On Eastern Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah and Israel

East and West are not simple geographic terms as they are in the United States.

A view of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.
A view of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.
Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.  

CNN ran a news story on May 9 with the headline “Israeli Supreme Court delays hearing on Palestinian evictions from East Jerusalem neighborhood.” This followed an official press statement issued on May 7 by the U.S. State Department that reported “concern” about “evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions and acts of terrorism … .”

The catch? The area in the news is not in “East Jerusalem” at all. What’s more, there is not now, nor has there ever been in history a political entity known as “East Jerusalem.”

A glance at any map of the city shows that the neighborhood Sheik Jarrah, including the parts also widely known in Hebrew as Shimon HaTzadik for centuries, is not in the capital’s east. It is in the north, about 1.25 miles north of the Western Wall, the Kotel.

In fact, this area is farther west than numerous well-known parts of Jerusalem, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (construction began in 1918) and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus (construction began in 1934).

The term “East Jerusalem” is an artificial construct that supporters of the Arab cause use in their propaganda in order to make it appear as if that part of the city is an intrinsically Arab area that Jews are illegally entering. In reality, there are Jewish neighborhoods throughout the eastern, western, northern and southern parts of Jerusalem. It’s a pity when American politicians and news outlets play along and use such geographically inaccurate and politically loaded language.

East and West in Israel are not simple geographic terms as they are in the United States, where Northeast Philadelphia, the Upper East Side in Manhattan and East L.A. are used to denote neighborhoods and sections of a city. In Israel, where Judea and Samaria have been labeled as the West Bank, things are different. The term West Bank was created by Arab propagandists to de-emphasize the area’s inherent Jewishness and to disassociate the land from the State of Israel. East Jerusalem was similarly invented.

“East Jerusalem” has, for CNN, many in the State Department and others come to be shorthand for areas of Jerusalem where the residents are predominately not Jewish and should therefore be surrendered to a future Palestinian state. But this does not mean that “East Jerusalem” has ever been an actual place.

When anti-Israel extremists created the term, it was for one reason: They sought to rip Israel’s capital apart in order to defeat Israel. This effort tragically gained full force with the 1993 Oslo Accords. This was fully explained in the B’tzedek Online Journal in a Dec. 30, 1996 editorial titled “The War Has Just Begun”:

“The Oslo Accords are indeed the fulfillment of the PLO “salami” strategy. That is to say, Israel shall be destroyed not through overt military action of Arab nations, but through the whittling away of Israeli resolve and slow but determined territorial expansion of a Palestinian state. Slice by slice, Israel will be carved away by the knife of terrorism and world opinion, both deftly handled by the Israeli created Palestinian entity.”

The very name Jerusalem means “city of peace,” “city of completeness” and “city of perfection.” In fact, there is no “eastern” or “western” when it comes to Jerusalem. There’s just one Jerusalem in the entirety of history.

In both the Tanach and in the Christian Bible, every single instance when a specific location in Jerusalem is mentioned refers to an area that the European Union and others would now see given to the Palestinian Arabs. The term “East Jerusalem” cannot be found in a Bible.

Put another way, what they would have us call “East Jerusalem” is Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding neighborhoods. The original and oldest parts of Jerusalem are in this “East Jerusalem.”

American policy on Jerusalem had veered horribly off-course until former President Donald Trump followed U.S. law and upheld the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 by relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) wrote in 1996 that “Israel is the only nation in the world denied the right to choose its own capital. This second-class citizenship among nations must end.”

Helms was right. It is up to friends of Israel in the United States to make sure that the embassy stays put. One way is to keep news outlets like CNN honest when they report on Jerusalem, its neighborhoods and its residents.

Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s U.S. division. More information is available at: www.herutna.org.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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