Old Jerusalem: A street view in Jerusalem, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in an 1857 photograph by Francis Frith (1822-1898), the English photographer renown for his work from travels through the Middle East. (Courtesy of The New York Public Library)
Within three hours, on this day in 1967 (32 years ago), the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, approves three readings of a law that annexes Jerusalem to Israel, proclaiming that the city will never be divided again. The 1967 Arab-Israeli war had been fought three weeks earlier, launching Israel into paroxysms of triumphalism from which it hasn't recovered.
The Knesset also approves a measure that grants protection to the city’s holy places and provides for access to all of them, by people of all faiths. The measure is an attempt to diffuse the international outcry against annexation. Tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are forcibly expelled from the city and trucked to Jordan or other parts of the West Bank.
Altogether, historian Benny Morris wrote, between 200,000 and 250,000 Palestinians and other Arabs were forced into exile by the war and subsequent occupation. “There is some evidence,” Morris wrote, “of IDF soldiers going around with loudspeakers ordering West Bankers to leave their homes and cross the Jordan.”
Immediately after Israeli forces occupied Jerusalem, an editorial in Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily, put the celebration in words: “The glory of past ages no longer is to be seen at a distance but is, from now on, part of the new state, and its illumination will irradiate the constructive enterprise of a Jewish society that is a link in the long chain of history of the people in this country… Jerusalem is all ours. Rejoice and celebrate, O dweller in Zion!”
A New York Times editorial on June 28, 1967, put it much differently: “Israel’s latest move toward annexing Jerusalem’s old city flies in the face of friendly advice and can serve only further to complicate efforts to find a just and lasting solution to one of the Middle East’s most difficult, chronic problems.... Israel’s stated objectives—guaranteed access for Jews and others to the Old City’s holy places and security for the Israeli sector from attacks originating behind the Old City’s walls—must be satisfied, as they were not under Jordanian rule.
“But arbitrary Israeli annexation of the Old City is not the best way to achieve these aims."
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