The Jerusalem Question

Jerusalem view from the Olive mountain. (Getty Image)

Category: Featured, Highlights, Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Israel, Jerusalem, Palestine Views: 1846

Does Israel have unilateral rights to declare Jerusalem as its capital?

U.S. President Donald Trump thinks so. His controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was, however, dealt a blow when the bulk of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) member states backed its motion to brand his unilateral move as “null and void”.

The resounding condemnation against the move by the US president was delivered by 128 countries - almost two-thirds of the 193 member states of the global alliance. Only eight countries -  Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo -  supported Trump in his stance.

The UK, France and Germany were among the nations who voted in favor of the motion. It is not legally binding, but its near unanimous victory delivered an embarrassing blow to Trump.

Jerusalem remains the most contested real estate in our world. Since coming to power in 2015 for the fourth time, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has made Jerusalem one of the central pieces of his agenda to Judaize and grab the city, in violations of scores of international laws. He issued orders for constructing new settlements around the occupied East Jerusalem. On 23 December 2016, the United States, under the Obama Administration, abstained from United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, effectively allowing it to pass. On 28 December 2016 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry strongly criticized Israel and its settlement policies in a speech.

Of course, with the election win of Trump, the relationship between the two states has improved significantly. As far as the Netanyahu government is concerned, it’s impossible to imagine an American White House more attuned to Israel’s concerns than Trump’s. One senior Israeli official likened Trump’s picks of pro-Israel U.S. policymakers—a uniquely favorable lineup that presents Israel with an opportunity to make strategic gains. The two leaders have quite a few things in common: their tactics, their contempt for the core values of democracy, their inherent racism (both against Muslims, with Trump adding his contempt for black people and Mexicans for good measure), their love of walls, their hatred of Iran, their scandals and, more broadly, the growing sense that both are driven more by a desperation for self-preservation than by any sense of commitment to their national interests.

In October 2015, Netanyahu drew widespread criticism for claiming that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, gave Adolf Hitler the idea for the Holocaust in the preceding months to the Second World War, convincing the Nazi leader to exterminate Jews rather than just expel them from Europe. This ludicrous claim has since been dismissed by mainstream historians, who note that al-Husseini's meeting with Hitler took place approximately five months after the mass murder of Jews began. Some of the strongest criticism came from Israeli academics: Yehuda Bauer said Netanyahu's claim was "completely idiotic", while Moshe Zimmermann stated that "any attempt to deflect the burden from Hitler to others is a form of Holocaust denial.

There is no doubt that Netanyahu tried to use one of the old dirty tricks – disinformation – to justify his untenable claims on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in History:

Jerusalem has been the subject of immense interest throughout history. It embodies sacred memories of the Prophets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is here that all the three Semitic religions of the world played vital roles at different junctures in the history of mankind. For twelve centuries, under Muslim rule (636-1917 CE, except a century of Christian rule), Jerusalem has been an oasis of peace and tranquility. Yet, beginning in 1948, we witness a change of a major dimension, a conspiracy that culminated in the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine ignoring the rights of its overwhelming Muslim majority. This event has been responsible for much bloodshed to subsequently follow among the children and heirs to the Abrahamic heritage.

Jerusalem is very dear and sacred to Muslims for several reasons.

The Holy Qur’an refers to Jerusalem regarding Prophet Muhammad’s (Sallal-lahu alayh wa-as-salam: blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) Isra’ and Mi’raj in the following verses: "Glory be to Him who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Masjid Al-Haram (Sacred Mosque) to the Masjid Al-Aqsa (Farthest Mosque) whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs. He (Allah) is the One who hears and sees all things.” [Qur’an 17:1] (The masjid in Jerusalem was called the farthest mosque because it was the farthest mosque known to the Arabs during the Prophet’s time.) According to most commentators of the Qur’an, this event of Isra’ and Mi’raj took place in the year before the Hijra (Prophet’s migration to Madinah). The hadith literature gives details of this journey. To Muslims, the event is viewed as passing of the spiritual baton from the children of Isaac (Ishaq) to those of Isma’il (alayhis salam). [2]

As has been pointed out by Professor Walid Khalidi in his 1996 address at the Jerusalem Conference of the American Committee on Jerusalem, “The Prophet’s isra to and miraj from Jerusalem became the source of inspiration of a vast body of devotional Muslim literature, as successive generations of Traditionists, Koranic commentators, theologians, and mystics added their glosses and embellishments. In this literature, in which the Prophet is made to describe his visits to Hell and Paradise, Jerusalem lies at the center of Muslims beliefs, literal and allegorical, concerning life beyond the grave. This literature is in circulation to this day in all the languages spoken by nearly one billion Muslims. To this day, too, the Night of the Miraj is annually celebrated throughout the Muslim world.

A particular link also exists between Jerusalem and one of the five "pillars" of Islam — the five daily prayers (salat). According to Muslim tradition, it was during the Prophet’s miraj that, after conversations between the Prophet and Moses, the five daily prayers observed throughout the Muslim world became canonical. Parallel to this body of literature concerning the isra and miraj is another vast corpus of devotional writings concerning the "Excellencies" or "Virtues" (fada’il) of Jerusalem.” [3]

In the early stage of Islam, Jerusalem was the Qiblah towards which Muslims faced in their prayers. Later, however, they were instructed by Allah to change their Qiblah to Makkah: “So turn thy face toward the Masjid al-Haram, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! those who have received the Scripture know that (this Revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.” [Qur’an 2:144]

With this change of Qiblah, Jerusalem did not lose its sacredness to Muslims though. It came to be known as Al-Quds (the sanctuary), al-Beit al-Muqaddis (i.e., the holy house), and al-Quds ash-Sharif (the holy and noble city).

Pre-Islamic Period:

The memorandum of the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference in 1919 declared, "This land is the "historic" home of the Jews." By "historic" the Zionists meant the right of the "first occupier," i.e., nobody inhabited the region prior to the Jews. Such an assertion, as we will see, is only a myth. For debunking this myth of “first occupier,” we shall examine the Bible. The Book of Genesis says, "And Te’rah took Abram [referring to prophet Abraham or Ibrahim (Alayhis Salam)] his son, and Lot [referring to Lut (AS)] the son of Ha’ran his son’s son, and Sa’rai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out from Ur of Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan." [Gen. 11:31]; "And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Si’chem, unto the plain of Mo’reh. And the Canaanite was then in the land." [Gen. 12:6] [4] The verses 13:3-7 state that the Canaanite and the Perizzite were already dwelling in the land when Abraham returned from Egypt to Bethel and set his tent between Bethel and Ha’i. Not only did the tribes with Abraham find the Canaanites but they also found the Hittites (around Hebron), the Ammonites (around Amman), the Moabites (to the east of the Dead Sea) and the Edomites (in the south-east). At the same time, there were arriving from the Aegean Sea another people, the Philistines, who installed themselves between Mount Carmel and the desert.

The Bible says that Jacob [Prophet Yaqub (AS)], who is also known as Israel, settled in Sha’lem , a city of She’chem, which was in the land of Canaan (Gen. 33:18). There he erected an altar and called it El-e-lo’he-Israel. [Gen. 33:20]

The modern-day Palestinians are, indeed, descended from indigenous Canaanite Jebusites who lived in Palestine at least 5000 years ago, from the Philistines (who gave the country its name – Palestine, Arabic for Falastin), and from the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and the Turks who successively occupied the territory, following the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Egyptians. The "first occupiers" are these inhabitants who have inhabited the territory since the dawn of history. And any reference that the Palestinians are descendants of Muslim Arabs (from the time of Muslim conquest of Jerusalem) is disingenuous and is aimed at denying their ancestral tie to the land for five millennia.

The current mythology to connect Prophet Dawud or David (AS) with Jerusalem is a typical example of distorting history. The name Jerusalem does not come from the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ meaning peace, but from Uru-shalim, meaning the city or foundation of the (Canaanite Jebusite) god Shalim, cited in ancient Egyptian texts. It is these Jebusites who gave the name of the city some 2000 years before the time of David and Solomon.

