Within the Arab world, there has been an ongoing effort to dismiss any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Leading figures from Palestinian academia, religious, and political establishments have been particularly outspoken on this subject.
Speaking on Palestinian Authority (PA) TV on November 21, Palestinian historian ‘Issam Sisalem, one of the two “home historians” on PA TV, compared Jews to “parasitical worms” who make “false claims” and “Biblical lies.” Regarding Jerusalem, he explained that it has always belonged to Arabs, adding, “Everything on our land is holy to us and we will defend it and never be deceived, nor will we argue about biblical lies that penetrated the minds of some orientalists. Jerusalem has been the capital of our capitals since the dawn of history, and will remain so. We won't share it … The Torah disparages all of the prophets. It presents David as an adulterer and Solomon too. They say that the temple was here. What temple and what shtemple?! What archeological remains?”
The theme that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem is also common in sermons and statements by Palestinian religious figures. For example, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the highest ranking Palestinian religious figure gave an interview to the German Die Welt on January 17, 2001, stating, “There is not [even] 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… The Jews do not even know exactly where their temple stood.” When the interviewer asked why he could not respect the Jewish connection to the place, he added, “It is the art of the Jews to deceive the world... 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.”
More recently speaking to Egyptian Dream TV on May 9th he added, “The Al-Buraq Wall (i.e. the Western Wall) is part of Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is part of a wall, the wall (surrounding) the mosque. Just like any house with a wall, this wall belongs to the house. The Al-Buraq Wall, is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque… The Jews pray in front of the Wall, on the outer side of it… but the Wall belongs to the Muslims.”
The Palestinian denial of the Jewish affiliation to Jerusalem is also common among political leaders. Yasser Arafat frequently claimed that the Jews made up a religious connection to both Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall. One example includes an interview he gave to the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat on October 5, 2002. He explained, “They found not a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there, because historically the Temple was not in Palestine [at all].”
Abu Mazen, Arafat’s successor who is now chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and is running for Palestinian leadership, supports Arafat’s theories on Jerusalem. Speaking to the Israeli-Arab weekly, Kul Al Arab on August 25, 2000, he stated, “Anyone who wants to forget the past cannot come and claim that the [Jewish] temple is situated beneath the Haram. They demand that we forget what happened 50 years ago to the refugees – and I speak as a living, breathing refugee – while at the same time they claim that 2000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.”
Representing Palestinian academia, a researcher and editor-in-chief of the Al Quds Al-Sharif Encyclopedia, Dr. Hassan Ali Khater spoke about the Wailing Wall at the now defunct Zayed Centre on January 27, 2002: “Israelis are falsifying history by inscribing Jewish inscriptions on rocks [and] then calling international experts to re-discover [them] as Jewish monuments."
Another report by the Zayed Centre, titled ‘Al-Buraq Wall not Wailing Wall,’ stated, “This study is [to] refute the false Zionist allegations in regard to Palestine… and shows the falsehood of the Zionist religious claims and anthropological fabrications. The study … underlines 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 [Wailing] Wall are simply baseless.”
The issue of Jerusalem can be expected to remain at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The city’s history is recorded in religious, archaeological, and scientific research. No solution to the complex issue of Jerusalem will be found by evading such research.Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.