Richard L. Cravatts

The potential lethality of UNESCO’s vote on the Temple Mount & Western Wall

More than a moral outrage, the UN’s vote opens the door to continued terrorism against Israel.

Seeming to parallel the dystopian world described by George Orwell in 1984 in which history and fact are manipulated to serve political ends, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently voted 24-6 to approve a resolution stripping the Temple Mount and Western Wall of its Jewish identity, and elevating a Muslim claim to those two sites central to Judaism. The intellectually-retrogressive measure, promoted by the stateless Palestinians and sponsored by Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan in a document tellingly named “Occupied Palestine,” purported to be interested in “safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem.”

That mission, needless to say, given the moral imbecility of the twenty-four countries that voted in favor (and the twenty-six who cravenly abstained), had as its primary purpose to airbrush a Jewish connection out of Jerusalem, and particularly the Temple Mount, which the UNESCO charade did not even refer to by its Hebrew name (Har HaBáyit), instead referring only to it by its Muslim name, Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif.

The hallucinatory and willfully delusional vote from Jew-hating nations in the thralls of Palestinianism, of course, is not surprising, given the U.N.’s promiscuous bias and historical inversions when assessing the perceived shortcomings of Israel. Nor was the attempt to de-Judaize the Western Wall and Temple Mount by ascribing fictive religious identities to those sites the first time this irrational irredentism had been used as a tactic to elevate the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem while simultaneously obliterating the Jewish one.

All prescient commentators worldwide immediately denounced the vote for exactly what it was: not a legitimate attempt to protect the ethnic and religious rights of a people to sites that are verifiably and undisputedly theirs, but a brazen and volatile political tactic that, while possibly effective, was promoted only by completely ignoring at least two-thousand years of biblical, religious, historical, and archeological evidence supporting the obvious, and inarguable, fact that the Temple Mount and Western Wall are not only significant in Judaism, but its holiest places.

But this latest example of what has been called “Temple Denial” on the part of the Palestinians and their supporter is the culminating act in a long campaign that showed itself as early as 2000 at the Camp David negotiations when a shocked President Clinton was told by Yasser Arafat that no Jewish temple had ever existed on the Temple Mount, but had been located, he preposterously claimed, in Nablus.

That sentiment, and that fantastical version of history, is clearly still prevalent within the Palestinian movement, as evidenced by October 14th comments made on official PA TV by Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs, whose sentiments reinforced and parroted the language of the UNESCO resolution. “Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian land. Jerusalem is the property of the Palestinians,” he said.  “. . . UNESCO’s resolution confirms what we think and believe in, that Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, and the Al-Buraq Wall and the Al-Buraq plaza are all purely Islamic and Palestinian assets and no one has the right to be our partner in that. No one has the right. We are the owners and we have the right to it.”

These delusions are apparently also shared by President Mahmoud Abbas. “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours as well,” Abbas announced in a September 2015 speech in Ramallah. “[Israeli Jews] have no right to desecrate the mosque with their dirty feet, we won’t allow them to do that,” he said.

Of course, this toxic language is dangerous, fusing as it does, theological and political considerations that are potentially compromising for Israeli security and lethal for Jewish lives. In the first place, if the Palestinians, along with the Jordanian Waqf that administers the Temple Mount, now see themselves as the rightful and legal custodians of Judaism’s holiest site—with Jews now stripped of any historical or theological connection to the Mount or Wall—they now can, without being contradicted or sanctioned, truly accuse Jews (and non-Muslim visitors, too) at those locations of being “right-wing extremists and uniformed forces,” as the UNESCO resolution read, a part of “the occupying Power,” engaged in “the continuous storming of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif by Israel . . , [all] provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif.”

For some years, the millions of annual visitors to the Western Wall and Temple Mount have frequently had to confront a phalanx of shrieking harpies, the Murabitat, Muslim women funded by the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, who shout at and assault visitors to the site, screaming ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Now, with the purported legitimacy of the UNESCO designation, why would anyone doubt that enforcement of a Muslim-only presence, both on the Temple Mount itself, but now, potentially, at the Western Wall also, is something that the Palestinians, and their Waqf enablers, could begin to claim as a new, UN-granted “right” to purge Jews once and for all from what are now designated as Muslim holy sites? Will they not be emboldened by their new religious possessions and feel compelled to protect the “sacred” Muslim sites from being desecrated by the “dirty feet” of Jews who now will have no right to even visit these locations? Where politics had previously failed in the face of an overwhelming Jewish connection to these locations, it has now, after the UNESCO vote, been made possible, even likely.

