A. Freedom of Worship and Access to the Jerusalem Holy Places under Israeli Rule
In east Jerusalem, in the Old City, and particularly in the part of the Old City known as the Holy Basin, there are hundreds of places that are sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. For years the state of Israel has vigilantly maintained freedom of access and of worship at these places, regarding this as a matter of utmost importance. As far back as July 1948, when it appeared that the IDF was on the verge of conquering the Old City, David Ben-Gurion ordered IDF commander David Shaltiel to “prepare a special force, loyal and disciplined…that will mercilessly use a machinegun against any Jew who tries to rob or desecrate a holy place, Christian or Muslim.” Ben-Gurion also advised Shaltiel to mine the entryways to the holy places so as to prevent harm to them.1 So great was the Jewish sensitivity to the Islamic holy places that already during the War of Independence, when the Arabs fired from the Temple Mount at the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in December 1947, Ben-Gurion and the Yishuv leadership ordered the defenders of the quarter not to return fire in the direction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.2
For 19 years (1948-1967) Jordan denied Jews access to their holy places that remained within Jordanian-controlled territory, despite the fact that in the armistice that was signed with it, Jordan had undertaken to allow such access. When Jerusalem was united in 1967, Israel opened the holy places to all the religions. On the Temple Mount, which is sacred to Jews and Muslims, Israel formulated a policy whereby Jews could visit but could not pray at the mount, their holiest place; the aim was to avoid hurting the feelings of Muslims and sparking an interreligious conflict.3 Israel entrusted the administration of the mount’s religious and internal affairs (except for security) to the Islamic Waqf.
On June 27, 1967, the Knesset passed the Protection of Holy Places Law. This law stipulated, among other things, that: “The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.” The punishments that the law determined for such violators were severe: for a desecrator of a holy place, seven years’ imprisonment, and for a violator of freedom of access, five years.4 When the law was passed in the Knesset, the then-religious affairs minister, Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, noted these basic principles: protection from any desecration or offense to the feelings of the members of the religions; freedom of access; and internal administration of the holy places by the authorities of the religion to which a given place was holy.
Israel has assiduously enforced this law both in letter and in spirit. Under its rule, freedom of access to their holy places has been maintained for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Only on days when the security forces had prior information about planned disturbances or riots on the Temple Mount were restrictions imposed on the number or ages of those entering the site. That was the situation, for example, in the second half of 2014 when there were persistent riots, disturbances, and incitement on the mount by elements like Hamas, Hizb u-Tahrir, and members of the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement.5
B. The Holy Places of the Three Religions in East Jerusalem6
The most important holy places: The Temple Mount for Jews and Muslims; the Western Wall for Jews; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians.
The three sites of the Ottoman status quo: Deir al-Sultan, which is owned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church but also claimed by the Coptic Orthodox Church; Mary’s Tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane, which is divided between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church; and the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, which is owned by the Muslims as a mosque.
Holy places owned by the Franciscans, representatives of the Catholic Church: The Church of All Nations and the cave at the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as the fifth and seventh stations of the Via Dolorosa.
Holy places owned by other Catholic bodies: The Church of the Pater Noster and the Carmelite Monastery on the Mount of Olives, and the sixth station of the Via Dolorosa.
Sites owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
Sites owned by the Armenian Patriarchate, for example, in the Armenian Quarter.
Sites owned by the Protestants.
Sites owned by the Copts.
Sites owned by the Syrian Orthodox Church.
Sites owned by the White Russian Church.
Altogether there are 56 important sites and hundreds of less important ones.7
Jerusalem and its environs not only contain the Western Wall and the Temple Mount but additional Jewish holy places. These include Rachel’s Tomb, abutting the southern part of the city; the Tomb of Samuel, north of the city; David’s Tomb on Mount Zion; the Tomb of Hulda the Prophetess; the Tomb of Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura at the bottom of Silwan; the Tomb of Simeon the Just in Sheikh Jarrah, and others.8
C. Palestinian Harassment of Christians and Christian Religious Institutions in the Jerusalem Area, and the Use of These Institutions in the Context of the Anti-Israel Struggle
In recent years the travails of the Christians in the Middle East have included savage attacks on churches in Iraq9 and Egypt.10 Increasing numbers of Christians have been leaving the region for overseas destinations. For example, before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; today only a quarter-million remain. Some 1.75 million Christians were living in Syria in 2010; by the end of 2013 close to half a million had left. Until 2010 approximately nine million Copts lived in Egypt; after the fall of Hosni Mubarak an estimated 250,000 emigrated.11 The PA, too, is no stranger to this phenomenon. Whereas Christians once constituted 90 percent of the population of Bethlehem, today the town’s Muslims form a 75 percent majority. Most of Beit Jalla’s Christian residents left after armed Muslim gangs started attacking the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo from the town at the start of the 2000s. Virtually the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown is the state of Israel. In 1949 there were about 34,000 Christians in the country; by the end of 2009 there were 152,000 – an increase of 346 percent.12 The number of Christians in Lebanon is also declining, and the regional situation led the top priest of Baghdad to make the dramatic statement that “the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East is Israel.”13
Documents seized by the IDF in Operation Defensive Shield attest that, during the Second Intifada in 2002, the Christian residents of the Bethlehem area suffered harassment by members of the armed militias (including members of the Tanzim and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade). In his book Christianity and Christians in the Jewish State,14 Amnon Ramon cites information in those seized documents about attacks on monasteries, extortion of Christian businesspeople, criminal activity, confiscation of land from Christians, denial of legal protection to Christians whose property was taken, and so on – all during the intifada years. “It appears,” Ramon notes, “that the Palestinian security services did not take effective actions to impose order and security in the area; furthermore, some of them were also involved in attacks on Christians and their property.” In their book The Seventh War,15 journalists Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff reveal that Arafat made a half-hearted appeal to the fighters via the commanders under his command to shoot only at IDF positions; this appeal, however, went unanswered.
