Two tales of one Western Wall: British minister visits 'occupied East Jerusalem'

Government Press Office trumpeted British Home Minister's visit to Western Wall, while the British Consulate played it down.

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July 1, 2019 17:20
3 minute read.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid stands at the Western Wall alongside Chief Rabbi of the Western W

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid stands at the Western Wall alongside Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, July 1 2019. (photo credit: THE WESTERN WALL HERITAGE FOUNDATION)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid visited the Holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday, and the different statements put out by the Government Press Office and the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem provided a study in how what you see depends on where you stand.

The GPO statement, headlined “Home Secretary of Great Britain at Western Wall,” said Javid visited the Western Wall as part of his visit to Israel.

Javid is considered one of Israel's strongest supporters inside the Conservative Party. He is the son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants who is married to a Christian wife with whom he honeymooned in Israel. He finished fourth in the recent Tory leadership race.

“This visit by Britain’s Home Secretary follows 19 years in which no senior minister of the British government has visited Jerusalem or the Western Wall.,” the GPO statement said.

According to this statement, Javid was greeted by the Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Mordechai (Suli) Eliav,  and said that “his father believed deeply in the connection between Jews and Muslims, and that his brother visited the Western Wall as a child, and that his father and entire family were very excited about the pictures from here.”
   
The Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, greeted Javid, according to the statement, and recited Chapter 121 of Psalms with him. The Home Secretary then placed a note between the stones of the Western Wall, and – according to the statement – said, “We love Jewish heritage very much and appreciate it.”

The British Consulate-General statement, however, tells a somewhat different tale. According to this statement, issued in Arabic and English, Javid did not visit Israel, but rather “the Occupied Palestinian territories from 30 June to 1 July. The headline of this communique read “UK Interior Minister visits Jerusalem and Ramallah.”

On Sunday, after landing, Javid himself tweeted: “Landed in Tel Aviv for a two-day trip - looking forward to discussing security, peace and prosperity with our Israeli and Palestinian friends.”

The British Consulate-General statement said that Javid held constructive meetings with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and other member of the Palestinians leadership, and emphasized “the UK’s position that only a political solution based on a Two-State Solution could unlock the peace, prosperity and freedom desired by the Palestinian people.”

After a meeting with UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov, the statement quoted Javid as saying: “I’m concerned about worrying trends across the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories], in particular the situation in Gaza and the financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority.

“The UK remains committed to making progress towards a two-state solution that leads to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as a shared capital,” he said. “Only this will further unlock the incredible potential of this region and its people.”

As to the visit to the Western Wall, the statement put it in the context of a visit to the “Holy Sites in occupied East Jerusalem..”

“He was received by Sheikh Azzam and the Waqf at the Haram Al Sharif, before visiting the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” the statement continued. “Acknowledging recent challenges for worshipers at the Haram Al Sharif Mr Javid added: I was honored to visit the Haram Al Sharif earlier today.  This is a site special to Muslims all over the world.  Freedom of religion and belief is a non-negotiable right for all peoples, and the UK Government is committed to tackling anti-Muslim hatred, antisemitism, the persecution of Christians and any other impediments to this right both in the UK and around the world.”


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