Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/ Flash 90

{Originally posted to the Gatestone Institute website}

Denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem and the existence of the Jewish Temple has always been a central component of the Palestinian narrative and ideology.


Palestinians, like members of all societies, disagree on many things. Nevertheless, when it comes to the historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem, Palestinians manage to unite in lies: Palestinian political leaders, academics and religious leaders have long promoted the false narrative that Jerusalem was, and remains, an Arab and Islamic city.

We are currently witnessing a new twist on this old lie.

It seems that some Palestinians are now trying to deceive the world into believing that they do, indeed, recognize the Jewish people’s historic connection to Jerusalem.

The problem is that Palestinian officials tell their people one thing in Arabic and the rest of the world another thing in English.

One of these con artists is Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic mission in Washington.

Zomlot appears to grasp that the Palestinian denial of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem is something that needs to be hidden from the international community, especially Jews living in the US, Canada and elsewhere around the world.

He understands that this Palestinian denial is problematic, especially for left-wing Jewish organizations such as J Street.

In keeping with the Palestinian tradition of double-talk, Zomlot informed his Jewish audience, in English, what he would never dare say in Arabic — that the Palestinians will one day recognize the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Addressing the annual conference of J Street on April 16, the PLO envoy said that Palestinians would “celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem” once a Palestinian state was established with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Once a state of Palestine is established, once that state has East Jerusalem as its capital, that city will not only recognize the Jewish connection, but we will celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” Zomlot said.

These are nice words to hear from the mouth of a senior representative of the PLO — which Palestinians themselves often refer to as the Professional Liars Organization. But would this PLO representative ever dare to make such a statement in front of a Palestinian or Arab audience? The answer, bluntly, is No.

If Zomlot made such a statement in his native Arabic language, he would be denounced as a traitor — if he were very lucky. If he were less lucky, he would end up in a hospital or morgue.

Just as Zomlot was lying to his Jewish audience, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were chanting the famous battle cry: “We will march toward Jerusalem, we will sacrifice millions of martyrs.”

So, while the PLO representative is promising to celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, his people are promising to march on the city and kill as many Jews as possible in order to liberate it from the Jewish “occupiers.”

Zomlot knows that he can always deny (in Arabic) what he said in English. This tactic is also not new to the Palestinian political landscape.

The PLO envoy is only following a venerable Palestinian tradition of hypocrisy, not to mention, at times, deceit. The organization he represents has a long record of denying any Jewish link not only to Jerusalem, but to the entire Holy Land.

For the Palestinians, there is no such thing as a Western Wall, which is holy to Jews because of its connection to the Temple Mount. This is the Al-Buraq Wall, where they believe Prophet Mohammed tied Al-Buraq, the winged riding animal upon which he rode during the Night of Ascension (Mi’raj).

Jamal Muhaisen, a senior official with the “moderate” ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, summed up the Palestinian position towards this Jewish holy site: “So far, none of the archeologists, not [even] the Israeli ones, have proved the existence of a single remnant of the Israeli side in the places claimed to be theirs.”

Here it is worth noting that the 1930 Wailing Wall Commission, which was appointed by the British government with the approval of the League of Nations, concluded that the Western Wall had served as a Jewish holy site long before it became a Muslim waqf (an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law).

Muhaisen is not the only Palestinian official to deny the Jewish people’s connection to the Western Wall. In the past few years, the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, has repeatedly claimed that the Western Wall belongs to Muslims alone.

On April 12, the mufti issued a fatwa (Islamic religious opinion) prohibiting anyone from giving up Jerusalem to Jews:

“It is prohibited to give up or sell any part of Jerusalem and the land of Palestine to the [Israeli Jewish] enemy. Jerusalem is part of the public Islamic properties. Selling or giving up any part of it and any part of Palestine is illegitimate and considered an act of treason. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque are Islamic waqf until doomsday. They can’t be sold or given away as a gift or passed by inheritance. Jerusalem is Islamic territory, and it will remain so, and it will be liberated by the Arab and Muslim heroes from the profanity of the occupiers as [the Muslim warrior] Salah Ad-Din Al-Ayoubi liberated it from the profanity of the Crusaders.”

In a speech before the Jerusalem Islamic International Conference in Ramallah earlier this month, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas similarly repeated the Palestinian position that denies any connection between Jews and Jerusalem.

In almost all his speeches during the past few decades, Abbas has talked about Islamic and Christian links to Jerusalem, while deliberately omitting any Jewish connection to the city. He has also repeatedly accused Israel of working towards “altering” the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem. According to Abbas, Israel is seeking to “Judaize” the city by undermining its status as an Arab and Islamic city.

“Jerusalem is our political and spiritual capital, and we need to support its Arab and Islamic identity,” Abbas said in his speech before the conference in Ramallah. “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine. It has been so, still is and shall remain so.”

One might wonder what Zomlot has to say about such statements made by Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials in which they essentially deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Would he tell us that these statements do not reflect the position of the Palestinians? Would he tell us that Mahmoud Abbas and his mufti are liars, and that they do not actually mean what they say?

Less than 24 hours after Zomlot offered his outright lie to J Street, yet another senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, unequivocally denied any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is an Arab, Islamic and Christian city,” Rajoub declared in a speech in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. That is an important statement from a top Palestinian official who is being touted as a possible successor to Mahmoud Abbas: it deliberately omits the mention of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership is again trying to trick the international community, particularly gullible Jews who have good intentions. Such individuals would do well to listen to what these folks say in Arabic to their own people. Failing to do so means that the real — and deadly — position of the Palestinians will remain hidden behind a smokescreen of soothing double-talk.


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Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the Gatestone Institute website (