In his book Wars of the Holy Places,16 Attorney Dr. Shmuel Berkovitz documents the Palestinians’ use of Christian holy places in the armed struggle and the intifada against Israel. Already in November 1986 two of the murderers of yeshiva student Eliyahu Amedi in the Old City of Jerusalem fled into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they were arrested. In May 1991, several Molotov cocktails were thrown from the roof of the Church of St. Saviour, which is beside the Old City’s New Gate, at cars standing outside the wall. The building serves as an administrative center of the Franciscan Order. In October 1992, 150 men led by Faisal Husseini used the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself to hold an anti-Israel rally.
Berkovitz notes further that:
During the First Intifada the phenomenon of attacks on Christian pilgrims and desecration of Christian holy places intensified as Islamic religious extremism gained strength. That was one of the reasons for the emigration of Christians from the territories to other countries. The Christians tried to deny this phenomenon and avoided official complaints, or even reporting on the attacks, for fear of compromising the Palestinian struggle over public opinion in the Western world.
Not infrequently during the intifada, youths threw stones from the Church of the Nativity at nearby Christians and pilgrims. In August 1989 a large PLO flag was raised over the cross at the top of the Carmel Monastery in Bethlehem. Slogans such as “Islam will triumph” and “PLO everywhere” were inscribed on the monastery’s walls. IDF forces, when they entered the monastery to take down the flag, discovered that the flagpole was booby-trapped with explosives. The explosives were safely neutralized and the flag removed.17
Because the Christians have avoided complaining about the attacks on them in recent years, it is hard to confirm information on harassment of Christians and their holy places officially. The phenomena have, though, been confirmed in the past by civil-administration officials. Ongoing reports by the late Uri Mor, who worked at the Department of the Christian Communities in the Religious Affairs Ministry, also documented instances of harassment of Christians, particularly in the Bethlehem area.
The heads of the churches themselves not infrequently denied the existence of harassment of this kind.18 Yet, in 1997, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a report that detailed numerous cases of harassment of Christians and churches in the PA.19 In addition, Israel Lipal, an expert on religions of the Land of Israel and former senior official at the Religious Affairs Ministry, who also served as head of the Department of West Bank Religious Affairs, attested that in the past there was a specific address for numerous complaints from Christians about harassment by Muslims. He explained, however, that “from a political standpoint the Christians do not want to complain.”20
Recent media reports have said Christian emigration from the West Bank to other countries, which already began at the beginning of the previous century, has been much accelerated by these harassments. For example, one report said most of the Christian residents of Beit Jalla had emigrated to Chile.21 Today, an estimated 400,000 Palestinians, almost all Christians from the Bethlehem-Beit Jalla region, live in Chile.22
A February 2008 report by the intelligence establishment noted increasing attacks on Christian institutions in Gaza and on individuals and institutions there identified with Western culture.23 In July 2012 Al-Ayyam reported that the archbishop of the Orthodox Christian church in Gaza, Alexius, had accused a Muslim group headed by the cleric Salim Salama, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and chairman of the Palestine Association of Religious Scholars, of kidnapping young Christians so as to convert them to Islam (Al-Ayyam, July 17, 2012). Hamas denied this. In general, Hamas’s takeover in Gaza added to the distress of the Christians there and today, according to reports, no more than a few hundred Christians remain in the strip.
The “Arab Spring” events began in 2011, but the “spring,” of course, turned out to be a gloomy “winter” as radical Islamic groups gained strength. The power of these groups, such as Islamic State, was only further augmented as Christians emigrated from the Arab countries of the Middle East to Europe, the United States, and South America.24 Noteworthy in this context is an article by Prof. Michael Curtis,25 posted on the Gatestone Institute website, about the treatment of Christians in the PA and under Hamas rule. Although the Palestinians, Curtis observes, indeed blame Israel for the Christians’ emigration, this accusation is inconsistent with the fact that two-thirds of the Christians left from 1949 to 1967, before Israel had any presence in these territories. Curtis further points out that the town of Ramallah, too, lost its Christian majority.26
Before Israel’s withdrawal from Bethlehem in the framework of the Oslo 2 agreement in 1995, Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij called the then-religious affairs minister, Prof. Shimon Shitrit, and implored him to delay the withdrawal. Freij expressed great fear for the fate of the churches and the Christians in his city. Shitrit conveyed the request to then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was willing to delay the withdrawal if he were to receive an official request for this from the heads of the churches in the city. Shitrit sent a special envoy to Bethlehem to make clear that this was a possibility. The heads of the churches responded that, while indeed they were very worried and not delighted about the PA’s entry into the city, they could not say anything publicly.27 Hence, Rabin decided to withdraw from Bethlehem and hand it over to the PA.
A report prepared for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Justus Reid Weiner also describes “persecution of Christian Arabs who live in the Palestinian Authority.”28 Weiner notes that the proportion of Christian Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, which, 50 years ago, came to at least 15 percent, is now only 1.5 percent, and that the phenomenon is particularly evident in Bethlehem where, of approximately 30,000 residents, fewer than 20 percent are Christians. The MEMRI website has documentation of an event that attracted notice: the arson of the Varadia Monastery and of a church library in Gaza by the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, along with a condemnation of this by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
A background document of the Knesset Research and Information Center, which was submitted to Member of Knesset Naomi Blumenthal in September 2001, also focuses on “Christians in the West Bank.” This document, too, addresses “the situation of the Christians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority.” The researchers note that, because it was very difficult to obtain reliable data on the Christians’ state of affairs at that time, one had to rely mainly on reports of the churches themselves and on newspaper articles. It was, however,
clear beyond any doubt that the Palestinian government includes the Christians in the Palestinian nation and declares that the struggle for Jerusalem is to be waged until the Palestinian flag is flown “over all the mosques and churches.” Under PA rule Christmas events have been held in Bethlehem for years already, with the participation of all the senior figures of the Authority as well as a visit to the Holy Land by the pope.
The document cites claims that had been made about attacks on Christians in the PA, but notes that the status quo regarding the composition of local rule in the Christian towns had been preserved.
