Guardian story characterizes Jerusalem’s Light Rail project as a violation of international law

A group of European immigrants settled in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem on the 27th of October 1700, and began building a synagogue. On the 27th of October, 1721, marauding Arabs burnt the synagogue and courtyard, destroying both.

In 1816, almost 100 years after the synagogue was first destroyed, Jews managed to obtain a license from the Turkish authorities in Kushta, annulling previous debts and permitting the rebuilding of the synagogue. It was inaugurated a second time in 1864.

The Synagogue was destroyed a second time by Jordanian forces after they attacked and expelled the Jewish population of the Old City in 1948, and erased all presence of Jewish history – a symbolic deed to express their victory in capturing the historically Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

On March 15, 2010, nearly 43 years after Israel reclaimed Jerusalem following the Six Day War the newly rebuilt Hurva Synagogue was dedicated.

On that date, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the rededication of the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem as a “war crime,” and called on EU member states to boycott Israeli goods in protest. 

On March 18th, 2010, my wife and I were married on the rooftop of the home of our rabbi, which stands next to and overlooks the newly restored Hurva Synagogue.

We now joke that our marriage was, arguably, an accessory to a war crime and a violation of international law.

This came to mind upon reading Harriet Sherwood’s latest post for the Guardian, Jerusalem’s long-awaited light railway splits opinion“, which characterizes Jerusalem’s Light Rail project – which runs through the “East” and West” parts of the city, thus serving Arab neighborhoods, such as Shu’afat, as well as majority Jewish neighborhoods – as a violation of international law.

Phase One of Jerusalem's Light Rail Route

As I noted on July 6th – a post written after my participation in a test run of the Light Rail project – National Public Radio (NPR) and New York Times correspondents who also rode the Light Rail that day, and questioned Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, on whether the fact that the route runs though the East part of the city (serving Arab neighborhoods) was an impediment to peace, were parroting the specious argument that any Jewish presence in “East” Jerusalem was inherently illegal.

Of course, the mainstream media myth of “historically Arab” East Jerusalem is predicated upon the fact that “East” Jerusalem was only “Arab” after Jordanian forces ethnically cleansed every Jew from the territory they controlled after the 1948 War – a racist segregation of the city between Jew and non-Jew which only ended  in 1967.

I also noted polls indicating that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem DO NOT want to divide the city as part of any future peace agreement.

Sherwood’s characterization of Jerusalem’s Light Rail project as “illegal” is based on a quote by Omar Barghouti, a BDS activist currently studying at Tel Aviv University, who explicitly calls for the end of the Jewish state within any borders.

For Barghouti, Israel’s mere existence is illegal and the issue of which particular policies the “illegal” state of Israel adopts are of no particular consequence. 

Further, imagine what the reaction would be if the Arab neighborhoods were excluded from the Rail’s route?  Is there any question that the dominant narrative would have been one of racism and discrimination against Jerusalem’s Arabs?

This is how debased the debate about Israel has become.

A Light Rail project that serves Arab neighborhoods is racist, and an instrument of oppression.

As an Israeli, and resident of Jerusalem, I fully intend to use my city’s new Light Rail service and so, once again, by Barghouti’s and Sherwood’s logic, will become an accessory to a violation of international law.

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