Saturday, November 18, 2017

Harvard Does (In) the Temple Mount (UPDATED)

As we learn from here, the Julis-Rabinowitz Program  on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School, founded out of a recognition that the benefactor's parents and relatives "made sure that the rich heritage of Judaism, including its values and history, and the importance of Israel, both to the Jewish People and the world, were consistent parts of our spiritual and intellectual growth" and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University will be holding an international academic conference on the topic of the "Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif: Conflict, Culture, Law" during November 28-29, 2017.

The Prince himself possibly won't attend as he is under arrest on suspicion of corruption crimes in his native Saudi Arabia.

[UPDATE: He may be hanging upside-down at this moment]

The aim of the conference is

to explore several specific, interlocking aspects of the dynamic struggle to conceptualize, govern, and control the site...through analysis of its complex history, the evolving religious beliefs and practices that are attached to it, and the intricate legal frameworks in which it is enmeshed...the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is an important lynchpin in a struggle of global importance, one that merits close attention and engagement by people everywhere. 

Leading scholars of history, religion, culture, and international law to approach these questions from a range of directions.

(By the way,  a conference titled “Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem” took place at Providence College on June 5-7, 2017 and involved about thirty scholars who discussed the archaeology and significance of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives.  Hmm. This one seems to have been much more academic and professional and less political.)(UPDATE: And another lecture on the subject in North Carolina's Wake Forest University on November 27 entitled: "Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif? Myth, Meaning, And Manipulation, An examination of ancient texts and current rhetoric".  And there was a three-day conference at Providence College in June, "Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem".)

Sounds almost wonderful. An academic conference, Jewish-Muslim cooperation and a high profile platform. Even "Temple Mount" precedes "Haram al-Sharif".

Almost wonderful, though. Almost but not quite.

Let's see the range of speakers.

Noah Feldman, Opening Remarks

Joseph Patrich, “From Restoration to Destruction: 600 years of the Second Jewish Temple”

Beatrice St. Laurent, “Unity in Diversity: Inclusiveness and Globalization in Early Islamic Jerusalem Reflected in the Dome of the Rock and the Haram al-Sharif (638-680)”

Suleiman Mourad, “Al-Haram al-Sharif of Jerusalem in the Muslim Historical Consciousness”

Moshe Halbertal, “Sovereignty and the Sacred: Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif”

Robert O. Smith, “Christian Zionism, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and the Contemporary Theopolitics of Jerusalem”

David Cook, “The Haram al-Sharif and Topographical Eschatology”

Jodi Magness, “Why is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Sacred?”

Jonathan Rubin, “From Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock to Templum Domini and Palatium Salomonis: The Temple Mount in the Frankish Period”

Sarina Chen, “To Challenge and to Obey: The Double Role of Israeli Women in Temple Mount Activist Groups”

Ali Abu Al-Awar, “Al-Aqsa Murabitat’s Accomplishments in the Political and Gender Levels”

David Landes and Assaf Harel, “Freedom of Worship: The Use of Human Rights Discourse by Jewish Temple Mount Activists”

Wasfi Kialani, “The Hashemite King’s Role and Status at Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, 1917-2017”

Nadia Abu El-Haj, “What Would a Shared Archeology Look Like?”

Yitzhak Reiter, “The Dynamics of Status Quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif”

Omar M. Dajani, “’Touching the Holy’: How Palestinians Negotiated Jerusalem”

Maymanah Farhat, “The Dome of the Rock in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Arab Art”

Heather Coffey, “Sustaining Vectors of Sacrality in Images of the Prophet’s Ascension (Mi‘raj)”

Pamela Berger, “The Dome of the Rock as Image of the Temple of Solomon”

Maya Balakirsky Katz, “Scaling the Divide: Architectural Scale Models of the Jerusalem Temple”

That's a list for an academic Jewish self-destruct death wish.  And the program deals with law.  No one to discuss the law?  The Law for the Protection of the Holy Places (Whosoever does anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years)?  Article 9 of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty (Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship)?

Let's start with Nadia Abu-al Haj. As even the NYTimes reported at the time

In her book...Dr. Abu El-Haj says Israeli archaeologists searched for an ancient Jewish presence to help build the case for a Jewish state. In their quest, she writes, they sometimes used bulldozers, destroying remains of other cultures, including those of Arabs.She concludes her book by saying the ransacking by thousands of Palestinians in 2000 of Joseph’s tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank, “needs to be understood in relation to a colonial-national history” of Israel and the symbolic resonance of artifacts.

The book, to take an extreme example, has been described as

a specious work as it aims to perpetuate under the guise of 'scholarship" the noxious lies perpetrated by Palestinain apologists, such as herself and others

Professor Jacob Lassner's review contained this

This is a book about the politicization of the academy. Her very title is revealing. One would expect a book on archeology to be titled Facts in the Ground, but her title is Facts on the Ground...her focus is less the "archeological practice" she stakes out in the subtitle and more the political uses of archeology, that is "territorial fashioning."


