This entry updates the central argument in "The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem," that Jerusalem's religious standing in Islam, depends on political needs.
An aerial view of the Temple Mount.
An article by Danny Rubinstein notes how Israeli Arabs
have taken up the cause of Jerusalem because Muslims generally
cannot usually come to Al Aqsa, and the closure prevents even the 3 million Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from coming to Jerusalem. Those remaining, aside from the Arabs of Jerusalem, are the Israeli Muslims, and they have taken upon themselves the historic role of defending the Islamic holy places in the city. The Al Aqsa Association of Sheikh Raid Salah from Umm al-Fahm, the principal Muslim leader in Israel, has for years been carrying out the restoration and renovation in the mosques of the Temple Mount. Hundreds of Muslims from Israel come on the weekends to work as volunteers at the mosques. The Islamic Movement also funds some of the transportation of Israeli Arab worshipers to Al Aqsa.
Rubinstein also paraphrases three important observations by Yitzhak Reiter, editor of a recent book in Hebrew, The Sovereignty of God and Man - Sanctity and Political Centrality on the Temple Mount (Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies):
since the beginning of Islam, the Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Sharif) has flourished during three periods, all of them times when control of Jerusalem passed into non-Muslim hands: the Crusader period, the British Mandate period, and the Israeli period after June 1967. …
although the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem are only in third place in terms of religious importance (after Mecca and Medina, located in Saudi Arabia), politically, they are in first place. This fact has received particular emphasis during the past year, since the failure of the Camp David summit in July 2000.
During those talks, when the final status of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount was discussed between then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and their associates, Israeli demands for sovereignty or some hold on the Temple Mount came up for the first time. Since then, Muslim spokesmen in general, and Palestinians in particular, have tried to deny any Jewish connection to the holy place.
An article from the "Palestine Post," Nov. 20, 1949.
(November 18, 2001)
Nov. 20, 2001 update: This is as good a time as any to recall the Arab states' reluctance to take control of Jerusalem back in November 1949; note the accompanying clipping from the Palestine Post of Nov. 20, 1949. It makes for a striking contrast to the current "Muslim Zionism."
May 15, 2002 update: In "Constructing a Counterfeit History of Jerusalem," I note burgeoning Palestinian attempts to deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
June 21, 2002 update: The Scotsman informs us that the Al-Maktoun Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies officially opened last month at the University of Abertay in Dundee. The institute has three research centres, one of which is "The Centre for Islamic Jerusalem Studies," said (unsurprisingly) to be the only institution in the world offering an M. Litt course in Islamic Jerusalem Studies.
Aug. 5, 2003 update: An Egyptian government weekly, Al-Qahira, issued by the Ministry of Culture, published an article by one of its columnists, Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa, "Was the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey to Palestine or Medina?" in which 'Arafa doubts that the Isra' was to Jerusalem.
Aug. 19, 2003 update: Two weeks later, the intrepid Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa questions the sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam. I discuss this at greater length in "The Prophet's Night Journey to Jerusalem."
Aug. 24, 2003 update: An Egyptian government website endorses the denial of a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, via the Jebusite thesis.
Nov. 26, 2003 update: Ghazi Y. Khankan, executive director of CAIR's New York office, writes a public letter to George W. Bush today listing ten reasons "why Jerusalem and Palestine are of the utmost importance to 1.2 billion Muslims in the world." One of them, for example, is a hadith that "Jerusalem's area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah will be connected together at the end of time."
May 18, 2004 update: In "Why Jerusalem is Not Holy to Muslims," Leah Bat-Chaim makes arguments similar to mine.
