Bari Weiss: Palestinian Leaders Deny Jerusalem’s Past

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jews have no history in the city of Jerusalem: They have never lived there, the Temple never existed, and Israeli archaeologists have admitted as much. Those who deny this are simply liars. Or so says Sheik Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority.

His claims, made last month, would be laughable if they weren't so common among Palestinians. Sheik Tamimi is only the latest to insist that, in his words, Jerusalem is solely "an Arab and Islamic city and it has always been so." His comments come on the heels of those by Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al Quds University. On an Aug. 11 PA television program, "Jerusalem—History and Culture," Mr. Alawneh argued that the Jews invented their connection to Jerusalem. "It has no historical roots," he said, adding that the Jews are engaging in "an attack on history, theft of culture, falsification of facts, erasure of the truth, and Judaization of the place."

As President Barack Obama and his foreign-policy team gear up to propose yet another plan for Israeli-Arab peace, they would do well to focus less on important but secondary issues like settlement growth, and instead notice that top Palestinian intellectual and political leaders deny basic truths about the region's most important city.

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIsraelThe Palestinian/Israeli Struggle* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

21 Comments
Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Frank Fuller wrote:

Denial lives.  So what exactly were Titus’s legions doing in the vicinity that summer of AD 70?  Vacationing?

September 25, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
2. BillB wrote:

There are “Truthers” of one ilk or another everywhere.  If it weren’t real, I would think it a spoof.

September 25, 1:37 pm | [comment link]
3. nwlayman wrote:

well, Frank there was no Roman Empire either.  Just like there never were any Armenians to slaughter in Turkey.  I especially like it when the Palestinians (whatever they are; anyone clear on THAT matter of history??) claim to have been the Canaanites…But that means there *were* Hebrews who mistreated them….Gotta keep those stories straight.

September 25, 2:30 pm | [comment link]
4. Jeffersonian wrote:

So who lived in Jerusalem before Mohammed wrote the Koran?

September 25, 2:49 pm | [comment link]
5. Terry Tee wrote:

Forgive me a little cultural history.  In the Christian Church in the West we feel ambivalent about the perod called the Enlightenment, when the unfettered use of the mind was seen as bringing everything into question.  Whether God existed;  whether the Church was a mistake, Jesus having intended the Kingdom rather than the Church; whether scripture was simply another form of literature, and to be analysed with historical and critical techniques - these and other approaches dissected our faith and sometimes mocked it.  All in all, a bracing and difficult development with which we are still coming to terms.  And yet:  the Enlightenment is a benefit to us.  It makes us aware of history, and of the lessons of history.  It allows us a kind of objectivity about our faith.  Yes, our faith in Christ is life-shaping, but this does not mean that we cannot step back and look at the Church.  Indeed, we acknowledge the failures of the Church through the ages.  Compare and contrast Islam.  It comes from a culture where the Enlightenment never happened.  No Immanuel Kant.  No Voltaire.  No David Hume.  And although these and others were sometimes sharp critics of Christianity, the fact that we could take the criticism, dialogue with it and even occasionally learn from it has, in the long run, saved us from the kind of extreme reality-denying introversion to which this article refers.

September 25, 3:04 pm | [comment link]
6. phil swain wrote:

Thanks, Father Tee.  Isn’t the enlightenment a product of Christian Civilization?  Can Islam produce an enlightenment?

September 25, 3:44 pm | [comment link]
7. Terry Tee wrote:

