Monday, December 6th | 2 Tevet 5782

January 22, 2018 1:12 pm

Islam and Jerusalem

avatar by Jeremy Rosen


The Israeli flag at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Photo: Hynek Moravec via Wikimedia Commons.

Why is the Muslim world up in arms about Jerusalem being declared the capital of Israel? After all, Jerusalem is made up of different areas — just as Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island are all part of New York City. The part of Jerusalem that contains the Knesset and is the administrative heart of Israel is located on land that has been part of the state since 1948, and is quite separate from the Old City and the lands reclaimed from Jordan in 1967.

There is no logical reason why Palestine, if it is ever established, should not declare its capital at Abu Dis, a suburb to the east — and part of Jerusalem, too. The fuss is clearly not about Jerusalem itself, but something else.

The religious reason given for Muslim opposition to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is that the Old City is a holy city for Islam, and that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the place that Mohammad visited in a dream. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran — and a mosque was not built on the Temple site until almost 100 years after Mohammad’s time.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, incidentally, is not — and was not — the golden-domed mosque, as the world seems to think. That one was known as Omar’s, and was built in 691. Al-Aqsa, the less impressive one, was built in 705. But Muslim interest in Jerusalem as a holy city only began in response to the Crusaders, who called Jerusalem their holy city (because they believed Jesus had been buried in the Holy Sepulcher there). In reality the holy cities of Islam under Mohammad were Mecca and Medina.

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Just as Jews have a written Torah and an oral Torah, Islam has the Koran and the Hadith. It is the Hadith, compiled over several hundred years after the prophet, that mentions a holy city in addition to Mecca and Medina — and claims that Jerusalem was the one that contained a holy mosque. Many scholars dispute this, because there was no mosque in Jerusalem until long after Mohammad died. They argue that the third mosque was in Yemen, at a place called al-Maqdis. Because al-Maqdis, sounds like Mikdash, the Hebrew phrase for the “holy place,” tradition associated the name with the Jerusalem temple. But this was essentially a move to compete with the Christians, rather than the Jews. There is no tradition in the Koran or the Hadith of praying for Jerusalem.

There is another issue.

All the areas conquered by the Muslims under Mohammad, Omar and the Umayyad dynasty are considered Islamic territory. In the last millennia, anyone living there had to accept Islam as the supreme authority, and resign themselves to being dhimmis. Christians and Jews, who could live there, were required to pay a tax to Islam — the Jizya. The stated aim of Islam at the time was to reconquer all such territory, including Spain. Returning to Al-Andalus remains a common theme of jihadis. They also want to reclaim the land in Europe that they once held when — at the height of Islamic expansion — they reached Budapest and Vienna.

Because of all this, Jews living in Muslim territory, having self-determination and freedom from Islamic rule is something they fundamentally oppose.

The Koran states (according to one translation):

Pharaoh sought to scare them [the Israelites] out of the land [of Israel]: but We [Allah] drowned him [Pharaoh] together with all who were with him. Then We [Allah] said to the Israelites: “Dwell in this land [the Land of Israel]. When the promise of the hereafter [End of Days] comes to be fulfilled, We [Allah] shall assemble you [the Israelites] all together [in the Land of Israel].”

We [Allah] have revealed the Qur’an with the truth. … We have sent you [Muhammed] forth only to proclaim good news and to give warning.”

Yet the Islamic world of today denies this. The use of violence, which is permitted by the Hadith to recover lost territory, ignores the Koran itself when applied to Israel.

Originally, Muslims had always allowed the Jews to live in the Old City. Only the Crusaders massacred the Jews and drove them out. So why did Islam suddenly change?

When Jordan conquered the Old City in 1948, it destroyed the synagogues and the Jewish Quarter, and forbade Jews from entering. Why? Because all subjected peoples had to accept their inferiority. And the idea of an inferior people standing up to Muslim power was an affront and a repudiation of Islamic power and honor. But the greatest humiliation of all is the reminder that barely 14 million Jews are standing up to nearly two billion Muslims.

The use of violence as a political tool began with the Arab riots of 1922. The argument that the Western powers were imperialists might have been true when it came to breaking up the Ottoman Empire. But Jews had been living in the Middle East from before Islam began. In 1948, most Jews in the world lived in Muslim lands and spoke Arabic. The reaction to Israeli independence was to expel these Jews from almost every Muslim land that they lived in. Hatred of Israel, then, had nothing to do with settlements or Israel’s capital. It was against their very existence as an independent entity. The only Arab leader prepared to accommodate Israel at the time was King Abdullah of Jordan, who was assassinated in 1951. So was President Sadat for making peace.

Although many moderate Muslims reject these extremes, the simple populace — ignorant, whipped up by fanatics, and paid to demonstrate — have become accustomed to antisemitic ideas, and the constant preaching of hatred by many (not all) imams and mullahs around the Muslim world. Sympathy for the Palestinians is understandable. We Jews would sympathize and support any Jewish community that we felt was being mistreated. Why shouldn’t Muslims? One cannot expect neutrality.

I do not want to negate Israeli mistakes, mistreatments or the evils of occupation. But each side has its polemics. And if the overwhelming worldview, as expressed in the United Nations, is against Israel and against its history, why shouldn’t I argue for my people first? To claim that Israel is committing genocide is a joke, because both within Israel and in the West Bank, the Palestinian Arab population has been growing, not shrinking. If Israel has such a powerful and efficient army, why is it so incompetent, failing so abysmally to achieve its supposed aim of killing off Palestinians? The argument of imperialism and colonialism is a joke. The biggest imperialists and colonialists over the past millennium have been Arabs and Muslims themselves.

Recognizing Israel’s right to name its own capital is the first step in stopping the policy of appeasement. The US has not said that the Palestinians cannot also have their capital in East Jerusalem. And when it comes to Jerusalem, Israel has guaranteed access to everyone since 1967. The same was not true under Muslim rule.

This week, Abbas admitted for the first time in public that he believes the Jews have no claim whatsoever to Jerusalem or Israel. It is time to stop appeasement and to negotiate honestly — face to face — without an army of supporters behind the scenes urging the Palestinians to hold out for more. Their suffering pains me, but it’s time to set the record straight on the true source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Palestinian rejectionism.

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