Apr. 19, 2004 update: In an article about a game show on Al-Manar, the Hizbullah television station, Neil MacFarquhar explains how "The Mission" differs from others of its genre:
Contestants from around the Arab world compete each Saturday night for cash and the chance to win a virtual trip to Jerusalem. To heighten the drama, points won by the finalists translate directly into steps toward the holy city that are flashed onto a map of the region. The show is a novel way for Hezbollah to promote its theme - that all Arab efforts should be concentrated on reconquering land lost to Israel, especially Jerusalem. "Any program at this television station must present the idea that the occupation of Palestine must end," said Ihab Abi Nassif, a 28-year-old high school physics teacher who is the show's host. "That is the core issue, which is why we work day and night to keep it vivid in people's minds." …
"The Mission" follows a standard game show format, with contestants quizzed about history, literature, geography, science and the arts. But at least half the questions revolve around Palestinian or Islamic history, and at least one contestant is usually Palestinian. … Some questions do focus on the men who carried out suicide operations. "The martyr Amar Hamoud was nicknamed 'The Sword of All Martyrs?' - true or false?" was one recent question. True. Mr. Abi Nassif, who never fails to address the subject of recapturing Jerusalem in his patter, went on to describe the man's exploits.
The prizes are not huge. Players who reach five million Lebanese pounds, or something over $3,000, earn the chance to double their winnings with one "golden question" worth the same amount. When the winner gains the 60 points necessary to reach Jerusalem, the song that is a staple of Hezbollah parades booms out. "Jerusalem is ours and we are coming to it," the chorus says in part.
Jun. 25, 2004 update: In The Qur'an, trans. by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 175, the translator identifies "the furthest place of worship" in footnote b as "In Jerusalem."
Aug. 4, 2005 update: Jordanian Jerusalem: Holy Places and National Spaces by Kimberly Katz arrived today and it has plenty of material confirming my points above about the 1948-67 era. In particular, see these passages:
"Jerusalem was a source of contention for many Palestinians, who claimed that the Holy City was being discriminated against, while Amman, the capital city, received a disproportionate share of political, economic, and infrastructure attention." (p. 81)
Yusuf Hanna wrote in 1954 that while Israel had made Jerusalem its state capital, in Jordan "we reduced Jerusalem from a position of preeminence to its current place that does not rise above the rank of a village." (p. 85)
"Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the [Jordanian] government decided to relocate central ministries left from the mandate period to Amman at Jerusalem's expense. In a memo to the prime minister, Anwar Nusayba, member of parliament for the Jerusalem region, complained of discrimination toward the city." (p. 87).
Jan. 4, 2006 update: I dramatize today one of the implications of this article at "Offer: $1 million for Finding "Jerusalem" in the Koran."
June 6, 2006 update: "The Muslim use of Zion represents a more powerful force today than the Jewish love of Zion" concludes my article today, "Muslim Zionism," an edited verion of an award speech given in Jerusalem a week earlier.
Sep. 16, 2006 update: Ra'ad Salah, Israel's most radical Islamist leader, told 50,000 demonstrators at a rally yesterday in Umm al-Fahm that Israel's occupation of the Temple Mount will end soon and Jerusalem will becomne the capital of an Islamic state. For good measure, he added that former prime minister Ariel Sharon and current president Moshe Katsav (currently under investigation for alleged sexual misbehavior) are "paying the price" for the damage they did to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hassan Khader, founder of the "Al-Quds Encyclopedia."
Oct. 19, 2006 update: It's Ramadan and a good time for Palestinians to make new claims to Jerusalem. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook document in "PA TV educational program: Jews have no historical connection to Western Wall – It's an Islamic site named for Muhammad's horse" what Hassan Khader, founder of the Al-Quds Encyclopedia, has to say on Palestinian Authority Television, in a program that has recently run three times in the course of a single week:
The first connection of the Jews to this site began in the 16th century.... The Jewish connection to this site is a recent connection, not ancient … like the roots of the Islamic connection.… Who would have believed that the Israelis would arrive 1400 years [after the Muslims], conquer Jerusalem and would make this wall into their special place of worship, where they worship and pray?
Jan. 1, 2007 update
Ali Ünal, The Qur'an: with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English.
: In The Qur'an: with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English
, by Ali Ünal (Somerset, N.J.: The Light, 2007), p. 565, the translation of 17:1 reads "from the Sacred Mosque in Makkah to the Masjid al-Aqsa
in Quds (Jerusalem)." Footnote 2 compounds the error by stating that "This surah
was revealed in Makkah at a time when the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah had not yet been built and the Ka'bah was full of idols; therefore the Muslims turned to that Masjid in Jerusalem for their prayers." The Prophet's Mosque had not yet been built but Al-Aqsa had been? How interesting.