Phil, what a question.  A vast panorama.  How about taking the question from a different angle, ie: How is it that the Muslim world was frequently innovative and forward-looking until the 12th C or so, and then stultified?  That, I think is the question, and a little outside my field.  But here are some answers:
1)  It was around then that the theory developed of Church and Sovereign, each empowered in their own domain.  Of course, each still made claims of power over the other (eg Investiture controversy with Popes and Emperors both claiming right to appoint bishops) but in effect both settled for division of spiritual and secular power.  This could be said to derive in part from Jesus himself (render under Caesar ... ).  This created a vital space in which what we would now call civil society could develop.  Islam allowed no such space.  Religion, the state, the law, society were all aspects of one and the same entity.
2)  The crucial difference is the treatment of scripture.  Even from an early period, for example, Christian exegetes saw a difference in style and content between the different gospels, and above all between the synoptic gospels and John.  Christians could believe that scripture was inspired by God, and yet also reflected the personalities and something of the culture of the times.  Islam, on the contrary, views the Quran as the uncreated word of God, that is to say, there is no human input:  it is directly an expression of the divine, and almost regarded as an extension of the divine.  And who could question that?  The result was that scholarship froze, for there was nothing new to be discovered, since everything had been revealed and all that was necessary was right interpretation of the law.

Add these together and I think the answer is that the Enlightenment was only possible in a Christian context, and impossible in a Muslim world.  I highly recommend the short and very readable book by Bernard Lews, What Went Wrong:  Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.  It is about the Middle Eastern Muslims suddenly realizing that they are being left behind, and wondering how it came to pass, and what could be done about it.

September 25, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
8. sandlapper wrote:

I wonder is this story is really true. Certainly all educated Moslems know of the connection of Jews to Jerusalem. Mohammed considered Jesus a prophet, and he certainly knew of the Gospel narratives. After all, he constructed his religion by combining elements of Judaism, Christianity and Arabic moon worship in the seventh century AD.

September 25, 4:36 pm | [comment link]
9. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

My grandmother gave me two invaluable pieces of advice:
1. Never argue with crazy people.
2. Always wear clean underwear in case you are in a car accident.
Now I have to figure out which one applies in this case.

September 25, 5:12 pm | [comment link]
10. Old Soldier wrote:

People, you worry much too much.  The “One” will sort it all out.
Throwing Israel under the bus is just the first step!

September 25, 7:46 pm | [comment link]
11. sandlapper wrote:

Old Soldier, please consider that even “the One” (Obama, I assume) can have some good ideas. In the case of Israel, restraining the settlers and the hard liners like Netanyahu is not “throwing Israel under the bus.” Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has Israeli roots and served two years in the Israeli army, but he supports the more even handed approach (according to items I have read). I have also heard a middle eastern leader of GAFCON say that Christians in the middle east are glad the US is showing some support for the Palestinians.

September 26, 7:53 am | [comment link]
12. Franz wrote:

RE #11

I have not yet read the President’s speeches to the UN, delivered earlier this week.  I have only heard parts, and I do want to read them.  I have heard Netanyahu’s speech, and read the text.

Reserving final judgment until I have read Mr. Obama’s texts, it does appear that the Prime Minister of Israel has a much more clear view of the intentions of Israel’s enemies, their nature, the facts as they exist now, and history than Mr. Obama does. 


I also wish that our President (and all of our politicians) could deliver their thoughts with such clear, unadorned and powerful language.

“Restraining” Netanyahu is not in order.  Israel faces the experience of Hamas’s control of Gaza, and all that meant and continues to mean.  Current activity re settlements is (as I understand it) confined within the lines contemplated at Oslo.

The people who need restraining are Hamas, Fatah, nut jobs like the one described in the article above, and the thugs bent on turning Iran into a nuclear power.

September 26, 8:35 am | [comment link]
13. sandlapper wrote:

Re #12:  Some history which Netanyahu probably does not mention includes: 1) When Hamas won that election, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, without waiting for Hamas to do anything. Trucks taking goods into Gaza were reduced from 1000 a day to about zero. The rocket attacks followed that. 2) Later, in the cease fire agreement, Israel agreed to open the border while Hamas would stop the rockets. The rocket attacks were reduced by some 98%, and apparently the few were being fired by elements who were in revolt against Hamas. Meanwhile Israel allowed some 100 trucks a day, a 10% lifting of the blockade. 3) Hamas agreed, while trying to form a unity government with Fatah, that it would ratify all prior agreements that Fatah had made with Israel. One of those agreements was the stipulation that Israel had a right to exist. Hamas apparently could not say this plainly, because of its radical elements, but it was showing a willingness to move toward peace. 4) Many settlements are on land which the Palestinians have never agreed to give up, and much of the current building is in those settlements.