Both the Qur’an and the so-called Old Testament mention that the children of Jacob [Yaqub (AS)] settled in Egypt when Joseph [Yusuf (AS)] was appointed a Minister to the Pharaoh. Moses [Musa (AS)], born in Egypt, was later commanded by Allah to rescue the Children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage and to settle them in the Sinai desert. During the time of Moses, the holy land was denied to them due to their disobedience of the commandments of Allah (see the Book of Deuteronomy).

From the accounts in the Bible, it is clear that the Children of Israel did not establish themselves in the Holy Land until around 1004 BCE when David [Dawud (AS)] of the tribe of Judah defeated the Jebusites to found a kingdom there. He created a multi-national state, embracing peoples of different religions. His own ancestress Ruth was a Moabite. His son Solomon [Sulayman (AS)], who succeeded the throne, was born of a Hittite mother. Solomon, like his father, maintained the multi-national characteristics of his regime. [5] He built a stone temple, commonly known as the Temple of Solomon, as a gesture of his thanks to Allah (YHWH).

After Solomon’s death, the kingdom got divided into two -” the Kingdom of Israel in the north (comprising the ten tribes) with the capital in Samaria, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south (comprising the two tribes) with capital in Jerusalem. In 722-721 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians and its people scattered, who came to be known as the "Ten lost tribes of Israel.” In 586 BCE, the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar annexed the southern kingdom of Judah. The country’s notables were exiled to Babylon. Jerusalem was ravaged to the ground, along with its temple and fortifications. When Emperor Cyrus (Dhul Qarnain of the Qur’an) of Persia defeated the Babylonians in 538-537 BCE, he let the exiles to return to Jerusalem. Many Jews, however, preferred to remain in more prosperous Babylon.

History is scant and dubious before Alexander’s peaceful entry into Jerusalem in 332 BCE, but it suffered heavily under the Persians and the temple – rebuilt under Ezra (Uzayr) and Nehemiah about 515 BCE – might have been destroyed during Artaxerxes’s regime. In 320 BCE, Ptolemy I of Egypt partially demolished the fortifications that remained in ruins until their restoration by Simon II in 219 BCE After a series of struggles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the latter obtained the city by a treaty in 197 BCE. The temple was totally Hellenized, i.e., turned into a heathen idol-temple, by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE.

Next, we come to the period of the Maccabean revolt. After a twenty years’ struggle, the Maccabees were able to form the Hasmonean dynasty in 164 BCE. This broke up owing to internal conflicts and in 63 BCE Roman General Pompey was able to conquer Palestine, which first became a vassal monarchy under Herod, and then a Roman province.

Under Herod, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the second temple (known as the Temple of Zerubbabel) elaborated (from 17 BCE to 29 CE). However, during the failed revolt (66-70 CE) by the Hebrews, the city was blockaded by Roman General Titus who completely razed it to the ground and burned the temple in 70 CE on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Ab, the very month and day on which 657 years earlier Nebuchadnezzar had razed the first Temple. [6] (The Qur’an briefly mentions these two destructions of the Temple in Surah 17:4-7.) The Jewish inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery. After the failed second revolt (132 CE), led by Bar Kochba, the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE and Jews were banned from entering the city. And since then Jews gradually moved away from Palestine.

In 326 CE, Emperor Constantine the great ordered the building of the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Aelia. In 614-615 CE Khoshru II of Persia captured the city by defeating the Roman (Byzantine) Christians, mention of which is found in the Qur’an (30:2-3): “The Romans have been defeated in a land close by: but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious within a few years, with Allah is the command in the past and in the future: on that day shall the believers rejoice.” His forces destroyed many buildings. Just as the Qur’an had prophesied, the Romans defeated the Persians in 628 C.E, under Heraclius, and reentered Aelia.

Muslim Period:

In 636 CE, at the battle of Yarmouk, the Byzantines were decisively defeated by the Muslim Army, led by Amr ibn al-‘As (R). Within months in 637 CE, the Muslim army under the leadership of Abu Ubaydah ibn Jarrah (R) lay a bloodless siege on Jerusalem, which lasted for four months. Patriarch Sophronius offered to surrender the city if Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab (R) himself would come in person to ratify the terms of the surrender. The encounter between these two men was very dramatic. In the words of a Christian historian, Anthony Nutting, "Umar taught the caparisoned throng of Christian commanders and bishops a lesson in humility by accepting their surrender in a patched and ragged robe and seated on a donkey." [The Arabs, New American Library, N.Y. (1964)]

The terms of the surrender were: "Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful). This is a covenant which Umar, the servant of Allah, the Amir (Leader) of the faithful believers, granted the people of Aelia [Ilya’]. He granted them safety for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses. They shall not be constrained in the matter of their religion, nor shall any of them be molested. Whoever leaves the city shall be safe in his person and his property until he reaches his destination." [1]

Umar (R) thus pledged security of the lives, properties, churches and freedom of worship of the city’s Christian inhabitants. These pledges came to be known as the Covenant of Umar, which established the standard of conduct vis-a-vis the non-Muslim population of Jerusalem for subsequent generations and specifically for the two Muslim rulers of Jerusalem: Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (1187) and the Ottoman Sultan Selim (1516). [It is worth noting that the Covenant was one of the most progressive treaties in history. For comparison, just 23 years earlier when Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians from the Byzantines, a general massacre was ordered. Another massacre ensued when Jerusalem was conquered by the Christian Crusaders from the Muslims in 1099 CE. The Treaty of Umar (R) allowed the Christians of Jerusalem religious freedom, as is dictated in the Qur’an and the sayings of Muhammad (S). This was one of the first and most significant guarantees of religious freedom in history. Umar (R) further allowed Jews to worship on the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall, while the Byzantines had banned them from all such activities.]

When Umar (R) entered Jerusalem, (what is now known in the West as) the Temple Mount lay vacant. The Christian Byzantines had used it as a garbage dump [to offend the Jews]. But to the Muslims it contained the Rock hallowed by the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) Isra’ and Mi’raj (the Prophet’s nightly journey to Jerusalem and ascension to heaven with Angel Jibril (AS)).

After accepting the city’s surrender from Sophronius, Umar (R) was shown around the church during which the time for mid-day (Zuhr) prayer came. The Patriarch offered a place for him to pray inside the church and laid out a straw mat but Umar (R) refused, explaining to the Patriarch, “Had I prayed inside the church, the Muslims coming after me would take possession of it, saying that I had prayed in it.”  He (R) prayed outside the Church.

According to the Muslim chroniclers, Umar’s (R) next concern was to identify that Rock. Sophoronius guided him to a spot, which by then had no traces of its Jewish past. Because of high reverence for the place, Umar (R), the Amirul Mu’meneen, himself started cleaning it in person, carrying dirt in his own robe. His entourage and army followed suit until the whole area was cleaned. He directed that no prayers be held on or near it until the place has been washed by rain three times. His entourage then sprinkled the place with scent. Umar (R) then led the Muslims in prayer on a clean spot to the south. Foundation of a mosque was erected on the spot and this is the Al-Aqsa mosque, revered by Muslims as one of the three most sacred mosques on earth.

In the Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time, Umar’s (R) capture of Jerusalem was seen as an act of redemption from the Byzantines. It is worthwhile mentioning here (as has also been recognized by Jewish historian Moshe Gil) that it was not until 638 CE that a Jewish quarter would be assigned in the city – since the days of the second Jewish Revolt some five hundred years ago – when Muslims invited Jewish families to reside therein.

