Rabbi of Western Wall calls on Amnesty to denounce its 'harmful' report

"As long as you continue to treat the Jewish nation's heritage in its land as a political issue," Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz wrote in an open letter, "you will be fanning [the flames] by your actions."

February 12, 2019 15:20
2 minute read.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall, poses for a photo in front of the holy site

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall, poses for a photo in front of the holy site. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall, pleaded the case to remove politics from Israel’s holy “heritage” sites as “there are many who wish to turn [them]... to places of dispute and strife.”

In an open letter sent to the NGO Amnesty International on Monday, Rabinowitz called upon the organization to “renounce [a] superfluous and harmful report” issued by the organization.

In late January, Amnesty released a report calling on the four largest web vacation booking sites to boycott West Bank settlements, as well as Jewish listings in east Jerusalem, when providing travelers with tourism-related services.

“I am sure that you are familiar with both Jewish history in Israel of the past 4,000 years, as well as the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the cynical use of religious values to justify blatantly trampling on the Jewish nation’s past and heritage,” Rabinowitz opened.

“I would like to believe that despite your actions – your intentions are good, and that you actually do wish to put an end to this 115-year cycle of violence in the Land of Israel,” he continued. “But know this – without truth, there can be no peace.”

“As long as you continue to treat the Jewish nation’s heritage in its land as a political issue, and to [consider] holy sites as conquered lands,” he wrote to Amnesty, “not only will you not put out the flames, but you will be fanning them by your actions.”

Amnesty included Airbnb on its list of four tourism booking companies targeted in its report, called “Destination: Occupation,” even though the company stated in November that it would no longer list vacation rentals in West Bank settlements on its website.

Amnesty took issue with Airbnb’s failure to include east Jerusalem in that decision, explaining that the company lists 100 Jewish properties in that section of the city.

Rabinowitz, citing the “cynical use of religious values to justify blatantly trampling on the Jewish nation’s past and heritage,” noted Israel’s government provides freedom of religion for “Muslims, Christians, and any other religion,” and noted ancient artifacts are “sensitively and responsibly cared for by the Israel Antiques Authority.”

Rabinowitz accused the Muslim Wakf, the trust that controls the Temple Mount, of enjoying “unprecedented status and sovereignty – including the freedom to cause unfathomable archaeological damage during construction work on the Temple Mount.”

“I call upon you to immediately renounce this superfluous and harmful report, and join me and many others like me, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who live side by side, respecting each other’s heritage, and wishing to live with true tolerance in his land that is holy to us all,” he closed.

Airbnb and the other three companies – Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor – Amnesty said, are breaking international law and participating in a war crime by continuing their listings.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

Read Rabinowitz's full open letter below:


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