In "The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem," I focused on the intermittent and mostly instrumental Muslim interest in Jerusalem ("Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries") and at the end of the long article included a section titled "Dubious claims" where I listed four historically doubtful claims promoting the Islamic claim to Jerusalem (the Islamic connection to Jerusalem is older than the Jewish; the Qur'an mentions Jerusalem; Muhammad actually visited Jerusalem; and Jerusalem has no importance to Jews).
The first and last of these dubious claims have been growing in importance since my article came out in September 2001, and I shall document this unsettling trend here, starting with a quote from Dennis Ross, a former U.S. diplomat, who told Israel television today that Yasir Arafat "never offered any substantive ideas, not once" during the Camp David talks in July 2000. However, "He did offer one new idea, which was that that the Temple didn't exist in Jerusalem, that it was in Nablus." (May 15, 2002)
May 21, 2002 update: The Zionist Organization of America placed Arafat's statement in context, listing a number of other fraudulent statements by the PLO:
- "Abraham was not a Jew."
- "The Jews never lived in ancient Israel."
- "Jews never had any connection to Jerusalem."
- "Jerusalem was never a Jewish city."
- "There never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem."
- "The Western Wall is not a Jewish holy site."
- "The Tombs of Rachel and Joseph are actually Muslim sites."
Feb. 6, 2003 update: For an example in English of the denying of a Jewish connection to Jerusalem, see Lima Nabil, "Jerusalem: 5,000 Years of Arab History," a translation from the Jordanian Arabic daily Al-Ra'i. In case you were wondering, those "Arabs" of five millennia ago were the Jebusites.
May 10, 2004 update: In a stunning piece of research, Yitzhak Reiter traces the development of this new Palestinian argument about Jerusalem in a study for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (summarized by Nadav Shragai today in Ha'aretz). Reiter's main themes are that "the Arabs ruled Jerusalem thousands of years before the children of Israel" and "a denial and negation of the Jewish-Zionist narrative." The audacity of this specious presentation make the head spin. Here are a few, taken from Shragai's account:
Yitzhak Reiter of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Rejecting the historical fact that Al-Aqsa mosque was built by the Umayyads in the seventh century, and replacing this with a myth, dating from the early years of Islam, that Al-Aqsa was built by Adam 40 years after he constructed the haram in Mecca (i.e., this took place close to the seven days of creation). Other accounts appearing in the Waqf administration offices in Jerusalem attribute the building of the mosque to Abraham and Solomon.
- Muslims are dropping use of the standard name given to the Temple Mount complex - Haram al-Sharif, which alludes to its status as the third holiest site in Islam – and reverting to exclusive use of an earlier name, Al-Aqsa, which appears in the Koran.
- The surroundings of Al-Aqsa mosque are not narrowly defined, as was the case in the past, but now provide an opening to interpret that Al-Aqsa refers to all of Jerusalem, and most recently, it refers to all of Palestine.
- The fact that Israel's official policy - as embodied in the decisions of the Chief Rabbinate Council, the government and the High Court of Justice - leaves the administration of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Muslim Waqf is not recognized in the contemporary Muslim world. On the contrary, "the activities of extremist Jewish entities, some of them minuscule, to revive the [First] Temple ritual, is perceived and disseminated by Palestinian sources as if it is a reflection of official policy," says Reiter.
Comment: It is dismaying to watch the construction of a counterfeit history as it happens. Not until the Palestinians are prepared to deal with the reality of millennia ago will they be ready to deal with reality today. (May 10, 2004)
Aug. 8, 2004 update: Itamar Marcus of the vitally important Palestinian Media Watch adds more colorful information to the Palestinian history fantasy based on an educational program showing on Palestinian Authority television when two PA historians "went to great lengths to deny ancient Jewish history and erase the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. At the same time they describe an ancient Palestinian-Arab history, creating a historical connection to the land that never existed." In brief, writes PMW,
With both the Canaanites and Israelites becoming Arabs and the religion of ancient Israel becoming Islam, the PA takes authentic Jewish history, documented by thousands of years of continuous literature, and crosses out the word "Jewish" and replaced it with the word "Arab".
For a detailed look at the Palestinian discourse, here is the discussion between Jarir al-Qidwa, head of the PA's public library and Arafat's advisor on education, and Issam Sissalem, former head of the Department of History at the Islamic University.