The most obvious reflection of Islam’s reverence for Jerusalem is in its architecture. During the Umayyad rule (660-750 CE) Jerusalem flourished to become a major city, and from this period, important buildings survive. The Umayyad Khalifa Al Walid later completed the construction of the al-Aqsa mosque in 715 CE. His father Caliph Abdul Malik bin-Marwan constructed the "Dome of the Rock” Masjid al Quba as-Sakhra (visible with gold dome) on the Haram al-Sharif earlier in 688-691 CE (68-71 AH). These two mosques became essentially the most visited mosques in the entire Muslim world outside the Ka’ba and Masjid an-Nabi in Arabia, and grace the city of Jerusalem to this very day.

In 728 CE, the cupola over the Al-Aqsa Mosque was erected, the same being restored in 758-75 by the Abbasid Khalifa Al-Mahdi. In 831 Khalifa Al-Ma’mun restored the Dome of the Rock and built the octagonal wall. In 1016 CE the Dome was partly destroyed by earthquakes; but it was repaired in 1022.

As part of historical revisionism, some Orientalists, such as John Wansbrough, and Likudnik/Zionist historians have opined that Muhammad’s (S) night journey to Jerusalem – the Isra’ and Mi’raj, one of the principal foundations of Jerusalem’s sanctity in Islam – was a later invention aimed at accounting for the Qur’anic verse 17:1. [7] Others, such as Patricia Crone, have proposed that Jerusalem was in fact the original Islamic holy city, and that the sanctity of Makkah and Madinah was a later innovation. Neither of these ludicrous theories enjoys much acceptance (outside die-hard Zionists), least of all among Muslims. [8]

During the Abbasid rule (750-969 CE) Jerusalem became a religious focal point for Christian and Jewish pilgrims and Sufi Muslims. Most of its inhabitants were Muslims. It remained under Muslim control until the first Crusade (1099). Excepting a brief period during Fatimid caliph (insane) al-Hakim’s rule (996-1021), there was no religious persecution of minorities. [9]

In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a speech at Claremont, France, which can only be described as the vilest and most spiteful speech of the Middle Ages, responsible for initiating the never-ending Crusade. He said: “O race of Franks! race beloved and chosen by God! … From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians, and depopulated them by pillage and fire. … The kingdom of Greeks is now dismembered by them, and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could not be traversed in two months’ time.

On whom, then, rests the labor of avenging these wrongs, and of recovering this territory, if not upon you – you upon whom, above all others, God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great bravery, and strength to humble the heads of those whom resist you? … Let none of your possessions keep you back, nor anxiety for your family affairs. For this land which you now inhabit, shut in all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife.

Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.

Jerusalem is a land fruitful above all others, a paradise of delights. That royal city, situated at the center of the earth, implores you to come to her aid. Undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, and be assured of the reward of imperishable glory in the kingdom of Heaven.”

With that deleterious speech, the Pope aroused Christians to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims. On 1099 CE the Crusaders entered the city and began one of the bloodiest and crudest massacres in history. According to Ibn al-Athir some 70,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Masjid al-Aqsa alone, all of them non-combatants, some of them Imams and professors of theology.

Raymond d’Aguiliers, chaplain to Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, wrote: “Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious ceremonies were ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So, let it suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle-reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.” [10]

Jerusalem became the capital of the Latin Kingdom under Godfrey, Count of Bouillon, who changed the Al-Aqsa mosque into a church and erected a big cross on top of the Dome of Rock. Muslims and Jews were banned from living in the city.

In 1187 CE Sultan Salahuddin (Saladin) Ayyubi (RA) liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders and restored the al-Aqsa mosque to its previous condition. Before liberating Jerusalem, Saladin wrote a letter to King Richard which sums up Muslim position vis-a-vis the status of the city. He wrote: “Jerusalem is our heritage as much as it is yours. It was from Jerusalem that our Prophet ascended to heaven and it is in Jerusalem that the angels assemble. Do not imagine that we can ever abandon it. Nor can we possibly renounce our rights to it as a Muslim community. As for the land, your occupation of it was accidental and came about because the Muslims who lived in the land at that time were weak. God will not enable you to build a single stone in the land so long as the war lasts."

Comparing Saladin’s behavior with those Christian Crusaders, the historian Anthony Nutting writes: "Apart from restoring the holy places of Islam, Saladin allowed not a single building to be touched. As Christian historians have attested, strict orders were issued to all Muslim troops to protect Christian life and property and not a single Christian was molested on account of his religion – a remarkable contrast to the atrocities perpetrated by the Franks eighty-eight years before." It is worth mentioning here that while the Crusaders, when they entered Jerusalem, burned Jews in their synagogue Salahuddin, after recovering the city, had allowed Jews to return.

Excepting brief periods between 1229-1239 and 1243-1244 when Jerusalem again fell in the hands of the Crusaders (because of Muslim in-fighting), it remained a Muslim City through all its life. Religious freedom and rights of worship by Christians and Jews were respected. In 1267 Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Nahmanides) arrived from Spain, revived the Jewish congregation and established a synagogue and center of learning bearing his name. In 1448, Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro settled in Jerusalem and led the community. After the Spanish Inquisition (1492), Jews found shelter among the Muslims of North Africa and (what is now called) the Middle East.

The Mamluks (1248-1517), who came after the Ayyubids, left their mark in architecture with beautiful buildings, schools and hospices throughout the Old City. They added markets, repaired water supplies and constructed city’s fountain system.

In 1517 the Ottomans took over Jerusalem peacefully. Sultan Suleiman "the magnificent" (1537-41) rebuilt the city walls (un-walled since 1219) including the present day 7 gates (what is now known as the Old City) and the "Tower of David." He further improved the city’s water system, installed drinking fountains still visible in many parts of the Old City. He also patronized religious centers and educational institutions. A Jewish colony “Safaradieh” was formed in 1522 in Palestine. The Ottomans granted religious freedom to all and it was possible to find (something that was unthinkable in Europe) a synagogue, a church and a mosque in the same street.

The Damascus gate was erected in 1542. It was Sultan Selim, the Ottoman ruler, who dug out the Wailing Wall from under the rubble in the 16th century and permitted Jews to visit it. All the Ottoman Sultans -” from Suleiman “the magnificent” to Sultan Abdul-Hamid (RA) -” were great patrons of Jerusalem, making surrounding territories of the mosques as their Waqf properties.

Throughout the Ottoman era, the city remained open to all religions, although the empire’s faulty management after Sultan Suleiman meant slow economic stagnation. When Jewish people faced extermination across Europe, the Ottoman Sultans allowed them to take refuge in the Empire. Some of them settled in Palestine. In 1562 there were 1,200 (mostly religious) Jews and 11,450 Arabs living in Jerusalem. [11]

By mid-19th century, with the weakening of the Ottoman Empire (to the extent of being ridiculed as the “Sick Man of Europe”) the European colonial powers vied with each other to gain a foothold in Palestine. New areas with names like the German Colony and the Russian Compound sprouted the city. According to Zionist historiography, residential building outside the walls of the Old City began around 1860 with the Jewish settlement – Mishkenot Shaananim. However, such scholarship overlooks the much earlier construction and continued use of numerous indigenous residential buildings outside the walls such as khans, residences for religious persons, and summer homes with orchards and olive presses, belonging mostly to non-Jews, especially the Arab Muslims. [12] In time, as the communities grew and connected geographically, this became known as the New City. [13]

This was also an age of Christian religious revival, and many churches sent missionaries to proselytize among the Muslim and especially the Jewish populations, believing passionately that this would expedite the Second Coming of Christ. These outside missionaries settled in and around places like Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

In 1846 there were only 12,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of 350,000. In 1880, shortly before the Russian Pogroms, there were only 25,000 Jews in Palestine out of a population of half a million. [14]

The last half of the 19th century witnessed the pontification of Pope Pius IX (1846-78), the publication of Wilhelm Marr’s "Jewry’s Victory over Teutonism" (1873), the assassination of Czar Alexander II (1881) and the Alfred Dreyfus case (1894). [15] These events led to pogroms and anti-Semitism (actually Jew-hatred) across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. Jews again found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. [Ironically, the demise of the Ottoman regime can partly be blamed on the Jewish enclave in Salonika (now Thessalonica or Thessaloniki in Greece) – home of the Donmeh [16] and the birthplace of the (Jacobin) Young Turk movement.] [17]

The last decade of the 19th century saw the emergence of political Zionism calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. Sultan Abdul-Hamid, the last of the Ottoman Sultans, was approached by Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, who offered to buy up and then turn over the Ottoman Debt to the Sultan’s government in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people. In his Diary, Herzl writes, “Let the Sultan give us that parcel of land [Palestine] and in return we would set his house in order, regulate his finances, and influence world opinion in his favour…” The Sultan rejected the offer, but reiterated that as the Caliph he remained a guardian of the Jewish people.

