PA removes controversial Kotel report from website

Move comes after Israel, US condemn 'study' claiming Kotel is not holy to Jews; PA ministry claims post taken down by hackers.

December 1, 2010 14:19
2 minute read.
The Western Wall plaza was almost empty yesterday,

kotel plaza 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday removed a report claiming that Jerusalem's Western Wall is not holy to Jews from an official website, after it provoked furious reaction. The PA Ministry of Information claimed that hackers had penetrated the site and removed the post.

Palestinian officials would not comment on the report Wednesday. But its author, Al-Mutawakil Taha, a civil servant in the Information Ministry, said that he stands by his work.

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The move came hours after Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch praised comments made by the US in response to the report. In a press statement, Rabinovitch had said "the foolish attempt to place an 'alternative historical narrative' to the holy site of Israel insults not only the credibility of the narrators and the esteem for history, but primarily the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East."

The rabbi asked for "all the countries of the world to join in the US condemnation and for the PA to dismiss this document," and called upon "all the Jews of the world to visit the Western Wall and to connect through the wall with the history of the Jewish people and their future."

On Tuesday, the Obama administration condemned the paper: “Regarding a claim by a senior Palestinian Authority official that the Western Wall is an Islamic Waqf, we strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday. "We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of de-legitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land."

Multiple Jewish groups and members of Congress also slammed the PA for the paper, which appeared on its website last week signed by a senior Ministry of Information official.

"We are deeply concerned that the Palestinian study dismissed a Jewish connection to the Western Wall,” said Conrad Giles and Rabbi Steve Gutow, the chairman and president, respectively, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national umbrella for Jewish policy groups. “We intend to share with Palestinian leaders our worry that this study could resurrect a false narrative that Jews have no connection to the land and could reignite ugly religious battles over free worship and access."

The JCPA statement comes on the eve of a JCPA tour of Israel and Palestinian areas. Gutow and Giles said they would raise the matter when they meet with Palestinian leaders, who in recent months have otherwise acknowledged Jewish connections to the land of Israel.

Other groups condemning the paper include the Orthodox Union, B'nai B'rith International, the Zionist Organization of America and J Street.

The OU, which was the first group to condemn the paper, praised the Obama administration.

"As we stated last week, this official government propaganda is contemptible, historically false and runs afoul of efforts to achieve peace with the State of Israel," the OU said in a statement.

US Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, also has condemned the paper.

Khaled Abu Toameh and staff contributed to this report

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