UPDATE: NJ Arab and Muslim groups demand clarification of the governor's
statements. More to follow.
The governor said he believes now more than ever that only under Israeli control
can people of all faiths worship together at the holy site of Jerusalem. "There
is no question that that is so stark when you actually see it and you're here,"
he said in an interview. "I was somebody who felt that way politically before I
came here, but now that I've actually seen the sights, it's reinforced my
opinion that the place has never been better or freer than under Israeli
control." NJ Governor Chris Christie as quoted in
Star Ledger, April 5, 2012
whiterevolution.comGovernor Chris Christie has been mislead by his Israeli
hosts about free access to Christian and Muslim sites in East Jerusalem. The so
called Separation barrier ensures Palestinians are separated from Jerusalem,
from their homes, fields and places of worship.
Sorry Governor, you're seeing a mirage.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared before leaving for Israel that he
was going there to learn firsthand the history of the area and to become better
acquainted with the thorny world affairs. Now that he has departed Israel, the
Governor's statement on the control of Jerusalem's holy sites seems to lack the
litmus test of history, practice or long held American positions. He,
fundamentally, undermined the entrenched American belief that for any contested
matter there exists at least two sides of the truth. Governor Christi has been
ill informed by his Israeli hosts. I am certain his next host, King Abdallah II
of Jordan , would be less hospitable if he learned of Christie's controversial
decision on Jerusalem.
Let us agree first that religious freedom is an internationally recognized human
right. However, Israel has consistently ignored this right by enacting, and
systematically, laws that limited access to non-Jewish religious sites in
Jerusalem. Palestinian Arabs Christians and Muslims, especially those who Israel
considers residents of the West Bank (and the Gaza Strip) are not allowed entry
into Jerusalem unless the secure special travel permits from the Israel military
authorities.These permits are rarely issued.
Governor Christie seems to have ceded sovereignty of East Jerusalem to Israel
without comprehending the multiplicity of the legal and diplomatic positions on
Jerusalem held within the international community. Governments and scholars
alike are divided over the legal status of Jerusalem under international law.
Most countries of the world do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Many
UN member states formally adhere to the United Nations proposal that Jerusalem
should have an international status and that East Jerusalem should be the
capital of the future Palestine State.
The chief dispute revolves around Israel's control of East Jerusalem, which was
occupied after the 1967 Six Day War. While broader agreement do exist regarding
the Israeli presence in West Jerusalem De jure, most countries and
international organizations do not recognize Israel's control of East Jerusalem,
or its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation, which unilaterally declared a "complete
and united" Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Consequently, foreign embassies
are generally located in Tel Aviv and its suburbs.
As for the position of the United States' government, it does not recognize
Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The US views as desirable the establishing of an
international regime for the city. Its final status must be resolved through
negotiations United States policy on Jerusalem refers specifically to the
geographic boundaries of the "City of Jerusalem" based on the UN's corpus
separatum proposal. De jure, Jerusalem is part of the Palestine
Mandate and has not been under sovereignty of any country since President Bush
(1989–1993) stated that the United States does not believe new settlements
should be built in East Jerusalem. The Obama administration has condemned the
expansion of Gilo and Ramat Shlomo and others as well as the evictions and house
demolitions that are effecting over a hundred thousand Palestinians living in
It is worth noting that the United States voted for the United Nations Partition
Plan for Palestine in November 1947 and United Nations General Assembly
Resolution 194 in December 1948 following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The U.S.
opposed Israel moving its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following Israel's
declaration of Jerusalem as its capital in 1949. The U.S. opposed Israel's
annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. The United States maintains a
consulate in Jerusalem that deals primarily with the Palestinian population.
Diplomatic relations with the Israeli government are conducted at the U.S.
embassy in Tel Aviv. The United States has proposed that the future of Jerusalem
should be the subject of a negotiated settlement. Subsequent administrations
have maintained the same policy that Jerusalem's future not be the subject of
unilateral actions that could prejudice negotiations, such as moving the U.S.
Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Regarding the treatment of non-Jewish people wishing to visit Jerusalem to
worship in their respective religious sites, Israel has long maintained a policy
of denial of this right to Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Often we talk
about how Arab Muslims are denied entry into Jerusalem to pray in the Dome of
the Rock, or the Al-Alqsa mosque. But the story repeats itself almost
identically with Christian Arabs who reside in the West Bank. And this fact is
particularly painful to bear when you consider that during this Holy Week when
our governor was given unhindered access to the Holy Church of the Sepulcher,
tens of thousands of would be pilgrims from Ramallah or Bethlehem or Nablus will
be denied entry at the Apartheid barrier that Israel has built to keep
Palestinians separated from their fields, places of work or in this case places
Our Governor seems to have taken the advice given to him by Michael Oren,
Israel's Ambassador to the US who extended the official invitation to visit
Israel back in October. In an opinion piece in
The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Oren glowingly spoke of the great
treatment Arab Christians have been receiving under Israeli control. He credited
Israel with sustaining the fragile presence of Christianity in Israel while
blaming their continued decline on Muslim intolerance. But Mr. Christi should
have read the strong condemnation letter that leading Arab Christian showered
the WSJ in response.
Open letter to Michael Oren ahead of Easter , Christian leaders in
Palestine wrote, "[W]e were appalled by the baseless allegations you published
in the Wall Street Journal on March 9. Your attempt to blame the difficult
reality that Palestinian Christians face on Palestinian Muslims is a shameful
manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to
our community." One of the letter signers was Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna)
of Sebastia, who is the highest-ranking Palestinian clergyman in the Orthodox
Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The letter further stated that: "The Israeli
occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian
communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine." A just published
piece in the Washington Post by Richard Stearns, tilted,
'A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians echoes the same painful
experience Palestinian Christians must endure as a result of the Israeli
We hope Governor Chris Christie will reevaluate his position on Jerusalem in
light of these irrefutable facts. He may have very well nurtured his spiritual
salvation by visiting the Christian holy sites. His political credentials, on
the other hand, will require more than a prayer.
Dr. Aref Assaf is president of American Arab Forum.