Among ISIS’s exploits, satellite photos now show, was the destruction in 2014 of St. Elijah, Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery.
The Guardian reports that it was 1,400 years old and had “26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel.” The photos reveal that its “walls have been literally pulverized.”
“St. Elijah’s,” The Guardian notes, “joins a growing list of more than 100 religious and historic sites looted and destroyed [by ISIS], including mosques, tombs, shrines and churches. Ancient monuments in the cities of Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra lie in ruins. Museums and libraries have been pillaged, books burned, artwork crushed or trafficked.”
Second only to the terror group’s horrific crimes against living human beings are these erasures of treasures of history and faith, evoking universal shock and outrage.
There is one part of the Middle East, though, where a people’s attachment to treasures of history and faith does not seem to count. When it comes to the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria) and the Golan Heights, the U.S. administration and the European Union have been upping the pressure on Israel to regard these areas—rich in biblical and historical sites—as something it has no rights to at all.
The EU had already announced in November that it would be labeling Israeli products from these areas as “made in settlements” instead of “made in Israel.” Israel and supporters have objected that, out of 200 territorial disputes in the world, this is the only one for which the EU resorts to labeling, evoking anti-Semitic practices. It falls on deaf ears.
Instead the EU has now further sharpened the divide between Israel and the territories, issuing a statement that “all agreements between…Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
You wouldn’t guess from such language that Israel “occupied” these territories in a defensive war, that they’re of unique strategic and religious-historical value to Israel, or that Israel has nevertheless been willing to cede parts—not all—of them for credible peace arrangements, with Arab parties rejecting all offers hands-down.
The Obama administration, for its part, is a close ally of the EU in considering the West Bank in particular “Palestinian land” where Jews are at best usurpers with no legitimate claim.
State Department spokesman John Kirby has defended the EU’s labeling of Israeli products and stated: “Our long-standing position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlement activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations.”
Here in Israel, it looks bad to us. All documents that were supposed to regulate Arab-Israeli peacemaking, from UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) to the Oslo agreements, assume that there is something to negotiate over—that is, lands in dispute, with neither side having a sole legitimate claim. Israelis have been building in the West Bank and so have Palestinians. While Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the door wide for negotiations, the Palestinians, instead of entering, subject Israelis to murderous attacks.
We’re now told in effect, though, by our putative masters in Washington and Brussels that those documents recognizing an Israeli claim to the territories—negotiated and ratified under U.S. and European auspices—are basically null and void, and the lands belong to one side only.
We’ve been trying to point out that, especially with the Middle East in violent turmoil, handing the territories over lock, stock, and barrel to Arab parties would not be a formula for peace or serve Western interests. We note that we tried it in Gaza—and an Islamist terror organization, Hamas, took over.
In the West Bank, Hamas or an even more extreme organization—like ISIS, which is steadily encroaching on Israel—would take over if Israel wasn’t there. Along with being a security disaster, that would mean much of the Western patrimony falling into very hostile hands.
To the blind-as-bats officials in Washington and Brussels, though, it doesn’t seem to matter.