Herzl personally met the Sultan in May 1901. The American Jewish Yearbook [5663, October 2, 1902, to September 21, 1903, ed. Cyrus Adler, Philadelphia, the Jewish Publication Society of America (1902)] at the time summarized Herzl's meeting this way:

[Note: The Jewish Yearbook cited above also shows that at the Fifth International Congress (of Zionists), held at Basel, Switzerland, from Dec. 26 to 29, 1901, a system was designed to uniting the various Zionistic societies under one umbrella, the Congress, and the Congress was to establish a National Fund of 200,000 British Pound to be used for the purchase of land in Palestine.]

In his letter to a Sufi Shaykh - Shadhili Sheikh Abu'Shamat Mahmud (dated Sept. 22, 1911), Sultan Abdul-Hamid mentions this episode: “I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them ‘Young Turks’. The Committee of Unity and Progress obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end, they offered me 150 million English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them: ‘If you offer me gold of the world adding it to your 150 man [measure of weight], I won’t agree to give you the land. I have served Islam and the people of Muhammad (S) for more than 30 years, and I won’t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grandfathers - Ottoman Sultans and caliphs.’ After my definite refusal, they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn’t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter.” [18]

The Sultan, to the last of his days, resisted bartering Jerusalem for his reign.

So, what we notice from historical accounts is a remarkable Muslim reverence for the city of Jerusalem, much in contrast to the disingenuous claims made by Zionist apologists like Daniel Pipes and others. Down the centuries, from the time of Umar (R) to the subsequent Muslim dynasties ruling from Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Istanbul, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims. They constructed a wide variety of buildings and institutions in Jerusalem: mosques, theological college convents for Sufi mystics, abodes for holy men, schools of the Hadith and the Qur’an, orphanages, hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, fountains, baths, pools, inns, soup kitchens, places for ritual ablution, mausoleums, and shrines to commemorate the Prophet’s (S) Mi’raj. These buildings were maintained through a system of endowment in perpetuity (awkaf), sometimes involving the dedication of the revenues of entire villages in Palestine, Syria, or Egypt. The patrons were caliphs and sultans, military commanders and scholars, merchants and officials, including many women. Their philanthropy bears witness to the importance of Jerusalem as a Muslim center of residence, pilgrimages, retreat, prayer, study and burial. [19]

British Mandate Period:

With the defeat of the Turkish Army during the World War I (1914-18), British General Edmund Allenby took control over Jerusalem. Upon entering the city on 11 December 1917, he declared, "Now the Crusades come to an end." As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of the end, i.e., marshalling of a neo-crusade against Muslims by using Israel as a ‘rampart’ in the Muslim heartland.

In 1917, Britain issued the infamous Balfour Declaration promising the Zionists establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. The Declaration was criminal to the core as historian Arthur Koestler so aptly described: “One nation solemnly promised to give to a second nation the country of a third nation.” [20] With that goal in mind, during the devious British Mandate (1917-47), Jews were pumped into Palestine from all over Europe. Despite such Jewish influx, according to a census taken by the British on 31 December 1922, there were altogether 83,000 Jews in Palestine out of a total population of 757,000 of which 663,000 were Muslims. [21] That is, the Jewish population was only 11%.

In 1935, when the Palestinian Arabs rose in revolt against further Jewish immigration, there were 370,000 Jews out of a total population of 1,366,670, i.e., 3 out of 4 were Arabs. [22] During partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of the total land in Palestine. [23] Yet when on November 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem in an international zone, 56% of the total area was allotted to the Jewish state. As was expected, Arabs (except for King Abdullah of Transjordan) rejected the plan and a fight for territories broke out in which armed Jewish terrorist gangs massacred unarmed Palestinians in several villages. [24] At that time, in Old (East) Jerusalem Jews owned less than 1% of land. Their ownership of properties in the New (West) city was 26%. [25]

In recent years, the issue surrounding pre-1948 demographics of Jerusalem has become a hot item. Zionist historiographers (e.g., Ben Arieh, Gilbert and others) have been trying to prove a Jewish majority in Jerusalem before the partition. This myth has no support and is debunked by the available late Ottoman-era statistics and (for the later period) by examining the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality as drawn by the British Mandatory authorities. [26]

In this regard, it is worth quoting what pre-eminent demographer Justin McCarthy had clearly pointed out, “Ottoman statistics are the best source on Ottoman population.” [27] The Ottoman data on Jerusalem show that in 1871-2, the Jewish population of Jerusalem was a quarter of the total population living in Jerusalem. In 1895, when the city’s population was about 43,000, the entire Jewish population could not have been more than a third (i.e., 14,500). In 1912 – the last Ottoman statistics – show that Jerusalem had a total population of 60,000 of which nearly 25,000 were Jews. [28]

According to Professor Walid Khalidi the international zone comprising “Mandatory municipal Jerusalem” in addition to some 20 surrounding Arab villages had a slight majority of Arab population who numbered 105,000 while the Jewish population was just under 100,000. [29] Academic research works by Salim Tamari (director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies and a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Birzeit University) and others present a similar picture. They point out how Zionist historiographers deliberately avoided accounting for Arab neighborhoods in their demographic studies of Jerusalem while concentrating mostly on Jewish suburbs.

Upon reviewing the literature on the selective demographics of Mandate Jerusalem, British historian Michael Dumper attributes two major reasons for these population discrepancies. [30] First, estimates counted Jewish migrants who arrived in Jerusalem before 1946 and later moved to Tel Aviv and other localities. Second, while excluding Palestinians who were working in the city but living in its rural periphery (the daytime population such as the commuting workers from Lifta and Deir Yasin), they included Jewish residents living in suburban areas such as Beit Vegan, Ramat Rahel, and Meqor Hayim. The latter were incorporated within the municipal population through a process he refers to as "demographic gerrymandering.” [31]

Professor Tamari’s studies on Jerusalem’s western villages, for instance, show that once the rural neighborhoods are introduced, the picture regarding demographics and land composition change dramatically. “Extrapolations from 1945 Mandatory statistics,” Professor Tamari says, “show that the Jerusalem sub-district contained slightly over a quarter of a million inhabitants of whom 59.6% were Arabs and 40.4% were Jewish. In the western Jerusalem areas that came under Israeli control after the war (251,945 dunums) 91.8% (231,446) dunums were Arab owned, 2.7% were Jewish owned, and the rest were public lands.” [22]

Israeli Period:

The conspiracy of the Western powers in collusion with the Zionists, the terrorism inflicted upon the Arab inhabitants, the foolishness of the local leaders, and the incompetence or indifference of others – all these led to the establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948 when on that day the Jewish settlers declared independence. The massacre of Arab residents of Deir Yasin, Qibya and Kafr al-Qasim that followed were only the preludes to Israel’s genocide of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatilla, Tyre and Sidon, Nablus, Jenin and of ongoing atrocities in Gaza, West Bank and Southern Lebanon. [33]

Soon after the unilateral declaration, in a subsequent war with neighboring Arab states, Israel captured 78% of the original Palestine by annexing territories set for the Arab Palestinian state, leaving only East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Arab hands. This cataclysmic event forced 750,000 Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere.

