Bikers’ views of Pigott Hall were blocked today by an eyesore banner bearing the colors of the Palestinian flag. Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Stanford Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) claimed responsibility for draping the large banner that reads, “HANDS OFF JERUSALEM.”
The inflammatory banner was Stanford pro-Palestinian groups’ response to President Trump’s Wednesday decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Along with the banner, the groups released an announcement claiming that Stanford students have a “responsibility to acknowledge the role of the U.S. in the military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” and declared that “Jerusalem is and always will be Palestinian.”
Rather than supporting the Palestinian cause with nuanced arguments, SJP and JVP’s announcements again proved that they are only interested in brazen demagoguery and anti-Zionism. The organizations present only one side of an immensely complex political issue, peddles inflammatory falsehoods, and ignores important historical realities. Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish culture and politics for millennia, and U.S. presidents have tacitly endorsed the notion that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital for three decades.
Contrary to SJP and JVP’s assertion that Jerusalem is incontestably Palestinian, Jerusalem is mentioned over six hundred and sixty times in the Hebrew Bible and has been the beating heart of the Jewish faith throughout all of Jewish history. Jews from across the globe have never stopped praying, speaking about, or facing Jerusalem. Jerusalem is remembered at every Jewish wedding, in every Jewish home and at the highest and holiest moments of the Jewish year.
Protesters claim that Donald Trump has no right to determine Israel’s capital -- but neither should the PLO or the UN. Every other country in the world is entitled to select its own capital; Israel is the only country denied that same right. Moreover, the prime minister’s office, the Knesset, and nearly all Israeli government offices have been situated in Jerusalem since Israel declared its independence nearly 70 years ago. Heads of state and other top officials from countries around the world regularly visit Jerusalem to engage with Israel’s leaders. Trump’s declaration is only a recognition of reality.
SJP blatantly denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem in its crusade to reject Jews’ right to exist in their own land - the same historical “whitewashing” of which they accuse Israel. To avoid being hoodwinked by SJP and JVP, Stanford students need only open any textbook on the history of the modern Middle East.
Although SJP’s announcement suggests otherwise, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem is not new. The United States government has endorsed the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for two decades now. In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to recognize Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all endorsed the principle of this statute without hesitation. They only invoked its national security clause to defer embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem due to short-term concerns about Palestinian protests.
Donald Trump only differs from his predecessors on his decision to take action on an opinion they all shared. Where his predecessors deemed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in declarations of principle or as applause lines in speeches, Trump issued his proclamation in writing and promised to follow through. Where past presidents failed to deliver on their promises, Trump lived up to his words.
Finally, moving Israel’s capital to Jerusalem would not block Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since its establishment, Israel has honored and preserved the holy sites of all three Abrahamic, monotheistic religions conceived in Jerusalem over the last five millenia. Merely moving the embassy will not change this legacy of tolerance. Trump’s declaration simply recognized one solid fact: Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since the country’s inception, and it will continue to be the capital when the final municipal borders are agreed upon after definitive peace negotiations. The notion that any sustainable settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not include recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is laughable.
Outside of the United Nations building in New York, a quotation from the book of Isaiah is etched in stone, that calls for universal peace and coexistence. Frequently, however, the world’s nations forget the words that precede the righteous verse, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Just as the book of Isaiah espouses peace and coexistence, so too does Jerusalem. Indeed, its name means “city of peace.” Today, Jerusalem is one of the few places where Jews, Muslims, and Christians are able to pray alongside one another with freedom and security. Jerusalem will remain a syncretistic, ecumenical metropolis of faiths and cultures as the capital of Israel. President Trump’s move merely recognizes the reality of the Jews’ profound connection to a city that they erected five millennia ago. Contrary to the claims of SJP and JVP’s incendiary and ignorant banner, officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is long overdue.