D. Palestinian and PA Attacks on Jewish Holy Places29
The Western Wall
On September 29, 2000, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Western Wall was targeted by an inflamed Muslim mob that threw stones from the Temple Mount in the presence of Palestinian Authority religious officials and security men. Israel had permitted their presence there in the hope that they would have a calming influence and maintain order. On that day the worshippers’ plaza at the foot of the western retaining wall of the mount, which is sacred to the Jewish people, had to be cleared of Jewish worshippers for hours.
Most of the harassment of the Western Wall worshippers over the years has come from the Temple Mount, where its topography overlooks the Western Wall and rises to dozens of meters above it. Rioters have usually been incited by activists or clerics identified with the PA, Hamas, or the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement. Rioters have gathered the stones they used from the mount itself, where earth, building blocks, and other building materials are usually scattered. Sometimes rioters have turned shards of valuable antiquities (from all periods) into weapons and directed them at worshippers at the Western Wall. Rioters have taken refuge in the courtyards of the Temple Mount and in its mosques, to which they fled whenever Israeli security forces tried to apprehend them.
A few examples will illustrate the “routine” of riots on the Temple Mount. At the end of February 2010, 15 policemen stationed at the Western Wall plaza were injured by stones thrown at them from the mount.30 A week later stones were again thrown from the mount at the plaza. Again policemen were injured, and again the Western Wall ushers hurried the worshippers into the covered prayer rooms of the men’s section and the women’s section.31 In September that year the scenario recurred,32 and during the autumn holidays of 2013, around Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), the police had to enter the mount five times to suppress riots, which included stone-throwing by Muslims at Western Wall worshippers. Roi Sharon, a reporter for Channel 10 TV, provided pictures of caches and stockpiles of rocks within the mosques, and of buckets and sacks of stones that serve the rioters so that they can pelt the Western Wall worshippers and security forces on the mount.33
It comes as no surprise, then, that during the “Jerusalem Intifada” in 2014 as well, the Western Wall and the routes to it were marked as targets. Buses on the way to the wall were pelted with stones,34 and in December, as dozens of Arabs rioted along Haggai Street, shot firecrackers, and threw stones, the police had to close the passage to and from the Western Wall to Jews on Haggai Street when the rioters approached the police position at the entrance to the Western Wall from the Muslim Quarter.35
In the mid-1990s, Joseph’s Tomb, which is on the southeastern margins of Nablus and has been regarded for centuries as the tomb of Joseph, son of Jacob, came under a fierce attack. On the eve of the Sukkot holiday in 1996, concurrent with the Western Wall riots, heavy firing at the compound began. Reinforcement from the Haruv Battalion were dispatched to the site and six soldiers were killed in the clash. Arab terrorists broke into the tomb, destroyed the yeshiva that was there, and burned hundreds of sacred books. The compound was again attacked by armed Palestinians in May 2000; in that incident an IDF officer was lightly wounded.
In October 2000, with the beginning of the riots that heralded the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Samaria Brigade Commander Yossi Adiri ordered that Joseph’s Tomb be cleared of civilians. His request that the compound also be cleared of military personnel, however, was not approved. A short time later a large group of armed Palestinians attacked the small force that was stationed at the compound. During the attack, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, October 1, 2000, Border Policeman Madhat Yusuf was wounded, and in the next hours he bled to death. Attempts to coordinate his rescue with the Palestinian police failed. Over the following days the force that had defended the compound several times was replaced by IDF contingents that were accompanied by Palestinian forces. Finally on October 7, after six days of battle and under a hail of fire, the IDF soldiers withdrew from the compound after the Palestinians had promised to safeguard it. Soon after, however, the Palestinians, including PA policemen, broke into the tomb, ransacked and desecrated it, and gutted it. Subsequently they painted the roof of the tomb green, claiming that the site was not Joseph’s Tomb but rather a Muslim shrine.36
In recent years the PA has treated this site, which is located in its territory (Area A), as one that is sacred only to Jews. From time to time the IDF has made arrangements with the PA for Jewish prayer at the tomb. For example, in at least three instances in 2014, thousands of Jews prayed there.37 In July and December 2014, however, the Palestinians continued to attack the shrine. Molotov cocktails were thrown at it in July, and another attempt was made to set it on fire. Jewish worshippers who came there in December discovered that unknown persons had severely damaged the site and sabotaged its electricity network.38
The Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho
In October 2000 the ancient Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, which was built in the seventh century CE, was attacked as well. Its floor is covered by a giant mosaic with Jewish symbols and the words: Shalom Al Yisrael (Peace on Israel). The ancient synagogue was plundered. It’s second floor was set alight, and numerous books and sacred objects there went up in flames. In recent years the PA has maintained order at the site (which is also located in Area A), and from time to time permits the entry of groups of Jewish worshippers.
Rachel’s Tomb has been protected and fortified by Israel since the mid-1990s. During the Second Intifada full scale battles were fought in its vicinity, in which PA personnel also took part. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in these clashes. In those years the numerous Jewish visitors and worshippers at the site could only get to it – a distance of 400 meters from Jerusalem – in bullet- or rock-proof vehicles. Only in 2007 was this restriction lifted. Since then one can also go to Rachel’s Tomb in unprotected vehicles, though as of January 2015 it was still forbidden to go there on foot. The events at Rachel’s Tomb, like those at Joseph’s Tomb or the ancient synagogue in Jericho, are closely connected to what are known as the Oslo Agreements.
Article 15 of the Oslo 1 Agreement (also known as the Gaza and Jericho First Agreement) seemingly set the terms for the Jewish holy places in those two locations. Four holy places were involved: the synagogue in Naaran (near Jericho), the cemetery at Tel es-Samrat (near Jericho), the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, and the synagogue in Gaza.39 The agreement stipulated, among other things, that the PA would ensure freedom of access, including for Jews, to all of these holy places and would protect them.
On September 28, 1995, a further agreement, Oslo 2 (the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip), was signed. It gave the Palestinians civil and security responsibility for additional parts of Judea and Samaria. In keeping with its terms, Israel pulled out of six Palestinian towns. Among them were Bethlehem, whose outskirts abut Rachel’s Tomb; Nablus, where Joseph’s Tomb is located; and part of Hebron, where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located. Israel withdrew IDF forces and civil-administration facilities from these towns. In addition, Israel withdrew from 450 villages, towns, refugee camps, and other areas of Judea and Samaria.
