Last June, Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day to commemorate its capture of East Jerusalem 38 years ago. As one may recall in 1980, in violation of the U.N. resolutions, the Government of Israel officially annexed the city and adjoining areas in the West Bank of the Jordan River. The city remains the thorniest and knottiest issue facing negotiators that will decide its final status in a future Palestinian state.
Since coming to power in 2001, Prime Minister Sharon has issued orders for constructing new settlements around the occupied East Jerusalem. His defense force has also confiscated Palestinian?owned land for the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall.
According to Yossin Beilin, head of Israel’s left-wing Yachad Party, since the Intifadah of September 2000, nearly 1200 Israeli Jews have moved into the predominantly Palestinian parts of eastern Jerusalem.
All these activities are in violations of UN Resolutions and President Bush’s “Roadmap”. However, the Bush Administration will not take Sharon to task for such non-compliance, and the latter knows it very well. That is why he is so bold with all his war crimes – from his genocidal activities in Jenin to extra-judicial killings of leaders and members of Palestinian resistance.
Sharon creates the impression that he is not ready to go back to the pre-1967 border and wants to hold on to East Jerusalem by hook or by crook. He wants to make sure that Palestinians are removed out of Jerusalem and its environs so that the demography of the Holy Land is altered before any serious negotiation resume on the final status of Jerusalem. This is also the position suggested by the organizers of the Jerusalem Summit and other Zionist leaders. For instance, Martin Sherman, the Academic Director to the Jerusalem Summit and a Political Science lecturer at the Tel Aviv University recently ?redefined? the Palestinian problem by suggesting that ?generous? sums of money be paid to the Palestinians so as to relocate and resettle them elsewhere in Arab/Muslim world. What a “brilliant” and “benevolent” way of cleansing Palestinians from their ancestral land! To these hawks: Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital and “Jews should rule an undivided Jerusalem.”
So, how does Israel prove its heritage to a city? Archeology is a means. Years of excavation in Arab East Jerusalem in the post-1967 era by Dame Kathleen Kenyon, Benjamin Mazar and Meir Ben-Dove, however, did not unearth any traces of Jewish existence from the so-called “Temple Mount Era”. Much to their embarrassment what surfaced were more Muslim palaces, courts and mosques, and ruins belonging to the Romans, Greeks and Canaanites. The excavations, clandestine and overt, underneath the Haram al-Sharif (the so-called Temple Mount) are weakening the very foundation of two of the holiest Muslim shrines. Should those shrines cave in and collapse, I am not sure if many Israelis and their friends realize the ensuing repercussion, enough to pale all the wars humanity has seen before. I only pray and hope that we never see such a human catastrophe.
Another technique employed is: manipulation of history. A classic example is the Israeli-sponsored ?Jerusalem 3000? celebration in 1998. This was aimed at advocating the myth that Jerusalem?s history began 3000 years ago with David, rather than some 5000 years ago, as the archeologists concur. Following the footsteps of early Zionists who willfully “transformed” Palestine into a historical and geographical desert with propagandas like “Give a country without a people to a people without a country,” today’s Zionists are also spreading the myth that “politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries” or that Jerusalem was “never important” to Muslims, and that during the Muslim rule it “declined to the point of becoming a shambles”. Another technique in proving heritage is finding justification through theology.
In what follows, we shall study these hypotheses.
Jerusalem has been the subject of immense interest throughout history. It embodies sacred memories of the Prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is here that all the three Semitic religions of the world played vital roles at different junctures in the history of mankind. For twelve centuries, under Muslim rule (636-1917 CE, except a century of Christian rule), Jerusalem has been an oasis of peace and tranquility. Yet, beginning in 1948, we witness a change of a major dimension, a conspiracy that culminated in the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine ignoring the rights of its overwhelming Muslim majority. This event has been responsible for much bloodshed to subsequently follow among the children and heirs to the Abrahamic heritage.
Jerusalem is very dear and sacred to Muslims for a number of reasons.
The Holy Qur’an refers to Jerusalem in connection with Prophet Muhammad’s (sallal-lahu alayh wa-as-salam: blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) Isra’ and Mi’raj in the following verses: “Glory be to Him who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Masjid Al-Haram (Sacred Mosque) to the Masjid Al-Aqsa (Farthest Mosque) whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs. He (Allah) is the One who hears and sees all things.”
As has been pointed out by Professor Walid Khalidi in his 1996 address at the Jerusalem Conference of the American Committee on Jerusalem, “The Prophet’s isra to and mi’raj from Jerusalem became the source of inspiration of a vast body of devotional Muslim literature, as successive generations of Traditionists, Koranic commentators, theologians, and mystics added their glosses and embellishments. In this literature, in which the Prophet is made to describe his visits to Hell and Paradise, Jerusalem lies at the center of Muslims beliefs, literal and allegorical, concerning life beyond the grave. This literature is in circulation to this day in all the languages spoken by nearly one billion Muslims. To this day, too, the Night of the Mi’raj is annually celebrated throughout the Muslim world.”
A particular link also exists between Jerusalem and one of the five “pillars” of Islam — the five daily prayers (salat). According to Muslim tradition, it was during the Prophet’s mi’raj that, after conversations between the Prophet and Moses, the five daily prayers observed throughout the Muslim world became canonical. Parallel to this body of literature concerning the isra and miraj is another vast corpus of devotional writings concerning the “Excellencies” or “Virtues” (fada’il) of Jerusalem.”
