Today is Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day—which celebrates the liberation of the Old City and its holy sites from Jordanian occupation during the Six-Day War. As riots, fueled by anti-Semitic incitement and slander, mar the city’s peace, challenges to Israel’s claims to Jerusalem, and those of the Jewish people, still have much purchase across the world. Two year ago, Michel Gurfinkiel examined the persistent and impractical vision of removing the city completely from any nation’s sovereignty in his essay, “The Mirage of an International Jerusalem.” He concludes that the city’s legal and demographic history
rebuts the widely held idea that Jerusalem’s status is the subject of an international “agreement.” That idea is nothing but a myth—a myth that serves the political purposes of certain interested parties. Those parties argue that Zionism was an interloper in the city, a newcomer throwing chaos into the mix of a calm, stable, mostly Arab-Muslim town that for centuries had existed sometimes under Christian control, at other times with a heavily Christian element.
None of this is true. The truth is that, even in earlier times, Jerusalem was always in ferment, a kind of Wild East in which all major groups, not just arriviste Jews, were scrambling to build something for themselves. As for the modern proposal to “internationalize” the city, it was first and foremost a device to please the Catholic Church, then in itself a formidable world power and a foreign one in the Holy Land. In this context, the idea of Jerusalem as an “international city” is a piece of Western “colonialist” history, while the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is ancient and indigenous.
More about: International Law, Israeli history, Jerusalem