The Palestinian Claim to Jerusalem
We have heard for the last 50 years that the Palestinians demand part of Jerusalem, they claim a historical and religious right to the city, but is this claim correct? Are there historical and religious writings that support this? While I don’t like making religious arguments, they are subject not to logic or historical accuracy, rather what one deity said to one people, yet you look at another their deity said another thing; since I am a not a god, nor a deity in any way, trying to make such an argument makes little sense, but we can look at the writings, see what the historical records show, see if there is a change of claim over the years. I first would prefer to deal with the element I am most comfortable, the historical, we will start there then move to the religious claims.
So let’s look at the historical. The claim here is that the city of Jerusalem is the ancestral capital of the Palestinians, the question to ask is, “When?” In all of history, there have only been two people that have had the city as their capital, the Hebrews, and the crusaders. The ancient Davidic line, or as it is known in Hebrew Malkhut Beit David (מלכות בית דוד), had the city as their capital, this practice carried out after the Babylonian conquest and the return of Jews under Darius to the land. While they were under Persian control, then later Alexander came along and then were under the Hellenistic rule, the city was always the administrative and religious capital of the nation, when the Maccabees were able to break free from the Seleucids who had taken control the area around 200 BCE, it was after they had tried to destroy religious Jews that they rose up and shook the power of the Seleucids from them, once more Jerusalem became the capital of the kingdom, now named Judea .
When the Jews broke free, the kingdom was not very large, it had Jerusalem as the center, the Maccabees cleansed the temple, this is what the festival of Hanukkah is celebrating , then put his brother in place as High Priest, as priest-kings they then ruled the nation rule lasted until 63 BCE when the Romans came along and made the nation part of Rome, but kept the Hasmonean king on the throne as a vassal king. Their rule and last of the line was murdered when Herod the Great took the throne, this had much to do with the land being passed as a vassal state between the Romans and the Parthian empire, had the last Hasmonean ruler handed over to the Romans who then murdered him, his name was Antigonus II Mattathias . Up until this time the only people that had ever had the city as their capital were the Jews.
The land continued as a vassal state of Rome, it was ruled by Herod, later his offspring, this lasted until the Jewish revolt, had something to do with the Romans trying to desecrate the temple, the holiest site to all of Judaism, the Romans put down the revolt called the Great Revolt, this culminated in the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the second Jewish temple, at this point the Romans in response expelled all Jews from Jerusalem, later in the Bar Kokhba revolt, this resulted in the majority of the Jews being expelled from the land, the nation then was changed in name and absorbed into Syria, it was then called Syria-Palestina. Even after this revolt, contrary to popular belief, the Jews were not all expelled, they still maintained a presence in the land, had at this point for over 1,200 years and have continued to this day, but after the first Jewish revolt at no time was Jerusalem any longer their capital.
After this the city, for the most part, was not important, to punish the Jews the Romans had built a pagan temple at the site the temple had stood, then when they broke into two empires, the Byzantine empire controlled this part, were for the most part friendly towards the Jews, at one time had even given permission for the temple to be rebuilt, but an earthquake put an end to that. Then came the rise of Islam the conquest of the city, I will get into that next, the importance and the religious significance of the city to Islam, but before that there was a short-lived crusader kingdom, know as the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the only time in history a people outside the Jews had used the city as their capital.
The Islamic Claim that Jerusalem is Holy
The Islamic claim to Jerusalem is that Mohammad flew in a magical winged horse, flew to the furthest mosque in Jerusalem, and then flew up to heaven. The steeds name was Al-Burāq (Arabic: البُراق al-Burāq “lightning”), this was supposed to be the animal that took Mohammad.
The Islamic writings state:
Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me. … The animal’s step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight. — Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari (Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:58:227; Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:58:227).
So where exactly was this animal or winged horse supposed to bring him to? Let’s look once more to Islamic sources:
Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things). — Qur’an, sura 17 (Al-Isra), ayah 1
According to Islamic writings, Mohammad was taken by this winged horse to the furthest mosque, but one has to ask, how could this have had been Jerusalem?
The tradition we are told is this was where the Al-Aqsa Mosque was, but how is that possible, the mosque was built over 59 years after the death of Mohammad, there was no other mosque in the land, in fact it was not until over 5 years after the death of Mohammad that Islam spread by conquest first to Egypt, and then later to Syria by Abu Ubaidah, who was Caliph Omar’s commander of the armies, on April 637 he had subdued Jerusalem, the patriarch of the city then asked that he only surrender to the Caliph, thus they had to wait for the Caliph to arive, he did so in April 637, signed the The Umariyya Covenant, this gave religious freedoms not only to Christians but Jews as well, so long as they paid jizya (a religious tax on none Muslims), this mind you was after the death of Mohammad who had died June 632, this would have been two months shy of 5 years after his death .
