By THOMAS SANDALL, TIMES OF ISRAEL—
One morning a few years from now, the world may suddenly wake up to discover that a new Islamic state called Palestine has been established on what used to be Jewish heartland, and with the Old City of Jerusalem as its capital. This could in fact happen without a single bullet ever being fired or any negotiations being conducted, and while those concerned about the future of Israel were fast asleep because they had not understood the nature of the new battle.
The battle for Jerusalem is no longer being fought in the trenches of Judea and Samaria, but in courtrooms in places like the International Court of Justice in the Hague or conference halls in the UN in New York and Geneva. The Israeli foreign minister has called it “diplomatic terrorism.” Others call it “international lawfare,” and as in any war the first casualty is truth.
What friends of Israel need today is a strategy to defend Israel from this web of vicious lies, slander and twisting of international law. The first step in such a strategy is to recognize the fact that the war is in progress and that Israel runs the risk of losing it.
This week a new chapter of this ongoing diplomatic war will begin at the UN in New York as the Palestinian Authority asks the UN General Assembly for a non-state membership, with an eye to settle the territorial terms for a two-state solution along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as capital.
The PA already enjoys full member status in UNESCO. Membership in the UN organization for culture and education makes it possible for the PA delegation to have representation in a number of UN international conferences and committees that help write international law.
One of their first measures at UNESCO was to add the Church of the Nativity to the list of World Heritage Sites as a Palestinian holy site. This was despite the protests of those Christian denominations which had been given the custody of the birthplace of Jesus Christ. One did not need much diplomatic experience to understand that the decision was a political statement and had nothing to do with culture. On the contrary, during the short period between 1948 and 1967 when the Old City was under “moderate” Jordanian rule, 55 synagogues and talmudic academies were destroyed or desecrated. So much for cultural preservation.
A vote for the PA as a non-member state in the UN General Assembly could set the territorial terms for a future two-state solution along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. By using this tactic the PA would in fact have pre-defined its borders without ever having had to bring the question to the negotiating table, but simply by manipulating international law. Once Palestine is recognized as a sovereign member state in the UN with East Jerusalem as its capital, the consequences for Israel would of course be disastrous.
It is true that Israel is threatened on more than one front. The number 1 concern in Jerusalem is of course the nuclear threat from Iran. A chemical weapons attack from Syria is another one. The Arab Spring is quickly turning into an ice-cold winter. However this should not prevent us from also taking the “soft war” conducted by international lawyers, diplomats and activists seriously. Though they may speak softly, their final objectives are no different from those of militant Islam, namely the total destruction of the Jewish state. In order to prevent this from happening we need to take action now.
For the last eight years I have been privileged to lead a Christian organization called European Coalition for Israel. As people of faith, our first calling is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Though some may smile at this rather unorthodox approach to international lawfare, they would do well to remember the lessons of the Cold War. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once sarcastically asked his advisors, ”how many legions does the Pope have?” implying that the religious leader lacked any real influence. A few decades later, the Communist system was brought down by a Catholic workers’ revolt inspired by the late Pope John Paul II. The Pope, and the Christian workers, had no military power, but they had the gifts of faith, prayer and perseverance to stand for what they believed to be the truth. In an increasingly hostile environment in Europe and around the world, we need these same qualities.
There is currently a reservoir of hundreds of millions of Christian believers around the world who love Israel and want to speak on her behalf. In order to mobilize these ”legions,” we need to give them tools for information, education and advocacy. Whereas some people cannot be bothered with facts as they have already made up their minds, most people are open-minded and will listen to a second opinion. We have countless examples of how people change their mind once they are given correct information.
Social media has truly revolutionized the global public sphere and we can now reach millions without constantly having to struggle to get the attention of a largely hostile mainstream media. The more informed we are, the easier it is to convey our message to our friends, our elected members of parliament and to the media.
The battle of international lawfare can be won. The messengers are already in place. The key to victory is simply telling the truth where media lies and the perversion of law have prevailed in the past.