Mar. 15, 2007 update: Re-reading J.J.G. Jansen's 1997 book, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, I note this passage on p. 133:
in early 1990, a Muslim Brotherhood veteran, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, declared that once the Jerusalem Aqsa mosque was lost it would be the turn of the Ka'ba [in Mecca].
May 21, 2007 update: New Saudi currency shows Al-Aqsa Mosque on one side of a note and the Dome of the Rock on the other.
May 29, 2007 update: Shmuel Katz today quotes a nice contrast by the British historian Christopher Sykes:
To the Muslims it is not Jerusalem, but a certain site in Jerusalem which is venerated ... the majestic Dome of the Rock. To a Muslim there is a profound difference between Jerusalem and Mecca and Medina. The latter are holy places containing holy sites. Apart from the hallowed rock, Jerusalem has no major Islamic significance.
Aug. 13, 2007 update: Quran: A Reformist Translation, translated and annotated by Edip Yuksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, and Martha Schulte-Nafeh, offers a stunningly different translation of 17.1:
Glory be to the One who took His servant by night from the Restricted Temple to the most distant temple.
Quran: A Reformist Translation, translated and annotated by Edip Yuksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban, and Martha Schulte-Nafeh..
What's so interesting here is that the translators understand masjid
not in its technical Islamic meaning of mosque
but in its generic pre-Islamic sense of temple
. That conceptual breakthrough makes good sense to me.
Comment: I am quoted in this Qur'an endorsing it as follows:
I am not a Qur'an scholar and therefore am not in a position to judge the accuracy of your translation, and especially not the revisionist understandings of some controversial ayats. But I can say that the effort you and your colleagues have undertaken is very much in keeping with my sense of the process of modernization that the Qur'an itself and the Islamic religion more broadly must undergo. As such, I salute your work and hope it will be published and extensively discussed both in the United States and abroad.
Oct. 12, 2007 update: Comes news that, in anticipation of the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis meeting, the "Palestinians Want Western Wall as Part of Any Settlement." Adnan al-Husseini, adviser to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on religious affairs, says the PA wants "full control" over Jerusalem. "The Wailing Wall is a Muslim waqf [mortmain], and therefore cannot be abandoned."
Oct. 25, 2007 update: Ikrema Sabri, mufti of Jerusalem in the Arafat days, has a history of outrageous statements and is at them again.
There was never a Jewish temple on Al-Aksa and there is no proof that there was ever a temple. Because Allah is fair, he would not agree to make Al-Aksa if there were a temple there for others beforehand. … The wall is not part of the Jewish temple. It is just the western wall of the mosque. There is not a single stone with any relation at all to the history of the Hebrews.
May Jews ever pray on the Temple Mount?
It is not the Temple Mount, you must say Al-Aksa. And no Jews have the right to pray at the mosque. It was always only a mosque - all 144 dunams, the entire area. No Jewish prayer. If the Jews want real peace, they must not do anything to try to pray on Al-Aksa. Everyone knows that. Zionism tries to trick the Jews claiming that this was part of a Jewish temple, but they dug there and they found nothing.
Dec. 11, 2007 update: It's not clear when Harun Yahya (a pen name used by the Turkish writer, Adnan Oktar) wrote "Muslim Palestine," but it appears to date from late 2001. It offers the original argument that Jerusalem ought to be under Muslim control because, "In contrast to Jews and Christians, Muslims have made their regard for the sacredness of Palestine an opportunity to bring peace" to the city. Indeed, "peace and harmony lasted as long as Muslims ruled."
May 26, 2008 update: The third edition of Bernard Wasserstein, Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City (Yale University Press) has just arrived; chapter 5 contains a section on "Jerusalem Demoted" that provides detail at the Jordanian regime's efforts in the 1948-67 period to downplay the city's signficance: "During the nineteen years of Jordanian rule," Wassersteom wrotes, "Jerusalem's relative weight in the Jordanian polity was systematically reduced. … The Arab sector of the city was a much-diminished rump." Various examples then follow. Oddly, the British government considered it within its jurisdiction to remonstrate with Amman over this issue. The consul-general in 1955 wrote his government:
we would be well advised to make it clear to the Jordanian Government … that we are not prepared to allow them to treat the Old City of Jerusalem as though it were nothing more than a provincial townlet in Jordan, without history or importance."
