Monday, May 28, 2018

28-May-18: Names and identities: A Jerusalem battlefield

Earlier today we tweeted this famous 1948 image, originally
photographed by the remarkable John Roy Carlson [Source]
It won't be surprising to regular readers when we say that we keep an eye on what the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does. And that we wish people would pay closer attention to some of the disturbing things that emanate from there.

An article in yesterday's Jordan Times ["Changing Arabic names of Jerusalem heritage sites is attempt to ‘Judaise’ city - study", May 27, 2018] provides an illustration. (The emphasis is ours):
The Israeli occupation has changed the Arabic names of 667 archaeological and heritage sites in Jerusalem with the aim of “Judaising the city” and “erasing its historical and religious identity”, according to a recent study.
“Replacing the Arabic names is part of a long-term and systematic attempt to distort facts and falsify the real identity of the holy city until the future generation forgets its Arab and Islamic identity,” Ibrahim Bazazo, researcher and dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Jordan told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
The study was conducted over the course of three years by Jordanians Omar Jawabreh, Mohammad Sarayreh, Haitham Abdelraza and Bazazo, under the title “Towards Sustainable Documentation of Geographical Names of Touristic and Heritage Sites in Occupied Jerusalem Using Geographical Information System [GIS]”. Researchers used documents dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including holy books, historical and geographical atlases..."
It goes on in this vein, accusing the enemy of "forcing a ‘Judaised’ identity" and blaming "the Israeli occupation" for replacing "Arabic names not only from all signs and banners but also from school books and official curricula". (The very loaded issue of school books offers an egregious example of a Jordanian talent for skating on thin ice.)

Perhaps to bolster the mean-spirited and essentially untrue Jordanian allegations with a little gravitas, the government-controlled newspaper refers to certain thoughts of its ruler:
During the Extraordinary Session of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Istanbul earlier this month, His Majesty King Abdullah called for “immediate measures by brotherly Arab and Muslim countries to support the perseverance of Palestinians and empower them economically, while countering attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and alter its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity”.
Reacting to the assault on this Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity, an associate professor at Yarmouk University, Omar Al Ghul, is quoted saying:
"We cannot deny the Judaisation processes which are evidenced by the existence of a special committee in the Knesset to change the Arabic names..."
He could be referring to Israel's Government Committee on Names (ועדת השמות הממשלתית) whose work which got started right after Israel's independence 70 years ago is mostly done by now. It has had responsibility for giving places Hebrew names when there are no such modern names. The English-language stub of the Hebrew Wikipedia entry for the committee calls it
a public committee appointed by the Government of Israel, which deals with the designation of names for communities and other points on the map of Israel, and the replacement of Arabic names that existed until 1948 with Hebrew names. The committee's decisions bind state institutions...
It's not clear to us why a sovereign state ought to be criticized for wanting to change the names of places that were given Arabic and/or Turkish names under long-overturned foreign military occupation.

In any event, an academic lawyer whom we consulted informally about the committee's work told us
There’s nothing in international law about names per se. One can always try to stitch together a clever argument that it is part of a bigger plan of genocide or apartheid or whatever the Jewish evil du jour is. The Hebrew [Wikipedia] entry’s claim on the purpose of the committee being the replacement of Arabic names that existed until 1948 appears to be editorializing. The entry quotes Ben Gurion as saying להרחיק את השמות הערבים מטעמים מדיניים: כשם שאין אנו מכירים בבעלותם הפוליטית של הערבים על הארץ, כן אין אנו מכירים בבעלותם הרוחנית ובשמותיהם" but no source is provided, and in any event it does not seem to be part of the official charge of the committee.
That Hebrew quote of B-G's, in our words: "To remove Arab names for political reasons: Just as we don't recognize Arab political ownership of the land, so too we don't recognize their spiritual ownership or their names..."

Back to the Jordanians. The dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Jordan weighs in with some views in yesterday's article. He gets credit as one of the researchers of the "Judaization" study, though not as a lawyer. This doesn't prevent him from dispensing legal advice:
“It is now the role of government institutions and civil society organisations to use the research data and take action to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem,” the researcher said, stressing: “We should speak out to the international institutions and the International Court of Justice to ensure that our identity is preserved and protected.”
Jerusalem, December 1956 during Jordanian military occupation
[Image Source: Getty]
It's startling to hear Jordanian officials refer to international organizations as providing them with backing and their claims with validation. Jordan's utterly devastating impact on Jerusalem when it ruled the city via a deadly military occupation for nearly two decades ending in 1967 is remembered with considerable bitterness here.

Its ruling family from when Jordan was carved out of Mandatory Palestine in the 1920s, the Hashemites from the place we today call Saudi Arabia, presided over massive, merciless elimination of almost every sign of Jewish presence and history once the British-led Arab Legion overwhelmed Jerusalem's Jewish defenders in 1948:
While Christian holy sites were protected, and Muslim holy sites were maintained and renovated, Jewish holy sites were damaged and sometimes destroyed. According to Raphael Israeli, 58 synagogues were desecrated or demolished in the Old City, resulting in the de-Judaization of Jerusalem. The Western Wall was transformed into an exclusively Muslim holy site associated with al-Buraq. 38,000 Jewish graves in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives were systematically destroyed, and Jews were not allowed to be buried there. This was all in violation of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement... Following the Arab Legion's expulsion of the Jewish residents of the Old City in the 1948 War, Jordan allowed Arab Muslim refugees to settle in the vacated Jewish Quarter. Later, after some of these were moved to Shu'afat, migrants from Hebron took their place. During the 1960s, as the quarter continued to fall into decay, Jordan planned to turn the quarter into a public park... ["Islamization of East Jerusalem under Jordanian occupation", Wikipedia - accessed today]
We snapped the image above in 2012; it originally appeared in this post
For more about the rank hypocrisy of the Jordanians and the Palestinian Arabs (ah, but we're repeating ourselves), see this six year old post of ours that still has some fresh things to say: "26-Feb-12: A moment to think about Jerusalem".

Here are a few sentences from there about one of the last prominent visual reminders of that dark and awful chapter:
Half of this city was captured by the army of the Jordanian king during Israel's desperate war of survival in 1948. Jordanian forces then set about destroying and desecrating anything Jewish on which they could lay their hands. The United Nations and other international agencies (to their eternal shame) did nothing to prevent or condemn this or the fact that the Jordanians prohibited access by Jews to all of the holy sites under their control. Then, in an unconscionable act of self-tribute, the Jordanian king built himself a large mansion on a Jerusalem hill-top that we can see as we type these words. Ostensibly a tribute to his dominion over a city holy to three religions, it serves as an indictment of his hypocrisy and that of the nations of the world who were evidently content with what was done by and in the name of the Hashemite regime to eastern Jerusalem and its historical and religious uniqueness during those nineteen miserable years.
The war of 1967 that was explicitly intended to drive the Israeli Jews into the sea (a euphemism for mass killing) resulted in the east and west parts of Jerusalem being reunited under Israeli rule. The city began to flourish in ways that it had not for two thousand years. Its splendour today is greater than at any time in the past. The freedoms it offers its residents and visitors in 2012 are the polar opposite of how things were when the Jordanians ruled.
The palace that King Hussein ordered built in his own honour on one of the highest points in Jerusalem still stands today. But it was never completed and remains an empty, dilapidated shell. Empty shell also happens to be an accurate way to characterize the undertakings Jordan gave in the framework of the 1949 Armistice Agreement to allow "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives." 
No one is going to lose too much sleep in our part of the world because of Jordanian huffing and puffing over the names of places they continue to dream of dominating - and of destroying. 

No comments: