Well before President Trump announced his intention to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an intense diplomatic struggle over Jerusalem was underway, according to Dore Gold, former ambassador to the UN and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA).
During the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO, the Palestinian leadership included Jerusalem as one subject that parties would discuss in order to come to an agreement.
“Jerusalem was made negotiable, not just discussable,” said Gold, in a presentation at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem late last month.
His presentation, which has been given in the US Senate and all over the world, focused on how the diplomatic struggle over the city’s future is being renewed by international bodies, such as the United Nations. He found, through his scholarship and rich experience on the front lines of Israeli diplomacy, that the struggle is based on various myths about Jerusalem that can be easily refuted with recorded history.
Gold thus touched upon archaeology, history, and international law, as well as freedom of religion for all faiths to confront UNESCO resolutions and persistent myths which seek to subvert history and undermine the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and to Israel.
As Professor Arthur Eidelman, Chairman of the JCPA, said at the lecture, “Jerusalem has, is, and will always be the heart of the Jewish people and state of Israel.”
He maintained that the JCPA is a leading independent research institute, focusing on public diplomacy and foreign policy since 1976, informing experts and opinions serving the Israeli government and global Jewry.
The JCPA has found, and Gold maintained in his address, that despite the nearly unswerving belief in Israel that a unified Jerusalem is of utmost importance, a diplomatic assault on this topic has followed in recent years. This assault dates back to Roman times, when Jerusalem was renamed as “aelia capitolina,” and Judea was renamed “Syria Palestina” to erase its Jewish identity.
“That was the methodology then, and this is the methodology today,” said Gold. “Attacking our identity and delegitimizing Israel didn’t work then, and it’s not going to work now,” he added.
The contemporary assault, Gold said, is based on Palestinian attempts to raise doubts about authenticity of Israel’s historical claims to Jerusalem, therefore undermining Israel’s right to sovereignty. For example, Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Sha’ath, and Sa’eb Erekat have all challenged the claim that there was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
Gold voiced his frustration with the numerous UNESCO resolutions, including one in October 2016, which asserted that the Temple Mount was connected to Islam, using only Arabic names for the holy sites, but refused to identify any Jewish or Christian connections. Such was also the case in December 2017, with the unfolding battle over Israel’s historical rights to Jerusalem.
“Abbas added a new twist in order to protect the mythology he was disseminating, saying that Jews are good at faking history and religion,” said Gold, adding that “it’s one thing to defend your own faith whether Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, but it’s another thing to deny the validity of another. That is something I reject and will continue to fight against.”
But it is not just Palestinian leaders erasing Israel’s connection to Jerusalem.
“Denying Israel’s roots has been going mainstream,” said Gold, with media feeding into each other and dangerous, repeated assertions that enter into “a swamp of political correctness in west that is used against Israel.”
In 2001, the University of Chicago Press published an academic book dismissing biblical books as “national historical tale.” In October,2003, Time Magazine called the Temple “an area where the Jews believe Solomon built the Second Temple.” The New York Times has also reported, “historical certainty proves elusive at Jerusalem’s holiest place.”
“What was axiomatic became doubtful,” maintained Gold.
Gold related six false claims that have gone mainstream, that seek to undermine Israeli rights to sovereignty over Jerusalem: there was never any Jewish connection to Jerusalem; if there were Jews in Jerusalem, they gave up their connection many years ago; the Jews came to Jerusalem only recently, as a result of colonialism in the early years of the 20th century; the Jews have no legal right to Jerusalem; the Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger, due to Israel’s control of Jerusalem; and the only solution is internationalization.
Of course, there is a plethora of recorded history that can easily refute each of these claims, including stones inscribed with entry rules to the Temple (displayed in the Israel Museum), coins from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolts that prove Jewish presence in Jerusalem during the Roman rule, synagogues around the world that face towards Jerusalem, various waves of aliyah to Israel, Jewish liturgy proving Jerusalem was always on the minds of the Jewish people, post World War I UN and League of Nations treaties, war theory of the legality of capturing land in a self-defensive war, written records of a Jewish majority long before Israel was a state, photographs demonstrating the desecration of Jerusalem’s holy sites before and after the protection of such sites under the State of Israel’s leadership, and even Biblical sources that illustrate the prophetic value and Biblical ideal of peace by the prophet Isaiah:
“Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.” (Isaiah 2:4)
According to Gold, while the Bible is also a legitimate a source of information that “archeological digs appear to verify,” given the ethos in Europe today, we cannot just rely on the Bible as evidence.” He added, “We shouldn’t be shy about mentioning the Biblical evidence, but if you use both Biblical and extra biblical sources, you will present a persuasive argument.”
Gold concluded by praising U.S. President Donald Trump for making the move “He understood that religious freedom for Jews, Christians, and Muslims can only be safeguarded under Israeli sovereignty.”