Wasserstein notes that the Palestinian nationalist focus on Jerusalem was one reason for its neglect and demotion by the monarchy.
June 1, 2008 update: Rafiq Al Husseini, chief of staff to Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, has declared that "Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Aqsa mosque and Haram ash-Sharif [Temple Mount] is 100 percent Muslim."
June 4, 2008 update: In a stunning exception to the usual hackneyed Palestinian/Islamist claims to Jerusalem, Al-Jazeera invited Bar Ilan University political scientist Mordechai Kedar to discuss the city. He pulled no punches, telling the show's host, Jimal Rian, that "This was our capital 3,000 years ago, and we were here when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying girls alive and worshipping pre-Muslim idols. This is our city and it will be our city forever." Arutz-7 recounts:
His reference to Muslims drinking wine, which is forbidden in Islam, infuriated the host. Rian wagged his finger in the air and said excitedly, "If you want to talk about history, you cannot erase Jerusalem from the Koran, and don't attack the Muslim religion if we want to continue talking." Dr. Kedar replied, "Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran. Jerusalem is a Jewish city." The Al Jazeera host responded by quoting a verse from the Koran in which he thought Jerusalem was mentioned by name, but stopped in the middle upon realizing that it only refers to "the farthest place." Dr. Kedar: "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran even once. You can't rewrite the Koran on air on Al Jazeera."
The exchange can be seen on YouTube.
Aug. 14, 2008 update: Lela Gilbert of the Hudson Institute quotes Gabriel Barkay, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, on the origins of the exclusive Muslim claim to the Temple Mount, what she calls "Temple denial":
This denial of the historical, spiritual and archeological connections of the Jews to the Temple Mount is something new. There was always talk about the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem - called the "praise of Jerusalem" – in Arabic literature, in Islamic literature. This new idea of Temple denial is due to the Arabic fear of Jewish aspirations connected to the Temple Mount. It is part of something I call the "cultural intifada."
Barkay traces the change back to the 1990s:
In the Washington, DC think tanks surrounding President Bill Clinton, it was understood that the Temple Mount was the crux of the problem of the Middle East conflict. These think tanks decided that if there could be "split sovereignty" on the Temple Mount, then split sovereignty could also be achieved over the entire land of Palestine.
So they suggested that in a future agreement, the Temple Mount would be split horizontally. That is to say that whatever is above ground, the part that includes the shrines of the Muslims, would be under Palestinian sovereignty. Whatever is underground, which would include the remnants of the Temple of the Jews, would be under Israeli sovereignty.
It's a brilliant idea, an excellent idea, but totally idiotic from a practical point of view. You cannot have a building standing with its foundations in another country. You cannot have a building with the infrastructure and the plumbing in another country. And you cannot have sovereignty on the subground without having accessibility to the subground, because the accessibility is from above ground. The whole thing was stupid.
Sep. 15, 2008 update: Following his Al-Jazeera appearance (see the June 4, 2008 update, above), Bar Ilan University's Mordechai Kedar has written an article, "The myth of al-Aqsa: Holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been politically motivated," in Yedi'ot Aharonot. His argument closely follows the once I have been making since 1997.
He begins by noting the small importance of Jerusalem to Muhammad after the qibla was changed to Mecca. Only in 682, when Ibn az-Zubayr rebelled against the Umayyad rulers in Damascus and conquered Mecca, did the Umayyad caliph, who needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage, settle on Jerusalem which was under his control. To justify this change, Koran 17.1 was reinterpreted to refer to Jerusalem.
Kedar then considers the difficulties with placing "al-masjid al-aqsa" in Jerusalem.
For one, the people of Mecca, who knew Muhammad well, did not believe this story. Only Abu Bakr, (later the first Calif,) believed him and thus was called al-Siddiq ("the believer".)
The second difficulty is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in "Kitab al-Maghazi," a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi. According to al-Waqidi, there were two "masjeds" (places of prayer) in al-Gi'irranah, a village between Mecca and Ta'if - one was "the closer mosque" (al-masjid al-adna) and the other was "the further mosque" (al-masjid al-aqsa,) and Muhammad would pray there when he went out of town.
