The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is in Jerusalem again, trying to square the circle of bringing the Israeli Palestinian negotiations to an agreement. A few weeks ago, Mr. Obama reiterated his signature on the order to postpone the moving the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. These acts show again how the US gets the Middle East wrong with eyes wide open. Perhaps with the stubbornness of good will but surely with naiveté approach and stupid policy, the US does not comprehend the real issues concerning the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma.Now John Kerry tries again with the clumsiness of an elephant in a porcelain shop to bring the parties to conclude an agreement, while the issues raised for the “solution” are not the real issues. The US continues to see the subject matter with its wrong mistaken mirror image, as if the “occupation” of the 1967 territories, and the Palestinian refugee issue of 1948, and the Issue of Jerusalem as the capital of the newborn Palestinian state, are the main obstacles to conclude the peace agreement. The US continues to stumble as if she has the formula that brings the parties not only to the negotiation table, not only to a peace agreement, but to peace relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, the US continues to believe that by reaching this end, most of the issues in the Middle East are solved, and harmony and tranquility reigns over the region.
Well, the US should learn the lessons of its past failures which are implanted all over the Middle East. The first lesson is to internalize Albert Einstein’s eloquence: “if you give me a problem to solve in an hour, I would spend 55 minutes to understand the essence and characteristics of the problem, and only 5 minutes to solve it.” It is crucially important that the US follow these lines: first to understand the issues and only then to try to bring solutions. In a short: from the Palestinians’ perspective, the issue was never the 1967 “occupation” but the 1948 “occupation.” It is not living in peace with Israel but live in peace without Israel. it is not solving the refugees issue, but how to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians as and bring its demise. It is not “two states solution, one Jewish one Palestinian,” but “two state solution, one Palestinian and one non-Jewish state” that resembles the 1970’s Palestinian idea of a “secular democratic state in Palestine,“ in which Muslims, Christians and Jews live together in an Arab state. All these and many more ideas are all intended to the same objective: demolishing the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state and establishing a Palestinian state “from the sea to the desert” (including Jordan).
The US must understand who the negotiators, the Israeli partners from the Palestinian side are. Abu Mazan is one of the more extreme leaders among the Palestinians, no less, perhaps more than Arafat himself. Though he dresses Western suits and sometimes talks gently (unlike Arafat in the military uniform), and though he pretends to be weak and needs protégé among wolves around him, this is indeed a mask, a silver ribbon cloak that hides a fanatic harsh anti-Semite and Holocaust denier person. Just read his Ph.D. from the University of Patrice Lumumba in Moscow, published in Arabic in 1982 (“The Other Face: the Secret Negotiations of the Zionist Movement and the Nazis”). Two themes were highlighted: there was no Holocaust in Europe, and the Zionist Movement in what he calls Palestine collaborated with the Nazis to butcher the Jews of Europe in order that the Zionist Movement gets the compassion and the legitimization to establish a Zionist state on the Palestinian land.
On many occasions, including in English, Abu Mazen has clearly declared he does not recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state in any borders. This is something everyone must recall. Never in history of diplomacy, had one side come to the negotiation table with the declaration that he does not recognize the rights of the other side. Never in history of diplomacy, had one side clearly declared that his aim is to eliminate the other side, and the negotiation table is only a means, a façade to facilitate the achievement of the target. This is in the spirit of the PLO National Council decision from the 1970’s of the Phased Doctrine. The irony of this situation that it the dubious side, the one without proven rights, the scoundrel newcomer wants it all and acts with all means to dispossess and impoverish the side with proven historical and religious rights. Abu Mazen leads this atrocious hideous and outrageous policy.
If this is not enough, the US should read the book of Denis Ross, who was its representative in Camp David II, who was the man in Arafat’s camp that again and again convinced him to reject all Israeli Prime Minister, Barak’s proposals. The US must learn the lesson of the Israeli Prime Minister, Olmert, with his licentious outrageous proposals, and still Abu Mazen refused to consider.