In the early stage of Islam, Jerusalem was the Qiblah towards which Muslims faced in their prayers. Later, however, they were instructed by Allah to change their Qiblah to Makkah: “So turn thy face toward the Masjid al-Haram, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! those who have received the Scripture know that (this Revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.”
With this change of Qiblah, Jerusalem did not lose its sacredness to Muslims though. It came to be known as Al-Quds (the sanctuary), al-Bayt al-Muqaddis (i.e., the holy house), and al-Quds ash-Sharif (the holy and noble city).
The memorandum of the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference in 1919 declared, “This land is the ‘historic’ home of the Jews”. By “historic” they meant the right of the ?first occupier,? i.e., nobody inhabited the region prior to the Jews. Such an assertion, as we will see, is only a myth. For debunking this myth of ?first occupier,? we shall examine the Bible. The Book of Genesis says, “And Terah took Abram [referring to prophet Abraham or Ibrahim (alayhi-salaam)] his son, and Lot [referring to Lut (AS)] the son of Ha?ran his son?s son, and Sa?rai his daughter in law, his son Abram?s wife; and they went out from Ur of Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan.? [Gen. 11:31]; “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” [Gen. 12:6] The verses 13:3-7 state that the Canaanite and the Perizzite were already dwelling in the land when Abraham returned from Egypt to Bethel and set his tent between Bethel and Ha?i. Not only did the tribes with Abraham find the Canaanites but they also found the Hittites (around Hebron), the Ammonites (around Amman), the Moabites (to the east of the Dead Sea) and the Edomites (in the south-east). At the same time, there were arriving from the Aegean Sea another people, the Philistines, who installed themselves between Mount Carmel and the desert.
The Bible says that Jacob [Prophet Ya’aqub (P)], who is also known as Israel, settled in Sha’lem , a city of She’chem, which was in the land of Canaan (Gen. 33:18). There he erected an altar and called it El-e-lohe-Israel. [Gen. 33:20]
The modern-day Palestinians are, in deed, descended from indigenous Canaanite Jebusites who lived in Palestine at least 5000 years ago, from the Philistines (who gave the country its name – Palestine, Arabic for Falastin), and from the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and the Turks who successively occupied the territory, following the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Egyptians. The ?first occupiers? are these inhabitants who have inhabited the territory since the dawn of history. And any reference that the Palestinians are descendants of Muslim Arabs (from the time of Muslim conquest of Jerusalem) is disingenuous and is aimed at denying their ancestral tie to the land for five millennia.
The current mythology to connect Prophet Dawud or David (P) with Jerusalem is a typical example of distorting history. The name Jerusalem does not come from the Hebrew word “shalom” meaning peace, but from Uru-shalim, meaning the city or foundation of the (Canaanite Jebusite) god Shalim, cited in ancient Egyptian texts. It is these Jebusites who gave the name of the city some 2000 years before the time of David and Solomon.
Both the Qur’an and the so-called Old Testament mention that the children of Jacob [Ya’aqub (P)] settled in Egypt when Joseph [Yusuf (P)] was appointed a Minister to the Pharaoh. Moses [Musa (P)], born in Egypt, was later commanded by Allah to rescue the Children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage and to settle them in the Sinai desert. During the time of Moses, the holy land was denied to them due to their disobedience of the commandments of Allah (see the Book of Deuteronomy).
From the accounts in the Bible, it is clear that the Children of Israel did not establish themselves in the Holy Land until around 1004 BCE when David [Dawud (AS)] of the tribe of Judah defeated the Jebusites to found a kingdom there. He created a multi-national state, embracing peoples of different religions. His own ancestress Ruth was a Moabite. His son Solomon [Sulayman (AS)], who succeeded the throne, was born of a Hittite mother. Solomon, like his father, maintained the multi-national characteristics of his regime. He built a stone temple, commonly known as the Temple of Solomon, as a gesture of his thanks to Allah (YHWH).
After Solomon?s death, the kingdom got divided into two ? the Kingdom of Israel in the north (comprising the ten tribes) with the capital in Samaria, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south (comprising the two tribes) with capital in Jerusalem. In 722-721 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians and its people scattered, who came to be known as the ?Ten lost tribes of Israel.? In 586 BCE, the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar annexed the southern kingdom of Judah. The country?s notables were exiled to Babylon. Jerusalem was ravaged to the ground, along with its temple and fortifications. When Emperor Cyrus (Dhul Qarnain of the Qur’an) of Persia defeated the Babylonians in 538-537 BCE, he let the exiles to return to Jerusalem. Many Jews, however, preferred to remain in more prosperous Babylon.
History is scant and dubious before Alexander?s peaceful entry into Jerusalem in 332 BCE, but it suffered heavily under the Persians and the temple — rebuilt under Ezra (Uzayr) and Nehemiah about 515 BCE — might have been destroyed during Artaxerxes’s regime. In 320 BCE, Ptolemy I of Egypt partially demolished the fortifications that remained in ruins until their restoration by Simon II in 219 BCE After a series of struggles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the latter obtained the city by a treaty in 197 BCE. The temple was totally Hellenized, i.e., turned into a heathen idol-temple, by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE.
