A Palestinian Authority “study” that rejects Jews’ claim to the Western Wall
disappeared on Wednesday from the official website of the Palestinian Ministry
The ministry said in a statement in Arabic that its
website had been “penetrated by unknown persons.”
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However, a senior PA
official in Ramallah revealed that the controversial report was cut at the
request of the United States.
The ministry said that despite the alleged
attack by hackers, it was “determined to show the truth and relay all what’s
happening in Palestine to the world.”
Despite the claim about a hacker
attack, the ministry’s website did not seem to be affected at all and was
continuing to publish new material all day.
The paper about the Western
Wall, which was first reported by The Jerusalem Post on November 22, had
appeared on the site until Tuesday night.
It was removed the first time
almost immediately after the US criticized the Palestinians for issuing
The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the PA’s decision to take
down its “study” denying any Jewish connection to the Western Wall off the
website, by saying it was notenough for the PA to pretend this never happened, but was important that the
leadership denounce it publicly.
“It is important for confidence building
that the Palestinian Authority publicly prepare people for peace and
reconciliation, and that can only be done if Palestinian leaders publicly
disassociate themselves from such remarks and condemn all statements that call
Israel fundamentally illegitimate,” one official in the Prime Minister’s Office
“As long as the Jewish state remains illegitimate in Palestinian
eyes, peace will not be real,” he said.
Although Israel denounced the
“study” and called for the Palestinian leadership to disassociate itself from it
immediately after news of it appeared in the Post, the PA only took it off its
website after the Americans registered a public protest. Israeli sources said
this was not a good sign, since the Middle East road map obligates the PA to
fight incitement, and the issue “must be important to them.”
was prepared by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior official with the Ministry of
Information in Ramallah and a renowned poet and writer with close ties to the PA
Taha’s paper claimed that the Western Wall, or Al-Buraq Wall
as it is known to Muslims, is Wakf trust property owned by an Algerian-Moroccan
“The Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that
it owns this wall that it calls the Western Wall or Kotel,” Taha wrote in his
“The Al-Buraq Wall is in fact the western wall of the Aksa
He said that Jews never used the site for worship until the
Balfour Declaration of 1917.
“This wall was never part of the so-called
Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and
weep over its destruction,” he wrote.
“During the British Mandate in
Palestine, the number of Jews who visited the wall increased to a point where
the Muslims felt threatened and then there was the Al-Buraq Revolution on August
23, 1929, where dozens of Muslims were martyred and a large number of Jews were
Taha said on Wednesday that he was not aware that his “study”
had been removed from the ministry’s website. He also backtracked on his earlier
assertion that it reflected the official position of the PA.
The US on
Tuesday night again criticized the document.
“We strongly condemn these
comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly
provocative,” a US State Department spokesman said.
“We have repeatedly
raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat
all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish
connections to the land.”
The chairman of the US House Committee on
Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), also decried Taha’s claim,
calling it “provocative and inciteful.”
“I strongly condemn the [claim]
that the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem has no religious significance
to Jews,” Berman said.
“[The PA’s] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime
Minister Fayyad know the spiritual importance of the Western Wall to the global
Jewish community,” he said, calling on Abbas to denounce Taha’s study and
clarify that the remarks were not the official position of the PA.
leaders applauded the US administration’s strong stance on the Western
In a statement, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations leaders Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein said the Palestinian claim
is one that “undermine[ s] the chances for peace.”
“This ongoing process
of delegitimization of Israel and the ancient Jewish connection to the land is
part of an ongoing campaign that damages confidence in the willingness of the PA
to negotiate a solution that accepts Israel,” they said in a
Many US Jewish groups also reiterated the historical
inaccuracy of the Palestinian report.
“Maintaining historical accuracy
and integrity is critical, and the Western Wall’s origin as the outer wall of
the Jewish Second Temple is irrefutable,” American Jewish Committee Executive
Director David Harris said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Rabbi of the Western
Wall and Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinovitch praised the US reactions to the PA
announcement, which, he added, “distorted history and claimed the Western Wall
is not a site sanctified to the Jews.”
“The foolish attempt to offer an
alternative historical narrative to the sanctities of Israel damaged not only
the speakers’ reliability and the dignity of history, but primarily the efforts
to bring peace to the Middle East,” Rabinovitch said in a
Jonah Mandel and Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this