Abu Mazen is not the man of compromise, and he cannot deliver the goods. He cannot, and does not want to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. The only end that is still acceptable among the Palestinians is “peace of the entire Palestine;” no less. Everything is temporary and changeable according to the situation and circumstances. The heinous Oslo accords, remembered as a dreadful disgrace forever, are the example: you sign peace and you make a war of terror. All the ceremonies so important and sanctified in Western political culture are just an empty thing in the Arab-Islamic political culture; a useless symbol in the wondering sands of the Arab deserts.
John Kerry, if he is serious, should sit in a closed room alone with Abu Mazen, look directly at his eyes, never let them go down, and ask him what does he really want? He will get the answer if he continues to insist: the Palestinians do not want peace with Israel but peace without Israel. If Kerry continues his investigation and tries to understand who is the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ereqat, and what are his targets, he, Kerry, should read his declarations through the years, to find out that Ereqat utter the same poisonous hatred as his teachers, Arafat and Abu Mazen, and even has elevated them in deceiving and lying. In the future, in every dictionary written in English or in Hebrew, even in Arabic, under the word “liar,” the sample will be Ereqat. He has a long history of cheating and inflating to high exaggeration things and definitions.
Still, the question is, does the US understand what the ingredients that can bring a comprised solution in the Israeli-Palestinian issues are? Let’s take the Jerusalem issue. Here is the example in which the Palestinians have nothing, but absolutely nothing there, from any historical, political, cultural, religious and other perspectives. Yet, outrageously and in much obscene impudence the Palestinians totally deny Israel’s 3500 years of historical, political, cultural, and religious rights. Therefore, Kerry and the US Administration must learn: Not only the Palestinians have no record and any traces in Jerusalem, the Islamic is dubious and baseless. First and foremost, Jerusalem is not mentioned, not in the Qur’an, not in the Hadith, and not in the Syrah. That is, there is no mentioning of Jerusalem in the entire Shari`ah. Moreover, Jerusalem was not an important city during the entire Islamic history, compared to Damascus, Cairo, and Istanbul. Jerusalem was much less important than Andalusia, and other regions.
Contrary to this, Muslims continue to remark falsely that it is the first direction of prayer (Qiblah) and the third holy place (Haram). These must be explained properly. As for the Qiblah, Jerusalem became the direction of prayer for only 16 or 17 months from the order of Muhammad to follow the Jewish religious traditions. These included praying three times a day and even fasting on Yom Kippur (`Ashura). Hence, the order to pray in the direction of Jerusalem had nothing to do with the Islamic religion and all to do with the Jewish religion. There was no Islamic ritual place of prayer at that time, and the order was given as homage to the Jews, rather than as a religious ritual. Even by doing this, the Muslim believers did not mention Jerusalem or make any other traditional symbols concerning Jerusalem.
This was just a convenient act, to get the support of the Jews in his wars with the people of Mecca. When the circumstances changed and the Jews refused to recognize him as the seal of all prophets, he just ordered his believers to change the direction to Mecca. These were just a routine and bureaucratic order and reorder. Jerusalem was just there. If not the Jews, one can deduce there would be no Jerusalem in Islam, perhaps even no direction of prayer as a religious tradition. The fact is that by turning the direction to Mecca, not only the Muslim believers denied any importance of Jerusalem, but also show its importance in turning their back to it. There is only one important thing: the change of order from Jerusalem to Mecca symbolized the total separation of Islam from Judaism; and the denial of Judaism as a legitimate religion; and the disappearance of Jerusalem as an important city, let alone an Islamic holy place.
As for Jerusalem is the third Haram, there was only one short period of time in the entire Islamic history that Jerusalem was mentioned and eulogized as an important city under the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), and for political reasons. This period was during the revolt of Ibn al-Zubayr (680-692) in Mecca, and the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphs could not perform the Hajj. As their rivals were blocking access to Mecca, the Caliphs decided to establish an alternative holy site. Jerusalem was chosen not because its holiness for Islam or any other religious reasons, but just because it was there, on the road to Mecca, bordering the desert. That is why the Umayyads decided to exalt and to glorify Jerusalem, just as an alternative to Mecca. During that time, the Umayyad dynasty sponsored the publication of literature, the Praises of Jerusalem (Fadā’il al-Quds).