Next we come to the period of the Maccabean revolt. After a twenty years? struggle, the Maccabees were able to form the Hasmonean dynasty in 164 BCE. This broke up owing to internal conflicts and in 63 BCE Roman General Pompey was able to conquer Palestine, which first became a vassal monarchy under Herod, and then a Roman province.
Under Herod, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the second temple (known as the Temple of Zerubabel) elaborated (from 17 BCE to 29 CE). However, during the failed revolt (66-70 CE) by the Hebrews, the city was blockaded by Roman General Titus who completely razed it to the ground and burned the temple in 70 CE on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Ab, the very month and day on which 657 years earlier Nebuchadnezzar had razed the first Temple. (The Qur’an briefly mentions these two destructions of the Temple in Surah 17:4-7.) The Jewish inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery. After the failed second revolt (132 CE), led by Bar Kochba, the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE and Jews were banned from entering the city. And since then Jews gradually moved away from Palestine.
In 326 CE, Emperor Constantine the great ordered the building of the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Aelia. In 614-615 CE Khoshru II of Persia captured the city by defeating the Roman (Byzantine) Christians, mention of which is available in the Qur’an 30:2-3: ?The Romans have been defeated in a land close by: but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious within a few years, with Allah is the command in the past and in the future: on that day shall the believers rejoice.? His forces destroyed many buildings. Just as the Qur’an had prophesied, the Romans defeated the Persians in 628 C.E, under Heraclius, and reentered Aelia.
In 636 CE, at the battle of Yarmuk, the Byzantines were defeated by the Muslim Army, led by Amr ibn al-?As (R). Patriarch Sophoronius offered to surrender the city if Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab (R) himself would come in person to ratify the terms of surrender. The encounter between these two men was very dramatic. In the words of a Christian historian, Anthony Nutting, ?Umar taught the caparisoned throng of Christian commanders and bishops a lesson in humility by accepting their surrender in a patched and ragged robe and seated on a donkey.? [The Arabs, New American Library, N.Y. (1964)]
The terms of the surrender were: ?Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful). This is a covenant which Umar, the servant of Allah, the Amir (Leader) of the faithful believers, granted the people of Aelia. He granted them safety for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses. They shall not be constrained in the matter of their religion, nor shall any of them be molested. ? Whoever leaves the city shall be safe in his person and his property until he reaches his destination.?
Umar (R) thus pledged security of the lives, properties, churches and freedom of worship of the city?s Christian inhabitants. These pledges came to be knows as the Covenant of Umar, which established the standard of conduct vis-a-vis the non-Muslim population of Jerusalem for subsequent generations and specifically for the two subsequent Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem: Saladin (1187) and the Ottoman Sultan Selim (1516).
When Umar (R) entered Jerusalem what is now known in the West as the Temple Mount lay vacant. The Christian Byzantines had used it as a garbage dump. But to the Muslims it contained the Rock hallowed by the Prophet Muhammad?s (S) Isra? and Mi?raj (the Prophet?s nightly journey to Jerusalem and ascension to heaven). According to the Muslim chroniclers, Umar?s (R) next concern was to identify that Rock. Sophoronius guided him to a spot, which by then had no traces of its Jewish past. Because of high reverence for the place, Umar (R), the Amirul Mu?meneen, himself started cleaning it in person, carrying dirt in his own robe. His entourage and army followed suit until the whole area was cleaned. He directed that no prayers be held on or near it until the place has been washed by rain three times. His entourage then sprinkled the place with scent. Umar (R) then led the Muslims in prayer on a clean spot to the south. Foundation of a mosque was erected on the spot and this is the Al-Aqsa mosque, revered by Muslims as one of the three most sacred mosques on earth.
In the Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time, Umar?s (R) capture of Jerusalem was seen as an act of redemption from the Byzantines. It is worthwhile mentioning here (as has also been recognized by Jewish historian Moshe Gil) that it was not until 638 CE that a Jewish quarter would be assigned in the city – since the days of the second Jewish Revolt some five hundred years ago – when Muslims invited Jewish families to reside there.
The most obvious reflection of Islam?s reverence for Jerusalem is in its architecture. During the Umayyad rule (660-750 CE) Jerusalem flourished to become a major city, and from this period, important buildings survive. The Umayyad Khalifa Al Walid later completed the construction of the al-Aqsa mosque in 715 CE. His father Caliph Abdul Malik bin-Marwan constructed the ?Dome of the Rock? ? Masjid al Quba as-Sakhra (visible with gold dome) on the Haram al-.Sharif earlier in 688-691 CE (68-71 AH). These two mosques became essentially the most visited mosques in the entire Muslim world outside the Ka?ba and Masjid an-Nabi in Arabia, and grace the city of Jerusalem to this very day.
In 728 CE the cupola over the Al-Aqsa Mosque was erected, the same being restored in 758-75 by the Abbasid Khalifa Al-Mahdi. In 831 Khalifa Al-Ma?mun restored the Dome of the Rock and built the octagonal wall. In 1016 the Dome was partly destroyed by earthquakes; but it was repaired in 1022.
