And while riots ensued in recent years when Israelis initiated a carefully supervised reconstruction project near the Temple Mount, the Islamic Waqf (the religious trust charged with oversight of the location) routinely gouges the historic surfaces when it suits its own purposes.
In 2007, for example, Hebrew University’s Dr. Eilat Mazar, along with representatives from the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities, was in the Israeli High Court of Justice attempting to halt the work on the Temple Mount being conducted by the Waqf. The excavation, a trench 500 meters long and 1.5 meters deep, was, according to the complainants, “causing irreversible damage to antiquities and archaeological artifacts of the greatest importance…[was] being carried out illegally, [and] entail[ed] damage to ground layers, some of which may have been in place since the first Temple stood there 3,000 years ago.”
In 1999, a similarly destructive excavation took place when the Waqf opened a gaping hole – 18,000 square feet in area and 36 feet deep – in what is known as Solomon’s Stables for new mosques. Most seriously, 13,000 tons of rubble from that criminal dig, containing rich archeological remnants from the First and Second Temple periods, were scattered clandestinely in the Kidron Valley dump without any professional archeological oversight and before experts could evaluate any unearthed items of significance.
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The effrontery of these specific, but not isolated, acts by the Waqf are made all the more troubling by the fact that the archeological contempt shown by the Muslim trust reflects its attitude that a Jewish historical connection to the site is only apocryphal. The Waqf’s oversight of the Temple Mount has contributed to an effort, in pursuit of the Palestinian’s nationalistic cause, to erase or obscure Judaism and a Jewish link to Jerusalem and replace it with a Muslim historical narrative which predates a Jewish one.
The obscurantism on the part of the Waqf also serves a strategic purpose in the cognitive war against Israel and Jews, according to scholar David Meir-Levy. He points to this illicit activity on the part of the Waqf as one bit of evidence that seems on its face to disprove those who assert that there is not a preponderance of archeological evidence supporting a Jewish link to the land. Neither Abbas nor anyone else in the Arab world mentions the illegal excavations that have been conducted for years on the Temple Mount by the Waqf, and, according to Meir-Levy, this admission points to something they obviously wish to obscure: if there was nothing in the archeological remains that proved a Jewish link to the site, there would be no need to destroy the evidence, to de-Judaize Jerusalem.
“These excavations are avowedly intended to eradicate evidence of earlier Jewish existence and activity on the site,” Meir-Levy observed. “If there were no such existence, there would be no such evidence. If whatever evidence remained on the Mount were immaterial or inconclusive, there would be no need to destroy it. The very actions of the Waqf are clear attestation to the existence of what is for…at least some of the Muslim world the very troublesome, unwelcome, and inconveniently incontrovertible evidence of Jewish life and activities and sovereignty in and around the Temple Mount in pre-Islamic times.”
The Arab world’s own complicity in playing fast and loose with history, and obscuring the actual “facts on the ground” in an attempt to create a historical narrative conforming to a political agenda, makes Abbas’s accusations against Jews bent on the undermining of Muslim and Christian holy sites all the more disingenuous. In yet another example of “turnspeak,” the Arab world has accused Israel of the misdeeds, lies about history, and destruction of nationhood that they themselves are committing.
It is part of a relentless and continuing effort to delegitimize Israel and finally eliminate it through a false historical narrative that is repeated in Palestinian schoolbooks, in sermons, in the Arab press, in Middle Eastern study centers at universities, and in the politicized scholarship and dialogue generated by Israel-haters, anti-Semites, and Palestinian apologists around the world, something columnist Shragai has aptly called a “tissue of lies.”
Dr. Richard L. Cravatts, author of “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel and Jews,” is president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.