This description by al-Waqidi which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad) was not "convenient" for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th Century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the "holiness" of Jerusalem in Islam, the Califs of the Umayyad dynasty invented many "traditions" upholding the value of Jerusalem, which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims. Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa "transported" to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those "traditions" in order to recruit and inflame the Muslim warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th Century.
Kedar then interprets current events in this light, seeing that Yasir Arafat "did exactly what the Califs of the Umayyad dynasty did 1300 years ago: He marshaled the holiness of Jerusalem to serve his political ends." Kedar argues that because "the holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been, and still is, no more than a politically motivated holiness," Muslim leaders are limited in what they can do. Indeed, one who showed flexibility on this issue "would be putting his political head on the block should he give it up."
The essay ends with two questions:
Must Judaism and Christianity defer to myths related in Islamic texts or envisioned in Mohammad's dreams, long after Jerusalem was established as the ancient, true center of these two religions, which preceded Islam? Should Israel give up on its capital just because some Muslims decided to recycle the political problems of the Umayyads 1250 years after the curtain came down on their role in history?
Sep. 25, 2008 update: Palestinian Media Watch reports on a music video broadcast on Palestinian Television that denies any historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem:
"Oh [Sons of] Zion, no matter how much you dig and no matter how much you destroy, your imaginary Temple will not come into being". The repeated refrain, "Al-Aqsa is ours," is meant to emphasize this statement, as the Al-Aqsa mosque is built on the site of the Temple, destroyed in the year 70 during Israel's revolt against the Roman Empire.
The video images focus on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and praying Muslims, and together with the lyrics repeat the Palestinian fabrication that Israel is planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and therefore it needs protection: "Oh God, protect Al-Aqsa, Oh Allah, Al-Aqsa is ours, [protect Al-Aqsa] from every thief and every oppressor."
Nov. 2, 2008 update: For some real background on the historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem , see Rivkah Fishman-Duker's survey of ancient Greek and Roman pagan authors dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, for all of whom "Jerusalem definitely was a Jewish city." The article is at "'Jerusalem: Capital of the Jews': The Jewish Identity of Jerusalem in Greek and Roman Sources," Jewish Political Studies Review 20:1-2 (Fall 2008): 119-40. The quotes in turn can be found at Menahem Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1980).
Nov. 6, 2008 update: Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of diplomacy with Israel, told a media briefing that the Temple Mount has nothing to do with Judaism, reports Aaron Klein in "Jewish Temples never existed, says top Palestinian negotiator: Official leading peace talks claims Israel trying to 'invent' historical Jerusalem link." Qurei, a supposed moderate, began by noting that "Israeli occupation authorities are trying to find a so-called Jewish historical connection" between Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, declaring that
all these attempts will fail. The [Temple Mount] is 100 percent Muslim. The world must be mobilized against all these Israeli attempts to change the symbols and signs of Jerusalem. There is nothing Jewish about Al Aqsa Mosque. There was no so-called Jewish Temple. It's imaginary. Jerusalem is 100 percent Muslim. The Arab world is called to interfere to stop the Israeli plans in Jerusalem, to stop the Israeli attempts to create a Jewish character to Jerusalem and Al Aqsa mosque. Also to the Old City, which is the first step in the war to defend Jerusalem and Al Aqsa. They are competing against time in order to create facts on ground in the surrounding the imaginary Temple.
Jan. 4, 2009 update: A 16-page 1925 booklet in English published by the "Supreme Moslem Council" and titled A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem, contains passage that directly endorse the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. First, on p. 4, the guide discusses the location of the Temple Mount:
The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which "David built there an alter unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings."
Top of the front cover of "A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem," from 1925
The quotation about David is footnoted to II Samuel 24:25. Second, on p. 16, the Brief Guide tells about the underground area known as Solomon's Stables:
This is a vast substerranean [sic] chamber … Little is known for certain of the early history of the chamber itself. It dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon's Temple. According to Josephus, it was in existence and was used as a place of refuge by the Jews at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D.
