Jerusalem Focus Aims to Undermine Israel
By Michael Schmidt, AJC NY Director
Jerusalem, as seen from Mt. Scopus.
Photo: Kanan Abramson
Hundreds of Muslim worshipers, incited by a rumor that the Al-Aqsa mosque was under threat, recently hurled rocks down from Jerusalem's Temple Mount on the Jews praying below at the Western Wall. Several Israeli policemen were injured quelling the violence. Although such incidents are nothing new, that one was the opening salvo in a larger campaign to inflame the Arab and Muslim worlds about the future of Jerusalem and force the issue onto the agenda of the international community.
Two days later, the Arab League-sponsored International Conference on Jerusalem took place in Doha, Qatar. The host, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani opened with a strong warning: "We must act quickly to stop the Judaization of Jerusalem." The delegates unanimously approved the emir's suggestion to insist on a UN probe of Israel's actions there.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, another speaker at the late February conference, did not acknowledge any Jewish claim to Jerusalem. He accused Israeli authorities of "using the ugliest and most dangerous means" to obliterate Jerusalem's "Arab-Islamic and Christian character," and, in a reprise of his UN General Assembly address last September, he omitted the faith, Judaism, most closely connected with the city.
Abbas denounced alleged Israeli attempts "day and night" to establish historically false Jewish claims to Jerusalem, and a nefarious excavation plan-existing nowhere outside his own imagination-to replace the Al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple. For good measure, Abbas castigated the so-called "Apartheid wall"-actually a complex of barriers that have effectively prevented suicide-bomb attacks on Israelis-and complained of ethnic cleansing practiced against local Palestinians. Echoing the emir, Abbas urged making Jerusalem "the main topic, basic core" of Arab and Islamic relations with the rest of the world.
Seeking to attach a scholarly veneer to the proceedings, conference organizers designated a committee of archaeologists and historians to determine whether there is any legitimacy to Jewish claims to Jerusalem. Surely no one in Doha was surprised to hear the committee's finding that the idea of Palestine as the promised land of the Jews is a Zionist "trick" with no factual basis.
But let's at least get some facts straight. Jerusalem is both at the heart of the Jewish religion and is the capital city of Israel. The eastern section of Jerusalem, including the Old City, came under Israeli rule in June 1967, after Jordan joined with Egypt and Syria in a war aimed at obliterating the Jewish state. And, for the past 47 years, as Israel has sought to negotiate permanent peace with its neighbors, all faiths have enjoyed unfettered access to their houses of worship in Jerusalem.
The next stage of the anti-Israel campaign will be a Global March to Jerusalem on March 30. For global march organizers historical facts are not important. Its website shows a map of "Palestine" that includes all of Israel, an official anthem, information about organized affiliates in numerous countries, and a list of supporters that includes former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and even a gaggle of Jewish anti-Zionists.
The plan is for one million activists from all over the world to converge from all directions and attempt to cross Israel's border to enter Jerusalem. At the same time others will show support by rallying outside Israeli embassies around the world. Organizers say the march will be nonviolent, but the Israeli police can hardly be expected to look on passively as hostile demonstrators try illegally to cross the border.
The main purpose of the exercise, thus, is to induce Israelis to fire on "peaceful" protestors, showing the world the alleged bloodthirsty policies of the Zionist state. This would help President Abbas reinvigorate his so-far futile efforts to get the international community to take up the cause of Palestinian independence, and enable him to continue avoiding direct negotiations with Israel.
The march is also intended to serve other interests. Iran's assurance that it will send tens of thousands to Jerusalem shows that Tehran is eager to distract world attention from its nuclear program. And the news that the Syrian government, even as it spills the blood of its own people, will send a contingent to its border with Israel on March 30 indicates that it views the event as a convenient way to channel peoples' grievances away from the presidential palace.
In sum, the march serves no constructive purpose, and can only embolden forces that would further destabilize the Middle East. It should be shunned and condemned by all those who truly seek peace.