Now that it has been admitted to UNESCO as a “member state,” the Palestinian
Authority plans to sue Israel for “stealing Palestinian antiquities.”
will take Israel to court for systematically destroying and forging Arab and
Islamic culture in Jerusalem,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, former PA minister for
Jerusalem affairs, after the UNESCO vote.
PA Minister of Tourism Khuloud
Daibes alleges that Israel’s renovations of Jerusalem’s Old City walls and its
intention to replace the crumbling Mughrabi Bridge at the southern entrance to
the Temple Mount are hostile attempts to “change the Islamic and Arabic
character of the city.”
The Palestinians are also planning to ask UNESCO
to declare several sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, such as the Cave of the
Patriarchs in Hebron, international heritage sites belonging to Palestine, not
If this weren’t so funny, it would be outrageous. Talk about the
pot calling the kettle black! Israel set the international gold standard for
unimpeded religious worship in Jerusalem, and for painstaking preservation of
Muslim and Christian holy sites and archeological sites across Israel. In
civilized and professional circles, Israel is recognized as having contributed
enormously to the excavation, study and preservation of Holy Land historical
sites and relics.
By contrast, there is no Arab or Islamic country in the
Middle East where Christians or Jews can freely operate religious institutions.
Under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule, Christians in the West Bank and Gaza
have been hounded, terrorized and driven out. Christian Bethlehem is,
effectively, no more. The Church of Nativity was defiled by Palestinian Muslim
terrorists who turned it into an armed refuge in 2002. Churches in Gaza have
been bombed and burned. Can you imagine how the churches of Jerusalem might fare
under Palestinian rule?
Meanwhile, Jewish synagogues and holy sites in Jericho,
Nablus and Gush Katif have been burned to the ground while Palestinian police
In 1996, Palestinian mobs assaulted Rachel’s Tomb in
Bethlehem, and Palestinian policemen on the scene shot and wounded the Israeli
soldiers guarding the Tomb. Ever since, the site has been sheathed in high
concrete barriers, turning it into a Fort Knox-like encampment. Then a
Palestinian mob, led by Palestinian policemen, assaulted Joseph’s Tomb in
Nablus, torched the synagogue inside and opened fire on Israeli troops at the
site, killing six Israeli soldiers.
In 2000, Palestinian mobs once again
attacked, killed one Israeli soldier and destroyed the building. Palestinian
forces again took part. The Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, with its
unique Byzantine-era mosaic floor, was also torched. Today, Israelis have only
sporadic access to the site. As for Gush Katif, the wild Palestinian mob
destruction of all the synagogues there is just too fresh and painful a wound to
The Palestinians learned from the Jordanians. Before 1967
Jews were not allowed to reach their holy places in Jerusalem at all; thousands
of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives were desecrated and the tombstones used
to pave streets and latrines; and the synagogues of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter
The greatest crime of all – an antiquities crime of
historic proportions – has been committed over recent years by the Palestinian
Wakf on the Temple Mount. In 1999, the Wakf dug out hundreds of truckloads of
dirt from caverns known as Solomon’s Stables beneath the upper plaza (more than
1,600 square meters in area and 15 meters deep) without any archeological
supervision or documentation.
Thousands of tons of earth rich in
archeological remains from all periods of the Temple Mount were haphazardly
dumped into the Kidron Valley and the city garbage dump at Eizariya. The Wakf
also destroyed stonework done by Jewish artisans 2,000 years ago in the
underground “double passageway.”
Thousands of years of layered history –
Jewish history, of course – were gouged out of the ground with heavy machinery
and shoveled out of sight. UNESCO didn’t say a thing.
archeological students are still sifting through this precious rubble, and have
found numerous antiquities from the First and Second Temple periods, including
stone weights for weighing silver, and a First Temple period bulla (seal
impression) containing ancient Hebrew writing which may have belonged to a
wellknown family of priests mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. Other findings
are from the late period of the Kings of Judea (8th and 7th centuries BCE),
including about one thousand ancient coins, jewelry made of various materials,
stone and glass squares from floor and wall mosaics, and many other
The Wakf has also allowed the destruction of Christian relics on
the Temple Mount, including the Crusader pillars of the 13th-century Grammar
Dome in the southwestern corner of the Mount, and the Crusader- era Chain
According to the 1978 Law of Antiquities, it is forbidden to
perform any “alteration, repair or addition to an antiquity located on the
site,” but that hasn’t stopped the Wakf from sanctioning the haphazard addition
of concrete and stone to these architectural relics, drilling holes into them,
spray painting them, chopping through them for electricity cables, and
There is little doubt that Palestinian authorities are conducting
this assault on the Temple Mount so as to erase any vestige of archeological
evidence for Jewish (and Christian) history.
“In Arabic, this practice is
known as as Tams al-ma’alem, which means ‘erasing the signs,’ in the sense of
destroying the relics of all cultures that preceded Islam,” asserts
Dr. Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic
And now the PA is going to sue Israel for antiquities theft?
Inconceivable! Such chutzpa.
The writer is director of public affairs at
the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
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