Israeli chutzpah over the Temple Mount, Western Wall

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock on Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Photo: Kristoffer Trolle

You would think from the Israeli reactions (even, surprisingly, from Haaretz) that the title of the UNESCO resolution passed on Thursday was, “There Was Never Any Jewish Temple In the First Place.” Haaretz’s headline said the agency was guilty of “nullifying Jewish ties to Temple Mount.” Isaac Herzog said UNESCO was “completely invent[ing] the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people.” You can imagine what Netanyahu and the right wing were saying.

This is Israeli propaganda that I’m sorry Haaretz fell for. (I don’t expect any better from Herzog.)

The resolution, put forward by the Palestinians and six Muslim countries, protests Israel’s actions in and around the Temple Mount and against Muslims praying or seeking to pray there. (Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the site.)

No mention of these complaints, however, is made in Israel. The only thing in the resolution that got noticed here was that it referred to the Temple Mount, which is what Jews and Christians call the place, only as “Al-Haram al-Sharif” – the “Noble Sanctuary,” which is what Muslims call it. (The measure also referred to the Western Wall as “Al-Buraq Plaza” followed by the words “Western Wall Plaza,” but with the latter in quotation marks, which also pissed Israelis off.)

I don’t know if all the claims made in the UNESCO resolution are true. I don’t know if, as claimed, Israel is blocking Muslim restoration projects or harming Muslim interests with its own earth-moving work. One thing I do not believe is that the State of Israel is deliberately “endangering Al-Aqsa,” as Palestinians and other Muslims are convinced. Moreover, the common Muslim dismissal of Jewish roots at the holy site is a deep insult to Jews, and speaks very badly for popular Muslim attitudes.

But while Palestinian and Muslim notions about the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif are a problem, it’s quite a display of blind arrogance for Israeli Jews to insist that Muslims include the Jewish name for the site in a complaint about Israel’s rule over it, and that if they don’t, they’re guilty of, effectively, anti-Semitism. (Incidentally, the resolution “affirm[s] the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions …”)

I say “blind arrogance” because only the most fastidiously even-handed Israeli Jew ever refers to that site as anything but the Temple Mount. It’s safe to say that most Jews are unfamiliar with the name “Haram al-Sharif.” An even greater majority draw a blank on “Al-Buraq Plaza.”

Should they be accused of “nullifying Muslim ties to Haram al-Sharif”? Does speaking only of the Temple Mount make them, in effect, Islamophobes?

Western Wall Plaza/Al Buraq Square.
Western Wall Plaza/Al Buraq Square.

Also, the Israeli reaction is quite a display of colonial hauteur given that the Jewish state is the ruler over the holy site, that Israeli cops are stationed in the general area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, that Israel determines who can go there to pray and who can’t, and that it blocks Palestinians in the West Bank from getting not only to Al-Aqsa but to any part of Jerusalem.

Finally, it’s incredible chutzpah for Israelis to insist that the resolution’s Muslim sponsors mention the Temple Mount and the Western Wall (and the latter without the insolent quotation marks, thank you) – when Israel has deliberately erased the names, and often the actual physical presence, of so many Muslim holy sites over the decades.

Israelis don’t forget how Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places in Jerusalem when the Old City fell under the kingdom’s control after the 1948 war. Yet in May 2001, historian Benny Morris (evidently before he swung so sharply to the right) told me in an interview:

“What the Jordanians did to the synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem pales in comparison to what Israel did to many more mosques all over the country.”

Mosques stood in about half of the 400-plus Arab villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 War of Independence, and except for a few isolated instances, the mosques were destroyed with everything else, Morris said. Another “several dozen” mosques were demolished in cities where Arabs fled or were forced out, such as Jaffa and Ashkelon, he added.

In some cases, mosques were left standing and repurposed, so to speak, by Israel. For instance, Morris said, the mosque in the prewar Arab village of Zakariyya was turned into a fuel storage dump in the postwar Jewish village of Zecharia. He noted:

“If this had been done to a Jewish synagogue, we would call it desecration.”

And in the decades since 1948, as I was told by Meron Benvenisti, author of “Sacred Landscape – The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948” and one-time deputy mayor of Jerusalem, “A great many Muslim burial sites were turned into the graves of Jewish saints.”