Al-Qidwa: "Solomon's Temple, I believe, was built by the Canaanites who were the neighbors of the Israelis, the Israelites... I want to state several words clearly: the Bible became an archival document, not representing what the Israelis and the first Jews were, but what they thought they were, what they imagined. The Temple is the fruit of their imagination. In any case, when our nation or our Canaanite forefathers came to Palestine, they built the Temple… a temple in Jerusalem"
Sissalem: "We, as the Palestinian nation fighting for its freedom and liberation, must not focus to much attention on these false [Biblical] legends. The history of our land continues more than ten thousand years. The land of battles and wars, [many] armies, tribes and commanders came through. I want to point out that we should not focus much on what is called the [Biblical] Hebrew tribes, who are in fact Bedouin – Arab tribes. There is no connection between them and these Khazar Jews [of Israel today]. Those [Hebrew - Arab] tribes were erased and ceased to exist and no traces were left of them…
"There is no historical text that proves the existence [of the temple] or that it has a real history other than the Bible, and the Bible as we have previously mentioned… was written based on ancient legends. … The Quran came directly from the Prophet [Muhammad]... while supporting all that preceded it in the [Biblical] Prophetic inscriptions, that, as you noted, appeared in the Quran as Muslims believing in the one and only God, and these [the Hebrew prophets of the Bible] are part of our [Muslim] heritage. They have no connection to the Imperialistic – Settlement Jews [Israelis] and nor to those that were destroyed."
Al-Qidwa: "The Jewish presence in Palestine and Jerusalem ended approximately in the year 70, when Titus utterly destroyed the Second Temple of Herod."
Sissalem: "When the Zionist movement started to set in motion the Imperialist – Settlement plan, it tried to base itself in the biblical legends, as we said, The Bible expresses a tradition of legends, that has no connection to history." …
Al-Qidwa: "The issue of the temple is a Zionist innovation. No one said that the temple that was built in Jerusalem, neither the Canaanite nor Roman, no one said that it was in the place of the [Islamic] Al Haram. … These Jews, [after being conquered by Rome] were dispersed ... among many nations. The last, after many hundreds of years, the Khazar Jews, [are the ones] who live in Palestine [ie, Israel] today. When these people started to write the Bible they found that it was written in a [foreign] language... when they reached Palestine they had no knowledge or culture."
Dec. 8, 2004 update: Steven Stalinsky documents how leading Palestinian academic, religious, and political figures dismiss any Jewish connection to Jerusalem in "Rights of Jews To Jerusalem Are Denied."
Ikrima Sabri, the PA-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, in an interview to Die Welt, January 17, 2001: "There is not the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history. … There is not a single stone in the Wailing Wall relating to Jewish history. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously nor historically."
Hassan Ali Khater, editor-in-chief of the Al-Quds Ash-Sharif Encyclopedia, speaking at the Zayed Center, UAE, January 27, 2002: "Israelis are falsifying history by inscribing Jewish inscriptions on rocks then calling international experts to rediscover [them] as Jewish monuments."
Yasir Arafat in Al-Hayat, October 5, 2002: "They found not a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there [in Jerusalem], because historically the Temple was not in Palestine."
A Zayed Center report, Al-Buraq Wall not Wailing Wall, claims to show that Al-Aqsa Mosque "was built more than a thousand years before Solomon, giving evidence that refutes the Zionist allegations that the mosque was constructed on the ruins of Solomon's Temple... all of which demonstrate that the Zionist alleged rights to the wall are simply baseless."
Issam Sisalem, on Palestinian Authority TV, November 21, 2004: "Jerusalem has been the capital of our capitals since the dawn of history, and will remain so. We won't share it... They say that the temple was here. What temple and what shtemple?! What archeological remains?"
Nov. 27, 2005 update: In another analysis by Nadav Shragai in Ha'aretz of Yitzhak Reiter's work, he summarizes a new book in Hebrew, From Jerusalem to Mecca and Back - the Muslim Rallying Around Jerusalem. A collation of thousands of publications, religious legal rulings, statements and pronouncements of Muslim clergymen, historians, public figures and statesmen – all on the subject of Jerusalem – Reiter discerns three fundamental Muslim claims, according to Shragai:
the Jewish presence in Jerusalem was brief (extending only 60-70 years) and does not justify Jewish sovereignty over the holy city; the Temple never existed and the Temple of Solomon, [Solomon being] solely an Islamic figure from antiquity, was at most a personal prayer room; and the Western Wall is a holy Muslim site whose Jewish connection was invented in the 19th and 20th centuries for political purposes.