The agreement defined the holy places in or adjacent to these locations (the access routes to which passed through, or alongside, the Palestinian territories) as “sites having religious significance” or as “archeological sites.” The agreement dealt, among other things, with the status of 23 Jewish holy places including tombs of biblical figures as well as remnants of ancient synagogues and cemeteries, to which the Palestinians undertook to ensure freedom of access.40
In practice, the Palestinians made access to these places very difficult or prevented it completely. Jews also had a very hard time, however, getting to lesser-known sites such as Avner ben Ner’s Tomb in the Hebron area and others. Only at the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho was the agreement with the Palestinians usually honored – though, as noted, during the Second Intifada it too was severely damaged.
The events at Rachel’s Tomb illustrate more than anything the problems entailed in transferring Jewish holy places, or lands adjacent to them, to Palestinian control. On December 21, 1995, the town of Bethlehem was transferred to full PA control except for the Rachel’s Tomb enclave. Rachel’s Tomb became a border outpost at the southern margin of Jerusalem. Access to it became difficult, it was massively fortified, and Jews were allowed to come to it only in bulletproof vehicles and with military supervision and escort.
At the end of September 1996, the riots known as the Western Wall tunnel riots erupted. Hard on the heels of the Palestinian attack on Joseph’s Tomb and its falling into Palestinian hands, hundreds of residents of Bethlehem and the Aida refugee camp attacked Rachel’s Tomb. They set fire to the protective scaffolding that had been built around it and tried to break into the compound. At their forefront was none other than the PA governor of Bethlehem, Muhammad Rashad al-Jabari. The IDF dispersed the rioters with shots and stun grenades, and dozens were wounded. One of these was Kifah Barakat, commander of Force 17, then-PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s presidential guard.41
A further escalation occurred with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. For 41 days Jews were prevented from visiting the site by Palestinian light-weapons and machinegun fire as well as Molotov cocktails and stones that were thrown at it.42 At this stage the Muslims also ceased calling the shrine Kubat Rahel and Islamicized its name Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque.43
The firing at Rachel’s Tomb was carried out from the first day of the riots, both from the direction of the Aida refugee camp, which is between Beit Jalla and Bethlehem, and from the roofs of houses to the west, south, and east of Rachel’s Tomb. Although PA personnel were supposedly responsible for keeping order and preventing violence, they not only did not prevent it but took an active part in the battles. When the sniping at soldiers and visitors intensified, the Israeli army took control of roofs in the vicinity of the tomb.
In March 2002, in the context of Operation Protective Shield, the IDF returned to Bethlehem and remained there for a protracted period. It was around that time that the IDF besieged the wanted terrorists who had taken refuge in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, not far from Rachel’s Tomb. The attacks on the tomb persisted in the mid-2000s as well. For example, on April 10, 2005, and on January 27, 2006, explosive charges were thrown at the compound, and on February 10, 2007, dozens of Palestinians pelted it with stones.44
Although the tightening of Israeli military control at the site reduced the violence, in recent years Rachel’s Tomb has continued to suffer from harassment and attempted attacks. In the first ten months of 2011 the police documented 14 incidents of Molotov-cocktail and stone-throwing at the compound.45 In May 2012 Jewish worshippers there were again besieged, this time by massive stone-throwing.46 In November 2012 about 400 Palestinians took part in a multi-faceted riot, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and rolling burning tires at the security forces outside the tomb.47 In January 2013, in a similar incident, the rioters also rolled pipe bombs at the security forces guarding the shrine.48 In March 2014 Molotov cocktails were again thrown along with an improvised explosive device; two IDF soldiers sustained light and medium injuries.49 A few weeks later Arabs tried to set fire to the IDF post near the compound.50 Similar events occurred at the compound in August and November 2014 during the “Jerusalem Intifada.” From 2012 to 2014 over 400 Molotov cocktails were thrown at the walls of the scaffolding that was built around the tomb, most of which shattered on the walls without causing damage.51 Attempts by the IDF to conduct dialogue with community leaders of the Aida camp did not lead to an end to the violence.
The Mount of Olives52
The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, which the Palestinians demanded to be transferred to their sovereignty and control during the negotiations over Jerusalem in 2001 and 2008, is the largest and most important Jewish cemetery in the world. It constitutes a religious and national pantheon of the state of Israel and the Jewish people going back 3,000 years. The mount served as a place of Jewish assembly and prayer in the days of the Temple, and even earlier. In the period of Jordanian rule, Jews were neither given access to the mount nor allowed to perform burials there, even though Jordan had committed to this explicitly in its 1949 armistice agreement with Israel.
In that period the cemetery was subjected to destruction and desecration, and 38,000 of its headstones and graves were shattered and damaged. Since the unification of Jerusalem and the cemetery’s incorporation into it, burial on the mount has resumed, large parts of the cemetery have been rehabilitated, and the number of attacks on the graves has declined dramatically. From this standpoint the reality has fundamentally changed. At the same time, attempts by Palestinians to damage the mount and its graves and attack funeral processions have not ceased.
Occasionally over the years, when Israel has been careless about protecting the mount or the paths leading to it, believing that the area or the general situation was calm, Palestinians have exploited this relaxed vigilance by desecrating headstones and throwing stones at processions. Such incidents have also been recorded at times of heightened tensions, particularly during the First and Second intifadas as well as the “Jerusalem Intifada.” In those periods Israeli rule over the eastern parts of the city has basically evaporated.
In December 1975, a number of headstones were shattered in the Sephardic burial area on the Mount of Olives, and in March 1976, 14 headstones in the North African (Moughrabi) plot were desecrated and pulverized. A year later (1977) headstones were shattered in the Tzur plot, opposite the Panorama Hotel, and the grave of the Gur Rabbi was desecrated. In August 1978 a small explosive device went off outside the Intercontinental Hotel in Jerusalem, which is on the Mount of Olives beside the Jewish cemetery. In May 1979 the Council of Cemeteries in Jerusalem reported a series of complaints by relatives of deceased persons about grave desecrations and headstone removals on the mount.