Since the 1920s, when Amin al-Husseini, the Nazi-loving Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, rallied Muslims with accusations that Jews intended to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild the Jewish Temple, Arabs have attempted to overlook and obscure a Jewish connection to the site, and have sought to “liberate” purported Muslim holy places from the grip of Zionists.

The true danger of the Palestinian thinking about the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem was crystallized in Yasser Arafat’s own view that he expressed in a July 2000 edition of al-Hayat al-Jadida.  “I will not agree to any sovereign presence in Jerusalem,” he wrote, referring to the thorny issue of who, Israel or the Palestinians, would have sovereignty of the Holy Basin. “They can occupy us by force, because we are weaker now, but in two years, ten years, or one hundred years, there will be someone who will liberate Jerusalem [from them].”

“Liberating” Jerusalem, of course, does not mean transforming it into a pluralistic, open city where members of three major faiths can live freely and practice their religions openly.  Liberating Jerusalem for the Palestinians would be more in keeping with the type of liberation that Transjordan’s Arab League effected when they burned and looted the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem in 1948; expelled and killed its hapless Jewish population; destroyed some 58 synagogues, many hundreds of years old; unearthed gravestones from the history-laden Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and used them for latrine pavers; and barred any Jew from praying at the Western Wall or entering the Temple Mount.  That same predilection to destroy religious property was on display again shortly after Camp David, when a crazed Palestinian mob took sledgehammers to Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site, and completely obliterated it as Palestinian policemen stood idly by and watched.

But false irredentist claims, the Islamic supremacism which compels Jews and Christians to live in dhimmitude under Muslim control, and an evident cultural and theological disregard for other faiths— while troubling in the battle over sovereignty in Jerusalem—are not, according to Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, the most dangerous aspects of the type of diplomatic capitulation witnessed in the UNESCO vote to strengthen the Palestinians’ claim to Judaism’s holy sites. In his engaging book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Gold pointed to a far more troubling aspect: in their desire to accede to Arab requests for a presence and religious sovereignty in Jerusalem, UNESCO, the U.S. State Department, the EU, UN member states, and Islamic apologists in the Middle East and worldwide may actually ignite jihadist impulses they seek to dampen with their well-intentioned, but defective, diplomacy. Why? Because, as Gold explained, “In the world of apocalyptic speculation, Jerusalem has many other associations—it is the place where the messianic Mahdi [the redeemer of Islam] is to establish his capital. For that reason, some argue that it also should become the seat of the new caliphate that most Islamic groups—from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda—seek to establish.”

The establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is the first important step in the long-term strategy to rid the Levant of Jews and reestablish the House of Islam in Palestine. “Jerusalem’s recapture is seen by some as one of the signs that ‘the Hour’ and the end of times are about to occur,” Gold suggested.  “And most importantly, because of these associations, it is the launching pad for a new global jihad powered by the conviction that this time the war will unfold according to a pre-planned religious script, and hence must succeed.”

The UNESCO vote, as part of an historical campaign to reclaim Jewish Jerusalem, will have the effect of destabilizing the region and creating, not the oft-hoped for Israel and Palestine “living side by side in peace,” but an incendiary cauldron about to explode into an annihilatory, jihadist rage. Those in the West who urge Israel “to re-divide Jerusalem by relinquishing its holy sites,” Dore cautioned, “may well believe that they are lowering the flames of radical Islamic rage, but in fact they will only be turning up those flames to heights that have not been seen before.”

If UNESCO and other Western diplomats are intent on mollifying the Arab street by pressuring Israel to divide Jerusalem and turn over its holy sites as a peace offering to the Palestinians, it may well be setting into motion the exact opposite result: a jihadist, apocalyptic movement invigorated by the misguided diplomacy of the West that, once more, asks Israel to sacrifice its security, religious heritage, and nationhood so that Islamists can realize their own imperial ambitions at the Jewish state’s expense.

The UNESCO vote indicates that, in a morally-incoherent world, political expediency will trump reason, truth, and fact. “All history was . . . scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary,” Orwell described it. “In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.”

About the Author
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Slow Death of the University: How Radicalism, Israel Hatred, and Race Obsession are Destroying Academia.
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