As to its impact on Jerusalem, Professor Tamari writes, “During the war of 1948, particularly during the months of April-May, about 25-30,000 Palestinians were displaced from the urban suburbs of Jerusalem. In addition, the bulk of the village population (23,649 rural inhabitants) were also expelled. These included the population of the two largest villages in the Jerusalem sub-district, Ain Karim and Lifta, and virtually all the rural habitations west of the city (except for Abu Ghosh and Beit Safafa). Altogether 36 villages and hamlets were destroyed, or – as was the case with Lifta and Ain Karim – were physically left intact but their Palestinian inhabitants removed. Most of the displaced persons eventually found refuge in the Old City and its northern Arab suburbs (Shu’fat, Beit Hanina, Ram), and in the refugee camps of Ramallah and Bethlehem. Today the refugee population originating from the Jerusalem district is estimated to be 380,000.” [34]

In July 1949, the Israeli government declared West Jerusalem "territory occupied by the State of Israel", and all Arab lands and businesses were confiscated under the Absentee Property Regulations of 1948. Most of the urban refugee property in Jerusalem was sold to Israelis and squatters. Refugee-lands outside the urban center were mostly sold to a specially established Government Development Authority which in turn sold them to the Jewish National Fund or to cooperative agricultural settlements. Soon, Israel began to transfer its government offices to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Government employees were housed in abandoned refugee property. [35]

On 13 December 1949, the Israeli government declared Jerusalem as its capital, which was later passed as a resolution in the Knesset on January 23, 1950.

On June 5-10, 1967 Israel launched an offensive against neighboring Arab states and captured East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, plus the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Most Jews celebrated the event as a liberation of the city; a new Israeli holiday was created, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), and the popular Hebrew song, "Jerusalem of Gold" (Yerushalayim shel zahav), became popular in celebration.

Between 1949 and 1967 scores of Palestinian towns and more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israel. In the first flush of victory in the 1967 war, Ben Gurion wanted the magnificent walls built by the Ottomans that surround the “Old City” destroyed because they were such a powerful reminder of the Islamic character of the city. Most of the Israeli government buildings in Jerusalem including the Knesset are built on Palestinian-owned land.

In defiance of the international community,  Israel wasted no time in declaring the city of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital. This meant that it extended its law to East Jerusalem and claimed it as part of Israel, a move that no country in the world recognized, including up until recently the US, citing international law which states that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Teddy Kollek, the mayor of the contested city, said in 1968: "The object is to ensure that all of Jerusalem remains forever a part of Israel. If this city is to be our capital, then we have to make it an integral part of our country, and we need Jewish inhabitants to do that."

In 1980, Israel formalized its annexation of the eastern half of the city when it passed the Jerusalem Law, claiming that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel".

In the 1967 census, the Israeli authorities registered 66,000 Palestinian residents (44,000 residing in the area known before the 1967 war as East Jerusalem; and 22,000, in the West Bank area annexed to Jerusalem after the war). Only a few hundred Jews were living in East Jerusalem at that time.

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), since annexation of East Jerusalem, have embarked on a “Judaization” policy that entails constricting building permits to local Arabs to build houses on their ancestral land, withdrawing residency permits, demolishing Palestinian homes and mosques, and building illegal settlements. One of the first moves was to demolish the Maghariba quarter in order to enlarge the prayer area next to the Wailing Wall. One hundred and twenty-five Arab houses were destroyed in the process.

Jerusalem Palestinians are considered as foreign residents. As non-citizens, they can participate in municipal elections, but have no voting rights to the Knesset, under whose jurisdiction the whole of Jerusalem falls. If they stay out of Jerusalem for too long, they lose even their residence status and be thrown out of the city altogether, as happened to thousands of them. The policy of the Interior Ministry towards them – endorsed on 30 December 1996 by the Israeli Supreme Court – is too severe and arbitrary (especially since 1994). In 30 years (1967-97), an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem lost their right of residency in the city. These include, for example, Jerusalem Palestinians who lived for over seven years outside the city limits. During the first two weeks of January 1997 alone, 233 Palestinian residents in Jerusalem were issued with expulsion orders. Palestinian refugees from camps located within the limits of Greater Jerusalem (the Shufat and Kalandia camps) have absolutely no political rights. [36]

Since its occupation, Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian-owned homes. Last year, some 88 homes were destroyed, leaving 295 people without shelter. Over the past decade, more than 2,600 people have been rendered homeless after their houses were demolished. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency status of 14,595 Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinian holders of the Jerusalem IDs live under the constant threat of residency revocation.

This "policy of Judaization," which has been conducted openly by the Israeli government to reduce the Arab presence in Jerusalem, is starting to bear fruit. While in 1990, there was still a majority of 150,000 Palestinians against 120,000 Jews in the eastern part of the city, the ratio has been reversed to the benefit of the latter. In 1993, East Jerusalem counted 155,000 Palestinian Arabs against 160,000 Israeli Jews. Some 250,000 Israelis lived in West Jerusalem. [37]

On 19 April 1999, an inter-ministerial committee on Jerusalem recommended that Israel needs to build 116,000 new housing units in the city for Jews by 2020 in order to maintain a 70/30 percent Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This would signify an annual rate of 5,500. Figures published on 28 May 2003 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics showed that Jerusalem’s population reached 683,000, of which sixty-six percent was Jewish. Of the 32 percent of the population who were Arabs, 94% were Muslim and 6% were Christians. [38] In 2004, the Jewish population in Jerusalem was estimated at 464,000 out of a total population of 692,000. [39]

The illegal Israeli settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem have expanded rapidly, in violation of all international laws. Between 1967 and 2003, 35% of the land in East Jerusalem was expropriated for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and attendant facilities. Of the more than 38,500 houses built on expropriated land, as of 2003, none was constructed for Arabs. As a result of such settlement policies, by 2003, there were over 43,000 homes in Jewish neighborhoods and only 28,000 in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. [40]

The Jewish settler population in East Jerusalem has also multiplied accordingly. In 2000, it was estimated to be close to 180,000. [41] In 2003, 217,000 Palestinians shared East Jerusalem with 200,000 Jewish settlers. Of these, 66,500 were in the Greater Jerusalem area of Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar Elite, Har Adar, Efrat and part of the Etzion Bloc. [42] Today, 86 percent of East Jerusalem is under direct control of the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers. Around 200,000 settlers live in settlements that have been mostly built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian property.

Worse still, Israel has constructed a wall to separate Jewish illegal settlements from Palestinian neighborhoods. This apartheid wall, which Israel started building in 2002, snakes through the West Bank territory, dividing villages, encircling towns and splitting families from each other.

It has also impacted Palestinian Jerusalemites: more than 140,000 residents living in Jerusalem neighborhoods are disconnected from the rest of the city and as a result, suffer from a severe lack of basic services and infrastructure. [For instance, more than 40% of Palestinians living inside Jerusalem are not connected to city’s official water grid.]

Moreover, Israeli lawmakers are now making moves to annex three large settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank to the Israeli-defined boundaries of Jerusalem.

The so-called "Greater Jerusalem bill" would see the addition of 140,000 Jewish Israelis who live in these settlements to the population of Jerusalem, to ensure a Jewish majority in the city. With the approval of new construction permits for Jewish settlements, the demography of Jerusalem in its 50th anniversary of statehood and beyond is bound to change steadily.

The Israeli government has succeeded in applying Jerusalem’s religious symbolism to vast areas that have nothing to do with historic Jerusalem. So, e.g., over half of what we call Jerusalem today was not part of the city pre-1967, but were parts of Bethlehem and 28 other West Bank towns.