For that, Ibn Malik built the Dome of the Rock mosque (Qubat al-Sakhra) in 688-691, right on the spot of the Jewish Temple. In 715, his son, al-Walīd, constructed the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. However, even for these political reasons concerning Jerusalem “there was strong resistance among many theologians and jurists” (Bernard Lewis). Jerusalem remained insignificant as far as Islam was concerned. Jerusalem has no Islamic name: its first was: Ilya Madina Bayt al-Maqdis (Ilya, the Roman name, the city of the Temple. Bayt al-Maqdis = the Jewish Beit Ha- Miqdash). From 985 it was called al-Quds, again from the Jewish Kodesh).
In all the history of Islamic rule, Jerusalem was not even a capital. The first, chosen by Umar bin al-Khattab, was Caesarea. Then, Suleiman 705-715), chose al-Ramlah as the regional capital. The Praises of Jerusalem literature disappeared, and reappeared for a while during the Crusaders’ invasion, only to vanish again during the Mamluk and the Ottoman Empire eras. Most symbolically, the Dome of the Rock collapsed in 1016, and no one bothered to restore it as a holy site of worship. Thus, in practice, Jerusalem held no importance from any perspective during the entire course of Islamic history until the 1920’s.
Another source the Muslims propagators mention is concerned with Surat Bani Isrāīl (17:1), as if Muhammad’s Night Journey was a miraculous journey to Jerusalem, establishing it as one of the foundations of Islam: “Praise be to him who took his servant by night from the al-Haram Mosque to the al-Aqsa [literally ‘the most distant’] Mosque…” This interpretation maintains that Muhammad literally visited Jerusalem and built there a mosque, but this position advanced only from the times of the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in the 1920’s. From that time on, he insisted that his title is “the Mufti of Jerusalem.” However, there are no religious sources that support this view, which was a pure political claim to sanctify his leadership.
Al-Tabari (838–923), the prominent historian and exegetes of the Qur’an, and one of Muhammad’s most important and influential biographers, found out after a thorough research and analysis of all Islamic religious sources and commentators, that this verse has nothing to do with Jerusalem. Muhammad’s aim was spiritual, namely, to reach Allāh’s house located in the uppermost heaven. Tabari indicates that Muhammad did not get off his horse and did not pray in any mosque. Rather, he pursued his journey to heaven to see Allāh, and returned to Mecca the same night.
Flying horses, flying dragons, and flying gods were common myths centuries before Muhammad, and these were copied in Islam. The whole story probably has been influenced by the story of the Prophet Elijah, who flew into heaven in a burning chariot pulled by horses. Long before Elijah story, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. In other words, the story of Muhammad has its source again in Jewish traditions.
Still the Palestinians, in order to establish an identity by creating a religious center decided to elevate Jerusalem as an Islamic holy place. However, their strategy is again by the total denial of the Jewish traditions. Now, the theme claimed is an old historical Palestinian Jerusalem that belongs solely to the old historically Palestinian people. They do not care this theme is based on mythical legendary propaganda, of pure lies, of total fabrications and factual distortions.
According to this legend, Israel forges and falsifies the basic facts and history of Jerusalem which belongs solely to Islam and the Palestinians. Israel is said to steal the original Palestinian identity of Jerusalem and its cultural heritage. This theme is reiterated in the Palestinian media which claims Jerusalem to be the religious, political, and spiritual capital of the Palestinians, being the oldest people on this land for 7000 years. They even celebrated in 2010 the 10,000 years of Palestinian Jericho. As such, Israel has no rights to Jerusalem — not religiously, not legally, not politically, and not historically. Everything in Jerusalem is Palestinian in its purest origin. Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinians from time immemorial, and the focus of world civilization.
There is the common saying: “a grain of truth is needed to make a mountain of lies believable.” However, in the Palestinian case of Jerusalem there is not even a grain of truth. Perhaps this fact helps them to sell the absolute fabrications and distortions concerning Jerusalem as much as their historical myths. Indeed, it is hard for common people, international media, world public opinion and states’ leadership to grasp and internalize the totality of nothing relating the Palestinians’ claims and pretensions of Jerusalem.
David Bukay (Ph.D.) teaches at the University of Haifa in School of Political Sciences.