Jan. 22, 2009 update: Ibn Taymiya's anti-Jerusalem got an airing in my original article; I now learn that a key work of his on this subject, Qa'ida fi Ziyara Bayt al-Muqaddas, was published, with commentary, by Charles D. Matthews in "A Muslim Iconoclast (Ibn Taymīyyeh) on the 'Merits' of Jerusalem and Palestine," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 56 (1936), pp. 1-21.
Comment: Ibn Taymiya has been the single most important inspiration for modern Islamism, so it comes as a bit of a shock to read how, in the pre-Islamist days of 1936, Matthews could write that "It is reassuring for the future of the Islamic East that the spirit of Ibn Taymiyyeh in milder form has taken possession of many leaders of the people."
Apr. 24, 2009 update: Egypt's minister of awqaf (religious endowments), Muhammad Hamdi Zaqzuq, urges Muslims to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem so as to reinforce the city's Muslim identity and assure its role as capital of a future Palestinian state. "Just as Muslims go on pilgrimage... to Mecca, they should also go to Jerusalem and to Al-Aqsa Mosque by the hundreds of thousands every year. We can show the whole world that Jerusalem is something that concerns all Muslims. … I invite all Muslims... to go to Jerusalem, even with Israeli visas." If this proposition is followed through, he went on, "the whole world, and Israel, will have to accept this reality, which is that Jerusalem is for Muslims and they will not give up on it."
Zaqzuq acknowledged that he is exposing himself to virulent attacks on the grounds that he seeks normalization with Israel and that his proposal has so far been widely rejected.
May 28, 2009 update: In "Erasing Jews from Jerusalem," Itamar Marcus and Noaz Cohen of Palestinian Media Watch richly document "the recent intensification of the Palestinian Authority's campaign of distortion, historical revision and hate incitement about Jerusalem, and denial of its integral attachment to the Jewish nation and history." They find two major trends underway:
"The erasure and denial of 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem [which] is integral to Palestinian ideology. Accordingly, Israel and Jews are said to have 'no rights' to Jerusalem, and any contemporary manifestation of Jewish life and development there is labeled by the Palestinian Authority as 'Judaization.' Jerusalem is presented as an exclusively Muslim and Christian city, with no regard for historical reality."
"Beyond this historical revisionism, the PA disseminates the libel that Israel is acting to expel Arabs from Jerusalem in order to further 'Judaize' the city. Fabrications include PA accusations of Israeli destruction of Islamic and Christian sites, and repeated use of PA hate language, including references to a 'criminal cultural massacre' to chase Arab inhabitants away. The Jerusalem libel is designed to evoke religious hatred by portraying Israel and the Jews as the enemy of, and threat to, Arabs and Islam."
July 1, 2009 update: In a report on a panel discussion of Jerusalem's disposition at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Hillel Fendel reports that two of the participants, Michael Bell, a former Canadian Ambassador to Jordan, Egypt and Israel, and Marshall Breger, a professor of law at Catholic University, think little of my argument about the Muslim claim to Jerusalem:
Both Breger and Bell dismissed the claims of those who challenge Islam's connection to the site. Breger agreed, but implied that current Islamic claims that Judaism's Holy Temple was never built there are totally unfounded, noting that the Waqf itself published literature some decades ago boasting that the Dome of the Rock is on the site of the Holy Temple. At that point, Bell said, "It's very important to realize that it's beside the point whether these belief systems are historically valid or not… It's not up to me to tell you whether your narrative is valid or not…"
Breger similarly said that the argument that Jerusalem is not so holy to Islam is "a silly one." He said, "It's true that when Jerusalem was not under Islamic control, such as during the Crusader period, the British Mandate and under Israeli control, there was more discussion about Jerusalem in Muslim sources… but it's silly to say that it's not so holy to Islam, because you have to accept a religion's definition of what is holy."
July 30, 2009 update: The Ma'an news agency today published a news report, "Tension in Jerusalem as Israelis mark temple destruction," that lets slip where the ancient Jewish temple actually was located:
Thursday is the Jewish holy day of Tisha B'av (the ninth of the month of Av), which marks the destruction of the first and second temples, the ruins of which are believed to lie beneath the present-day Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock Mosque.