As part of historical revisionism, some Orientalists, such as John Wansbrough, and Likudnik/Zionist historians have opined that Muhammad?s (S) night journey to Jerusalem – the Isra’ and Mi’raj, one of the principal foundations of Jerusalem?s sanctity in Islam – was a later invention aimed at accounting for the Qur’anic verse 17:1. Others, such as Patricia Crone, have proposed that Jerusalem was in fact the original Islamic holy city, and that the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah was a later innovation. Neither of these ludicrous theories enjoys much acceptance (outside die-hard Zionists), least of all among Muslims.
During the Abbasid rule (750-969 CE) Jerusalem became a religious focal point for Christian and Jewish pilgrims and Sufi Muslims. The vast majority of its inhabitants were Muslims. It remained under Muslim control until the first Crusade (1099). Excepting a brief period during Fatimid caliph (insane) al-Hakim?s rule (996-1021), there was no religious persecution of minorities.
In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a speech at Claremont, France, which can only be described as the vilest and most spiteful speech of the Middle Ages, responsible for initiating the never-ending Crusade. He said: “O race of Franks! race beloved and chosen by God! From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians, and depopulated them by pillage and fire. The kingdom of Greeks is now dismembered by them, and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could not be traversed in two months’ time.
On whom, then, rests the labor of avenging these wrongs, and of recovering this territory, if not upon you – you upon whom, above all others, God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great bravery, and strength to humble the heads of those whom resist you? Let none of your possessions keep you back, nor anxiety for your family affairs. For this land which you now inhabit, shut in all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife.
Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.
Jerusalem is a land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights. That royal city, situated at the center of the earth, implores you to come to her aid. Undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, and be assured of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of Heaven.”
With that deleterious speech, the Pope aroused Christians to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims. On 1099 CE the Crusaders entered the city and began one of the bloodiest and crudest massacres in history. According to Ibn al-Athir some 70,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Masjid al-Aqsa alone, all of them non-combatants, some of them Imams and professors of theology.
Raymond d’Aguiliers, chaplain to Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, wrote: ?Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one?s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious ceremonies were ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle-reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.?
Jerusalem became the capital of the Latin Kingdom under Godfrey, Count of Bouillon, who changed the Al-Aqsa mosque into a church and erected a big cross on top of the Dome of Rock. Muslims and Jews were banned from living in the city.
In 1187 Sultan Salahuddin (Saladin) Ayyubi (RA) liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders and restored the al-Aqsa mosque to its previous condition. Before liberating Jerusalem, Saladin wrote a letter to King Richard which sums up Muslim position vis-?-vis the status of the city. He wrote: ?Jerusalem is our heritage as much as it is yours. It was from Jerusalem that our Prophet ascended to heaven and it is in Jerusalem that the angels assemble. Do not imagine that we can ever abandon it. Nor can we possibly renounce our rights to it as a Muslim community. As for the land, your occupation of it was accidental and came about because the Muslims who lived in the land at that time were weak. God will not enable you to build a single stone in the land so long as the war lasts.?
Comparing Saladin?s behavior with those Christian Crusaders, the historian Anthony Nutting writes: ?Apart from restoring the holy places of Islam, Saladin allowed not a single building to be touched. As Christian historians have attested, strict orders were issued to all Muslim troops to protect Christian life and property and not a single Christian was molested on account of his religion – a remarkable contrast to the atrocities perpetrated by the Franks eighty eight years before.? It is worth mentioning here that while the Crusaders, when they entered Jerusalem, burned Jews in their synagogue Salahuddin, after recovering the city, had allowed Jews to return.
Excepting brief periods between 1229-1239 and 1243-1244 when Jerusalem again fell in the hands of the Crusaders (because of Muslim in-fighting), it remained a Muslim City through all its life. Religious freedom and rights of worship by Christians and Jews were respected. In 1267 Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Nahmanides) arrived from Spain, revived the Jewish congregation and established a synagogue and center of learning bearing his name. In 1448, Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro settled in Jerusalem and led the community. After the Spanish Inquisition (1492), Jews found shelter among the Muslims of North Africa and (what is now called) the Middle East.
The Mamluks (1248-1517), who came after the Ayyubids, left their mark in architecture with beautiful buildings, schools and hospices throughout the Old City. They added markets, repaired water supplies and constructed city?s fountain system.
In 1517 the Ottomans took over Jerusalem peacefully. Sultan Suleiman ?the magnificent? (1537-41) rebuilt the city walls (un-walled since 1219) including the present day 7 gates (what is now known as the Old City) and the ?Tower of David.? He further improved the city?s water system, installed drinking fountains still visible in many parts of the Old City. He also patronized religious centers and educational institutions. A Jewish colony ?Safaradieh? was formed in 1522 in Palestine. The Ottomans granted religious freedom to all and it was possible to find (something that was unthinkable in Europe) a synagogue, a church and a mosque in the same street.
The Damascus gate was erected in 1542. It was Sultan Selim, the Ottoman ruler, who dug out the Wailing Wall from under the rubble in the 16th century and permitted Jews to visit it. All the Ottoman Sultans ? from Suleiman ?the magnificent? to Sultan Abdul-Hamid (RA) ? were great patrons of Jerusalem, making surrounding territories of the mosques as their Waqf properties.
