the Holy City in the past.

Today, under Israel, Jerusalem works.

Israel has fended off the physical assaults on Jerusalem, and will continue to defend itself.

We will never ask your sons and daughters to come to defend us. But we do need your help to defeat the diplomatic assaults Jerusalem faces today.

We need your help to fight the Fake History.

We need your help to fight for Truth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in 1891 there was a prominent Protestant clergyman named Reverend William E. Blackstone, who collected signatories to a petition calling for a return of the Jewish people to their land. He argued that the Jews had never given up legal title to the land of their ancestors, but rather had been expelled by force. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria was going back to the Bulgarians and Serbia to the Serbs, why not give the Jewish people their land back? A broad international consensus was emerging. Blackstone recruited the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to sign the petition. Leaders of the American business and political elite also signed, like J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. Members of Congress including a future president William McKinley, also lent their support. Editors of many of the major newspapers from the New York Times to the Washington Post also signed, as did university presidents. Blackstone’s petition was presented in 1891 to President Benjamin Harrison. This idea spread like wildfire.

Pastor Hagee, you are carrying on Reverend Blackstone’s vision, and what we see here exceeds his wildest dreams. But what popularized your vision is a simple point. The Founding Fathers of this country read the Bible and learned what freedom meant. With the rebirth of our country in 1948, we learned it back from you. We are bound by our common love of liberty – part of what makes America great – a love which must be based on truth.

Israel’s ancestors fought for the freedom of Jerusalem, as the coin from the Bar Kochba revolt attests.

Looking at this history, freedom must never be taken for granted, but faithfully protected by every generation.

That is what America has done. And that is what we, the people of Israel, will do.

Thank you.