(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli flag Temple Mount

Jerusalem under Jewish Israeli sovereignty represents accomplishment, beauty, prosperity and freedom – and even the Arab world knows it.

By Hillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein, KeepJerusalem.org

With just a few well-aimed verbal blows aimed at an Iranian diplomat on international TV, an Al Jazeera show host placed in bold relief the difference between Israel’s forward-looking vision and the Muslim world’s militant backwardness.

The upshot of the segment was the host’s rejection of Iran’s bid to destroy Israel and liberate Jerusalem.

Host Feisal Al-Kassam, a well-known figure on Arab-world social media with millions of Twitter followers, was interviewing Iran’s Tamir Muswai when he suddenly broke into an agitated tirade:

“You [Iranians] want to liberate Jerusalem? And what will you do with it? You will join it to what? [an apparent referrence to Iran’s boasts to include it in its developing empire – HF] Will you join it to Baghdad, which the world defines … as the filthiest capital in the world? Will you join it to Beirut, which has become the biggest garbage dump in the Middle East?”

Muswai looked shocked by the outburst, but Al-Kassam wasn’t finished: “Will you join it to Damascus, where people are dying of hunger? Or perhaps it will become like Sanaa [in Yemen] of the Houthis?!”

And Al-Kassam’s final blow: “The Arab world tells you: ‘If you want to liberate Jerusalem for me, I don’t want you to.’ I took a survey yesterday – no one wants you to liberate Jerusalem or Palestine for them!”

[This doesn’t mean, of course, that the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network favors Israeli sovereignty over the Holy Land or Jerusalem. They would love Hamas, for instance, to “liberate” Jerusalem in a holy war against Israel – but that’s for a different article.]

In his rant, Al-Kassam chose to mention decaying Arab capitals that have fallen under Iranian influence in the wake of the decline of Arabism and Arab nationalism. Iran’s intervention is clearly not welcomed by many of the populations of the countries he listed.

But from KeepJerusalem’s vantage point, the message here goes beyond a given geopolitical snapshot of the Middle East. It tells us candidly that Jerusalem under Jewish Israeli sovereignty, even with its sizeable Muslim minority, represents accomplishment, beauty, prosperity and freedom – and even the Arab world knows it.

For instance, it is a major draw for visitors from around the world. Over 3.1 million tourists visited Jerusalem in 2018 – only 21% were Jews – and close to 3.5 million (based on the record tourism rise to Israel) in 2019. This is more than the total number to the countries of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen combined. Tourists to Lebanon in 2018 numbered just under two million, Iraq is trying to reach half-a-million, and Syria and Yemen are war-torn and are not very attractive to foreign visitors.

(Syria has set an ambitious goal to reach two million tourists in 2020, and Yemen hosted just over a third of a million in 2015.)

It is hard to find statistics comparing the cities mentioned above to Jerusalem in areas such as employment, vehicles, and standard of living in general, but one simple general stat can be very telling: In June 2015, a survey carried out by the PA-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 52% of the Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem said they would prefer to be citizens of Israel.

Note that this counts only those who were not afraid to give this answer. The mukhtar of Sur Baher, an Arab village in eastern Jerusalem, has said that many are scared of speaking aloud, but that in fact, most of the residents of his village prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty than under PA rule.

Keep in mind as well that the trend is towards higher numbers. In a similar poll in September 2010, one-third picked Israeli over PA citizenship, and a year later, it was up to 40%.

Outside of Jerusalem, the numbers are dramatically different. Only 12% of Gaza residents would choose Israel over the PA, while in Judea and Samaria a minuscule 4% would prefer Israeli citizenship. This gap clearly indicates that living in Jerusalem makes all the difference.

‘A Bastion of Freedom and Progress’

And the “militant backwardness” of the Arab leadership mentioned above, concerning Israel at least, is summed up by Prof. Alan Dershowitz in an article he wrote last year:

“The suffering of Palestinians, which does not compare to the suffering of many other groups, has been largely inflicted by themselves. They could have had a state, with no occupation, if they had accepted the Peel Commission Report of 1938, the United Nations Partition of 1947, the Camp David Summit deal of 2000, or the Ehud Olmert offer of 2008. They rejected all these offers, responding with violence and terrorism, because doing so would have required them to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people…

“Had the early Palestinian leadership, with the surrounding Arab states, not attacked Israel the moment it declared statehood, it would have a viable state with no refugees. Had Hamas used the resources it received when Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to build schools and hospitals instead of using these resources to construct rocket launchers and terror tunnels [emphasis added], it could have become a ‘Singapore on the Sea’ instead of the poverty-stricken enclave the Palestinian leadership turned it into.”

Once again, let us note that Jerusalem under Israeli control has become a bastion of freedom and progress – freedom of religion, freedom of access to religious sites, growth in hi-tech and other advanced industry, architectural and ecological beauty, the international capital of vibrant Torah study, and a draw for visitors of all religions from all over the world.

Let us continue to work together, not only for the benefit of Israel as a Jewish state and Jerusalem as an eternal Jewish city, but for the good of mankind, to keep Jerusalem unified under Israeli sovereignty.

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