Throughout the Ottoman era, the city remained open to all religions, although the empire?s faulty management after Sultan Suleiman meant slow economical stagnation. When Jewish people faced extermination across Europe, the Ottoman Sultans allowed them to take refuge in the Empire. Some of them settled in Palestine. In 1562 there were 1,200 (mostly religious) Jews and 11,450 Arabs living in Jerusalem.
By mid-19th century, with the weakening of the Ottoman Empire (to the extent of being ridiculed as the ?Sick Man of Europe?) the European colonial powers vied with each other to gain a foothold in Palestine. New areas with names like the German Colony and the Russian Compound sprouted the city. According to Zionist historiography, residential building outside the walls of the Old City began around 1860 with the Jewish settlement – Mishkenot Shaananim. However, such scholarship overlooks the much earlier construction and continued use of numerous indigenous residential buildings outside the walls such as khans, residences for religious persons, and summer homes with orchards and olive presses, belonging mostly to non-Jews, especially the Arab Muslims. In time, as the communities grew and connected geographically, this became known as the New City.
This was also an age of Christian religious revival, and many churches sent missionaries to proselytize among the Muslim and especially the Jewish populations, believing passionately that this would expedite the Second Coming of Christ. These outside missionaries settled in and around places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
In 1846 there were only 12,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of 350,000. In 1880, shortly before the Russian Pogroms, there were only 25,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of half a million.
The last half of the 19th century witnessed the pontification of Pope Pius IX (1846-78), the publication of Wilhelm Marr?s ?Jewry?s Victory over Teutonism? (1873), the assassination of Czar Alexander II (1881) and the Alfred Dreyfus case (1894). These events led to pogroms and anti-Semitism (actually Jew-hatred) across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. Jews again found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. [Ironically, the demise of the Ottoman regime can partly be blamed on the Jewish enclave in Salonika (now Thessalonica or Thessaloniki in Greece) – home of the D?nme and the birthplace of the (Jacobin) Young Turk movement.]
The last decade of the 19th century saw the emergence of political Zionism calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. Sultan Abdul-Hamid, the last of the Ottoman Sultans, was approached by Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, who offered to buy up and then turn over the Ottoman Debt to the Sultan?s government in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people. In his Diary, Herzl writes, ?Let the Sultan give us that parcel of land [Palestine] and in return we would set his house in order, regulate his finances, and influence world opinion in his favour?? The Sultan rejected the offer.
In his letter to a Sufi Shaykh (dated Sept. 22, 1911), Sultan Abdul-Hamid mentions this episode: ?I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them ? Young Turks. The Committee of Unity and Progress obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end they offered me 150 million English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them: ?If you offer me gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won?t agree to give you the land. I have served Islam and the people of Muhammad (S) for more than 30 years, and I won?t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grand fathers ? Ottoman Sultans and caliphs.? After my definite refusal they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn?t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter. ?
The Sultan, to the last of his days, resisted bartering Jerusalem for his reign.
So what we notice from historical accounts is a remarkable Muslim reverence for the city of Jerusalem, much in contrast to the disingenuous claims made by Zionist apologists like Daniel Pipes. Down the centuries, from the time of Umar (R) to the subsequent Muslim dynasties ruling from Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims. They constructed a wide variety of buildings and institutions in Jerusalem: mosques, theological college convents for Sufi mystics, abodes for holy men, schools of the Hadith and the Qur’an, orphanages, hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, fountains, baths, pools, inns, soup kitchens, places for ritual ablution, mausoleums, and shrines to commemorate the Prophet?s (S) Mi?raj. These buildings were maintained through a system of endowment in perpetuity (awkaf), sometimes involving the dedication of the revenues of entire villages in Palestine, Syria, or Egypt. The patrons were caliphs and sultans, military commanders and scholars, merchants and officials, including a number of women. Their philanthropy bears witness to the importance of Jerusalem as a Muslim center of residence, pilgrimages, retreat, prayer, study and burial.
British Mandate Period:
With the defeat of the Turkish Army during the World War I (1914-18), British General Edmund Allenby took control over Jerusalem. Upon entering the city on 11 December, 1917, he declared, ?Now the Crusades come to an end.? As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of the end, i.e., marshalling of a neo-crusade against Muslims by using Israel as a ?rampart? in the Muslim heartland.
In 1917, Britain issued the infamous Balfour Declaration promising the Zionists establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. The Declaration was criminal to the core as historian Arthur Koestler so aptly described: ?One nation solemnly promised to give to a second nation the country of a third nation.? With that goal in mind, during the devious British Mandate (1917-47), Jews were pumped into Palestine from all over Europe. In spite of such Jewish influx, according to a census taken by the British on 31 December 1922, there were altogether 83,000 Jews in Palestine out of a total population of 757,000 of which 663,000 were Muslims. That is, the Jewish population was only 11%.
In 1935, when the Palestinian Arabs rose in revolt against further Jewish immigration, there were 370,000 Jews out of a total population of 1,366,670, i.e., 3 out of 4 were Arabs. During partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of the total land in Palestine. Yet when on November 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem in an international zone, 56% of the total area was allotted to the Jewish state. As was expected, Arabs (with the exception of King Abdullah of Transjordan) rejected the plan and a fight for territories broke out in which armed Jewish terrorist gangs massacred unarmed Palestinians in several villages. At that time, in Old (East) Jerusalem Jews owned less than 1% of land. Their ownership of properties in the New (West) city was 26%.
