When Yasir Arafat met with President Bill Clinton at Camp David in the summer of 2000, he astonished the American president by claiming that the Jews had no connection to the Temple Mount. This anti-Islamic narrative on the part of the PLO chairman has been the essential national position of nearly all Palestinian leaders since 1920. Not only is it historically inaccurate, it is also against the very prophecy of Mohammad himself. Throughout recent modern history, Israel has faced the scourge of Muslim anti-Jewish opposition to its legitimate creation. Still, there are two most significant questions which remain relevant even within this last decade of a devastating hundred-year war. Is the creation of the Jewish state a fulfillment of both the Torah and the Koran? And, therefore, is its establishment a Divine injunction through direct prophecy?
The answer to both these questions is a definite yes. Simply put: the Palestinian national narrative, which posits a disconnection between Judaism and the historic Land of Israel (i.e. greater Palestine from the Transjordanian desert to the Mediterranean Sea), is a blasphemy. It is a direct affront not only to Judaism and Christianity, but to Islam itself. The very claim is outside the Abrahamic tradition. In no way can it be considered anything other than an atheistic nationalism without any basis in Islamic thought. The secular Arab national movement for Palestine (the PLO), whose very essence sets out to deny the Jewish people their religious right of governance through Divine injunction, is not only anti-Jewish; it is also, by design, anti-Islamic.
Islam makes its claim to Abraham through Ishmael, but it also connects itself to the same father through his other son, Issac. At no time does the Koran disinherit the Jewish Torah or its many prophets. On the contrary, the Koran, like the Christian Bible, claims to be a fulfillment of Torah, not a replacement. The line of Issac through Jacob is as essential to the legitimacy of Islam as the line of Ishmael. How else could Islam explain Moses and the events at Sinai, or the Kingdom of David and his son, Solomon, and the building of the Jewish Temple in Jewish Jerusalem? It couldn’t. Without the Jews, Islam becomes solely the religion of the line of Ishmael. If this were the case, its linkages to the Jewish prophets and the Christian claim to the line of David would be severed, and any supposition of a final seal of prophecy would become disconnected from its essential foundation.
For the Palestinian national movement to claim that the Jews have no roots in the Land of Israel is to disconnect themselves from the very land to which they claim ownership. The Arab peoples are not indigenous to Israel. They are from the deserts of Arabia. They came into possession of the Land of Israel through conquest. The Arab peoples hold this conquest to be legitimate through a form of Divine injunction which authorized their expansion and eventual empire. Accordingly, the G-d of Abraham allowed for this global expansion of His Abrahamic tradition in the same way that there was a Divine approval of the expansion of Christianity. Similarly, the Jews hold that their original conquest of Canaan (which preceded Christianity and Islam) was also Divinely ordered. All three religions have a deep and abiding connection to the Land of Israel, but according to the Koran of Islam and the standard interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, it is the Jews who hold Divine title.
For Jews, it is the Torah (in the Book of Genesis) that established the Covenant of Abraham as a lasting endowment of a specific land to be set aside as a birthright for the offspring of Abraham. For Muslims, it is the Koran which establishes title. In Koran 5:21, title is given to Moses (not Abraham) as an everlasting bond between Israel and the land. Yet for the last 1400 years Muslim authorities have been in charge. It has only been since 1948 (and only on a small part of the land) that a small Jewish commonwealth has been achieved. If there is a legitimate Muslim claim to Israel-Palestine, the narrative must be inclusive of the Jewish claim, or it goes against the very word of the Koran. Palestine has never been an Islamic construct. However, the Jewish connection to Israel is Koranic. Even though the Koran applies a singular ownership to the land, mutual possession of the land is a reality, and the tenacity of its hold on the history of both Jews and Muslims must be considered as an aspect of Divine intention.
How do religious scholars disentangle the dual ownership conundrum of the Holy Land? Is the Koran correct that ownership is held solely by the people of the prophet Moses, the Jewish people? Or is the Torah correct, that ownership is a direct covenant between all the offspring of Abraham? The birthright of the line of Issac, specifically through Jacob and not Esau, applies not to land (it is omitted in the third section of Genesis 17) but probably to Law and the events at Sinai. What an irony: the Islamic revelation through Koran gives deed to the Jews, while the Jewish revelation through Torah holds the land deed (The Covenant of Abraham) for the heirs of both Ishmael and Isaac. Could both revelations be, in fact, complementary? Are they a direct reminder to Muslims that after 1400 years, Jews also hold a distinct connection to a land at the very center of the Muslim empire? And could there also be an equally powerful message to the Jews — that the land is not to be conquered in total because Torah holds peace between off-spring (brothers) to be supreme over war? Is this extreme irony of revelation a strong clue as to an alternative Divine intent?
I humbly suggest that it is. For Muslims, a jihad against the modern Jewish commonwealth is a sacrilege. Try as they might, Israel is not to be defeated. This is by Divine decree. If the Koran is to be believed and submitted to by believers in the spoken word of G-d through Mohammad, then the words of 5:21 cannot be a mere expediency and shunted aside. The war against the Jewish state is a great shame for the Arab Muslim people. The same applies to Jewish extremism. The highest value of Judaism is not conquest. And the essence of Torah is not merely the possession of land. When the stranger loses his Divine image, and the land becomes an idol, the people lose their connection to all of humanity and Holy Law.
For peace to reign, the narrative of “one land for two peoples” must be a shared construct. For any final status treaty to be signed and implemented, both sides must be committed to an equality of Divine intention through the juxtaposition of revelations. The rights of both peoples to a portion of the land and a shared destiny must be understood and acclaimed by each other. In the final analysis, G-d must rule the very hearts of Jews and Muslims. The only peace worthy of being built and capable of standing will be erected upon a firm theological foundation. In a sense, a new civilization must arise from the Holy Land of Abraham and Moses, a civilization where all people are held in esteem, and the politics of war will be replaced by the politics of mutual respect. This can only happen through a distinct sense of Divine authority as a shared narrative through the revelations of two religions. Let the light shine from Jerusalem, as a glorious temple of dignity resides in the common vision and complementarity of Torah and Koran. Let our new civilization astonish the world. Let all understand that human equality comes before riches and power. And let us beat our swords into plowshares.