Today, 450,000 Jews live in the heart of the Jewish homeland in Israel’s Judea and Samaria regions – the holy land where Jewish people lived and prayed for thousands of years.
Judea/Samaria is where Abraham purchased a burial cave and surrounding lands; where the Maccabees fought off foreign invaders and Hellenists; where the shepherd David tended his flock, was anointed king, and first established his kingdom; and where Hebron’s ancient Jewish community lived for centuries, until Arabs massacred the Jewish community in 1929. It is where the Jewish people planted the fields and cultivated its spiritual heritage.
It was thus a great moment last month when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed the truth: that Jewish towns and communities, a.k.a. “settlements,” in the Jewish homelands of Judea and Samaria are not illegal under international law, and are not an obstacle to peace.
Secretary Pompeo’s statement was widely praised in Israel, including by both major political parties, and by Israel’s strongest U.S. friends such as our organization, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
But almost half of the House Democrats, 107 of them, sent a perfidious, Israelophobic letter, demanding that Secretary Pompeo should reverse the his simple statement of the legal truth.
The 107 Democrats falsely claimed that it is “illegal” for Jewish people to live, work, pray, have businesses, and study in Judea and Samaria. They ignored Judea/Samaria’s long Jewish history, U.S. treaty obligations, and additional binding international treaties and doctrines guaranteeing the Jewish people’s unequivocal rights to settle these lands under international law, including:
- The San Remo Resolution(1920), a binding international agreement unanimously adopted by the entire League of Nations (51 members), which made Britain responsible for effectuating the Balfour Declaration, which called for establishment of the Jewish homeland and “close settlement by Jews on the land” – including in today’s Israel, which includes Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria.
- The Lodge-Fish Joint Resolution(Joint Res. 322/1922), unanimously passed by both houses of Congress and signed by then-President Warren G. Harding, which called for a Jewish homeland (meaning state), including in the area that today encompasses Israel, and including Judea/Samaria and Jerusalem.
- The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922), an internationally binding treaty, which guaranteed “close settlement by Jews, on the land” and the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland in the full mandatory area, which included Israel, including Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria.
- The 1924 Anglo-American Convention [Treaty], which affirmed that the British Mandatory administration was responsible, as a trustee, to “secure the establishment of the Jewish national home” and “to facilitate. . . close settlement by Jews on the land” in the areas including today’s Israel, including Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria. The Convention was ratified by the U.S. Senate, and signed by then-President Calvin Coolidge, making it a binding U.S. treaty obligation. This binding U.S. treaty, which guaranteed the Jewish people’s right to closely settle Judea/Samaria, was never overturned. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter’s and Barrack Obama’s policies, which considered Jewish settlement of these areas illegal, violated international law and binding U.S. treaty obligations. It was absolutely correct that the Trump administration ended the illegal Carter/Obama policies.
- UN Charter Article 80 (1946), including the Jewish People’s clause, preserves intact all rights granted to Jewish people under the Mandate, even after the Mandate’s expiry in 1948. The U.S. is a party to the UN Charter, which has the status of international law. Accordingly, by its own Charter, the UN cannot transfer the rights vested in the Jewish people, in what was formerly the Mandate for Palestine, to any non-Jewish entity. Thus, UN resolutions that attempt to remove Jewish rights to Judea/Samaria and Jerusalem — such as the UN Security Council resolution orchestrated by Obama in late 2016 — t are illegal and void.
- The Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty (1994) recognized the Mandatory border as the international border – thereby confirming that Judea/Samaria is within Israel.
- The “Levy Commission Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria” (2012), which confirmed, after an extensive investigation led by highly respected former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, that under “international law, the establishment of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is not illegal.”
Further, the fundamental, well-established, clear border-determination international law rule, called uti possidetis juris, entitles new countries, including the reestablished state of Israel, to the borders of the preceding top-level administrative mandated territory – namely, the British Mandate, including Judea/Samaria and Jerusalem.
Moreover, the settlement of Judea and Samaria does notviolate the Fourth Geneva Convention. Instead of examining – or even mentioning – any of the applicable international law, the 107 Democrats’ anti-Israel Letter wrongly labeled Judea/Samaria “occupied Palestinian territory,” and falsely and absurdly claimed that Jewish “settlements” violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – an inapplicable document aimed at the Nazis’ extermination and slave-labor policies.
The Fourth Geneva Convention also has no application to Jewish communities/settlements in Judea/Samaria, because: (1) the Palestinian Authority never signed the Convention; (2) the Convention only concerns “forcible” population transfers, and thus does not apply to Jews voluntarily returning to parts of the Jewish homeland; (3) the Convention has never been interpreted to prevent voluntary population moves; (4) the Convention only applies to “occupying powers” who occupy another state’s sovereign land – and Israel is not an “occupying power” because it has the sovereign right to Judea/Samaria; and (5) there was never a sovereign Palestinian Arab state in Judea/Samaria (or anywhere else).
The 107 Democrats’ attempt to use the Fourth Geneva Convention to ethnically cleanse Jews from Judea/Samaria is particularly pernicious, because it is the polar opposite of the Convention’s purpose.
The late renowned international law professor Julius Stone stated that it would be historically incorrect, ironic, absurd and tyrannical to claim that “Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein [devoid of Jews], has now come to mean that. . . the West Bank [Judea/Samaria] . . . must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants.”
Finally, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are not an “obstacle to peace.” The 107 Democrats’ anti-Israel Letter also promoted a so-called “two-state solution” – a euphemism for eliminating Jewish communities and creating a Hamas-Fatah-Hezbollah-Iranian-proxy-Palestinian-Arab terror state on Israel’s sovereign land. Such a state would be the real “obstacle to peace,” because it would place every Israeli within rocket range.
The real “obstacles to peace” are also that the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to preach hatred and violence towards Jews in every conceivable venue (schools, media, mosques, sports teams, etc.); pays stipends to jailed terrorists and the families of dead terrorists; and seeks to annihilate the Jewish state and her people. The PA has turned down generous offers of a Palestinian Arab state multiple times, to avoid giving up its genocidal goal of completely destroying Israel.
The 107 Democrats’ Anti-Israel Letter also had the gall to invoke the term “human rights” while demanding that the Jewish people should be denied their most basic lawful human right to live in the Jewish homeland.
To borrow phrasing from the great former Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the infamous 1975 “Zionism is racism” debate, the 107 Democrats’ lie — that Jews are “illegal occupiers” of lands to which the Jewish people have the sovereign legal right — is simply today’s “new justification for excluding and persecuting Jews” – and is an abuse of the “language of human rights.”
Morton Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Elizabeth Berney, Esq. is ZOA’s Director of Special Projects.