In recent years, the issue surrounding pre-1948 demographics of Jerusalem has become a hot item. Zionist historiographers (e.g., Ben Arieh, Gilbert and others) have been trying to prove a Jewish majority in Jerusalem before the partition. This myth has no substance whatsoever quite simply by looking carefully at the available late Ottoman-era statistics and (for the later period) by examining the boundaries of the Jerusalem municipality as drawn by the British Mandatory authorities.
In this regard it is worth quoting what pre-eminent demographer Justin McCarthy had clearly pointed out, ?Ottoman statistics are the best source on Ottoman population.? The Ottoman data on Jerusalem show that in 1871-2, the Jewish population of Jerusalem was a quarter of the total population living in Jerusalem. In 1895, when the city?s population was about 43,000, the entire Jewish population could not have been more than a third (i.e., 14,500). In 1912 – the last Ottoman statistics – show that Jerusalem had a total population of 60,000 of which nearly 25,000 were Jews.
According to Professor Walid Khalidi the international zone comprising ?Mandatory municipal Jerusalem? in addition to some 20 surrounding Arab villages had a slight majority of Arab population who numbered 105,000 while the Jewish population was just under 100,000. Academic research works by Salim Tamari (director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies and a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Birzeit University) and others present a similar picture. They point out how Zionist historiographers deliberately avoided accounting for Arab neighborhoods in their demographic studies of Jerusalem while concentrating mostly on Jewish suburbs.
Upon reviewing the literature on the selective demographics of Mandate Jerusalem, British historian Michael Dumper attributes two major reasons for these population discrepancies. First, estimates counted Jewish migrants who arrived in Jerusalem before 1946 and later moved to Tel Aviv and other localities. Second, while excluding Palestinians who were working in the city but living in its rural periphery (the daytime population such as the commuting workers from Lifta and Deir Yasin), they included Jewish residents living in suburban areas such as Beit Vegan, Ramat Rahel, and Meqor Hayim. The latter were incorporated within the municipal population through a process he refers to as ?demographic gerrymandering.?
Professor Tamari?s studies on Jerusalem?s western villages, for instance, show that once the rural neighborhoods are introduced, the picture in regard to demographics and land composition change dramatically. ?Extrapolations from 1945 Mandatory statistics,? Professor Tamari says, ?show that the Jerusalem sub-district contained slightly over a quarter of a million inhabitants of whom 59.6% were Arabs and 40.4% were Jewish. In the western Jerusalem areas that came under Israeli control after the war (251,945 dunums) 91.8% (231,446) dunums were Arab owned, 2.7% were Jewish owned, and the rest were public lands.?
The conspiracy of the Western powers in collusion with the Zionists, the terrorism inflicted upon the Arab inhabitants, the foolishness of the local leaders, and the incompetence or indifference of others – all these led to the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 when on that day the Jewish settlers declared independence. The massacre of Arab residents of Deir Yasin, Qibya and Kafr al-Qasim that followed were only the preludes to Israel?s genocide of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatilla, Tyre and Sidon, Nablus, Jenin and of ongoing atrocities in Gaza, West Bank and Southern Lebanon.
Soon after the unilateral declaration, in a subsequent war with neighboring Arab states, Israel captured 78% of the original Palestine by annexing territories set for the Arab Palestinian state, leaving only East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Arab hands. This cataclysmic event forced 750,000 Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere.
As to its impact on Jerusalem, Professor Tamari writes, ?During the war of 1948, particularly during the months of April-May, about 25-30,000 Palestinians were displaced from the urban suburbs of Jerusalem. In addition, the bulk of the village population (23,649 rural inhabitants) were also expelled. These included the population of the two largest villages in the Jerusalem sub-district, Ain Karim and Lifta, and virtually all of the rural habitations west of the city (with the exception of Abu Ghosh and Beit Safafa). Altogether 36 villages and hamlets were destroyed, or – as was the case with Lifta and Ain Karim – were physically left intact but their Palestinian inhabitants removed. Most of the displaced persons eventually found refuge in the Old City and its northern Arab suburbs (Shu?fat, Beit Hanina, Ram), and in the refugee camps of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Today the refugee population originating from the Jerusalem district is estimated to be 380,000.?
In July 1949, the Israeli government declared West Jerusalem ?territory occupied by the State of Israel?, and all Arab lands and businesses were confiscated under the Absentee Property Regulations of 1948. Most of the urban refugee property in Jerusalem was sold to Israelis and squatters. Refugee-lands outside the urban center were mostly sold to a specially established Government Development Authority which in turn sold them to the Jewish National Fund or to cooperative agricultural settlements. Soon, Israel began to transfer its government offices to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Government employees were housed in abandoned refugee property.
On 13 December 1949, the Israeli government declared Jerusalem as its capital, which was later passed as a resolution in the Knesset on January 23, 1950.
On June 5-10, 1967 Israel launched an offensive against neighboring Arab states and captured East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, plus the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Most Jews celebrated the event as a liberation of the city; a new Israeli holiday was created, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), and the popular Hebrew song, ?Jerusalem of Gold? (Yerushalayim shel zahav), became popular in celebration.
