There is no limit to the capacity of The New York Times to be irritated by Israel. In a full-page article (Dec. 26) about “an Israeli Wonderland,” Times reporter Isabel Kershner described “a vast indoor amusement park” with a “luxe shopping mall” in Ma’ale Adumim, “a sprawling Jewish settlement … in the occupied West Bank” between Jerusalem and Jericho. She does not mention that Ma’ale Adumim appears in the Book of Joshua as a border area between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
But names—and history—matter. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, waged to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state, the Kingdom of Transjordan seized ancient Jewish territory west of the Jordan River. It included biblical Shechem, where Abraham stopped at the tree of Moreh and received God’s promise of the land; Hebron, burial site of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs and capital of Judah, where King David reigned before relocating his throne to Jerusalem; and Jerusalem’s Old City, whose residents of the millennia-old Jewish Quarter were forced to abandon their homes.
This newly occupied land, formally annexed, became known as the “West Bank” of the renamed Kingdom of Jordan. Only three countries recognized the legality of its annexation: The United States, England (which had ruled over Palestine since World War I) and Iraq. West Bank Arabs (as yet there were no “Palestinians”) were granted full citizenship rights, more than doubling the Jordanian population. Ignored was the League of Nations Mandate following World War I that authorized “close settlement by Jews on the land” from which they were now excluded.
But Jordanian sovereignty over its West Bank lasted for less than 20 years. Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War restored biblical Judea (south of Jerusalem) and Samaria (to the north)—and the Old City of Jerusalem—to the Jewish people.
One year later a group of predominantly religious Zionists, led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, arrived in Hebron to rent a hotel for the celebration of Passover. For the first time since 1929, when murderous Arab rioting drove Jews from their Holy City, they had returned to Hebron.
They were following in the footsteps of biblical Abraham, commanded by what he believed to be a divine voice to leave Mesopotamia for the land of Canaan. Pausing near Shechem (now Nablus) in the north (biblical Samaria), Abraham journeyed south to Hebron. There his wife Sarah died and was entombed in the cave of Machpelah, purchased by Abraham at the full asking price of Ephron the Hittite to permanently secure the legitimacy of ownership. Once the title passed, Jewish history in the Land of Israel had begun. There were no “Palestinians” then, nor would there be for millennia.
Modern history confirms that Israel does not “occupy” the West Bank. It was the Kingdom of Jordan that occupied Judea and Samaria until the Six-Day War returned that land to its historically rightful owners: Jews. But according to Isabel Kershner (without a shred of supporting evidence), “most of the world considers the increasingly entrenched settlement project as a violation of international law.” More likely, “most of the world” could not care less.
Kershner laments “the fading prospects of a resolution to the conflict by means of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.” But if she looked more carefully, she would find the state she yearns for. Its name is Jordan. With nearly 70 percent of its population of Palestinian origin, a Palestinian state alongside Israel already exists east of the Jordan River. There is no need for another one to the west.
For The New York Times, an amusement park is not amusing if it is located where biblical Judea and Samaria converge. Despite its attraction, as Kershner notes, for “a mix of the religious and the secular, Jews and Arabs,” the Times finds fault with an enticing multicultural “Israeli Wonderland.” Fault, however, lies with the Times for its unrelenting criticism of a Jewish state—and playground—in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016).”