The Palestinians’ blind eye to history

MICHAEL COREN

The Israel-Palestine conflict presented its contorted face to Canada with a steaming, hysterical anger last week.

In Jerusalem a bus full of unsuspecting Canadian tourists was attacked by rock wielding Palestinian youths. No Canadians were seriously injured, yet the attack itself was ironic, in that Christian tourists from North America are vital to the local economy and to the Palestinians in particular. But then irrational behaviour is nothing new in the Middle East. In this instance, however, it has reached new heights.

Palestinians and their Muslim comrades in other countries have turned to violence in the wake of Israel’s construction work around the Temple Mount. They complain that the Israelis are rebuilding a ramp that connects to the Mount and that, in so doing, are damaging the foundations beneath the al-Aqsa Mosque. It’s all part of a conspiracy, they claim, to destroy the Mosque and build a Jewish temple in its place.

It is almost impossible to convey the dramatic juxtapositions of clashing religions in Jerusalem. The last remaining icon of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, is at the very epicentre of Judaism. It is also close to the spot where a series of Muslim shrines and Mosques have been built to commemorate the third holiest place in Islam. So Jewish and Muslim worshippers are just, well, a stone’s throw from each other.

If the geography is intense, the history is equally so. The Israelites under King David conquered Jerusalem around 1000 BC and rebuilt and expanded the city. David’s son Solomon built the great Jewish Temple and it stood for half a millennium until destroyed by the Babylonians.

It was rebuilt and remained in place until the Roman defeat of the Jewish uprising in 70 AD. Jerusalem later became a largely Christian city until Muslim forces arrived, very much as latecomers, in 638 AD. Shortly afterwards Caliph Umar asked the Christian Patriarch, Sophronius, to show him the exact spot of the Jewish Temple. It was here that the al-Aqsa Mosque would be built.


Shortly afterwards Caliph Umar asked the Christian Patriarch, Sophronius, to show him the exact spot of the Jewish Temple. It was here that the al-Aqsa Mosque would be built.


Not, however, according to the Palestinian leadership. There was no Temple, there was no case of Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers, there were no Jews. “For 34 years the Israelis have dug tunnels around the Temple Mount,” said Yasser Arafat in 2002. “They found not a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there, because historically the Temple was not in Palestine.” This is the mythology driving the stone-wielding Palestinians and it is propagated by others as well.

In 2001 the Higher Islamic Authority of Palestine stated, “The claims being made by the rulers of Israel and its rabbis about the alleged Temple are pure fabrications without any base or foundation.” This nonsense has been repeated by the Mufti of Jerusalem and within universities and newspapers throughout the Arab world.

In spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, many in the Muslim world refuse to accept that the Jews have any historical claim to live in Israel and continue to deny that the Temple of Jewish, Christian and secular history ever existed. In other words, the world is flat if it suits one’s political purposes.

So the fact that Israeli engineers are repairing a ramp close to a mosque is largely irrelevant. Especially when Israel’s archaeologists are world-renowned for their expertise and sensitivity. Even the harshest critics of Israeli policy do not question the fairness of the excavations that have taken place in the Holy Land for 50 years.

Israel took possession of all of Jerusalem in 1967 , and for the first time in centuries the Jewish people had full access to their holy places. Under Jordanian control, Jewish shrines had been systematically desecrated. Even now the Islamic authorities on Temple Mount have a dreadful record of destroying ancient Jewish artifacts that they find.

Political dialogue and religious understanding can only come about when politics is not hyperbole, and religion is not used as a tool for lies and mythology. To deny Jewish history is to deny the Jewish state. To deny history is to deny truth. To deny truth is to invite disaster. Canadians had a first-hand glimpse of this ongoing Palestinian disaster last week.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Michael Coren, "The Palestinians’ blind eye to history." National Post, (Canada) February 13, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post, and the author, Michael Coren.

THE AUTHOR

Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.

 

He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

Copyright © 2007 National Post


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