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June 7, 2018 2:10 pm

Senior Adviser to PA President Abbas Reiterates Denial of Historic Jewish Link to Jerusalem, Land of Israel

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Mahmoud al-Habbash, senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: PA TV.

A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Arab and Muslim nations to stand firm in denying that there is any historical connection linking the Jewish people with the city of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in general.

“We must be careful when using a particular term or word in connection with Jerusalem, for this is not a conflict with the Jews, but a struggle between the real residents and owners of Jerusalem, who are Muslim, Christian, and Arab, and some foreign western imperialists that have no connection to this soil,” Mahmoud al-Habbash, a senior adviser to Abbas on religious affairs and the PA’s Supreme Shari’a Judge, told a conference in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Al-Habbash’s speech to the conference, organized under the banner of “The Monotheistic Religions Against the Judaization of Jerusalem and Its Holy Places,” recited the traditional litany of denial that the Palestinians have advanced in international forums such as UNESCO, the global cultural and educational agency.

“Palestine is not the (Jewish) Promised Land or the land of the (Jewish) forefathers — for if it is, why did they consider it as only one of several options when they started looking for a place for their state?” al-Habbash asked rhetorically.

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“There is a difference between faith and claiming territory based on a false Jewish or Biblical pretext whose sole purpose is to take over the land,” he continued, in a speech translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “The Al-Burak Wall (as the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City is described in Islamist circles) has nothing to do with a Jewish temple and the Jews have no right over its stones.”

“This is an imperialist myth that exploited and distorted history and the holy sites in order to advance and justify imperialist projects,” al-Habbash declared.

Denouncing the new US embassy in the Israeli capital as “an American settlement in Jerusalem, and an emblem of imperialism,” al-Habbash concluded, “We, 13 million (sic) Palestinians, say that Jerusalem will not be Judaized and its identity and culture will not be altered. It will remain the eternal capital of the Palestinian state.”

Often depicted as a Palestinian moderate amenable to negotiations with Israel despite a long record of similar comments, al-Habbash is a former Islamist who left the ranks of Hamas in 1994 — the same year that the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat arrived in the Gaza Strip. A self-described political “independent,” al-Habbash is regarded as one of Abbas’s most loyal aides and an implacable opponent of the political ambitions of Hamas.

On April 8, as Hamas began orchestrating confrontations with Israeli troops on the Gaza-Israel border, al-Habbash unleashed a fierce attack on the Islamist group during a Friday sermon.

Hamas was “selling illusions,” he declared, “trading in suffering and blood, trading in victims.”

Al-Habbash added, “These [Hamas] acts of ‘heroism’ don’t fool anyone anymore. The Palestinian people sides with the PLO.”

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