- Benyamin Netanyahu has launched an Israeli effort to
achieve the earliest possible end to any Palestinian dreams about statehood.
Ignoring US White House and other international pressures to cease and
desist, settlers are expanding their grip on the most choice lands-and
waters-of the West Bank. Meanwhile, an official Israeli scramble is on
to foreclose any prospects of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
- The assaults (some long standing), include refusal
to allow Palestinians to enter East Jerusalem, confiscation of property
for "state" uses, condemnation and destruction of "illegally
built" Palestinian homes, refusal of building permits to Palestinians,
and continual harassment of those who refuse to leave. Tearing down the
old Shepherd Hotel and building apartments for Jews in its place, while
giving Jews permission to live anywhere, are just the latest steps in the
gross Israeli process of expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem.
- Election of a new American President, Barack Obama,
with an agenda to bring peace to Palestine appears to have put the cat
among Zionism's pigeons. To see where this is going requires a bit of history.
In 1947-48, when the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine began under
Prime Minister-to-be David Ben-Gurion, the Israeli forces adopted a basic
program design that has persisted to the present. As Israeli terrorist
groups, Stern and Irgun, began destroying Palestinian homes, farms and
villages, the goal was to destroy the evidence of Palestinian occupancy,
erase the history and create a Zionist narrative in its place. That narrative,
as touted in the West, became: The Israeli people took their ancient home,
which had become an unoccupied and undeveloped land and turned it into
a thriving new society.
- People who had never been to or perhaps never even
seen pictures of Palestine bought into this narrative. It worked especially
well on people who were ignorant of the Middle East. It has worked well
with fundamentalist American and other Christians dedicated to preparation
for the biblically prophesied "end of days." Scripturally at
least, that event requires Jewish control of Jerusalem's Temple Mount and
reconstruction of the temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE
(the Common Era that has replaced Anno Domini for enumeration of years
since the birth of Christ).
- The immediate Zionist quandary is what to do about
Jerusalem. Jerusalem has a history, some of it pretty spotty, of more than
three millennia. Biblically that goes back to a period when Moses led the
Children of Israel out of Egypt, across the Sinai desert and to Judea.
Without repeating that story, the period relevant to modern times is the
period of King Solomon, the son of King David, who built the first temple
on what is now the Temple Mount of Old Jerusalem. Since the birth of Christ
and the founding of Christianity, followed by the birth of Mohammed and
the founding of Islam, Old Jerusalem has been a sacred city to all three
Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
- The hard right Zionist leadership of Israel, led
by Benyamin Netanyahu, wants Jerusalem to become the exclusive capital
of an all Jewish state of Israel. Since founding their state in 1948,
the Israelis have sought to make Jerusalem their capital. Jews have been
a minor population of the region and the city for virtually all of the
past two thousand years, but as Abraham told it, God promised the land
of Israel to his descendents. Except for this promise recorded in the
sacred writings of both Jews and Christians, the Israelis have no claim
on the lands of Palestine. The validity of the claim is even less real
today, since the core population of the Zionists is Central European converts
to Judaism, not the legendary "people of the book" (called that
because they were referred to in holy scriptures) for whom the promise
is said to have been made.
- Aside from dubious rights of ownership, an equally
large and intractable expulsion problem hovers above the city like a dark
religious cape: the future of the historic Temple Mount. According to various
scholarly estimates, Solomon built the first temple on the mount in about
950 BCE (Before the Common Era). His temple, conceived by King David as
the repository for the Ark of the Covenant, was a sprawling structure with
an interior ceiling of more than 16,000 square feet and a height of 50
feet. Some of the foundation stones, brought by unknown means from quarries
miles away, weigh more than 20 tons. Even though Solomon's temple was apparently
razed to the ground in 586 BCE by the Babylonians, those foundation stones
were used to build a second temple sometime in the 600 years before 70
CE. In that year the temple was destroyed again, this time by the Romans.
The foundation stones are still in place.