But there is much more – the article deserves reading in its entirety; better yet, read the whole book.
June 14, 2006 update: In "Al Aqsa official: Jewish temples existed," Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily.com interviews a Muslim religious figure who disagrees with the official line: "Unfortunately our religious and political leaders chose the option of denial to fight the Jewish position and demands regarding Al Aqsa and taking back the Temple Mount compound. In my opinion we should admit the truth."
Further, the existence of the Jewish Temple at the site is obvious, he said, for "according to studies, researches and archaeological signs that we were also exposed to. But especially according to the history that passed from one generation to another – we believe Al Aqsa was built on the same place were the Temple of the Jews – the first monotheistic religion – existed." In other words, the denial of a Jewish connection is as recent as it is fraudulent.
The name of this official? Not known, for he "spoke on condition his name be withheld, claiming an on-the-record interview would endanger his life."
June 20, 2006 update: I take up this topic today in my column, "What Jewish Ties to Jerusalem?"
July 1, 2006 update: Relying on my Middle East Quarterly article for his factual base, Yonatan Silverman draws this conclusion in his July/August 2006 Midstream article, "On the Holiness of Jerusalem In Judaism and Islam" (I quote the Midstream text here, not the internet one):
These days, the cry for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital surely contains a trace of the claim that the city is holy in Islam. But essentially, the historic record shows that the actions and circumstances on which the claim is based aren't very holy at all. In fact, by any standard of religious values in any society in the world, artificially imbuing a place with holiness, through wordplay and administrative sleight of hand, constitute the very opposite of holiness.
July 17, 2006 update: Eli Lake reports from Cairo in "'Not Their Temple'":
One of the most popular graffiti tags here is roughly translated, as "It's our mosque, not their Temple." You can find these words emblazoned on not only concrete walls of tenements, but also under framed pictures of al Aqsa Mosque in the offices of newspaper editors, politicians and lawyers. I first noticed it at the lobby of Cairo's medical syndicate, the Egyptian equivalent of the American Medical Association.
This slogan is a way to understand Arab public opinion about the latest warin Lebanon and Gaza. There is no Jewish claim to the remains of the second temple on the base of the Temple Mount. There is only the mosque where Mohammed ascended to heaven for a brief visit.
Feb. 18, 2007 update: Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, delivered his views on the Western Wall back in July 2000, as then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was negotiating with Yasir Arafat. Salah pronounced:
Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
The Western Wall - on all its various parts, structures and gates, and all the names these parts, structures and gates are called - is an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound. [It] is part of Al-Aqsa's western tower, which the Israeli establishment fallaciously and sneakily calls the "Wailing Wall." The wall is part of the holy Aqsa Mosque.
Salah opposes the idea of conceding Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall in exchange for Muslim sovereignty over the rest of the Temple Mount, accusing those who would consider even allowing Jews access to the Western Wall to be traitors.
He who says that the Jews or the Israeli establishment has any right to Al-Aqsa, even to just one stone – this is an abominable attack, a falsehood, completely baseless. He among Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims who accepts this, is a traitor to Allah and his prophet."
Roee Nahmias notes in Yedi'ot Aharonot that Salah stands firmly behind these views, which can be found on the Islamic Movement's website. His views are timely because
Salah is establishing his position as a known Muslim leader struggling for the al-Aqsa Mosque (he is now known as the Sheikh of al-Aqsa). … Since his release from prison two years ago Sheikh Salah has been steadily building a name for himself as a leader for all Muslims, this despite the fact that he lives in Israel. By focusing on social issues he has won over people from the bottom up, though his followers say his humbleness, manners and simple attire also helped establish his persona as a leader. He is a daily newsmaker in the Arab media and for now, his star seems to only be rising.
Mar. 10, 2008 update: Raed Salah is at it again, telling a press conference today that there never existed a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount and there Jews have no historical claim to Jerusalem. "The claims of the Jews are big lies and they have no right to any speck of dust here."
Mar. 1, 2011 update: Yitxhak Reiter has an important piece in the March/April 2011 issue of the American Interest, "King Solomon's Vanishing Temple" (not online). He looks at the history and implications of "Palestinian public discourse claims that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem," including its refusal even to "acknowledge, let alone tolerate, the universally accepted history of the city and of other parts the country."
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, History, Jerusalem
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