Monday, February 12, 2007

Nurturing Illusions & Temple Mount Untruths

Recently, Israel has been accused of attempting to "undermine the Al-Aqsa Mosque" by carrying out construction near the Mugrabi Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. Ironically, despite the fact that the Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site, most media attention stresses its importance to Muslims (the third holiest behind Mecca and Median) while ignoring or downplaying the very legitimate Jewish religious and historical connection to the site, which precedes Muslim attachments by 1500 years. The stage was set almost 7 years ago, when at the end of the 2000 Camp David Summit, Yasser Arafat said that no Jewish Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount. A year later, the Palestinian Authority appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrima Sabri, told the German publication Die Welt, "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."All the commotion about the Mugrabi bridge plan obscures this great Muslim denial - the denial of the Jewish bond to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple. Today, increasing numbers of Muslim academics and religious leaders claim that the al-Aqsa Mosque--which according to contemporary studies was built some 1,400 years ago, on the Temple Mount--existed even before Jesus and Moses and that Islam preceded Judaism in Jerusalem. Furthermore, thousands of Islamic rulings, publications and sources deny the Jewish roots in Jerusalem and its holy places. Outrageous claims suggest that if the Temple existed at all, it certainly wasn't in Jerusalem but was located in Nablus or Yemen. According to Nadav Shragai in last week's Ha'aretz, 'Digs, Lies and the Mugrabi Bridge,

"Many Muslims call the Temple "the greatest fraud crime in history" and many Muslim adjudicators attach the world "so-called" to the word "temple." The Western Wall is a Muslim site, they argue, and say Jewish affinity for it was invented for political purposes and dates only to the 19th and 20th centuries. Their aim is to disprove the centrality of Jerusalem to Judaism. Above all they stress the "precedence and supremacy of Islam over Judaism, which contaminates the city's Muslim character." Muslim religious leaders, with at least partial academic backing, are today rewriting Jerusalem's history and introducing new terms and content into Muslim and Palestinian discourse. These terms are total nonsense, even according to known Muslim historians like al Makdessi (who lived in the 11th century). In recent years, this new terminology has penetrated the discourse of Palestinian and Muslim politicians as well. It is therefore easy to understand why the Muslims are so afraid of archaeological digs, not only on the Temple Mount itself but also around it, although these digs also shed light on Jerusalem's Muslim history. Muslims fear these excavations, not because they physically endanger al-Aqsa's foundations, but because they undermine the tissue of lies proclaiming that the Jews have no valid historical roots in the city and its holy sites."

This past Friday, I attended an event at Seattle's University of Washington campus Hillel, which featured 'Combatants for Peace,' an organization dedicated to bringing both sides of Palestinian-Israel divide back to talking with, and more importantly, trusting one another. A noble endeavor, to be sure. I was startled though, when in answer to a question on how this process might be furthered, the former Palestinian fighter went into a harangue about how the proposed Mugrabi bridge is nothing more than a provocation by a right-wing Israeli gov't meant to detract from recent Palestinian solidarity efforts, and could usher in a renewed 'cycle of violence' which would only serve the 'extremists on both sides.' Once again, fantasy overtakes reality, and real progress is subservient to mythologies. While the Palestinians may have gotten some temporary international cover at Mecca last week with agreement on a unity gov't, the sad reality is that there exists no practical mechanism to reverse the ongoing social and political disintegration currently occurring in both Gaza and the West Bank. Ehud Ya'ari, one of the most savvy of Middle East analysts, notes in the current issue of The Jerusalem Report, "Underground organizations metamorphize into militias, militias become paramilitary units, while tunnels are being dug under main highways to plant explosives in order to assassinate political foes. That is the real picture, which is completely isolated from the frank desire of many people of good will to restore a modicum of public order to the swamp of anarchy and to put the PA back on the path toward recovery." He ends his piece on this chilling note. "Nurturing illusions will not cure the sickness that is eating away at our neighbors. Palestine is suicide-bombing itself."

The Truth about the Temple Mount Controversy
David Gelernter
The hysterical Arab reaction to the replacement of a ramp to the Temple Mount must be understood in context. Why are Muslim religious authorities in charge of the Temple Mount anyway - Judaism's holiest site, in the heart of Israel's capital city? And who built the Temple Mount in the first place, and what makes this site holy? Furthermore, the real question is how can the Arab world be cured of its blood-lust against the Jews of Israel? Muslims revere this site in consequence of the Temple that once stood here. The Temple was as real as the World Trade Center. No sane historian doubts its existence. It is attested in many contemporary sources, Jewish and otherwise. Simon Goldhill, professor of Greek at Cambridge University, called the Temple "the largest and most awe-inspiring religious monument in the world....There is nothing like this anywhere else in the ancient world." Israelis created (long ago) the platform on the Temple Mount and the Temple itself, and the religious community that gave it all meaning. Thousands of years later, Israel in 1967 turned over the keys to the Waqf in a peace offering, an act of friendship. Today, Arab leaders demand (in violent outrage) that the world protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque - their precious, sacred cultural treasure - by stopping an Israeli construction project that won't go anywhere near it.


Lao Qiao said...

The February 12 issue of the Jerusalem Post reports that a member of Egypt's Parliament, Mohamed el-Katatny, said "That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aksa mosque." He went on to say that "nothing will work with Israel except a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence."

This is a false accusation that is the equivalent of a blook libel. Jews are accused of using the blood of children to make matzo or of trying to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque, and the accusation is believed by some, who then feel it is appropriate to kill Jews.

What would happen if Muslims ruled Jerusalem? Rival groups would fight over the control of the Noble Sanctuary and blow it up, as has happened to holy sites in Iraq.

Unknown said...

Speaking of illusions and untruths: Nadia Abu El Haj is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Barnard, and is currently jockeying for tenure. Her doctoral thesis is now in print as "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society" and she uses accusations, half-truths, and pesudo-scientific methods to try and convince the reader that Jewish and "Zionist" archaeologists have falsified evidence and history in order to justify the continued Jewish presence in Israel.

There are legitimate criticisms that can be made about the science of archaeology, and even Israeli archaeology in particular. However, El Haj is not interested in the legitimate method, and it is not surprising to see that she says nothing about the rampant disregard shown by the Palestinian Authority's treatment of ancient Jewish sites under its control, and the Wakf in the way they handle the ongoing excavations on the Temple Mount, where they have already destroyed a large number of Jewish relics under the guise of "renovations."

Ace of Spades links to several posts on this matter on his blog:

Unknown said...

Found this really great video from Dr. Gideon Avni (Director of Excavations and Surveys Department) on just what is exactly being done on the Temple Mount.

In this video, Dr. Avni dispels the claims that Islamists and their fellow-travellers are trying to make about Israel trying to destroy Al-Aksa.


Anonymous said...

Great work.