During the First Intifada in1987, along with the Western Wall tunnel riots and the attacks on Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and on Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, grave desecrations on the Mount of Olives, as noted, proliferated. Attorney Shmuel Berkovitz recounted several of the incidents in his book, The War for the Holy Sites. In February 1988 the Yemenite plot was desecrated and many of its headstones shattered. In May and July 1989 and in June 1991, about ten large PLO flags were mounted on the retaining walls of the cemetery, and in May 1990, 13 headstones were shattered in the Sephardic plot and crosses and hate messages were painted. In June 1990, 68 headstones in the “kolel Poland” plot and 11 headstones in the American plot were shattered with heavy sledge hammers. A year later another 40 shattered headstones were found in the Sephardic plot. On the eve of Yom Kippur, October 6, 1992, 25 graves were desecrated in the part of the cemetery where the sixth prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, is interred, and nationalistic slogans were spray-painted in Arabic though Begin’s grave was not desecrated.
One could go on and enumerate dozens more such incidents in recent years. In many of the cases the perpetrators were caught: groups of Palestinian teenage boys (and sometimes adults) who acted out of nationalist and/or religious fervor. In May 2007 Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter reported a substantial increase in disturbances in the A-Tur neighborhood beside the Mount of Olives.53 Two years later, in 2009, more headstones were damaged,54 and in 2010 shattered headstones were again documented.55 Over the years funeral processions have been attacked with stones. During the “Jerusalem Intifada” and in the two years preceding it, there were many cases of attacks on Jews making their way to the mount and on processions.
Nevertheless, it must be emphasized: these incidents, however numerous and severe, did not come anywhere near in magnitude to the massive and systematic headstone desecrations during the period of Jordanian rule. Under Israeli rule the situation on the Mount of Olives fundamentally changed as Jewish burial was resumed. Jewish funeral processions now go there daily, and in the overwhelming majority of cases are not attacked. Jews routinely visited their loved ones’ graves on the mount. The police learned the appropriate lessons and protected them. Lessons were applied in the preventive mode as well. At present, thanks to good intelligence, cases of damage to headstones, attacks on funerals, as well as more severe incidents are often prevented – though, as we have seen, attacks on headstones and on Jewish funeral processions still occur.
The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples stood in the past, is known as the holiest place of the Jewish people. Today, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on it, and it is known as the third holiest place for Muslims (after Mecca and Medina). Since the days of the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in the first half of the 20th century, and following the Six-Day War, the mount ceased to be only a place of worship and prayer for Muslims and became a pan-Islamic religious-national symbol, and an ongoing focal point of national and religious conflict between the Jewish world and the state of Israel, on the one hand, and the Muslim world and the Arab states, on the other.
Over the years the Temple Mount has not only been used occasionally as a base for attacks on Jews praying at the Western Wall; it has also been a focal point of agitation and violence in its own right, both against Jewish visitors on the mount and the security forces who safeguard it. The Israeli police, who are responsible for order on the mount, have been forced more than once to restrict and sometimes prevent visits by Jews out of concern for their safety. In numerous cases the Al-Aqsa Mosque has become a refuge for rioters and a storeroom for large quantities of weapons (short of firearms) – stockpiles of stones, angle irons, parts of scaffolding, and “beehives” of firecrackers, which have been thrown or fired at visitors and police officers.56 Nevertheless, the police have almost always taken care not to enter the mosque, out of consideration for the Muslims’ feelings.
One source of incitement on the mount has been the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement. Over the years it has played a key role in constructing two additional, underground mosques in the Temple Mount compound (the Al-Marwani Mosque in Solomon’s Stables on the southeast of the mount, and “Ancient Al-Aqsa” beneath the renowned Al-Aqsa). Activists of the movement have also taken part in numerous riots, and in recent years have openly adopted the goal of disrupting and preventing visits to the mount by Jews. Groups of these activists fall upon Jews visiting the mount with cries of “Allahu Akbar!,” curses, and insults. The police have had and still have great difficulty in coping with the situation.
Another recurrent problem is that of various terror gangs operating in the Jerusalem area for which the Temple Mount has served as a place to meet and organize. Usually these terror gangs are connected with Hamas, which is also trying to enhance its profile on the mount.57 For the most part, the police and the ISA have managed to crack down on these gangs and thwart their plans. In other cases, however, members of such gangs have been apprehended only after carrying out attacks, and only then has their link to the Temple Mount mosques been revealed.
In recent years three main factors have stood at the core of the conflict:
- The libel that Israel aims to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.58
- False allegations that the Israeli government intends to revise one of the only components of the old status quo on the mount that is still in force – the prohibition on Jewish prayer – and begin to permit Jews to pray there. These claims are repeatedly denied by Israel at the highest levels.59
- The substantial increase in the number of Jews seeking to visit the mount (as distinct from praying there). This results from a change in Halakhic rulings, with significantly more adjudicators now permitting entry to the mount. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the rabbinical-Halakhic prohibition on Jews entering the mount was almost total and comprised both the haredi and national-religious rabbinical worlds. Today the situation has changed, with many religious-Zionist rabbis allowing Jews to ascend the mount.
The upshot has been repeated attempts to curtail Jews’ right to visit (as distinct from praying on) the mount. This unceasing harassment is generated not only by elements like Hamas and the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement, but by the PA as well. In October 2014 its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, called to prevent Jews from entering the mount so that they would not “contaminate” it.60
And yet, notwithstanding all that, the basic change on the Temple Mount, from the situation prevailing there before 1948 (that is, before Israel’s establishment) or from 1948 to 1967 (when Jordan ruled the mount) to the situation since the Six-Day War, is a substantial one. Today, thanks to Israel’s control of the Jewish people’s holiest place and sovereignty there, Jews can (even if under limitations and impediments) visit the mount. This was not possible during Jordanian rule or before Israel’s establishment. Another change is that Jews can visit and pray at the Western Wall. Here, too, before the state’s establishment, both the Muslims and the British imposed numerous restrictions and hindrances on doing so. The 1929 disturbances throughout the land were to a large extent an outcome of the “Western Wall conflict.” Today, apart from anomalous events like those that were mentioned here, every year millions of Jews come to pray at the Western Wall on weekdays, Sabbaths, and Jewish holidays.
