Israel’s religio-historical claim to Jerusalem is problematic on many levels. One obvious issue is the widely accepted maxim that geographical borders are man-made. The Middle East especially as a thoroughfare for expanding empires saw land change hands many times over past millennia.So if Israel wishes to invoke the primacy of historical rights, then Jerusalem rightfully belongs to the Lebanese. As a recent American Journal of Human Genetics study showed, modern Lebanese are the direct descendants of the ancient Canaanites who first called Palestine home. They were later conquered by the Israelites as writ in the Old Testament’s Book of Joshua.U.S President Donald Trump’s recent decision to relocate the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has sparked protests across the Islamic world. It has also revived the debate on how religio-historical claims that reek of revanchism should be evaluated in the post-Westphalian age where separation of church and state is near absolute.
The problem with Israel’s claim is two-fold. One, if we in principle accept the Zionist religio-historical argument about Jerusalem, does that not also sanitize the historical revanchism of extremist cults like the Islamic State (IS) and RashtriyaSevaSangh (RSS)? IS, after all, seeks to revive the caliphate that for centuries was the guiding star of Sunni Islam, while RSS affiliates flying proud the flag of “Hindutva” aim to eradicate all “foreign religions” from Indian soil.Sure, IS has murdered thousands across the Middle East in upholding a distorted, self-serving version of Islam, and right-wing Hindus in India forge ahead unhindered in their attempts to forcibly reconvert Muslims and Christians. All for reviving a period in history each believes represents the glory days of their respective ideologies.Why are they villains in the eyes of Washington while Zionists are victims? For perspective, nearly 100,000 Arabs have perished in Palestine since the 1920s riots according to conservative estimates by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. By comparison, Jewish fatalities account for less than a third of this number in the same period. These statistics suggest an overwhelming occupying force; not meek lambs running for cover from the big, bad Arab wolf.
The second part of my problem with Israeli claims is if we again in principle accept the Zionist religio-historical argument about Jerusalem, surely the Orthodox Jewish clergy that has the final word on religious matters always supported Israel’s claims without reservation, right?Not so. The Zionist regime since independence has engaged in concerted efforts to discredit the anti-Israel movements within the clergy. These efforts have particularly targeted the followers of “Satmar Hasidism”, a sect of Judaism that condemns the creation of Israel. Among them, the “Neturei Karta” (guardians of the city) religious group continues to vocally oppose the Zionist state as a mockery of Torah and Talmudic laws.
In fact, Neturei Karta’s website states “the world must know that the Zionists have illegitimately seized the name Israel and have no right to speak in the name of the Jewish people!” But why would any Jewish religious group oppose the existence of Israel the “promised land”? Expressly when its political leaders openly use religion as the cover for illegal territorial expansion and to repeatedly violate the many U.N resolutions on Palestine?
In a 2013 interview, Rabbi Moshe Hirsc, a Neturei Karta senior leader, elaborated why “true Jews” don’t recognize Israel: “One of the principles of the faith teaches us that God will return the land to the Jewish people through His messiah in His good time. Any attempt to accelerate this redemption would bring disastrous consequences.”Hence Israel, Hirsc declared, “is not a Jewish state. It is a state run by Jews, just like any company managed by Jews, but whose produce is not Jewish.” Consequently, the Zionist regime’s use of the Torah and Talmud to justify its illegal occupation of Arab lands in Palestine is laughable. Of course, the Zionists regularly mount smear campaigns against Neturei Karta and other critics, labelling them fringe lunatics hell-bent on reversing the gains of the Jewish diaspora or worse, Nazi sympathizers.Nevertheless, Zionists cannot whitewash the broad dissent of mainstream Jewish religious scholars in 1947 on hearing news of Israel’s impending creation. Rabbi Yosef Dushinsky, then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, in his written testimony to the U.N Special Committee on Palestine stated in no uncertain terms: “we furthermore wish to express our definite opposition to a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”