Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Abbas’ Temple Denial

March 2, 2012 10:40 am 0 comments

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the conference on Jerusalem. Photo:

Speaking in Qatar on Feb. 26, at an Arab League conference, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas resumed the Palestinian attack on the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem. This diplomatic strategy began with his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who questioned whether the Temple ever existed at the end of the July 2000 Camp David summit: “There is nothing there.” Then U.S. President Bill Clinton was stunned. Arafat then asserted that Solomon’s Temple was in Nablus, not in Jerusalem. Two years later in leading pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat, Arafat continued: “They found not a single stone proving the Temple was there …”

A month after Camp David, Abbas himself continued with Arafat’s ideological position on the Temple in an Israeli-Arab weekly, adding: “… they claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.” In fact, many of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, who are perceived as moderate in the West, also began repeating this same theme. Nabil Shaath spoke to al-Ayyam and spoke about the Israeli claim that “its fictitious temple” once stood in Jerusalem.

Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, also declared: “For Islam, there never was a Temple at al-Quds, but a ‘distant mosque.'” Yasser Abd Rabbo told Le Monde, in September 2000, “There was no archaeological evidence that the Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount.” He added during an appearance on Palestinian television, broadcast on March 16, 2010, that Israel was planning to build “the false Temple” in order “to fulfill a legend.”

Now, Abbas is once again renewing this line of attack in Qatar, challenging whether there was any proof of Jewish historical claims. “Despite all the enormous capabilities that the occupation authorities made available to the extremists who engage in never-ending digging [and] threaten to make al-Aqsa look less significant and vindicate the Israeli narrative, they have failed miserably.” After making this point, he added that the Israeli authorities “were preparing models of what they call the Temple, in order to build it on the ruins of al-Aqsa.”

It was noticeable that Abbas could not bring himself to make reference to the Temple as a historical fact, but had to say “what they call the Temple,” which indicated he was not prepared to say it had ever existed. He also adopted the decades-old lie that Israel had a plan to endanger the al-Aqsa mosque.

Since Arafat first told Clinton that there never was a Temple, there has been a full-scale effort over the last decade, on the part of the Palestinian leadership, to make this idea of Temple denial take root through programs on Palestinian television, articles in the official Palestinian Authority newspapers, and mosque sermons that aim to deny the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem. In 2009, Palestinian religious leaders repeatedly declared that no evidence had been found that could prove a historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem or that the Temple had ever existed.

The great irony of this new Palestinian version of Jerusalem’s history is that it contradicts the original Islamic tradition. Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari (839-923 CE) was a leading commentator on the Quran and is known as one of Islam’s greatest historians. In his account of the conquest of Jerusalem by the second caliph, Umar bin al-Khattab, al-Tabari describes him heading toward “the area where the Romans buried the Temple [bayt al-maqdis] at the time of the sons of Israel.”

What is also striking about the current Palestinian campaign to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is the fact that Umar himself allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, after the Romans and Byzantines kept them away for 500 years. As late as 1935, the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem, under the notorious mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, actually published a guidebook that gave the history of the Temple Mount, establishing that “its identification with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

So what is going on here? This is not just a question of education. If during one of his many trips to Rome, Abbas actually went to the Arch of Titus and viewed the engravings of the looted vessels from the Temple, including the Menorah, being carried in a Roman victory parade, it would not change his mind. Nor would it help if Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan guided Abbas to a museum in Istanbul to see a 2,000-year-old plaque from the Temple Mount warning foreigners not to enter the Temple area (Erdogan may not even be aware of what is in this Turkish museum). Ultimately, this is not a matter of establishing what is historical truth. Instead, the almost obsessive Palestinian preoccupation with denying Israel’s ties to Jerusalem is actually a new kind of political warfare they have decided to wage.

The Palestinians keenly understand the importance of Jerusalem to Israel – perhaps better than some on the Israeli side. They know that, historically, Jerusalem has had an essential role to play in the formation of Israeli identity. In any military struggle, a clear strategic objective is to strike at an adversary’s “center of gravity,” after which its collapse would be almost inevitable. Abbas’ envoy to Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, said on May 7, 2009, that if Israel were to withdraw from Jerusalem, the Zionist idea would begin to collapse. Thus, the purpose of their present assault on Jerusalem’s history is to strike at Israel’s “center of gravity” and weaken the foundations of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian Authority leaders have observed that most of the assertions they have made about Israel in recent years – like comparing it to apartheid South Africa – eventually get accepted without question or criticism. They have every reason to hope that the denial of the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem will gain supporters worldwide.

Israel needs to understand the contours of the new battle that has been imposed on it. It needs to insist that its representatives understand and learn for themselves Israel’s historical rights. These rights were well known to the generation of Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog, but unfortunately they have been forgotten in the recent past – at a time when they have become more relevant for the defense of Israel than ever.

This article originally appeared in Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →