Last month, the New Yorker published an article alleging that the Jewish state violated international law when it cleared out the Mughrabi neighborhood of Jerusalem that once stood directly in front of the Western Wall. The truth is very different, write Nathaniel Belmont and Lenny Ben-David:
[Even before the 1967 war], there is evidence that the neighborhood’s days were numbered. Much like the adjacent Jewish quarter, which had been demolished by the Jordanians [in 1949], the Mughrabi quarter was nothing more than decaying slums built on rubble. . . . In 1965 and 1966, prior to the war, some 1,000 Arabs were relocated by the Jordanian administration—some by force—from the [former] Jewish quarter to the newly created Shuafat refugee camp, by order of Jordan’s then-prime minister Wasfi al-Tal, [and a similar fate likely was in store for the Mughrabi quarter]. . . .
[Furthermore, the] accusation of “war crimes” perpetrated by Israel ignores legal norms appropriating private property for public use and public safety—provided due compensation is paid. Ironically, it is Jordan that failed to recognize this basic legal norm in 1949, razing the Jewish Quarter, expelling its residents, and looting and desecrating 58 synagogues, all without compensation.
Jordan’s 1948 actions stand in stark contrast to Israel’s actions in 1967. Regarding compensation, a 1968 letter from former residents of the Mughrabi Quarter affirms that many residents received compensation.
During the 1948-1967 period, Jewish access to the shrine was totally banned; but [even] the pre-1948 situation was hardly tolerable for Jewish worshippers. After navigating through a labyrinth of potentially dangerous, narrow alleyways, Jews wishing to pray at the Western Wall found themselves in a cramped area of approximately 120 square meters. (In contrast, the al-Aqsa complex on the Temple Mount covers 144,000 square meters.) Visitors in the pre-1948 era encountered broken stones, sewage, animals (and the refuse they left behind), and Mughrabi Quarter residents who “had a tendency to harass Jewish worshipers.”