I believe all this can be documented in detail, though I would have to go back and dig up info. I will do so if that would be appropriate on this blog.

In general, the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate reminds me of the politics leading up to our War Between the States, when self-righteous activists on both sides used each other as foils in their successful efforts to prevent a peaceful settlement of the slavery issue.

September 26, 11:37 am | [comment link]
14. azusa wrote:

Sam, I am sure you are aware that:
1. Egypt has closed its border with Gaza (but why?)
2. The Gaza ceasefire came only after Hamas’s paramilitary was hammered by the IDF;
3. Hamas started the aggression by targeting Israeli towns;
4. Hamas is largely funded and supplied by Iran;
5. The Palestinians (a term used realy only since 1967) have never agreed to give up ANY land;
6. The ‘West Bank’ was simply the 1948 ceasefire line.
Like it or not, Hamas is basically an Islamofascist organization that uses murder and other forms of terror to stay in power. Its opponents live in fear of their lives.

September 26, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
15. John Wilkins wrote:

This sort of tit-for-tat is more interesting as how dialogue is progressing now. 

“Jerusalem denial” is both inaccurate and irrelevant.  Jews live in Jerusalem now, and have the authority to do so because they are there, now. 

Still, I’m intrigued that the sheik took a play from the Israeli handbook.  They’ve been denying that the Palestinians have any rights to Jerusalem for decades. 

Azusa, have you read the Abdullah peace proposal?  We won’t disagree that Hamas is ...  unsavory, but as anyone who studied Irish Politics knows, peace only comes when you bring the worst people together and bring them into the political process. 

The Palestinians have, by and large, agreed to have a two state solution.  Most of them know that as a country it will be demilitarized.  Until Israel offers a peace proposal, there’s not much incentive for Palestinians to change their minds that Israelis are people who thinks of Palestinians as sub-human.

September 26, 7:51 pm | [comment link]
16. sandlapper wrote:

Azusa, I could not find some notes I made some months ago, so I have been going to the internet to put together a timeline. It is interesting that the pro-Israeli sites show timelines that leave out the bad things the Israelis have done, and visa-versa for sites that favor the Palestinians. As John Wilkins wrote, it is a tit-for-tat debate. I think most American media are pro-Israeli, which explains your list of facts. I will post my details fairly soon, in case you are interested.

September 26, 8:10 pm | [comment link]
17. Bill Matz wrote:

The comments are quite predictable. Just recall that after Arab slaughter of Jews in the 1930s, the resultant British crackdown led the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to flee to Nazi Germany, where he was welcomed and became a public spokesman for proper treatment of the Jews. (Funny, Der Fuehrer conveniently forgot that Arabs were Semites.)

Similarly, while there is much discussion of the rights of “Palestinians”, there is a curious complete silence about the rights of hundreds of thousands of Jews who were ejected from Arab countries. There is only one side that has consistently advocated the extermination of the other. Any discussion has to factor in that the stakes are astronomically higher for the Israelis than for the Palestinians.

September 26, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
18. azusa wrote:

#16 - Sam, I don’t doubt Israel has done some ‘bad things’. There hasn’t been a war in history where the very existence of a state was concerned that there haven’t been excesses or injustices. The Russians were none too kind in Berlin - but Israel has done nothing even remotely similar to those it defeated. The ethical standards of IDF are really pretty high - infinitely better than Hamas or PLO.
Bill Matz has said what I was going to add, about the mass expulsion of 700k Jews from Arab lands in 1948, and the annihilationist wishes of the Arabs.
See Spengler’s recent piece on the Palestinians. They are largely a problem of the UN’s making as well as the idiocy of Arab autocracy.

September 27, 3:21 pm | [comment link]
19. Jeffersonian wrote:

The Palestinians have, by and large, agreed to have a two state solution.

