Mahmoud Abbas’ ‘bag of fibs’
Over the course of the last two decades, the Palestinians have been revising the history of Jerusalem and dating the Al-Aqsa Mosque back to the era of Kind David, King Solomon and the Temple, in contrast to what they have to documented in their own writings. On Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas added another chapter to the Palestinian “Bag of Fibs” (a reference to an Israeli collection of tall tales by Haim Hefer and Dan Ben-Amotz from 1956). He accused Israel of “employing the basest methods to remove any trace of Arab, Muslim and Christian characteristics from East Jerusalem.”
You can’t sink any lower than that. Abbas is apparently relying on the world’s short memory – so here is a reminder: The kind of freedom of religion that thrives in Jerusalem today is unprecedented. Before 1967, things were different. The Arabs had vowed in writing (Article 8 of the 1949 Armistice Agreement with Jordan) to allow the Jews access to holy sites beyond the border, but in practice they prevented the Jews from visiting the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb and the Mount of Olives.
The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was unrecognizable in 1967: About 50,000 of the 70,000 gravestones had been smashed. Many of them were used to build fences, roads and public toilets. The Arabs had soiled the Western Wall alley with manure and human feces. Even after 1967 the Palestinians made sure to blur the Jews’ connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites – not only in words but also through actions.
They vandalized and damaged antiquities on the Temple Mount. When I accompanied a group of students seeking to salvage some of the antiquities that the Palestinians had destroyed and scattered outside the compound like manure in a field, a Waqf official scolded us: “You have no business here, just like there was nothing here for the Crusaders. Jerusalem is Muslim.”
Incidentally, Bethlehem, which, in contrast to Jerusalem, was handed over to the Palestinians, did in fact become “Muslim.” The Christian majority there was severely oppressed by the Palestinian Authority and eventually became a minority.
The myth that the “Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger,” which Abbas and his followers repeat like a mantra, isn’t only a despicable lie, it is also the direct opposite of the truth. It is precisely with the Temple Mount that Israel made an unthinkable concession -- it essentially handed the Muslims the holiest Jewish site, even though it is only the third-holiest site in Islam. Archaeological excavations that supposedly attempt to “Judaize” Jerusalem have actually uncovered entire chapters of Muslim history alongside the Jewish and Christian findings. The archaeological park on the south side of the wall is just one example of this.
And this too: The Jerusalem neighborhoods that today house some 200,000 Jews were originally built on primarily unused and unpopulated land, while the integrated areas include more Arabs living in Jewish neighborhoods than Jews living in Arab neighborhoods.