Upon arriving at the city Omar asked to be taken to the temple after the treaty of surrender was signed, he was shocked and dismayed what he saw on the site when he arrived. The Christians to the dismay of the Jews living there had used the Temple Mount as a garbage dump, when Omar arrived the garbage was so high he had to dismount his horse, he and his men then had to climb up the pile of garbage to view the site . He then set about with the residence of the city and his men had the site cleared, he then built a wooden prayer house that stood until Al-Aqsa Mosque was built, that went up 59 years after the death of Mohammad . The wooden structure was written about 10 years later by bishop Arculf who visited the city.
So the question has to be asked, how could have Mohammad have had visited a site that had not mosque when he was alive? The early Islamic scholars never said the site was in Jerusalem, in fact, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya (638-700), a close relative of the Prophet Muhammad, is quoted denigrating the notion that the prophet ever set foot on the Rock in Jerusalem; “these damned Syrians,” by which he means the Umayyads, “pretend that God put His foot on the Rock in Jerusalem, though [only] one person ever put his foot on the rock, namely Abraham.” It is interesting in the lack of interest in the city if it was the third most holy site in Islam, a claim that started after the Jews started to return, why wasn’t treated as such prior to this? If you look at the pictures of the temple mount you see a site overrun with weeds with the buildings in disrepair.
What is more interesting, if the city was held in such holy regard, then why was it in the Muslims offered it the Crusaders if they would vacate all of Egypt, further, when the crusades first started, there was no mention of Jerusalem, it was not until after they were trying to stir up the population that suddenly they found the city so important, but even then not one word ever said about the mosques there being the site of the last mosque.
What is more, not once in the whole Koran was the city mentioned, in fact, the land was mentioned as the near land, so if there was a mosque that had stood there, which there was not, then why would they refer to it as the furthest mosque?
What we in reality have is as time has gone by, the Muslims have gone from site to site they conquer, find the holiest site to the people that live there, build a mosque to show Islam’s power over the people and the faith. Until the Crusades, with the exceptions of the Umayyads, there was little attention paid to the site, when the Umayyads tried to make the city seem holy, it was rejected by the very relative of Mohammad. What is more, if the site was so holy, then why is it in both sanctuaries there is not one mention of this in all the Arab writing on the walls?
The reality is once more we see a motion by Muslims to fight what they saw as an encroachment on sanctified Islamic land, to try to halt the claim of the land you had the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s, who was an ex Ottoman officer set up the narrative that the site was holy, being a rabid antisemitic he later went to Germany, worked with Hitler and Germany setting up Islamic SS Death squads, he was the one that started this, sent letters around the Arab world, claimed that the Jews were moving to blow up the mosques on the site, something you seem to hear each time a riot starts, the Arabs then started to ship funds to fix up the mosques and put gold leaf on the Dome of Rock, it was then that the claim of this being the third most holy site of Islam was started.
Since that time the Arabs have done late night excavations to destroy any trace of Jewish history on the site, even though in the early Arab writings on the site they openly admit to it being the site of the Temple, the Arabs now are trying to even erase that history, something that the UN and UNESCO are too happy to help out with.
So I finish this with a question, if there was no building on the site, it did not exist until almost 60 years after the death of Mohammad, how exactly did he visit the site? And if this was such a holy site, why didn’t Mohammad or his followers speak of this, it was not even an issue until the Crusaders came, then was once more ignored, the city became nothing but a backwards run-down city until the Jews returned, suddenly it as if by magic became the third most holy site to Islam? We need to ask questions on this, if it was so important, why was it not treated as such, why didn’t Mohammad speak about it?
What we really have is another lie, set up for nothing other than to deny the Jews what is their heritage. As I exposed the lie, Is Israel Stealing the Palestinian Heritage, you have the same thing here.
So I have to ask again if the mount was covered in garbage, there was nothing up there but a garbage dump, what mosque did Mohammad visit there? And further, since it was not conquered until 5 years after Mohammad’s death, and the Mosque there was not built until almost 60 years after he had died, how could have he visited it?
- Oesterley, W.O.E., A History of Israel, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1939.
- Akram, Agha Ibrahim (2004). The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin al-Waleed – His Life and Campaigns. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-597714-9. Pg 434
- le Strange, Guy. (1890). Palestine under the Moslems, pp.80–98.
- Elad, Amikam. (1995). Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage BRILL, pp.29–43. ISBN 90-04-10010-5.