Really?  When did that happen?  The last I looked, Hamas’ charter still declared that all of the land encompassing Israel was an Islamic waqf and therefore could legitimately only be run by Muslims.  Sounds like a one-state solution to me, and one tolerates Jews about as well as today’s Gaza does.

September 27, 3:52 pm | [comment link]
20. sandlapper wrote:

Azusa, I have rechecked some of the history, and I can say with certainty that after Hamas won the election in January 2006, Israel pretty constantly blockaded Gaza. Food became scarce, money that belonged to the Palestinians was withheld, exports that could have earned them money were blocked at the border. People in Gaza used up their family savings to buy food, and medical shortages prevented necessary care. At the same time, Israeli raids and rocket attacks were taking a grisly tole. It was in this situation that Hamas began its rocket campaign, which was more symbolic than real. There were very few Israeli casualties.

The ceasefire of June 2008 called for the Israelis to lift the blockade and Hamas to stop its rockets. Hamas did its part. Rockets decreased from hundreds a day to about one a week, and those few fired by elements who were in rebellion against Hamas. Israel only allowed some 125 trucks a day to cross the border, compared to over 1000 a day before the blockade began. On November 4, 2008, Israeli Defense Forces made a raid into Gaaz, killing six Hamas soldiers. Gradually, tit-for-tat violence escalated, with rockets from Gaza and air strikes from Israel, which also tightened the blockade. On December 18, 2008, Hamas announced it would not renew the ceasefire, which was scheduled to expire the next day. Soon thereafter, the Israeli punitive expedition of year-end 2008 was under way.

More detail is available on the internet, and I urge you to do some research there, including pro-Palestinian sites. I hope Americans might be willing to give the Palestinians some credit for what they have done right, instead of demonizing them. The hard-line Israeli and American response to them reminds me of the way our country treated the American Indians after the Indian Wars were over in the 1870s.

Finally, thanks for considering my viewpoint.

September 28, 9:34 am | [comment link]
21. John Wilkins wrote:

#19 - Jefferson - well you’ve caught me.  One thing is for sure, Hamas isn’t a state.  It’s a political party, and as such can’t really recognize another state.  What Israel wants is for Palestnians to admit they’re sub-human.  And since Israel has never indicated what its own borders are or should be, for Hamas to “recognize” Israel is a bit of a problem, when Israel seems content into holding the Palestinians in an apartheid like situation. 

It’s kind of like asking the Native Americans to be thankful that we came and put them on reservations. 

Anyway, the leader of Hamas in exile has agreed that a Palestinian state should work within the borders agreed to by the UN.  That’s a two state solution.  If Israel wants peace, it can have it.  But it would have to define its own borders.  It refuses to do so, in part because it doesn’t recognize the Palestinian’s right to exist.

I would add that a secular, democratic state would be the end of Hamas.  Hamas would only thrive if it could create a theocracy.  Most Palestinians don’t want a theocracy.  They voted for Hamas because 1) Fateh was corrupt and 2) Israel had stopped talking to Fateh.  They voted for the less corrupt organization.  That’s how Professor Mark Rosenblum explained their former popularity, directly. 

Bill Matz -  There was a very basic Arab complaint: why should they have to pay for the crimes of the West?  Why did Jews get turned away from the US?  Why couldn’t they have decided to live in Scotland?  It seems that one way Europe could live out its anti-Semitism is by sending them to Palestine. 

And I’d bet, if you were to count bodies, the number of Jews killed by Arabs would be a lot less than those killed in Europe.  Didn’t Zionists want Jews to come to Israel rather than stay in their Arab lands?  If Zionists WANTED an Israeli state, why would they be refugees?  Look - my point is not to diminish the very real anti-semitism in the Arab street.  I just don’t think that it has to be that way, or that Arabs are preternaturally anti-Semitic, or any more so than Westerners or Americans.  The evidence doesn’t bear that out.  Not historically. 

And if you want a body count provided by an Israeli Human Rights organization, you can go here.

September 28, 6:37 pm | [comment link]
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