- Complicating Jewish and Christian access to the mount
are two Islamic monuments: The Dome of the Rock, finished around 691 CE,
and the Al Aqsa Mosque. The mosque has a history longer than the Dome of
the Rock. It is considered the second oldest mosque in Islam (after Mecca),
and references to it antedate Mohammed's own construction of the mosque
at Medina in 622 CE. Al Aqsa was destroyed or damaged and rebuilt about
five times. The present Al Aqsa, completed about 1035 CE, is considered
the third most important site in Islam, Muslims believe that Mohammed,
whether in the flesh or in spirit, was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem's
Temple Mount in one night, and that event made Jerusalem Islam's third
holiest of places. That flight was the reason why in the early days of
Islam Muslims prayed facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem rather than the
Kaaba in Mecca. That change in Islamic practice occurred about a year and
a half after the migration of Mohammed and his followers to Medina from
Mecca, the event known as the Hijra (Hegira in Latin) that occurred in
about mid 622 CE.
- The real point of this history, as many religious,
historical and regional scholars point out, is that the Temple Mount is
a sacred site in *all three* Abrahamic religions. However, Israel captured
the whole of Jerusalem when it took the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967
war. At that time Israel turned Muslim holy places over to an Islamic
authority called in Arabic the Waqf. The term means inalienable religious
endowment. Since 1967, the Waqf has prevented Jews or others from entering
or performing religious ceremonies on the Mount. Israelis, notably those
in the Temple Movement and orthodox Jews, have pressed Israeli authorities
to override those restrictions, and it appears that the Netanyahu government
intends to follow through, perhaps opening the Mount to followers of all
- So long as visitors do nothing to invade or desecrate
the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque, it would seem there is no honest
choice but to open the Mount. If properly approached, rather than arbitrarily
confronted, one can hope the Waqf, along with Muslims in general, would
see the light on this.
- However, Israeli groups have not been standing still.
A recent edition of the Egyptian weekly Al Ahram reported that "three
huge granite stones rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street....in
Jerusalem's northernmost district. Cut to specification, the imposing stones
represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel
Faithful Movement to erect a Third Temple on the Haram Al-Sharaf Temple
Mount." That is the Arabic name for the Noble Sanctuary that includes
the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque and their surrounding gardens.
Al Ahram is right in suggesting that the stones in waiting are a provocation,
one that the Israeli government has done nothing to halt. Rather, Al Ahram
speculates "Neglect and passivity have led to a belief by Israeli
leadership that an eventual Muslim reaction to the increasing provocations
will give the Israel Defense Force an excuse to seize total control of
the Holy Basin." The term, Holy Basin, is used by numerous people
to mean the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, various Christian holy sites and
the Mount of Olives. It is the spiritual heart of Old Jerusalem for Christians,
Jews and Muslims.
- This is the historical footprint of Christianity.
For that reason, one of the first acts of the then newly formed United
Nations in 1947 was to propose holding Jerusalem as a UN administered territory.
President Bill Clinton proposed to administer the Holy Basin under a "special
regime". It is a critical part of the territory of East Jerusalem
that Netanyahu may try to incorporate into a greater Jerusalem in his effort
to expunge the Palestinians from Jerusalem and make it the exclusive capital
of Israel. As various reports out of Jerusalem indicate, the Netanyahu/Zionist
schematic is not merely to take exclusive control of Old Jerusalem including
the Temple Mount, but to erase all evidence of history in the area except
for limited and scattered Jewish sites and artifacts. In that direction,
the Israelis already have destroyed one Old Jerusalem Palestinian area
including its mosque. In one zone of the old city, the Israeli scheme is
to destroy Palestinian homes and businesses and turn the area into a park.
- Meanwhile, street names and local place names are
being reissued in Hebrew versions that erase the evidences of the non-Jewish
past. To recreate Old Jerusalem around its remnants of the Jewish past,
there are major symbolic hurdles: Important ones are the Dome of the Rock
and Al Aqsa Mosque. However, there are many more Christian than Muslim
- Among the most widely cherished by Christian denominations
being the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (built around 326 CE), the Garden
Tomb, the Church of St. John, the Condemnation Chapel, the Flagellation
Chapel, and Mary's Tomb.
