Saturday, September 8, 2012

Israel's Biblical Rights to Judea and Samaria and International Recognition

Was there International Recognition of Israel's rights to the land of Israel prior to the Late Modern (secular) period of Political Thought?  If so, that would mean that for some 3900 years, everyone did not question Israel's Rights to its homeland as they do today, and only in the past 150 years, give or take, a new belief sprung up that the will of current leading nations, arrogantly called "world powers", trumps everything in International Law.  To keep this essay more universally acceptable, I will limit it's scope to the span of History within Tanach (Scripture) itself, as the Holy Words of the Tanach are accepted as a matter of faith by half the World's population today. I will only mention more recent history at the essay's conclusion.

In the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, which occurred some 2500 years ago, The leading political power of the World at the time was the Persian-Median Empire. Emperor Artaxerxes converses with the leaders of the adversaries of the Jews in the Holy Land.  Both the leaders of the Arabic lands and the main political leader of the World in that age each refer to the land of Israel as territory that stretched out to the River, the Euphrates.  This border first became fact at the hands of King David under whose leadership Jerusalem also first became capital of the Land of Israel.  This occurred some 500 years before the events in the Book of Ezra.  It is interesting to note that this whole conversation between the leader of the political world and the leaders of the Arabian lands took place after Israel had been exiled, their Temple destroyed, the seat of their government in Jerusalem removed. Yet under the concept of International Recognition, the Land of Israel remained in possession of the Jewish people even at a time with scattered and limited settlement and NO political leadership entity in the Holy Land until the time of Emperor Koresh (Cyrus, the Great) when it was decreed that the Jews had a right to rebuild their Bais HaMikdash, Holy Temple. Even exile of most of the nation and destruction of their political system itself was not recognized as a legally legitimate reason to abate Jewish rights to the Land of Israel.  Perhaps this comes in part from the fact that the Tanach clearly spells out Israel's return to the land in numerous places, including specific references to a return to Jerusalem, as in Tzefanyah (Zephaniah) chapter 3, verses 14- 20, to Samarian Mount Ephraim and also to Zion, as in Yermiyah (Jeremiah) chapter 31 and specifically in reference to return from Babylon in Yeshayah (Isaiah) chapters 13 & 14, and Persia's future aid in Yeshayah chapter 44, all these prophecies occurring prior to the rule of Koresh.

The Persian-Median recognition of Jewish rights to Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) is also interesting to consider, despite it's early history. Yehoshua (Joshua) did not conquer the Temple Mount, it was King David who bought it.  Though in the Books of Yehoshua (15:63) and Shoftim (Judges, chapter 1, verse 8) It says that Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was conquered. But in Shmuel (Samuel) 2, chapter 5 it is revealed that the Jebusite on the Temple Mount were unable to be driven out until the time of King David, so how was it considered "conquered" (for further on this see the commentaries of Rashi and Redak on Yehoshua 15:63)?  Until David moved his capital from Chevron (Hebron) to Yerushalayim, Jerusalem had divided neighborhoods perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the Old City of Jerusalem today. The sections were: 1) the tribe of Yehuda (Judah), 2) the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), 3) the Jebusites. (as per the commentary Metzudos David on Yehoshua 15:63). Despite the hundreds of years between Yehoshua and David, the Persian-Median Empire recognized only Jewish ownership to all of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.

Going further back in history, those borders were first mentioned to Avraham (Abraham) some 4000 years ago as the Divine Will of the Creator (Genesis 15 & repeated to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) in Shemos (Exodus 23) and again in Devarim (Deuteronomy 11).  And the fact that it took over 400 years from the time these words were recorded by Moshe until David fulfilled that Heavenly Decree, was also not viewed by normative world political leadership as a legitimate reason to assume any lessening of Jewish Rights to the Holy Land.

But what of the alternate borders mentioned in Bamidbar (Numbers) 34? These, as seen in the context of the books of the Early Prophets, referred to the conquests of Yehoshua, while the promise to Avraham (Genesis 15, Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 11) referred to the conquests of King David and the territory of King Shlomo (Solomon) which went all the way East to the Great River. Indeed, if one would actually read chapter 34 of Numbers they would see that it referred to when the Israelites "enter the land" (verse 2) and later in that chapter, Yehoshua is mentioned as the main leader who will help the people conquer the land.  Conquering all the way to the Euphrates was a matter of destiny for the Jewish people, but not an urgent command incumbent upon the generation of Yehoshua.  From the Persian-Median perspective, however, it seems that this too was not an impediment upon viewing Israel's rights to include all the land which they had acquired under King David.

The will of world political powers is commonly referred to in International Law as Customary Law, but is not on the level of Fundamental Laws (Jus Cogens) or even treaties between nations. When a treaty between world powers occurs, that is greater than customary law. That is what happened in the Book of Ezra, and that is what happened again in a limited fashion at the San Remo Supreme Council in 1920.  What is very clear, is that all of Judea and Samaria and of course all of Jerusalem is not open to debate. It is Israel's entirely.  Only unclear policy by Western nations can cloud the minds of those trying to bring peace to the Middle East.  But they cannot change the profoundly deep historical reality of International Recognition of Jewish Rights to the Land of Israel from ancient times and until today.

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