By Philip Weiss
Republican candidates for the presidential nomination have been falling over one another in promises to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
And the rightwing prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, proclaims Jerusalem to be the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish state.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in 1970. The world refuses to recognize that annexation. Meanwhile, Israel digs up neighborhoods all around the Old City to find coins showing a Jewish presence there in ancient times– justifying the eviction of more Palestinians from their Jerusalem homes.
All international plans for Jerusalem have called for Jerusalem to be an international city.
And (as I first pointed out 2-1/2 years ago) Theodor Herzl, the Hungarian-Austrian journalist/playwright (1860-1904) and founder of political Zionism, promised many world leaders that he would internationalize the city if Jews could have Palestine.
In the last five years of his life, Herzl went from chamber to chamber of powerful men in Europe, and made these promises.
I have been rereading his diaries, and would offer these ten excerpts, all containing that promise, explicit and implicit:
1. May 7, 1896: Herzl’s intermediary to Sultan Abdulhamid II of the Ottoman Empire tells Herzl that the Sultan “would never give up Jerusalem. The Mosque of Omar must remain forever in the hands of Islam.”
“We can get around that difficulty,” I said. “We shall extraterritorialize Jerusalem, so that it will belong to nobody and yet everybody; and with the the Holy Places, which will become the joint possession of all Believers–a great condominium of culture and morality.”
2. May 19, 1896: Herzl meets the Papal Nuncio Antonio Agliardi in Vienna and offers him the same assurance.
“We require only the consent of the Great Powers, and in particular that of His Holiness the Pope; then we shall establish [a republic] ourselves–with the extraterritorialization of Jerusalem understood..”
Agliardi smiled: “He will be highly pleased. You propose, then, to exclude Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and set up the capital, I take it, more to the north?”
“Yes,” I said.
3. June 17, 1896: Herzl recounts a meeting with a high Turkish official in Constantinople, where Herzl has gone to offer money to Sultan Abdulhamid II in exchange for Palestine.
His objections were: the status of the Holy Places. Jerusalem must unconditionally remain under the guardianship of Turkey. It would run counter to the most sacred feelings of the people if Jerusalem were given up. I promised a far-reaching extraterritoriality. The Holy Places of the civilized world should belong to no one but must belong to all.
4. Berlin Oct 7, 1898. Herzl meets with Count Philipp Eulenberg, German ambassador at Vienna:
I mentioned, as a matter of course, the extraterritorialization of the Holy Places.
5. Potsdam, Oct 9, 1898. Recounting meeting with Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden, when Herzl promised:
There [in Russia] we must leave no doubt as to the extraterritorialization of the Holy Places—the extra commercium.
6. Palestine, October 31, 1898. Herzl’s one visit to the actual Jerusalem. Diary entry:
I am firmly convinced that a splendid New Jeruslaem can be built outside the old city walls. The old Jerusalem would still remain Lourdes and Mecca and Yerushalyim. A very lovely beautiful town could arise at its side.
7. May 8 1901 En route Budapest to Vienna. Envoy of the Sultan Hamid says to Herzl:
“You mustn’t talk to him about Zionism. That is a phantasmagoria. Jerualem is as holy to him as Mecca.”
8. St Petersburg, Russia, August 11, 1903. Herzl meets with the Czar’s minister of finance, Count Witte. Herzl asks Witte how he feels about the fact that Turkish soldiers are in Jerusalem.
“That is less intolerable than if the guards were Jewish,” said the friend of our people.”
[Herzl responds] “We want to settle farther to the north. Away from Jerusalem.”
9. Rome Jan 23, 1904. Herzl meets with the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Merry del Val.
“We are asking only for the profane earth. The Holy Places are to be extraterritorialized.”
[Cardinal responds:] “Ah but it is virtually impossible to think of them as set apart, one from the other, in such terms”
10. Rome. Herzl meets Pope Pius X, Jan 26, 1904. Pope says:
“Gerusalemme was not to be placed in Jewish hands.” …
[Herzl] “…But, Holy Father, the Jews are in a terrible plight. .. We need a land for these harried people.”
“Must it be Gerusalemme?”
“We are not asking for Jerusalem, but for Palestine—for only the secular land.”
Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.