- Many Israelis, especially among the young it seems,
would not take to an allegedly exclusive Israeli capital with a landscape
dominated by historic Muslim and Christian monuments. As that history
makes clear, redesigning East Jerusalem to focus on its limited Jewish
past has power to offend more than a third of humanity, counting only the
Christian and Muslim peoples. So far, however, the most visible offenses
have been directed against Muslims and their communities. As events move
in that direction, a major crisis is brewing in the whole of Islam. Over
a billion Muslims hold the holy places on the Temple Mount as the third
most holy of their roster of sacred precincts. If Israeli authorities actually
try to break the Waqf control of the Mount or to take it away, and especially
if any harm is done to the Dome of the Rock or Al Aqsa Mosque, street war
will break out.
- Archaeologists and scholars who have tried to open historic
tunnels or rooms below the Mount have excited demonstrations, bombings,
and other outbursts. Those will prove to have been tame by comparison with
the probable Islamic reactions to perceived desecration of the Mount by
starting to build something new on it. Such reactions are certain if any
new temple construction (as one group proposes) would cause damage to the
Dome of the Rock or require its destruction. Israel may well use such
outbursts to take over the Mount by warlike means and no doubt will succeed
on the ground. It will not be able to control reactions, however, that
will erupt throughout the region.
- No doubt the time is approaching when the Temple
Mount must become the commonly accessible property of all three Abrahamic
faiths. However, the future of the Temple Mount simply cannot be decided
by a military strike. If there is any change, it should be determined by
appropriate representatives of all three religious communities. Practically
speaking, the lead has to be taken by the Waqf. The Israeli goal, however,
as being pursued by Netanyahu, is to incorporate East Jerusalem, indeed
all areas of the ancient city of Jerusalem, in a singular capital for Greater
Israel. The Israelis want a world class capital, however, and at least
some believe that will not work if the principal ancient sites, place names
and relics pertain mainly to Islamic and Christian history.
- Here the egoistic Israeli narrative comes into play.
From the beginning of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as the Israelis
conquered territory they destroyed farms and villages and replaced them
with their own farms, homes, forests, whatever to fit the story that Israelis
took the barren wasteland of Palestine and turned it into a modern state.
- That narrative is now being played out in a new dimension
in East Jerusalem as the Israelis destroy Palestinian homes, streets, neighborhoods,
and historic sites in the old city. The design of Greater Israel, ruthlessly
pursued in the whole of ancient Palestine so far occupied by the Israelis,
has been to obliterate signs of Palestinian presence. It is the invention
of a new archaeology that preserves only the limited signs of an historic
Jewish presence. This is not a mere verbal rewriting of history, but a
systematic deletion of the evidences of the past. The Israeli approach
to a takeover, indeed makeover, of Old Jerusalem is both elaborate and
extravagant. Construction of new Jewish homes on the sites of destroyed
Palestinian homes progresses rapidly.
- On one eleven acre site a gated community of million-dollar
condominium residences is being offered to wealthy US investors.
- Meanwhile, a schizophrenic pattern of US policy is
being presented to the Israelis. The recent visit of 25 members of Congress
under the leadership of House Republican Whip Eric Cantor illustrates the
extremes. Contrary to official US policy, that delegation sided unanimously
with Netanyahu on continuing settlement construction, while Cantor drove
the point home by visiting a settlement that was clearly in West Bank Palestinian
territory and that the Israel Supreme court had declared illegal. Cantor
further revealed the extremes of Washington political thinking when he
pooh-poohed the idea of the 1967 Green Line as the border between Israel
and the Palestinian state and he criticized the White House for taking
exception to Israeli expulsion of two Palestinian families from their East
- The reality that Congress, the Obama administration
and the American public must now take on board is that the situation is
reaching dangerous, more than likely explosive, intensity. The Israeli
right obviously anticipates that it can act in ways that result in an Islamic
explosion and get the whole problem blamed on the Palestinians. The Israeli
actions further perfect a strategy that has worked for at least six decades:
Keep most Americans ignorant of real life at the eastern end of the Mediterranean,
keep taking Palestine away from its historic owners, and continue to play
the victim of Palestinian "terrorism". The strategy may decline
in value as more and more people become aware of the Palestine situation.
However, the danger is that, as repeatedly in the past, the Israelis will
create new "facts on the ground" , count on the United States
to defend its right to do so, and stall out genuine peace talks. Under
this strategy the Palestinian people --- immediately those of East Jerusalem
--- will go on paying the price for Israel's continued ethnic cleansing