Thursday, February 17, 2011

On The Subject of Islamic Temple Denial

Some excerpts from this article at The American Interest by Yitzhak Reiter:

King Solomon's Vanishing Temple

...There are now, however, two new nightmares to trouble our sleep. The lesser one concerns the recent Israeli demand that the Palestinians explicitly recognize Israel as a “Jewish state”; this demand may well cause more problems than it can solve. Closely related is the greater nightmare: the Palestinian leadership’s insistent denial of history. To be specific, Palestinian public discourse claims that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem. It refuses to even acknowledge, let alone tolerate, the universally accepted history of the city and of other parts of the country. For example, the Palestinian Authority recently complained to the Chinese organizers of the Shanghai Expo (through its representative in Egypt, Barakat al-Farra) about Israeli exhibitions that speak, among other things, of the history of Jerusalem. More recently, UNESCO acceded to Palestinian and Arab demands to recognize the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel as “Palestinian” sites. And still another is the appearance in November 2010 on the Information Ministry web page of the Palestinian Authority government of a paper written by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a Ministry official, denying any Jewish historical association with the Western (outer) Wall of the Second Temple Mount.

...Most Israelis were first exposed to the Palestinian denial of history in July 2000. According to U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross, when Jerusalem was discussed during the second Camp David summit, Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat asserted that “the Temple never existed in Jerusalem, but rather in Nablus.” Another senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, asserted, the “Jerusalem Temple is a Jewish invention.” President Bill Clinton was astonished: “Not only do all of the world’s Jews believe that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount, but most Christians believe it, too.”...After these events went public, 91 percent of Israelis (according to a public opinion survey conducted by Mina Tzemach) rejected a compromise deal based on exclusive Palestinian control of the Haram al-Sharif, the holy shrine where the two Jewish Temples once stood and which Jews call Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount). The Palestinian rhetorical innovation has clearly been a major factor in persuading Israelis of the moderate left peace camp that Israel has “no real partner for peace” among Palestinians. Indeed, it is reasonable to surmise that if the same Palestinian denial of Jewish affinity to the Temple Mount had been voiced in 1993, the Oslo Accords would never have been signed [my emphasis - YM].

...On September 25, 2003 a delegation of Arab leaders from northern Israel visited Arafat at his Muqata‘a compound in Ramallah to show solidarity with the Palestinian Al-Aqsa Intifada (the second Palestinian uprising), which started in September 2000. The guests were surprised when Arafat lectured them on al-Aqsa, insisting that no Jewish Temple had existed in either Jerusalem or Nablus; rather, he claimed it had been in Yemen. Arafat said that he himself had visited Yemen and been shown the site upon which Solomon’s Temple had stood. A year earlier, another Palestinian public figure, Haj Zaki al-Ghul (Jerusalem’s “shadow” mayor from Amman), voiced a similar claim. In a 2002 lecture at the annual al-Quds conference in Jordan, al-Ghul stated that King Solomon had ruled over the Arabian Peninsula, and that it was there, not in Jerusalem, that he built his Temple.

It was not al-Ghul, however, who introduced Yasir Arafat to this Palestinian version of invented history and it was not even another Palestinian. The honor belongs to Kamal Salibi, professor emeritus at the American University of Beirut and subsequently Director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies in Amman...Salibi claimed that Biblical Jerusalem was located in the Arabian Nimas highlands, halfway from Mecca to Yemen...

...The Palestinian need to refute Jewish history (and their own) regarding the Temple and Jerusalem in general arose only after Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though Israel left the administration of the Temple Mount to the Muslim waqf clergy (then under exclusive Jordanian control, and later joined by a Palestinian partner), the fall of the al-Aqsa Mosque into Jewish hands triggered a process of historical denial among Arabs and Muslims across the world. By 1981, this process yielded the first written denial by the PLO that there was any historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Four years before Salibi’s book saw light of day, Samir Jiryis (another Christian scholar, as it happens), stated in a PLO publication that there was no foundation for Jerusalem’s sacredness to Judaism.2

Post-1967 Palestinian historical revisionism stands in stark contrast to the Arab and Muslim narrative about Jerusalem dating back more than a thousand years. As recently as 1929, when bloody communal riots broke out in and over Jerusalem, the Supreme Muslim Council of Palestine published a Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, which maintained the following: “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (2 Samuel XXIV, 25).”

