Why didn't Jerusalem Become an Independent City State?
By: Ahmed Abu Sultan/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Jerusalem is one of the holiest places known to the world. Throughout history, it has seen more invaders from all over the planet. Never has a holy place this much attention from foreign interest. It was in the 20th century that this city was treated as a target for many foreign interests. Everyone wanted a piece of the city without any consideration for human life. Why wouldn’t a city this holy be excluded from conflict initiated by man?
The Holy See
The apostolic see of Diocese of Rome was established in the 1st century by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, then the capital of the Roman Empire, according to Catholic tradition. The legal status of the Catholic Church and its property was recognized by the Edict of Milan in 313 by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and it became the state church of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 by Emperor Theodosius I.
For the longest time, the Papal States ruled the Vatican independent from foreign intervention. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the city of Rome capitulated to the new Italian Kingdom. In 1929 the head of the Italian government, at the time the Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini ended the crisis between unified Italy and the Holy See by negotiating the Lateran Treaty, signed by the two parties. This recognized the sovereignty of the Holy See over a newly created international territorial entity, the Vatican City State, limited to a token territory. As a result, Vatican City was granted independence under its own police and military force. So why is it that the Vatican was granted such privileges?
It is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally. During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. The part of Jerusalem called the City of David shows the first signs of settlement in the 4th millennium BCE.
Throughout history, Jerusalem served as the center of attention for many different civilizations for religious, political, or even economic reasons. However, it was not spared the ungodly actions of mankind. It has seen countless genocide all in the name of personal gain in contrast to the common misconception that all crimes against humanity were done under legitimate justification. No man on earth has a justification to determine the fate of the Holy City under God, which begs the question: why was it not granted the right to be independent of foreign intervention?
Roughly translated as “Separated Body”, Corpus Separatum was a plan for the city to be placed under an international regime, conferring it a special status due to its shared religious importance. The corpus separatum was one of the main issues of the Lausanne Conference of 1949, besides the other borders and the question of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
The origins of the concept of corpus separatum or an international city for Jerusalem has its origins in the Vatican‘s long-held position on Jerusalem and its concern for the protection of the Christian holy places in the Holy Land, which predates the British Mandate. The Vatican’s historic claims and interests, as well as those of Italy and France, were based on the former Protectorate of the Holy See and the French Protectorate of Jerusalem, which were incorporated in article 95 of the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), which incorporated the Balfour Declaration, but also provided: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine“. Although modern history can vouch that the Balfour Declaration did not include Palestinians.
It was the only beacon of hope that Jerusalem will remain clear from the senseless destruction of human life. However, the Partition Plan was not implemented on the ground. The British did not take any measures to establish the international regime and left the city on 14 May, leaving a power vacuum. As a result, tens of thousands of human souls found themselves in a seemingly eternal conflict. In a letter of 31 May 1949, Israel told the UN Committee on Jerusalem that it considered another attempt to implement a united Jerusalem under the international regime “impracticable” and favored an alternative UN scenario in which Jerusalem would be divided into Jewish and Arab zones. It was not the people that determined the fate of this holy land, but those who follow their political agenda.
As a Palestinian, who has never been blessed with the bliss moment of being within the Holy City, I feel great despair that after centuries of the same mistake being repeated to hurt the sanctity of the city. After all, Palestine is the land blessed by God and cursed by man.
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