Abu el-Haj's reading of Israeli academic culture and its relationship to the politics of statehood politicizes the work of Israel's scholarly establishment in a way that can be misleading. Even when granting certain Israeli archeologists their academic integrity, she tends to describe their findings as bent by the state for its own political purposes. This is inaccurate... In the end, Abu el-Haj misrepresents the Israeli passion for archeology.

Earlier this year, we learned that

Abu El-Haj is a supporter of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and was among the leaders in the effort to push forward a resolution in the American Anthropological Association endorsing it (the resolution was narrowly rejected by the membership)

and as prominent investigative reporter Rachel Frommer has informed us, internal emails of a parallel group revealed that

The leadership of the American Studies Association (ASA) was "covertly pack[ed]" with professors known to be in favor of an academic boycott of Israel as part of a surreptitious effort to push the professional academic organization to adopt such a position

Not very academic that. 

Then there are David Landes and Assaf Harel.  Landes I personally heard at a Limmud Conference in England and was not impressed by his scholarship and certainly not by his political bent.  Harel definitely is a scholar.  He has written in the in-house journal of the radical leftist Van Leer Institute of a 

 persisting but altered centrality of messianism within the settlement project

and also that 

Alon Shvut offers one example of a successful amalgamation of messianism and Zionism

One need not be sympathetic to a subject one lectures on. One also need not be unsympathetic.

Omar Dajani  served as legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team in peace talks with Israel. In that capacity, he participated in negotiations of borders, security, and economic issues, including summits at Camp David and Taba.

Maya Balakirsky Katz has been published what seems an interesting book and her article is "Avi Yonah’s Model of Second Temple Jerusalem and the Development of Israeli Visual Culture". However, she does write on the model's use in a "public messianic campaign of Brooklyn-based Chabad Hasidim" as "contentious".

Sarina Chen's doctorate was published as a book, "Speedily in Our Days: The Temple Activists and The National Religious Society in Israel (Hebrew)" but almost a decade after it was completed.  It is woefully out-of-date as it does not deal with the major trend shift that has occurred in the past four-five years.

Yitzhak Reiter is an excellent choice, if he decides to confront unabashedly the Islamic campaigns he has studied that deny Jewish history and incite, based on falsehoods, to kill Jews. He is not at all pro-Temple Mount.

Jodi Magness wrote that letter correcting a NYTimes' error regarding the Temple Mount and is an outstanding archaeologist.

Joseph Patrich's findings are that the rock on which the Dome of the Rock is built is outside the confines of the Temple and he was at pains to stress "that his research on the location of the sanctuary on the Temple Mount is purely academic, and should not be dealt with in a political context."

Moshe Halbertal, a participant at solidarity protests on behalf of Sheikh Jarrah, thinks that Judaism has moved beyond the Temple Mount, a sort of orthodox Reform position. In a forum last year, he put forth the question, “Will the State of Israel survive the religion of Israel?”

Ali Abu Al-Awar, of whom I know nothing, is talking on the accomplishments of Al-Aqsa's Murabitat. The banned Murabitat is a proscribed organization, funded by the Islamic Movement-North, which for three years engaged in violence, both verbal and physical, including spitting at, pushing, bansheeing and endangering the safety of young children (and were suspected of planting glass shards on the pathways taken by religiously-observant Jews who walk them barefooted.  He may be reiterating the research of Salwa Alenat.  Four years ago I termed them the Wicked Witches of the Waqf.

Suleiman Mourad at least does not deny the Temple Mount's Biblical roots.

Robert O. Smith asserted that this summer's post-murder of three Israeli policemen confrontation at the Temple Mount was a "nonviolent movement" of "mass Palestinian nonviolent resistance" despite the multiple rock-throwing incidents at the site, not to mention various terrorist murders.  My reading of his thinking, that there was a "validation of religion as an effective component of resistance to state domination again changes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" was one of his pure excitement. Whether it was one of spiritual ecstasy is still, er, up in the air.  And he adds that "As much as Israel factors religious claims into its models of governance and security, it does so from a distinctively ethnocentric perspective". Does Islam do that as well? Or does it not?

That's enough, I think, to illustrate the conference's "balance".

No Nadav Shragai. No Dr. Shmuel Berkowitz, author of two books on the subject, The War of the Holy Places and How Fearful is This Place . Nor Dr. Moti Inbari.  No experts who might be even empathetic.  Maybe they couldn't come? Were they approached?

I, for what it is worth, am disappointed.  I was sure the staff at the Center could have organized a better conference. Why they didn't, I do not know.


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