In today’s Israel, even the dead are not safe from desecration. For example, during Olmert’s tenure as the mayor of Jerusalem, Islamic burial places in West Jerusalem ‘Ma’man Allah’ (or colloquially Mamilla), measuring some 250,000 square meters, were turned into building plots. The Sheraton Plaza Hotel, Supersol supermarket, Beit Argon building and the adjacent car parking lot are all built on this Islamic Waqf owned land which was used by Muslims as their burial place in Jerusalem until 1948. What remains of this Muslim cemetery is being used as an open park, courtesy of Jerusalem mayors.

Moreover, Palestinians in Jerusalem are required to pay taxes, such as the national insurance tax, for services they barely receive. This is in contravention of international law, which considers East Jerusalem as occupied territory and thus, Israeli law should not be applied to the area. The Arnona municipal tax has been imposed on residents of the city since 1967. It is widely seen as a form of discrimination as it affects Palestinians disproportionally. With the rates highest for East Jerusalem, Arnona taxes can exceed the annual rent of low-income families. Businesses are also subject to Arnona taxes. The rate applicable to each business correlates with the size of the property and not its economic revenue. The system has strenuously placed pressure on Palestinians, forcing many to relocate to the occupied West Bank.

The 1993 Oslo Accord left the future of Jerusalem to be determined later through serious negotiation. At Camp David in July 2000 and later at Taba, Israeli negotiators considered allowing some sovereignty to the Palestinian state over Arab areas of East Jerusalem but no agreement was reached. The Palestinian side was ready to concede Israel’s claim to West Jerusalem of which Palestinians had privately owned 40 per cent in 1948. The final negotiation fell flat on the status of Haram al-Sharif. [44] But more problematic was the apparent arm-twisting of the Palestinian negotiators by their US counterparts to appease the Israelis. It failed to give importance to the legal arguments, i.e., who owned/owns what property. Just because Barak “conceded” more than any other Israeli government does not mean that it was just or fair.

In the post-Clinton era, nothing significant has been done to settle Jerusalem’s long-standing problem except President Bush’s announcement of the so-called “Roadmap” for the creation of a Palestinian state, which aimed more at getting the necessary cooperation from his Arab client states before toppling Saddam than establishing the groundwork for real peace or finding a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. As subsequent events had proved, Bush Jr. administration gave a Carte Blanche endorsing Israel’s war crimes inside Gaza. Between 2001 and 2008, the US vetoed 9 times in the UNSC on resolutions critical of Israel on the Palestine question.

During Obama’s presidency, no substantive initiative was undertaken either to stop Israel’s excesses and to find a solution to the crisis. His administration cast its first negative vote in the UN General Assembly in 2009 on a resolution that called for an end to the 22-day Israeli attack on Gaza. It cast its first veto in the Security Council on 18 February 2011 to block a resolution denouncing Israel’s settlement policy as an illegal obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East. Not only that, the US voted against a UNGA resolution that called on Israel to cease obstructing the movement and access of personnel, vehicles and assets of the Agency of the United Nations Relief and Works for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). In 2012, it also opposed and attempted to block Palestine's upgraded UN status at every step. Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, described all efforts to hold Israel accountable for its criminal actions and to abide by the international treaties, charters and conventions to which it is bound as "anti-Israel crap."

In 2014, the world witnessed the murder of more than a thousand unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. The Obama administration once again allowed Netanyahu’s war crimes to go unpunished. The  shortly lived ad on metro buses of Boston's transit authority, the MBTA (before it was removed under pressure from pro-Israel groups and in an apparent violation of its own policies) summed up the US complicity: "Since September, 2000 Israel's Military has killed one Palestinian child every four days, using U.S. tax dollars. End U.S. support for Israeli apartheid."

Instead of disciplining Israel for its plethora of crimes, the Obama administration in September 2016 rewarded the pariah state with a whopping $38 billion military aid package, the largest given to any state anytime in US history. It was a criminal gesture, which only emboldened Israel to expand its settlement activities. The Obama administration in its last days, as if out of some moral bite of conscience, stood by as the U.N. Security Council voted in December 2016 to adopt a resolution declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem illegal and demanding a halt to their expansion. The abstention was the first time the Obama administration stepped aside and allowed the Security Council to censure Israel. Speaking after the vote, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, defended the abstention, comparing it to policies of Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to the Reagan administration. “Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermine Israel’s security, harm the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erode prospects for peace and security,” Power told the council after the vote. “We could not in good conscience veto the resolution,” Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, added.

The president-elect Donald Trump blasted the U.N. and the Obama administration after the vote. Trump tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” after the UN vote.

Surely, with Trump in the White House now, Netanyahu has a narcissist, delusional and psychopath to lean on to! On December 17, 2017, a UN security council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been backed by every council member except the US, which used its veto.

As can be seen the US support inside and outside the UN has been crucial for Israel to defying world opinion and international law, and maintaining its apartheid character.

Religious Myth:

Next, we come to the question of religious myth, as Menachem Begin once said, "The country [Israel] was promised to us, and we have a right to it." [Davar, Dec. 12, 1978] Golda Meir similarly said, “This country exists as a result of a promise made by God Himself.” [45] Moshe Dayan said, "If you have the book of Bible, the people of the Bible, then you also have the land of the Bible – of the Judges, of the Patriarchs in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jericho and thereabouts." [Jerusalem Post, Aug. 10, 1967]

One should not be surprised by such invocations of Biblical passages to “justify” or “sanctify” the permanent extension of the Zionist state. In 1956, it was David Ben-Gurion who showed the way by declaring that Sinai formed part of the “Kingdom of David and Solomon.”

Colonialists have always sought a rationalization for their criminal annexations, robberies and authority. And what a better way than to claim being "God’s Chosen People" or belonging to a “Superior” race? Are we, therefore, surprised at the remarkable similarity between Zionist claims and Vorster’s (late Prime Minister of the Apartheid regime in South Africa in 1972) assertion about justification of apartheid when the latter said, "Let us not forget that we are the people of God, entrusted with a mission"?

The concept of ‘race’ is a 19th century invention by European colonialists to justify colonial hegemony. To justify colonialism, English writer, Rudyard Kipling spoke of "the White Man’s burden" to civilize the non-whites. As Roger Garaudy has rightly pointed out this very idea of “chosen people” should be recognized as historically infantile, politically criminal, theologically intolerable, and morally insane. It has no scientific basis. [46] It is a bizarre puzzle to say the least. Because, God’s mercy is never restricted to a group, but transcends entire humanity. It is narrated in the Qur’an, “Remember when Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain words, which he fulfilled. He said, ‘I shall make you an Imam [leader] to humankind.’ Said he, ‘And what of my progeny?’ He said, ‘My covenant shall not include the wrongdoers.’" [2:124]

Zionists often invoke the Book of Genesis (15:16), which states: “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” So, which “seed” or son is meant here? Is it Ishmael - the first born, or Isaac (the son of Sarah) - the father of Jacob? What we know from history is that this “promise” was only fulfilled through the Arab descendants of Ishmael – firstborn son of Abraham – who was the forefather of Muhammad (S), and not ever by any descendant of Isaac – the second son of Abraham (AS). Period!

So, if theology were to determine the status of Jerusalem, the Muslim position strongly contradicts Jewish aspiration for the city and shows that they have stronger claim to the city than their Jewish cousins.

Sadly, political Zionism has betrayed Judaism and perverted Christianity. The same church that once labeled Jews as "Christ-killers", as the "rejected" or "forsaken people", now calls them the "Chosen people." They are now its best friends, more zealous than many Israelis in their support for the rogue state. It is really strange! I wish the Christian motivation was genuine and not simply to gather them as the sacrificial lambs for the ‘coming Armageddon’!

The entire policy of the state of Israel, internal or external, has been a colonial enterprise, but it wears the "chador” (cloak) of pseudo-theological myth. From its beginning to the present, Israel has always been a racist, colonial state. The father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl remarked, "Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream, antagonism is essential to man’s greatest efforts." [Jewish State, (1897)] Contrary to this view, the greatest minds ever in the history of mankind – from Moses to Jesus to Muhammad (S) – spoke of universal brotherhood to be the solution. This remark rightly shows the sick mentality of this founder of Zionism. As a matter of fact, the Zionists – Jewish or Christian alike – are morally wrong.