Based on experience, both recent and in the past, and the familiar reality on the mount in recent years, one can reasonably assume that if Jerusalem is divided and the Temple Mount is put in the hands of any Palestinian entity, it will be impossible to ensure the continued relatively free access of Jews to the mount, and even Jews’ freedom of access and worship at the Western Wall will be compromised.
E. Islam’s Basic Hostility to Judaism and Christianity as a Source of Attacks on Their Holy Places
Much has been written in recent years by experts such as Prof. Yitzhak Reiter, Attorney Dr. Shmuel Berkovitz, Dr. Dore Gold, and by this writer, about the Muslims’ denial of the Jewish-Zionist narrative and the new history they have been writing for themselves. The nullification of the Jewish narrative includes the de-Judaization of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and of Jerusalem in general, and the ideological and religious “Islamization” of Jewish holy places throughout the Land of Israel such as Rachel’s Tomb, which, as noted, some of the Muslims now call the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque. The other side of the coin is the rewriting of the Muslim-historical narrative such that the earliest days of the Muslims in the land predate the time of the Jews. This new narrative is aimed at denying Jews their rights and precedence in the Land of Israel and in its holy places.61
These two concomitant endeavors are marked by many manifestations of anxiety, hostility, and vilification vis-à-vis Judaism, Zionism, and the state of Israel. Both also display such attitudes toward Judaism and Christianity as inferior religions compared to Islam. Numerous Islamic statements link Judaism and Christianity together as rival religions to Islam. It is no wonder, then, that the holy places of those two religions have been subjected to repeated attacks and desecrations.
It is worth offering a few examples. The text of a Hamas video revealed by Palestinian Media Watch in December 2010 states, among other things: “Allah, our lord and our sovereign…defeat your enemies and the enemies of religion everywhere. Allah – strike the Jews and their sympathizers, the Christians and their supporters…. Allah, number them and kill them one by one, and do not leave a single one of them.” Palestinian TV, which is run by the PA, also urges its viewers from time to time to “hate Jews and Christians.” In an episode of the children’s program “Home of Homes,” a girl recites a hate-filled poem that portrays Jews as “lower and smaller, cowardly and contemptible” and as “remnants of the Crusaders and Khaybar” (a Jewish town destroyed by the Muslims in 629 CE).62
The Palestinian-Muslim hate complex toward Jews and Christians is manifested in the claim made by the PA and Fatah that Jesus was a Palestinian. This claim is part of the new narrative that Palestinians are writing for themselves, while ignoring the Christian tradition that affirms Jesus was a Jew. It also ignores the fact that the Roman Empire changed the name of the Judea district to Palestina a century after Jesus’ death. Senior PA and Fatah officials present as historical truth the assertion that Jesus was a “Palestinian,” the “first Palestinian martyr,” and the “first Palestinian refugee.”
There have been numerous instances of such claims, and at the end of December 2014 even Abbas declared, “We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Palestinian emissary of love, justice, and peace.” The governor of the Ramallah and Al-Bira district, Leila Ghannam, stated, “Jesus the Messiah is a Palestinian.” And Mahmoud al-Habash, supreme sharia judge of Palestine and adviser to Abbas on religious affairs and Islamic relations, went so far as to say, “We believe in our lord Jesus, peace be upon him, and believe in his messages, in his prophecy, and his holiness. In keeping with our faith, we celebrate the holiday of his birth exactly as we celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, blessing and peace be upon him, because all the prophets are brothers.”63
The labeling of Jews and Christians as inferior and contemptible compared to Islam, and the “Islamization” of Jesus, are all part of the phenomena of denying the existence of the Temple and the Jewish connection with Jerusalem, and even denying that Jews have any connection with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall and that these sites are holy to them. The PA religious affairs minister has stated without batting an eye that “the Jews have no link to the Western Wall.” The former Palestinian prime minister denies the authenticity of the gold medallion found at the foot of the Temple Mount in a September 2013 archeological dig which bears the classic Jewish symbols of a menorah, a shofar, and a Torah scroll, claiming that “It’s all fraudulent.” A PA cleric characterizes the Jewish Temple as “fictitious.” These remarks and thousands like them are intended, as was stipulated in 2009 at the Al-Quds Conference on Religion and History, held in Jordan, “to rewrite the Zionist history in Palestine.” The participants officially called on Western historians and on Arab research centers to “reconsider the ancient history of Palestine and of Jerusalem in a critical, accurate, and just manner, taking into account that this history was written according to the Torah and Talmud philosophy, which is remote from historical accuracy and objectivity.”
It is impossible to disassociate the daily behavior of the Palestinians toward Jewish and Christian holy places within or near their territory, or within areas of Palestinian residence (even when under Israeli control), from the distorted perspectives they have cultivated in recent years. These perspectives foster the violence and the contemptuous attitude of the Muslims and the Palestinians in the PA, in Gaza, and within Israel toward the Jewish and Christian holy places.
In light of the Palestinians’ record of directing violence and harassment at places holy to Christianity and Judaism, and in light of the religious and ideological animosity many of them bear toward manifestations of Jewish and Christian religiosity and attachment to the Land of Israel, one must ask: what reasonable person would give the Palestinians responsibility for these holy places or the means of access to them? That responsibility must remain in Israel’s hands.
This is all the more so regarding the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews and Christians reside: Jews in the Jewish Quarter and the Muslim Quarter, Christians in the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.
Apart from residences, the streets of the Old City serve both the Christians who make their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other places sacred to them, and the Jews who make their way to the Western Wall and other places sacred to them. For Jews, the main routes leading to the Western Wall are through the shuk, through the Jewish and Armenian quarters, and along Rehov Haggai. The latter route, which traverses the Old City and along which are Jewish institutions and residences, is mostly used by the haredi population. They come to the holy places from the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem: Mea Shearim, Geula, and Shmuel Hanavi.