So I ask myself: If I were a Palestinian Muslim, and all this was my history, and now I was barred from going to Jerusalem, or at best I had to pass through an Israeli police cordon to pray at Al-Aqsa, and there was of course no way in hell Israel would let me visit Al-Buraq Square, and I wasn’t hearing Jews using the names “Al Buraq” or “Haram al-Sharif” – would I make sure to mention the name “Temple Mount”? Would I be careful to take out the quotation marks when I mentioned the name “Western Wall”?


Further reading:

“Full text of new UNESCO resolution on ‘Occupied Palestine,'” Times of Israel, October 13, 2016.

“UNESCO backs motion nullifying Jewish ties to Temple Mount,” Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz, October 13, 2016.

“Where are the mosques of 1948?” Larry Derfner, Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2001.

Published by

Larry Derfner

I was born in New York in 1951, grew up mainly in Los Angeles, began my career in journalism in 1981, and moved to Israel in 1985. I live in Modi’in with my wife Philippa and sons Alon and Gilad.

6 thoughts on “Israeli chutzpah over the Temple Mount, Western Wall”

  1. I think you’re missing a key point.
    That being, what’s important in this UNESCO vote is not the two sides’ individual political narratives, but the fact that a UN agency officially choose one historical viewpoint over the other when the historical facts — as opposed to current government policy — are well established.
    To say the area is important to all three major Abrahamic faiths is not the same thing — and in fact is diminishing — as explaining why that is so based on the historical record.

    1. UNESCO is not in any way saying that the it’s a Muslim holy site and not a Jewish one because of the wording of the resolution. That’s a huge overreaction. And while I think you and Haaretz, for instance, are acting in good faith, Netanyahu and the others are not – they’re inventing anti-Semitism again and trying to bludgeon the goyim with it.

  2. My problem Larry is that the claim is false and that everyone is running to talking points instead of telling the truth. I have been on the Temple Mount, it is not a respectful place towards Jews particularly but to anyone who is not visibly Muslim. It is a controlled by Islamic supremacists who give Muslims and violent resistance groups complete reign of the place.

    Here’s my talking point. Why is it that there are cameras recording every Israeli crime real or Pallywood created but there are no cameras on the Temple Mount after there were allegations made against Israel and Israel offered to put them up ?

    It is because the Islamist supremacists and Palestinian militants and their supporters do not want exposed what goes on up there or surely there would be a B’Tzelem contingent permanently stationed there.

    That is the truth and everyone knows it and it is this that creates the hysterical blow black.

    The Jewish people should have full control over their holiest site just as the Muslims control Mecca and the Christians control the Vatican. Its not complicated except that the rules are different for Jews.

    In the words of Eric Hoffer

    In May 1968, about a year after the Six Day War, he wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times titled “Israel’s Peculiar Position:”

    The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. Turkey threw out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single one.[18]

    Hoffer asks why “everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world” and why Israel should sue for peace after its victory

    Israel won the war Larry and should have the balls to control its captured territory, including and especially the Temple Mount. If they were to take it over completely and allow it to be a place where people of all faiths were treated equally and with respect we would have a lot less violence.

    Israel does a lot of wrong with regards to the Palestinians but the problems on the Temple Mount are because Islamists are allowed too much control there.

    1. Thanks, Dr. C. I think the opposite of Hoffer – Israel is the last bastion of colonialism in the world, the last country that holds a foreign people under hostile military rule and offers it neither independence nor citizenship. The last one. All the other colonial powers gave up their colonies, only Israel is allowed to hold onto them. I think this is because of Western guilt over the Holocaust, Western (especially American) Islamophobia and the connection implied by the term “Judeo-Christian.” So yes, there is a double standard – in Israel’s favor.

  3. Sorry, dear Larry. I’m not going along with you on this one.
    I’m yet to meet a Muslim who acknowledges that this site has significance to Jews or Christians.
    This is the reason also I insist that Temple Mount site be, unequivocally, be associated with Jews and Christians by its title (no double quotes, no innuendos).
    Allowing erosion in Temple Mount historic (not religious!) significance to Jews (oh, well, also Christians) is, to me, opening the flood gates for questioning any association of Jews to our part of the world.

    1. Thanks, Ittai, I understand where you’re coming from. I would say that once Israel ends its rule over the Temple Mount and the rest of the “holy basin” that’s also holy to Muslims, then we will be on solid ground in insisting on the Jewish names always being used as well as the Muslim names. But as long as we’re ruling over those sites and the Muslims who live there, which is a much greater offense than the wording of a resolution, I think it’s petty for Israel to focus on the names – and it’s an obvious attempt at distracting from the much greater injustice of Israeli rule. One day, inshallah. 🙂

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