Backlash against Western Wall claims

Ahram Online, Wednesday 1 Dec 2010

Israeli and American politicians have vehemently denied claims by a new official Palestinian report claiming that Jerusalem's Western wall is not Jewish

Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall
Reuters: View of the Dome of the Rock (left) as seen from the Western Wall in the Old City, Jerusalem.

The US denounced Tuesday an official Palestinian report issued last week that said Jerusalem’s Western Wall, considered one of Judaism’s holiest sites, was not Jewish.

Deputy information minister in the Palestinian Authority, Al-Mutawakil Taha, published a study disputing Jewish claims for the wall as a retaining wall of the compound of Biblical Jewish Temples destroyed centuries ago.

"We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimisation of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters as quoted in Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that "denial of the connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall by the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information is baseless and scandalous."

In the report, Taha wrote the Western wall is a "Muslim wall and an integral part of Al-Aqsa mosque and Haram al-Sharif," a position previously conveyed in statements made by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is Islam's third-holiest site.

Taha told the Associated Press that his study reflected the official Palestinian position.

Israel took over East Jerusalem, where the Western Wall is located, after the 1967 war and claimed all of Jerusalem as its capital, after which the regime destroyed buildings surrounding the wall and created there an open plaza.

"This wall has never been a part of what is called the Jewish Temple," the report said as quoted in Asharq Al-Awsat. "However, it was Islamic tolerance which allowed the Jews to stand before it and cry over its loss."

The report concludes that since Jews have no claim to the area, it is holy Muslim territory and must be part of Palestinian Jerusalem.

Taha issued the document after Israel approved a five-year renovation plan for the Western Wall area on 21 November.

Einat Wilf, a legislator from the Israeli Labour Party, a part of the governing coalition, was quoted saying Palestinians "are stupidly trying again and again to somehow create an alternative reality in which the Jewish people are strangers in this land."

Earlier failed peace negotiations sought the division of Jerusalem along ethnic lines but a comprehensive agreement was not reached regarding the disputed hilltop home to Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

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