Judenrein Revisited

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

It is time to set the record straight. On December 13, 1985, the General Assembly of the United Nations issued the, “Declaration on the human rights of individuals who are not nationals of the country in which they live” as an addition to its previous declarations on the rights of human beings. In part it reads:

2. Subject to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society to protect national security, public safety, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and which are consistent with the other rights recognized in the relevant international instruments and those set forth in this Declaration, aliens shall enjoy the following rights:

  2d) The right to own property alone as well as in association with others, subject to domestic law.

3. Subject to the provisions referred to in paragraph 2, aliens lawfully in the territory of a State shall enjoy the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their residence within the borders of the State.

I am assuming that in making this declaration regarding the rights of aliens, the United Nations, in accordance with its previous declaration on human rights which is not hyphenated – includes all human beings residing on planet Earth, includes Jews. That being the case one wonders why our President, who places great stock in the ability of the United Nations to deal with international issues, has decried the development of housing for Jewish individuals in the E1 corridor of Jerusalem. Ignoring all other factors which can comprise the conversation regarding the development of homes for Jews in this area, surely Jewish people enjoy, at the very least, the human rights accorded by the United Nations to aliens. Yet, as in the past, when it comes to the Middle East, Jews are not accorded the rights guaranteed by the United Nations to all other human beings.

You may recall that it was none other than Prime Minister Sharon, who ceded the Gaza Strip to its Arab residents in the hope that this gesture, “land for peace,” would reinvigorate talks to finally bring to an end the hostilities Israel has faced with its Arab neighbors since the declaration of the very same United Nations recognizing Israel as a sovereign state in 1948. Part of that decision to cede this area to its Arab residents included, similar to the law in some Arab states in the region, the creation of a territory devoid of Jewish residents – a Judenrein.

You may remember the horror of witnessing members of the Israel Defense Forces removing the Jewish community from the Gaza – a community that was peaceful, law-abiding and productive. For me and for many other Americans, this scene was reminiscent of the horror of the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany. It sent a shiver up my spine. It broke my heart. Yet this ceding of territory, this “land for peace” gesture by Israel independent of any negotiation, resulted, not in peace, but rather in the constant bombardment of the civilian population of Israel, most recently reaching both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Is there any person who can deny the fact that Jerusalem, that most sacred of cities to the Jewish People, has not had a Jewish population for centuries? Here are some statistics from the 19th century.

    Year         Jews        Muslims    Christians  All Non-Jews     Total   
1800 2,250 4,000 2,750 6,750 9,000
1836 3,250 4,500 3,250 7,750 11,000
1840 5,000 4,650 3,350 8,000 13,000
1850 6,000 5,400 3,600 9,000 15,000
1860 8,000 6,000 4,000 10,000 18,000
1870 11,000 6,500 4,500 11,000 22,000

Can anyone deny that Jerusalem laid waste by both Muslim and Christian and left as an ancient ruin, finds life as a dynamic and breathtaking city only under Jewish dominion? Even the great American author, Mark Twain, declared in his account of his world tour in the late 1800s in his book, “Innocence Abroad,” that he found Jerusalem terribly disappointing. At the time an outpost of the Ottoman Empire it was left to decay. He writes, “Jerusalem is mournful, and dreary, and lifeless.”

That the population of Jews in their national capital is increasing in number should be no surprise. As a consequence of this increase in population new housing to accommodate growing families is necessary. The family ties of Jews require that the extended family live nearby. This is the natural course of events in any society in any community that has resided in the same locale for centuries. It underscores the reality that Jews prize the opportunity to live in the city of David.

Even if one were to consider the political realities of Jerusalem, for more than three decades every Prime Minister of Israel has been committed to the retaining of what is referred to as the E1 corridor of Jerusalem in any peace negotiation. The retention of this area was accepted by President Clinton and his administration.

Yes, it is time to set the record straight. I have watched for decades as the world of nations and even at times the United States, has placed evermore demands upon the State of Israel allowing the Arab community to continue its virulent anti-Semitism and violent attacks upon Israel’s civilian population. The dream of “land for peace” has turned into a nightmare for Israel. The recent jihad against Israel from Gaza makes this blatantly clear. No peace can come to this region without demanding that all parties, not just Israel, act with honesty integrity and respect for the rights of all human beings. To ensure this happens the world of nations must require that Israel's enemies recognize the human rights of Jews to live where they choose. Without this simple recognition, understood by the world of nations through the declarations of the United Nations, as applying to even aliens, which Jews are surely not in their ancient capital, how can one expect any lasting peace to be achieved?