On the Temple Mount, which Israel transferred to the Waqf’s administration in 1967, Israel has sustained that arrangement despite the harassment that Jews suffer at the site. Israel has also upheld the prohibition on Jewish prayer there. Its police force on the mount is in constant contact with the Muslims. This force treads very softly and often is lax about enforcing the law. The laws regarding planning, building, and antiquities are not enforced on the mount; everything is based on dialogue and deliberations with the Muslim side. This, too, entails a high price, but the police prefer to pay them so long as quiet prevails. At the same time, it is hard to feel confident that continued visits by Jews, however restricted, will be possible once the mount is no longer under Israeli control.64
The proponents of division, which would lead to PA rule over the Christian and Jewish holy places, must also consider the plight and attrition of the Christians in the region. Their numbers are also declining in Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Beit Jalla, all of which are now under exclusive Palestinian control. That ongoing diminution of numbers indicates more than anything the distress of the Christians under Muslim rule. PA rule in east Jerusalem will cause more and more Christians to leave.
The reality arouses grave doubt about the PA’s ability and desire to act as a government that respects the Christian holy places in the Old City of Jerusalem, or the city’s Christian minority as a whole.65
* * *
1 Shragai, Har Hameriva, 19.
2 For details, see Dr. Dotan Goren’s study of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount from 1840 to 1948: Mechkarei Yehuda v’Shomron (Judea and Samaria Inquiries), vol. 23 (2013), 235-254. Details were reported by this author in “Hadilema Ha’aruka shel Hahar” (The Ongoing Dilemma of the Mount), Israel Hayom, September 5, 2014.
3 For more on this policy, see Shragai, Har Hameriva, 15-28.
4 Meron Benvenisti, Mul Hachoma Hasgura (Facing the Closed Wall) (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973), 167.
5 For elaboration, see later in this chapter.
6 The details are taken from the chapter “Hamekomot Hakedushim v’Ha’agan Hahistori” (The Holy Places and the Historic Basin), in Ruth Lapidot et al., Ha’agan Hahistori shel Yerushalayim: Be’ayot v’Chalufot Lepitronan (The Historic Basin of Jerusalem: Problems and Alternatives for Solving Them) (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2007).
8 For details, see ibid., 210-219 and maps at 231-233.
11 Guy Bechor, “Tihur Hanotzrim min Hamerchav Ha’aravi” (The Purge of the Christians from the Arab World), Yediot Aharonot, December 29, 2013.
12 Nir Dvori, “Kach Hafchu Hanotzrim l’Miut Nirdaf Bamizrach Hatichon” (How the Christians Became a Persecuted Minority in the Middle East), Globes, November 1, 2012.
14 Notzrut v’Notzrim Bamedina Hayehudit (Christianity and Christians in the Jewish State) (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2012), 119-122.
15 Hamilchama Hashvi’it (The Seventh War) (Tel Aviv: Chemed/Yediot Aharonot, 2004).
16 Berkovitz, Milchamot, 117-118.
18 Yosef Algazi, “Rashei Hanotzrim Bagada Machchishim Taanot K’ilu Hareshut Mitnachelet l’Eidutam” (Christian Leaders in the West Bank Deny Claims that the Authority Harasses Their Community), Haaretz, October 26, 1997.
19 Berkovitz, Milchamot; Yediot Aharonot, October 24, 1997. The report is in my possession.
20 Nitzan Horowitz, “Kach Hafach Arafat l’Magen Hanotzrut Baholi-lend” (How Arafat Became Christianity’s Protector in the Holy Land), Haaretz, December 30, 2001.
21 Danny Rubinstein, “Kotel Hadarkonim m’Beit Lechem” (The Dragon Slayer from Bethlehem), Haaretz, May 24, 1998.
22 “Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and the Diaspora,” Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. http://en.lpj.org/2014/10/21/palestinian-christians-in-the-holy-land-and-the-diaspora/
23 The report, which goes into great detail on the attacks in Gaza, was published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and is quoted on the Hyde Park site (Hebrew), http://www.hydepark.co.il/topic.asp?whichpage=3&topic_id=2073327&forum_id=99.
24 As noted in an article by Yonatan Tusia Cohen and Amar Daka, “Madua Hanotzrim Ozvim et Hamizrach Hatichon?” (Why Are the Christians Leaving the Middle East?), first published on Al-Masdar, December 27, 2014, and then in a longer version on MiddleNews (Hebrew), January 24, 2015.
25 “The Disquieting Treatment of Christians by the Palestinians,”
http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2838/palestinians-christians. Curtis is a professor of political science at Rutgers University.
26 Dvori, “Kach Hafchu Hanotzrim.”
27 Shitrit told me this while I was working on my book Al Em Haderech: Sipuro shel Kever Rachel (On the Road: The Story of Rachel’s Tomb) (Jerusalem: Hotza’at Shearim l’Cheker Israel, 2005).
28 The report, Hanotzrim Hafalestinim b’Sakanat Hachchada (The Palestinian Christians in Danger of Extinction), was posted on the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in December 2007.
29 This chapter is based, among other things, on ongoing engagement with these issues and on a position paper I wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: Yachas Hareshut Hafalestinit Lamekomot Hadekushim Layahadut: Kever Rachel c’Mikre Mivchan (The Palestinian Treatment of the Jewish Holy Places: Rachel’s Tomb as a Test Case); documentation in Berkovitz, Milchamot; and on a brief prepared for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “Hamaracha Hadiplomatit al Yerushalayim: Vidat Hapisga b’Kemp David 2000 v’Totza’oteiha” (The Diplomatic Endeavor on Jerusalem: The 2000 Camp David Summit and Its Results).
30 Avi Issacharoff and Liel Kaiser, “15 Shotrim Niftza’u b’Idui Avanim al Rachavat Hakotel” (15 Policemen Injured by Stone Throwing at the Western Wall Plaza), Haaretz, February 28, 2010.
