Thursday, July 8, 2010

Talking to the Wall


by Emmanuel Navon


Chief PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat denied on Saturday a report in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat claiming that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had submitted a written proposal "agreeing" to Israel maintaining its control over the Western Wall.


Do the French need anyone's approval to maintain their control over the Eiffel Tower, or does America need approval to maintain its control over the Statue of Liberty? The fact that Erekat is claiming Palestinian sovereignty over the ultimate witness and symbol of Jewish history is as offensive as it is absurd –though anyone familiar with the Palestinian "re-reading" of history wouldn't be surprised.


A few days before Erekat's denial, the PA-appointed Mufti claimed that Israel was threatening the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 26, 2010). This past Sunday, the PA television broadcast an image of a demonic-looking Jew eating the Al-Aqsa Mosque.


Accusing the Jews of destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not a new blood-libel. Hadj Amin al-Husseini inaugurated this practice in 1929, hereby causing the massive killings of Jews, and Arafat repeated it in September 1996 and in September 2000. On December 6, 1931, al-Husseini convened a pan-Islamic Conference in Jerusalem with the declared purpose of galvanizing the Muslim world around his political struggle against the Jews. He disseminated photomontages showing Jews with machine guns attacking the Dome of the Rock. In September 2000, Arafat launched a terror war against Israeli civilians (cleverly named al-Aqsa Intifada), calling upon the Palestinian Arabs and the entire Muslim world to "defend" the al-Aqsa Mosque from the Jews. He sent out to foreign news agencies a photomontage portraying an Israeli policeman seemingly beating-up a defenseless and blood-covered faced Arab. This picture was published on the front page of the New York Times with the title: "An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount." In the pictures' background was a gas station, which is obviously nowhere to be found on the Temple Mount. Moreover, the alleged "Palestinian" was in fact a Jewish American yeshiva student who had been beaten up by an Arab mob.


The Palestinian narrative also denies that the Western Wall is a Jewish site and a remnant of the Jerusalem Temple. But this denial is a recent phenomenon. In the 16th century, the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Great ordered the chief Ottoman architect to design a praying plaza for the Jews in front of the Western Wall, and he issued a firman recognizing their right to pray there. Up until the eleventh century, there was no agreement among Muslim scholars about the exact place where Muhammad tied his Pegasus ("Al-Buraq" in Arabic) in Jerusalem. In the 17th century, most Muslim scholars claimed that Muhammad had tied his Pegasus to the southern side of the Temple Mount. It is only in the second part of the 19th century that some Muslim clerics started to claim that Muhammad actually tied his Pegasus to the Jew's Western Wall. Incidentally, this is precisely when the Jews began to bring Torah scrolls and furniture to pray at the Western Wall, when they asked the Ottoman authorities to fix the floor of the praying area, and when they tried to purchase the ownership rights over the Western Wall from the Muslim Wakf. This is when the Arabs "decided" that the Western Wall was the place where Muhammad tied his Pegasus, and this is when they started calling the Wall "Al-Buraq."


During the British Mandate, Hadj Amin Al-Husseini used the "Al-Buraq" mythology to fuel his war against the Jews. He claimed that the Jews were trying to purchase the Wall from the Wakf in order to progressively get hold of the entire Temple Mount, destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. The mufti and his cronies physically tried to prevent the access of Jews to the Western Wall by building the Mugrabi neighborhood and by pilling up garbage and human excrements next to the Wall. Even a latrine was built one-and-a-half meter away from the Wall –an act forbidden by Muslim law, had the Wall been a Muslim site, and therefore the ultimate proof that the Muslim "discovery" of the Wall's sanctity to Islam was a sham.


When the Israeli Government opened the northern entrance to the Western Wall's tunnel in September 1996, the Arab League was up in arms: It declared that the tunnel—in fact a combination of two tunnels, one that was dug by Israeli archaeologists in 1987, and the other (the Hasmonean tunnel) that dates back 2,000 years—ran underneath the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and was thus illegal. This statement was blatantly false: The tunnels do not run under the mosque, nor even under the Temple Mount. Yet the facts did not stop Arafat from then adding that the true name of the Western Wall is "Al-Buraq," that it is a Muslim site, and that the Koran says so (it does not). And in February 2001, the Jerusalem Mufti issued a fatwa declaring that the Western Wall is in fact part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Of course, anyone versed in rudimentary biblical or archaeological history knows that the Western Wall is the last remnant of the Jewish Second Temple—a remnant that stood 635 years before the construction of the mosque in the year 705. Nonetheless, the Mufti insisted that the Wall is exclusive Muslim property, and "not one stone of this wall has any connection whatsoever with Hebrew history."


In his June 2009 speech in Cairo, President Obama said that the Muslim denial of the Holocaust is "baseless, ignorant, and hateful." So is the denial and falsification of ancient Jewish history. One wonders how Obama intends to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians without telling the latter what he told the Muslim world a year ago. Unless he does so, negotiating will continue to be tantamount to what is has been so far: Talking to the wall.



Emmanuel Navon

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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