Blogs > Cliopatria > Inventing a New History of Islam's Presence in Jerusalem

May 17, 2004 7:16 pm

Inventing a New History of Islam's Presence in Jerusalem

Daniel Pipes, in his blog (May 10, 2004):

Constructing a Counterfeit History of Jerusalem In"The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem," I focused on the intermittent and mostly instrumental Muslim interest in Jerusalem ("Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries") and at the end of the long article included a section titled"Dubious claims" where I listed four historically doubtful claims promoting the Islamic claim to Jerusalem (the Islamic connection to Jerusalem is older than the Jewish; the Qur'an mentions Jerusalem; Muhammad actually visited Jerusalem; and Jerusalem has no importance to Jews).

In a stunning update and extension, Yitzhak Reiter has written a study of the first and last of these dubious claims for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, a summary of which by Nadav Shragai is published today in Ha'aretz. He traces the development of a new Palestinian argument about Jerusalem, the main themes of which are that"the Arabs ruled Jerusalem thousands of years before the children of Israel" and"a denial and negation of the Jewish-Zionist narrative." The audacity of this specious presentation make the head spin. Here are a few, taken from the Shragai account:

  • The Muslims are slowly dropping use of the name given to the Temple Mount complex - Haram al-Sharif, which gave it its status as the third holiest site in Islam and reverting to exclusive use of the earlier name, Al-Aqsa, which appears in the Koran.
  • Contrary to the standard history whereby the Al-Aqsa mosque was built in the seventh century, in recent years an ancient tradition from the beginning of Islam has been gaining ground. According to it, the Al-Aqsa mosque was built 40 years after the construction of the mosque in Mecca by Adam (i.e., close to the seven days of creation). Other traditions that appear in the Waqf administration offices in Jerusalem attribute the building of the mosque to Abraham and Solomon.
  • The surroundings of Al-Aqsa mosque are not narrowly defined, as was the case in the past, and they are now providing an opening for the interpretation that Al-Aqsa refers to all of Jerusalem, and most recently, it refers to all of Palestine.
  • The fact that Israel's official policy - as embodied in the decisions of the Chief Rabbinate Council, the government and the High Court of Justice - leaves the administration of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Muslim Waqf is not recognized in the contemporary Muslim world. On the contrary,"the activities of extremist Jewish entities, some of them minuscule, to revive the [First] Temple ritual, is perceived and disseminated by Palestinian sources as if it is a reflection of official policy," says Reiter.

    It is dismaying to watch the construction of a counterfeit history as it happens. Not until the Palestinians are prepared to deal with reality millennia ago will they be ready to deal with reality today.

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