In his Diary, Theodor Herzl writes about the establishment of a Jewish state: "We should form there a portion of rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism." Here, it clearly shows his colonial, racist mentality. He first disregards the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the Arab Palestinians, and then dehumanizes them by calling them barbarians.

The history of the Zionist, apartheid state of Israel since its unholy birth has exhibited its “rampart” characteristics rather too well! It is also not difficult to understand the brutal measures employed by the racist leaders of Israel against unarmed Palestinian teens. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded Apartheid Wall. The killing of Palestinians does not raise the eyebrows of most Zionists today. After all, the victims have been dehumanized with statements like those of the Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense, Eli Ben-Dahan in 2013 that stated that: “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human”. Racist ideologies within Israel’s criminal justice system and military have made crimes against dehumanized Palestinians look justifiable in the eyes of its bemused followers and executioners!

In the last week of December 2017, we learned that Israeli army mistakenly thought it had thwarted a terror attack when it shot a 15-year-old Palestinian teen in the head. “The bullet entered from the back of his neck and exited through the eye socket, shattering his head and face. A single bullet fired by an Israel Defense Forces soldier lurking in ambush with his buddies in the shade of olive trees. The soldier sees the person approaching the fence, unarmed, not endangering anyone, a slim teenager, dozens of meters away – but still shoots him in the head with live ammunition, wounding him seriously, destroying his life and that of his family, probably for all time. At first the IDF claimed that the soldier had thwarted a knifing attack, and later that the teen had ‘put his hand in his pocket in a suspicious way.’ In the end, it turned out that the Hamed al-Masri hadn’t done anything wrong at all,” reported Gideon Levy and Alex Levac from Israel.

Thanks to the culture of impunity, such trigger-happy incidents are not exceptions but are norms in Apartheid Israel. What a betrayal of Jewish moral codes!


From the above discussion, we see that the so-called Children of Israel far from being the first settlers in Palestine were only one group among many others. The total period of Jewish rule or sovereignty over Palestine, in general, and Jerusalem, in particular, before the establishment of the modern Jewish state was only about 400 years, and this period is much shorter a period compared to the period of Muslim rule. As a matter of fact, in its entire history, no other religious community had ruled Palestine or Jerusalem for a longer period. The myth of political rights of the Jews over Palestine is, thus, not substantiated by history.

In the pre-1948 period, Jews returned to Palestine primarily because of persecution (esp. the Jewish Holocaust) in Europe, and least from any yearning for the ‘homeland of their ancestors.’ Had it not been for the generosity of Muslim rulers since the days of Saladin they could not have found refuge among Muslims, and surely not in Palestine. Only under Muslim rule the sanctity of Jerusalem – as spiritual center of three monotheistic religions - was upheld.

If theology were to be the basis for occupying land, then Muslim claims for Jerusalem is stronger than those of Jewish (and Christian) claims.

Contrary to the myths now spread by Zionists, Jerusalem was always important to Muslims and that during the Muslim rule it never declined to the point of being in shambles. Its importance has not dwindled a bit amongst Muslims. Israel through its actions in post-1967 era has shown that it cannot be trusted for guardianship of Muslim shrines there.

More importantly, East Jerusalem, including its Muslim holy places, is not the patrimony of any Arab incumbent in whatever Arab capital he or she may be, but that of nearly 1.7 billion Muslims and of the Arab people of Palestine.

Concluding Remarks:

Trump's preposterous Jerusalem declaration in December 2017 was like a Christmas presentation to his Judeo-Christian Evangelical base and a Hanukkah present to the extremist Zionists like Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu who believe that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would pave the way for the construction of a Third Jewish Temple in the same place the Second Temple had been before it was demolished in 70 CE by the Romans.

Not surprisingly, some Jews and Judeo-Christians see Trump's announcement - and, in fact, Trump himself - as hastening the long-awaited coming of the Messiah.  To be sure, Trump did little to dispel the sense that something of biblical significance was in fact taking place. But just as the Haaretz has questioned: whose Messiah is Trump hastening? Is it the fundamentalist Israeli vision of a return to a Jewish kingdom and priesthood reminiscent of the Old Testament? Or is it the Evangelical belief in the return of Jesus Christ and the conversion of all the Jews to born-again Christian doctrine and faith?

Nonetheless, Trump’s decision is sure to bolster the extremist Zionists with their criminal land-grabs further worsening the Palestine-Israel crisis. As part of the payback, Israel’s transportation minister is pushing ahead with a plan to dig a railway tunnel under Jerusalem’s Old City, passing near sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims — and ending at the Western Wall with a station named after Trump. Digging railway tunnels to the Western Wall would also entail excavating in Jerusalem’s Old City, where religious and political sensitivities — as well as layers of archaeological remains from the city’s 3,000-year history — could make for a logistical and legal quagmire.

The status of Jerusalem as the ‘undivided capital’ of the State of Israel is unacceptable. The General Assembly revisited the question of Jerusalem many times. In its fifty-fifth session, in a resolution adopted on 1 December 2000, the Assembly determined that the decision of Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem was illegal and, therefore, null and void. The Assembly also deplored the transfer by some States of their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem in violation of Security Council resolution 478 (1980).

As the recent United Nations General Assembly (Dec. 2017) vote once again showed Trump’s decision went against the very spirit of finding a peaceful solution – the so-called two state formula – to the decades-old problem. No wonder that the Palestinians see Trump’s declaration as the death knell to any peace process. They have said, and rightly so, that they won't accept the USA as a mediator any more to resolve the crisis. Trump has forfeited that privilege.

These statements and resolutions, as well as many others adopted by United Nations bodies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and religious groups, demonstrate the continuing determination of the international community to remain involved in the future of Jerusalem. They also show the great concern over the delicate status of the peace process and the unanimous desire that no actions be taken that could jeopardize that process.

Since its birth, the Israeli plan has been to totally ignore international law, given the absence of any enforcement device, and to work hard to create facts on the ground, in the belief that sooner or later the international community, including the Palestinian leadership, would be forced to accept the ‘ground reality’ of the absolute lawlessness of ‘might is right’. So far, thanks to its powerful international backers wielding tremendous economic and political power, esp. the USA government and its ‘Amen Corner’ in the Capitol Hill, Israel has succeeded in its devious plan, but that won’t sanctify what is immoral, illegal, unjust and unfair.

Jerusalem is important for adherents of the three great monotheistic religions. Her international status can neither be unilaterally declared by Israel nor blackmailed by any other state. Her heritage is as much, if not more, Islamic as it is Christian and Jewish. As the hallowed site of Isra and Mi’raj and the place of many Prophets (AS) of the Qur’an who walked and lived there, the world Muslim community can never abandon its heritage nor can they renounce their rights to it. As for the land, the Zionist occupation of it is accidental and came about because of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, betrayal of regional Arab leaders, and weakness of Muslim post-colonial nation states. Who knows, things may change one day, and Jerusalem will belong to those who would uphold her sanctity and make it a true center of world peace and blessings!


[1] The text of the treaty read: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves  for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.

The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to live with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until they reach their place of refuge. The villagers may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.

If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.” – Quoted in The Great Arab Conquests, from Tarikh Tabari

[2]. See this author’s essay on explanation of the Biblical verse Malachi 3:1 in soc.religion.misc  (1992); lecture on “Muhammad in the World Scriptures,” Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, February 18, 1995.

[3]. Islam, the West and Jerusalem by Walid Khalidi.

[4]. For quotations from the Bible, the author is using the Authorized King James Version.

[5]. Roger Garaudy, The Case of Israel: A Study of Political Zionism, Shorouk International (UK) Limited (1983), p. 34.