Between 1949 and 1967 scores of Palestinian towns and more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israel. In the first flush of victory in the 1967 war, Ben Gurion wanted the magnificent walls built by the Ottomans that surround the ?Old City? destroyed because they were such a powerful reminder of the Islamic character of the city. Most of the Israeli government buildings in Jerusalem including the Knesset are built on Palestinian-owned land.
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), since annexation of East Jerusalem, have embarked on a ?Judaization? policy that entails constricting building permits to local Arabs to build houses on their ancestral land, withdrawing residency permits, demolishing Palestinian homes and mosques, and building illegal settlements. One of the first moves was to demolish the Maghariba quarter in order to enlarge the prayer area next to the Wailing Wall. One hundred and twenty-five Arab houses were destroyed in the process. Jerusalem Palestinians are considered as foreign residents. The policy of the Interior Ministry towards them – endorsed on 30 December 1996 by the Israeli Supreme Court – is too severe and arbitrary (especially since 1994). In 30 years (1967-97), an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem have lost their right of residency in the city. These include, for example, Jerusalem Palestinians who lived for over seven years outside the city limits. During the first two weeks of January 1997 alone, 233 Palestinian residents in Jerusalem were issued with expulsion orders. Palestinian refugees from camps located within the limits of Greater Jerusalem (the Shufat and Kalandia camps) have absolutely no political rights.
This ?policy of Judaization,? which has been conducted openly by the Israeli government to reduce the Arab presence in Jerusalem, is starting to bear fruit. While in 1990, there was still a majority of 150,000 Palestinians against 120,000 Jews in the eastern part of the city, the ratio has been reversed to the benefit of the latter. In 1993, East Jerusalem counted 155,000 Palestinian Arabs against 160,000 Israeli Jews. Some 250,000 Israelis lived in West Jerusalem. In 1996, out of a total population of 602,100 in Jerusalem, the Jewish population alone was 421,200.
On 19 April 1999, an inter-ministerial committee on Jerusalem recommended that Israel needs to build 116,000 new housing units in the city for Jews by 2020 in order to maintain a 70/30 percent Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This would signify an annual rate of 5,500. Figures published on 28 May, 2003 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics show that Jerusalem?s population has reached 683,000, of which sixty-six percent is Jewish. Of the 32 percent of the population who are Arabs, 94% are Muslim and 6% are Christians. In 2004, the Jewish population in Jerusalem was estimated at 464,000 out of a total population of 692,000.
The illegal Israeli settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem have expanded rapidly, in violation of all international laws. The Jewish settler population in East Jerusalem has also multiplied accordingly. In 2000 it was estimated to be close to 180,000. In 2003, 217,000 Palestinians share East Jerusalem with 200,000 Jewish settlers. Of these, 66,500 were in the Greater Jerusalem area of Ma?aleh Adumim, Givat Ze?ev, Betar Elite, Har Adar, Efrat and part of the Etzion Bloc.
The Israeli government has succeeded in applying Jerusalem?s religious symbolism to vast areas that have nothing to do with historic Jerusalem. So, e.g., over half of what we call Jerusalem today was not part of the city pre-1967, but were parts of Bethlehem and 28 other West Bank towns.
Between 1967 and 2003, 35% of the land in East Jerusalem has been expropriated for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and attendant facilities. Of the more than 38,500 houses built on expropriated land, as of 2003, none has been constructed for Arabs. In East Jerusalem there are now over 43,000 homes in Jewish neighborhoods and only 28,000 in Palestinian neighborhoods.
In today?s Israel even the dead are not safe from desecration. For example, during Olmert?s tenure as the mayor of Jerusalem, Islamic burial places in West Jerusalem ?Ma?man Allah? (or colloquially Mamilla), measuring some 250,000 square meters, were turned into building plots. The Sheraton Plaza Hotel, Supersol supermarket, Beit Argon building and the adjacent car parking lot are all built on this Islamic Waqf owned land which was used by Muslims as their burial place in Jerusalem until 1948. What remains of this Muslim cemetery is being used as an open park, courtesy of Jerusalem mayors.
The 1993 Oslo Accord left the future of Jerusalem to be determined later through serious negotiation. At Camp David in July 2000 and later at Taba, Israeli negotiators considered allowing some sovereignty to the Palestinian state over Arab areas of East Jerusalem but no agreement was reached. The Palestinian side was ready to concede Israel?s claim to West Jerusalem of which Palestinians had privately owned 40 per cent in 1948. The final negotiation fell flat on the status of Haram al-Sharif.
In the post-Clinton era, nothing significant has been done to settle Jerusalem?s long-standing problem except President Bush?s announcement of the so-called ?Roadmap? for the creation of a Palestinian state, which appears to be aimed more at getting the necessary cooperation from his Arab client states before toppling Saddam than establishing the groundwork for real peace or a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
Next, we come to the question of religious myth, as Menachem Begin once said, ?The country was promised to us, and we have a right to it.? [Davar, Dec. 12, 1978] Golda Meir similarly said, ?This country (i.e., State of Israel) exists as a result of a promise made by God Himself.? Moshe Dayan said, ?If you have the book of Bible, the people of the Bible, then you also have the land of the Bible – of the Judges, of the Patriarchs in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jericho and thereabouts.? [Jerusalem Post, Aug. 10, 1967]
One should not be surprised by such invocations of Biblical passages to ?justify? or ?sanctify? the permanent extension of the Zionist state. In 1956, it was David Ben-Gurion who showed the way by declaring that Sinai formed part of the ?Kingdom of David and Solomon.?