31 Idan Yosef, “Hitpar’ot b’Tom Hatefila: Avanim al Hamitpalelim Bakotel” (Riot at the End of Prayers: Stones Thrown at the Western Wall Worshippers), Machlaka Rishona (News1), March 5, 2010.
32 Menachem Schwartz, “Mehumot b’Yerushalayim: Aravim Idu Avanim l’Rachavat Hakotel” (Riots in Jerusalem: Arabs Threw Stones at the Western Wall Plaza), Kikar Shabbat (website), September 22, 2010.
33 Amichai Rubin, “Tzafu Madua Hamishtara Chasrat Onim b’Har Habayit” (See Why the Police Are Helpless on the Temple Mount), Serugim (website), September 30, 2013.
34 Ariel Scharfer, “Kama Takriot Avanim al Otobusim Yisraeli’im Baderech Lakotel” (Some Stones at Israeli Buses on the Way to the Western Wall), Radio Kol Chai (website), October 13, 2014.
35 Itzik Weiss, “Aravim Hitpar’u v’Yaru Zikukim Ba’ir Ha’atika; al Yehudim Ne’esar Latzet m’Hakotel” (Arabs Rioted and Threw Firecrackers in the Old City; Jews Forbidden to Leave the Western Wall), 0404 (website), December 17, 2014.
36 For extensive details about these events at Joseph’s Tomb, see the Wikipedia entry on “קבר יוסף” (“Kever Yosef,” Joseph’s Tomb), which includes sources.
37 See reports on the Arutz Sheva website (Hebrew) on May 1, September 17, and October or November [110 in original, instead of either 10 or 11] 13, 2014.
38 Dalit Halevi, “Shuv Nisiyon L’hatzit et Kever Yosef” (Again an Attempt to Ignite Joseph’s Tomb), Arutz Sheva, July 7, 2014; Shimon Cohen, “Me’ot Mevakrim Gilu Vandalizm b’Kever Yosef” (Hundreds of Visitors Discovered Vandalism at Joseph’s Tomb), Arutz Sheva, December 22, 2014.
39 Berkovitz, Milchamot, 215.
40 Ibid., 215-221.
41 Shragai, Al Em Haderech, 216.
42 Ibid., 229.
43 Bilal ibn Rabah, of Ethiopian (Abyssinian) extraction, is known in Islamic history as a black slave who served in the house of the Prophet Muhammad as the first muezzin, that is, the person responsible for calling the Muslims to prayer five times a day.
44 As recounted in Israeli media reports, based on announcements of the IDF spokesperson.
45 Police Commander Yehuda Yehoshua to the Knesset Public Petitions Committee, October 24, 2011.
46 Ephraim Murano, “Hamitpalelim b’Kever Rachel Natzurim” (The Worshippers at Rachel’s Tomb Are Besieged), Arutz Sheva, May 15, 2012.
47 Shlomo Pioterkovski, “Hafarot Seder Alimot b’rachavei Yehuda v’Shomrom” (Violent Disturbances All Over Judea and Samaria), Arutz Sheva, November 20, 2012.
48 Yishai Karov, “Bakbukei Tivara l’ever Chayalei Tzahal b’Kever Rachel” (Molotov Cocktails at IDF Soldiers at Rachel’s Tomb), Arutz Sheva, March 23, 2014.
49 Uzi Baruch, “Mit’an Me’ultar v’Bakbukei Tivara samuch l’Kever Rachel” (Improvised Explosive Device and Molotov Cocktails at Rachel’s Tomb), Arutz Sheva, March 23, 2014.
50 Uzi Baruch, “Aravim Nisu Lehatzit Emda Tzahalit samuch l’Kever Rachel” (Arabs Tried to Ignite an IDF Position at Rachel’s Tomb), Arutz Sheva, April 19, 2014.
51 A security source.
52 For more, including sources, see Nadav Shragai, “Beit Ha’almin Hayehudi sh’al Har Hazeitim v’Chiyuniut Hemsech Hashlita Ha’israelit Bo” (The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives and the Need for Continued Israeli Control There), website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, August 4, 2009.
56 On Temple Mount riots during the latter part of the “Jerusalem Intifada,” see Nadav Shragai, “Ha’status Quo b’Har Habayit” (The Status Quo on the Temple Mount), http://jcpa.org.il/article/%D7%94%D7%A1%D7%98%D7%98%D7%95%D7%A1-%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%95-%D7%91%D7%94%D7%A8-%D7%94%D7%91%D7%99%D7%AA.
57 Shragai, Alilat “Al-Aqsa b’Sakana,” ch. 4.
58 For more, see Shragai, Alilat Al-Aqsa b’Sakana.
59 For more, see Shragai, “Ha’status Quo.”
60 Abbas made his statement in mid-October and was quoted in all the Arab media. He said “settlers” had to be “kept out of the Temple Mount – by whatever means…it is forbidden to let the Jews enter the Temple Mount. We must prevent it in any way possible. The Temple Mount is ours, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours, the churches are ours. They have no right to enter these places and contaminate them.”
61 For more, see Shragai, Alilat “Al-Aqsa b’Sakana,” ch. 4.
62 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik at Palestinian Media Watch, July 4, 2012.
63 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Hareshut Hafalestinit v’Fatah: Yeshu Haya Falestini” (The Palestinian Authority and Fatah: Jesus Was a Palestinian), Palestinian Media Watch, January 1, 2015.
64 In recent years there have also been many reports by the Public Committee against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount (which includes public figures, academics, legal experts, and writers from across the Israeli political spectrum) on ongoing damage to antiquities embedded in the mount, some of which are linked to the Jewish people’s ancient past. Many of these charges have been confirmed in a special report by the state comptroller, which has been placed under censorship with most of its details not allowed to be published. For more on the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount, see Nadav Shragai, “Hapgi’a Hanimshechet b’Atikot Har Habayit mul Nesigat Shilton Hachok Ha’israeli” (The Ongoing Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities as the Israeli Rule of Law Retreats), website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 28, 2008.
65 Numerous cases of the use of Christian holy places for the anti-Israeli struggle have been noted here. Usually it was done against the will of the religious institutions responsible for the holy places in question.