Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently continued a long tradition of attempting to question a Jewish link to Jerusalem by expressing his mendacious notion that “Jerusalem’s identity is Arab, and the city’s and Christian holy sites must be protected from Israeli threats.”
The same scholar of history who wrote a doctoral dissertation that questioned the extent and truthfulness of the Holocaust was now making his own historical claim that there has never been a Jewish presence and history in the world’s holiest city.
Israeli archeology and a Jewish biblical connection to Jerusalem, specifically the Temple Mount, “will not undermine the fact that the city will forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian,” Abbas crowed, adding that “there will be no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement,” suggesting that even Jerusalem itself is in fact occupied and that it was, and still is, the capital of a putative Palestinian state.
This airbrushing out of a Jewish presence from Jerusalem – in fact, all of Palestine – is not a new message for Abbas, of course. In 2000 he expressed similar contempt for the idea that a Jewish temple had ever existed on the Temple Mount, and argued that, even if it had existed, the offenses committed by Israel against the Palestinians negated any claim Jews might have enjoyed, absent their perfidy.
“Anyone who wants to forget the past [the Israelis] cannot come and claim that the [Jewish] temple is situated beneath the Haram,” he asserted in a 2000 article in Kul Al-Arab, an Israeli Arabic-language weekly newspaper. “They demand that we forget what happened 50 years ago to the refugees…while at the same time they claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the assertion that this is so. But even if it is so, we do not accept it, because it is not logical for someone who wants a practical peace.”
In characterizing East Jerusalem – or any part of Jerusalem, for that matter – as territory that Israel “occupies” but over which it enjoys no sovereignty, Abbas (and the Obama administration’s State Department, too) is misreading, once again, the content and purpose of 1967’s UN Security Council Resolution 242 that suggested an Israeli withdrawal “from territories” it acquired in the Six-Day War.
Critics of Israeli policy who either willfully misread or deliberately obscure the resolution’s purpose say the Jewish state is in violation of 242 by continuing to occupy the West Bank and Jerusalem, including what is mistakenly now referred to as “Arab” East Jerusalem. But the drafters of Resolution 242 were very precise in creating the statute’s language, and never considered Jerusalem to have been “occupied” by Israel after the Six-Day War.
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Former U.S. ambassador to the U N Arthur Goldberg, one of the resolution’s authors, made this very clear when he wrote some years later that “Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate…. At no time in [my] many speeches [before the UN] did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory.”
Along with their unwavering and various demands, including a “right of return” of all refugees and sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Palestinians now insist that Jerusalem must be divided to give them a capital in its eastern portion. That view is troubling because it reveals a pattern in which Arabs endow Jerusalem with intense significance to serve purposes of political expediency.
In fact, as Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes has observed, a “historical survey shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it.” When Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank and purged Jerusalem of its Jews from 1949 to 1967, for example, Jerusalem’s stature declined. But Israel’s recapture of the territory in 1967 changed the political landscape, including an Arab desire for Jerusalem, suggesting to Dr. Pipes that “the Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else.”
Dore Gold, Israel’s UN ambassador from 1997 to 1999, noted in his book The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, that many in the Muslim world, and even some individuals in the West, have begun a sinister process aimed at establishing a spiritual as well as political presence in Jerusalem for Islam, while simultaneously diminishing Jewish historical links to the city.