Over the past year, Jerusalem municipality has issued orders to demolish 64 of the 88 Palestinian homes in the adjoining Arab town of Bustan (Silwan for the Israelis). City Councilman Meir Margalit said that the remaining 24 homes would also be demolished shortly. Why Bustan? The answer is simple: to the Israelis, it is the ?City of David? where King David decided to build the capital of his kingdom in 1004 BCE. To them, Bustan should not belong to a future Palestinian state. To realize this, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski plans to expand the ?City of David Park? that would include nearby Bustan.
Colonialists have always sought a rationalization for their criminal annexations, robberies and authority. And what a better way than to claim being ?God?s Chosen People? or belonging to a ?Superior? race? Are we, therefore, surprised at the remarkable similarity between Zionist claims and Vorster?s (late Prime Minister of the Apartheid regime in South Africa in 1972) assertion about justification of apartheid when the latter said, ?Let us not forget that we are the people of God, entrusted with a mission??
The concept of “race” is a 19th century invention by European colonialists to justify colonial hegemony. To justify colonialism, English writer, Rudyard Kipling spoke of “the White Man’s burden” to civilize the non-whites. This very idea of “chosen people” should be recognized as historically infantile, politically criminal, theologically intolerable, and morally insane. It has no scientific basis. It is a bizarre puzzle to say the least. Because, God’s mercy is never restricted to a group, but transcends entire humanity. It is narrated in the Qur’an, ?Remember when Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain words, which he fulfilled. He said, “I shall make you an Imam to humankind.” Said he, “And what of my progeny?” He said, “My covenant shall not include the wrongdoers.” [Qur’an 2:124]
Zionists often invoke the Book of Genesis (15:16) which states: ?In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.? So, which ?seed? or son is meant here? Is it Ishmael ? the first born, or Isaac (the son of Sarah) ? the father of Jacob? What we know from history is that this ?promise? was only fulfilled through the Arab descendants of Ishmael, the forefather of Muhammad (P), and not ever by any descendant of Isaac. Period!
So, if theology were to determine the status of Jerusalem, the Muslim position strongly contradicts Jewish aspiration for the city and shows that they have stronger claim to the city than their Jewish cousins.
Sadly, political Zionism has betrayed Judaism and perverted Christianity. The same church that once labeled Jews as ?Christ-killers?, as the ?rejected? or ?forsaken people?, now calls them the ?Chosen people.? They are now its best friends, more zealous than many Israelis in their support for the rogue state. It is really strange! I wish the Christian motivation was genuine and not simply to gather them as the sacrificial lambs for the ?coming Armageddon?!
The entire policy of the state of Israel, internal or external, is a colonial enterprise, but it wears the ?chador? (cloak) of pseudo-theological myth. From its beginning to the present, Israel has always been a racist, colonial state. The father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl remarked, ?Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream, antagonism is essential to man?s greatest efforts.? [Jewish State, (1897)] Contrary to this view, the greatest minds ever in the history of mankind, from Moses to Jesus to Muhammad (S), spoke of universal brotherhood to be the solution. This remark rightly shows the sick mentality of this founder of Zionism. As a matter of fact the Zionists – Jewish or Christian alike – are morally wrong.
In his Diary, Theodor Herzl writes about the establishment of a Jewish state: ?We should form there a portion of rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.? Here, it clearly shows his colonial, racist mentality. He first disregards the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the Arab Palestinians, and then calls them barbarians. With the records of Israeli leaders since the establishment of the modern Zionist state, it is quite obvious that it has served the purpose of being a ?rampart? rather too well!
From the above discussion we see that the so-called Children of Israel far from being the first settlers in Palestine were only one group among many others. The total period of Jewish rule or sovereignty over Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular was only about 400 years, and this period is much shorter a period compared to the period of Muslim rule. As a matter of fact, in its entire history, no other community had ruled Palestine or Jerusalem for a longer period. The myth of political rights of the Jews over Palestine is thus not substantiated by history.
In the pre-1948 period, Jews returned to Palestine primarily as a result of persecution in Europe, and least from any yearning for the “homeland of their ancestors”. Had it not been for the generosity of Muslim rulers, they could not have found refuge among Muslims, and surely not in Palestine.
If theology were to be the basis for occupying land, then Muslim claims for Jerusalem is at least, if not more, as strong as those of Jewish (and Christian) claims.
Contrary to the myths now spread by Zionists, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims and that during the Muslim rule it never declined to the point of becoming a shambles.
More importantly, East Jerusalem, including its Muslim holy places, is not the patrimony of any Arab incumbent in whatever Arab capital he or she may be, but that of nearly 1.5 billion Muslims and of the Arab people of Palestine. Israel through its actions in post-1967 era has shown that it cannot be trusted for guardianship of Muslim shrines.
In common with the wishes of millions of Palestinians living inside and outside the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Old (East) Jerusalem, comprising all the pre-1967 territories, is deserving of being their capital.