Aug. 19, 2009 update: Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al-Quds Open University, announced on Palestinian Authority television on Aug. 11 that Zionists invented the connection to the Western Wall to convince Jews to go to Palestine.
Interviewer: "There are plots against this [Western] wall that seek to harm the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and there is an attack on history, theft of culture, falsification of facts, erasure of the truth, and Judaization of the place . . .."
Alawneh: "The [Jews'] goal in giving the name 'Wailing Wall' to this [Western] Wall is political. . . The Jewish Zionists had no choice but to invent an excuse [about Jerusalem] to spread among the Zionists or the Jews in Europe, to connect to something concrete from the past about Jerusalem. They made false claims and called the 'Al-Burak Wall' the 'Wailing Wall.'"
Interviewer: "Can we understand that this term [the 'Wailing Wall'] and this strange [Jewish] interest concerning this place are new, with no historical roots?"
Alawneh: "Absolutely. It has no historical roots. This is political terminology to win the hearts and the support of the Zionists in Europe, so they would emigrate and come to Palestine. Nothing more!"
Aug. 27, 2009 update: In response to recent statements by Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that "Jews built [Jerusalem] 3,000 years ago," Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, chief Islamic judge and highest religious authority of the Palestinian Authority, stated that no evidence supports the claim that Jews ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple even existed: "Netanyahu's claims are baseless and untrue. Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so."
Tamimi claimed that all excavation work conducted by Israel after 1967 have "failed to prove that Jews had a history or presence in Jerusalem or that their ostensible temple had ever existed." He condemned Netanyahu and "all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations" as liars because of their assertion that Jerusalem was a Jewish city. Tamimi accused Israel of distorting the facts and forging history "with the aim of erasing the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem."
Sep. 25, 2009 update: In "Palestinian Leaders Deny Jerusalem's Past," Bari Weiss quotes Tamimi saying that Jerusalem is solely "an Arab and Islamic city and it has always been so"; she also quotes Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al-Quds University, that Jews invented a connection to Jerusalem: "It has no historical roots." Rather, Jews are engaging in "an attack on history, theft of culture, falsification of facts, erasure of the truth, and Judaization of the place." Weiss then goes on to explain and prove that "Jerusalem is the holiest city in Judaism," something one would not think has to be proven in the Wall Street Journal – but clearly it does.
Oct. 20, 2010 update: Hagai Mazuz and Harold Rhode review this general topic in "Is Jerusalem Sacred for Muslims?"
Nov. 30, 2010 update: The U.S. government has condemned Palestinian claims that the Western Wall has no significance for Jews, writes Natasha Mozgovaya in Ha'aretz:
Al-Mutawakil Taha, the Palestinian Authority' deputy minister of information, had said Wednesday that the wall, regarded as Judaism's holiest site, was part of an Islamic waqf, or religious endowment, and that only "Islamic tolerance" allowed Jews to pray there. His claims drew immediate anger in Israel, which on Tuesday was echoed by the U.S.
"We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative," a U.S. State Department spokesman said. "We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of de-legitimization of Israel including denying historic Jewish connections to the land."
The chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), also decried Taha's claim, calling it "provocative and inciteful". "I strongly condemn the [claim] that the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem has no religious significance to Jews," Berman said. "President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad know the spiritual importance of the Western Wall to the global Jewish community," he said, calling on Abbas to denounce Taha's report and clarify that the remarks were not the official position of the Palestinian Authority. … "To deny the Jewish connection to the Western Wall is to be deliberately provocative and inciteful, no less so than were one to deny the Palestinian connection to the Haram al-Sharif," Berman said.
Dec. 1, 2010 update: U.S. government engagement made the difference, as the Palestinian Authority took down Taha's outrageous remarks from its website. Which makes one wonder why Washington does not condemn this sort of nonsense more often.
Nov. 25, 2011 update: In the course of anti-Israel rally recorded on YouTube and focused on Jerusalem, a speaker announced that "Jerusalem is the heart of the Koran. Jerusalem is the heart of the Muslim world. Jerusalem is the heart of the Prophet's biography."
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, History, Jerusalem
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