[6]. See, Khalid Baig’s article – Jerusalem: History Lessons (Aqsa),

[7]. See, e.g., the Zionist historians quoted in Daniel Pipes’s article quoted earlier. See also: Wansbrough, J., Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977; The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition of Islamic Salvation History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1978. (See Estelle Whelan’s work for a refutation of Wansbrough’s thesis in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1998, Volume 118, pp. 1-14.:


[9]. Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah was the sixth Fatimid dynasty. He was insane who claimed that he was a reincarnation of God. The Druze sect believes in his divinity. They believe that he did not die but vanished and will one day return in triumph to inaugurate a golden age.

[10]. Edward Peters, The First Crusade: The chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other source materials, p. 214.


[12]. A Social Profile of Jerusalem before 1948: The Growth of the Western Communities (Rochelle Davis);


[14]. Roger Garaudy, op. cit., p. 35.

[15]. The Dreyfus case would later motivate Theodor Herzl to write the book “Jewish State,” responsible for initiating the Zionist movement.

[16]. The Donmeh are descendants of the Jewish followers of a self-proclaimed messiah, Sabbatai Sebi (or Zevi, 1626-76), who was forced by the sultan to convert to Islam in 1666. Their doctrine includes Jewish and Islamic elements. They consider themselves Muslims and officially are recognized as such.

[17]. See this author’s lecture/essay: “The Turkish Experiment with Westernization” (pub. Media Monitors Network):


[19]. Walid Khalidi, op. cit.

[20]. Arthur Koestler, Promise and Fulfillment, London, 1949.

[21]. Garaudy, op. cit., p. 38.

[22]. Study presented by Georgetown History Professor Hisham Sharabi at the Senate Sub-committee on Near East on September 30, 1975; also see The Palestinians: Selected Essays, ed. Hussaini and El-Boghdadi, Arab Information Center, Washington D.C. (1976), p. 41.

[23]. Presented at the Committee on International Affairs of the House of Representatives on September 30, 1975 by Professor Edward Said, Remarks on the Palestinians, Selected Essays, ed. Hussaini and El-Boghdadi, Arab Information Center, Washington D.C. (1976), p. 50.

[24]. Zionist terrorist gangs – Irgun and Stern -” rejected the plan, much in contrast to the official Jewish position that accepted the plan. As is witnessed by the Haganah’s Plan Dalet, the Jewish leadership was determined to link the envisaged Jewish state with the Jerusalem corpus separatum (the so-called international zone). But the corpus separatum lay deep in Arab territory, in the middle of the envisaged Palestinian state, so this linking up could only be done militarily. Thus, according to Walid Khalidi, “As of early April 1948 –before the end of the British Mandate and before the entry of the regular Arab armies – the Jewish forces launched two major military offensive for the conquest of Jerusalem: Palestinian state, and the other starting from the Jewish quarters within the city itself. It was in the course of the second offensive that the whole of today’s West Jerusalem fell to the Haganah and that the massacre of Dayr Yasin at the hand of the Irgun and Stern groups led by Begin and Shamir respectively was perpetrated. Even before the end of the Mandate on 15 May 1948, Haganah’s objective was the conquest not only of the whole of municipal Jerusalem but of the larger area of the corpus separatum itself. It was thwarted only by the last-minute intervention of the Arab Legion of Transjordan under Kind Abdallah, grandfather of King Hussein. Thus present-day Jewish control of West Jerusalem and of a so-called ‘corridor’ linking it to the coast was achieved by military conquest in violation of the UN partition resolution that gave birth to the Jewish state itself.” (op. cit.)

[25]. (see articles by Rochelle Jones and Nathan Krystall)

[26]. During the British Mandate period, there was a deliberate attempt by the British to help the Zionist cause. In their redrawn map, they included far-flung Jewish settlements, some of them 4 or 5 kilometers away from the heart of old Jerusalem, while they excluded adjacent Arab neighborhoods like Silwan, l-Tur and al-‘Aizariya. Even then with such an altered boundary, in 1922 the Jewish population was only slightly higher than Arab population.

[27]. Justin McCarthy, The Population of Palestine (New York: Columbia UP, 1990)

[28]. See papers presented at the Institute of Jerusalem Studies Symposium: Contemporary Research Trends on the History of Jerusalem, Dec. 16, 2000 ( 

[29]. Walid Khalidi, op. cit.

[30]. Michael Dumper, The Politics of Jerusalem (New York: Columbia UP, 1997), pp. 61-62.



[33]. As to the de-Arabization of Jerusalem and its neighborhoods by Zionist terrorist gangs і Irgun and Haganah, see the report by Nathan Krystal where he says, At first the Haganah targeted the mixed neighbourhoods such as Romema, Sheikh Badr (the current site of the Knesset). Lifta. and the houses around the British Shneller military camp, and tried to pressure Arabs to vacate these areas through psychological warfare and by blowing up buildings on the pretext that they served as bases for Arab military actions. The bombing of the Semiramis Hotel on 4 January 1948 began the Arab exodus from Katamon and Talbiyeh. Concomitant with the Haganah’s campaign to clear Arabs from the Western neighborhoods was their settling by Jews. With the settling of Sheikh Badr by Jews, this area became an extended part of Romema and the entrance to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv had been successfully transformed into an Arab free zone. In mid February 1948 Arab villagers abandoned Beit Safafa, and residents - first of all the economically well off - of Talbiyeh, Musrara, Baq’a, Deir Abu Tor and Katamon started to leave. In contradiction to what is usually presented by Zionist historians, the Arab Higher Committee also called people to stay put in the Arab neighborhoods and not to leave. There was a pattern of collusion between the labor Zionist Haganah forces and the right wing Irgun and Lehi forces in the sense that the latter’s actions were usually condemned by the Haganah, but - at the same time - served Haganah aims (including the Deir Yassin Massacre). On 6 April 1948, the Haganah launched -Operation Nahshon designed to open the access road to Jerusalem which was then successfully controlled by local forces of Palestinian irregulars led by Abdel Qadir al-Husseini. Operation Nahshon resulted erasing of the Palestinian villages outside of the city (from Beit Mahsir in the west to Kolonia and Qastal in the east and was a watershed for the Zionist forces on the way to Jerusalem. Its counterpart in the city was the massacre of 254 Deir Yass’m villagers on 9 April 1948. The massacre immediately provoked a mass flight of Arab Jerusalem residents, particularly those who could afford to relocate quickly. Operation Jebussi (22 April - early May 1948) followed by Operation Kalshon aimed occupy the parts of the city the British had evacuated towards the end of its mandate in Palestine. These operations resulted in the occupation of Sheikh Jarrah, the American Colony, Bab al-Zahera, Wadi Joz, Deir Abu Tor, Katamon (1 May 1948) and Baq’a (16 May 1948).

After the fall of the Arab neighborhoods of Western Jerusalem in May 1948, only about 750 non-Jews remained in this area. Almost all of the Arabs among them were concentrated and confined to Upper Baq’a. Extensive looting of the empty Arab homes began with the first cease-fire in June.Ӕ(

In his book The Revolt Menachem Begin wrote that without the massacre of Arabs in Deir Yasin there would not have been a State of Israel.

[34].; see also the book - Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, ed. Salim Tamari, Institute for Palestine Studies.

[35]. ibid.


[37]. Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem Municipality, Israel, Population File, 1996

[38]. CAABU Fact Sheet: Jerusalem, September 2003.


[40]. PBS Program, shown in 2005.

[41]. More Settlements under Barak by Francoise Perreault The Other Front January/February 2000

[42]. CAABU Fact Sheet: Jerusalem, September 2003


[44]. See Le Monde, 15 October 1971 for the context.

[45]. Garaudy, op. cit., p. 71.

[46]. See, e.g., Gary Norths ғForeign Policy of 20 Million Would-be Immortals,  

  Category: Featured, Highlights, Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Israel, Jerusalem, Palestine
Views: 1846

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.