...In contrast to the classical sources, post-1967 Islamic writing (by Palestinians and others) that denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem claims that the Temple never existed and that Solomon’s Temple, if there ever was such a thing, was at most the King’s personal prayer room. In any case, Solomon is regarded as an early Islamic figure, Sulayman. The mythology is so strong that it occludes its own origin.

To support this contention, Palestinians and other Muslim writers must logically contend that there are no archeological findings from the Temple period that would refute their view. This is rubbish of the archeological sort...[but]...Palestinian-Jordanian historian Kamil al-‘Asali maintains in his 1992 book on travelers’ accounts about Bayt al-Maqdis (the original Arabic name for al-Quds, or Jerusalem) that, “Modern archeology has not succeeded in proving that the site on which the Temple stood is located in this place, since no remnants of the Temple have survived.” The refuters neglect the fact that because the Temple compound rests underneath the Dome of the Rock—a Muslim holy shrine—excavations have never been conducted under the entire Haram compound. Sheikh Abd al-Hamid al-Sa’ih, the President of the Palestinian National Council from 1984–93, was until 1967 the highest Palestinian religious authority in Jerusalem. In his book he claimed that the Egyptian engineer who restored the Dome of the Rock during the 1960s told him that he had dug several meters under the Rock and “found no evidence of a more ancient structure.”

...Another Palestinian claim is that the Jewish presence in Jerusalem was short-lived, consisting merely of some seventy years of David and Solomon’s reigns. The truth is that the First and Second Temples together functioned for about a millennium—from roughly 1006 BCE to 586 BCE, and from 516 BCE to 70 CE. The Palestinian al-Quds University website nonetheless underlines in the chronology of the city that the Jews ruled Jerusalem for only 73 out of 5,000 years.3

...the Egyptian archeologist Abd al-Rahim Barakat, who wrote that “the legend of the alleged Temple is the greatest crime of fabricating history.”4 According to him, David and Solomon built small houses of worship, not a Temple, while the Israelites did not in any case adhere to the religion of Solomon, who preached faith in Allah, the One God. In other words, King Solomon was more a Muslim, some 1,600 years before the birth of Muhammad, than he was a Jew. This is a view shared by the vast majority of Muslims.

Indeed, many Muslim authors now refer to the Jewish Temple with the term al-haykal al-maz’um, meaning “the alleged Temple”, as if the Temple itself was a Jewish invention lacking any factual basis. For example, Egyptian writer Abd al-Tawab Mustafa writes in his book dedicated to refuting the “Jewish lie about the Temple”: “We came to realize that the Jews’ belief in the Temple is no more than a false allegation that does not hold up in the face of scientific criticism, since the Jews’ supposed scholarship on the topic is not true scientific research, but rather speculations and hypotheses.”

...In contrast to the Muslim phenomenon of completely denying the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem, however, the Jewish counterpart does not deny the holiness of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Islamic affiliation with the Old City. Nor has this narrative ever been promoted by senior Israeli leaders, not even those in the current right-of-center coalition government. Jews do not deny that the Muslims consider Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif as their third holy city and shrine. However, they believe that the holy status of the city and the al-Aqsa compound is a late development aimed at strengthening their arguments in the political arena...

1 See my Jerusalem and Its Role in Islamic Solidarity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
2 The Arabic source for this and all subsequent citations in this essay are available from the author upon request.
3 See
4 See, article 232.

Read it all.

And there are too many Egyptians in that denial business.



Y. Ben-David said...

Thanks for posting this important article. This matter has puzzled my for a long time. Note that they keep contradicting themselves...first the Temple is in Shechem, then it is in Arabia.
Arafat told the Pope that Jesus was the "first Palestinian", but then they tell other people that the ancient Canaanites were "Palestinian", so how could Jesus be the first.
No wonder their societies are so fouled up...when there is no such concept as truth and intellectual rigorousness.

Anonymous said...

I'm adding this a few months later...

It is interesting to note that the "Palestinians" deny Jewish association with Jerusalem, despite not only Biblical documentation of this connection but also very extensive archeological discoveries over the past two centuries that PRECISELY confirm the Biblical account. By contrast, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, not even once. The Muslim association to Jerusalem only arose much later, when they realized that Jerusalem was important to the Jews. Then the story of al-Buraq was invented. In the Muslim narative, Mohammed flew on his winged-donkey, al-Buraq, all the way from Arabia (now Saudi Arabia) to Jerusalem. (Mohammed has no other association with the Holy Land.) So you have a choice: are you more likely to accept the Jewish narrative, with the Biblical and archeological support, or do you prefer the flying donkey story?