Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Palestinians Threaten Uprising over Israel’s Inclusion of 2 West Bank Holy Sites in Preservation Plan

Fact Sheet: Palestinians Fail to Protect Jewish Sacred Places

Palestinian leaders reacted this week with promises of violence to the Israeli cabinet’s decision to include two holy sites in the West Bank as part of a comprehensive plan to preserve Israel’s national heritage and religious sites.[1] Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza, urged Palestinians to unleash a new intifada (uprising) in response to the decision.[2] “Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours, and God is with us,” Haniyeh said. “We will not accept these decisions and they will have no ramifications."[3]

Meanwhile, Palestinian rioters threw stones at Israeli soldiers and burned tires in Hebron, the location of one of the controversial sites.[4] The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Judaism’s second-holiest site after the Temple Mount and its Western Wall,[5] is also venerated by Muslims and Christians.[6] Likewise, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, another of Judaism’s holiest sites,[7] is also sacred to Muslims and Christians.[8]

The $107 million (NIS 400 million) Israeli plan approved Sunday (Feb. 21) would restore about 150 heritage and holy sites.[9] Netanyahu’s spokesman, Nir Hefetz, said on Tuesday that just as maintenance work on the entrance and road to the Muslim prayer room of the Cave of the Patriarchs is underway, its Jewish sections - and Rachel’s Tomb - also have a right to be refurbished.[10]

In a meeting with UN Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Robert H. Serry on Wednesday (Feb. 24), Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “Israel plans to invest significant amounts in infrastructure that will increase the accessibility of holy sites to all worshipers. By doing so it aims to honor and allow freedom of worship to all, irrespective of their faith, and protect the holy sites. There is no violation of Muslim or Christian religious rights in any holy place.”[11]

Palestinian and Jordanian Failure to Protect Holy Sites

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza contain hundreds of religious monuments and places of worship holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Israel long ago put into place comprehensive laws protecting all such sites and ensuring access to people of all religions.[12] The same protections have not been extended by the Palestinian Authority or under Jordanian rule. As a result, since Israel’s establishment in 1948, a significant number of Jewish holy sites has been damaged or vandalized.

Desecration of holy sites occurred when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank before 1967. That has continued until today in areas under Palestinian control, despite formal agreements: Both Israel and the Palestinians promised to protect all religious sites under their control as part of the framework of the Oslo peace process. The failure to adequately uphold these provisions is seen by Israel as a serious impediment to Israeli-Palestinian relations.[13] In recent years, Palestinian terrorists and rioters also have destroyed and abused Christian holy places.[14]

Although neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have a constitution, the Knesset (Israeli parliament) enacted the Protection of Holy Places Law of 1967 to ensure that anyone who vandalizes a holy site could suffer legal consequences. The law states: “Whoever does anything that is likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the various religions to the places sacred to them is liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.”[15]

Additionally, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (also known as Oslo II), signed in September 1995, explicitly states that “each side undertakes upon itself to respect sites in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which are regarded as holy, or which hold archaeological value.”[16]

Instances of Palestinian terrorists exploiting holy sites are violations of the First Additional Protocol (1977) to the Geneva Conventions and may constitute war crimes.[17]

Following are examples of Palestinian and Jordanian failures to protect holy sites and freedom of worship:

*
The Islamic religious authority (Waqf) has attempted to erase any Jewish archaeological claims to the Temple Mount area known as “Solomon’s Stables.” [18] The Temple Mount is known to Muslims as “Haram al-Sharif.” Additionally:
o
In 1996, Islamic clerics converted two underground buildings from the Second Temple period into mosques—even though they had never been mosques and didn’t seek permission to do so.[19]
+
In 1999 the Waqf opened another exit to the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount, carting away thousands of tons of dirt full of artefacts and dumping the material in the Kidron Valley. This was done without consultation or notification of any kind.[20] Archaeologists moved nearly 70 truckloads of rubble from the Kidron Valley dump site to Emek Zurim National Park.

In April 2005, after years of sifting through the rubble, the team found a series of relics dating back to the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. These were the first discoveries of their kind, because the Waqf forbids archaeological excavation on the Temple Mount.[21]

The rubble has yielded pottery dating back to the Bronze Age and First Temple periods and more than 100 ancient coins, including some from the Hasmonean dynasty.[22]

+
The former head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority called the removal and dumping of these artefacts “an unprecedented archaeological crime.”[23]
*
Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 58 synagogues in the Old City’s Jewish quarter were demolished or desecrated. Roughly 38,000 Jewish tombstones on the Mount of Olives, a Jewish cemetery just east of the Old City, were destroyed. Some of the tombstones were used to build fences and latrine floors for the Jordanian army, as well as to pave roads. Gravestones more than a thousand years old were destroyed.[24]
*
The Jordanian government denied Israeli Jews access to the Western Wall when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem from 1949-1967. Jews also were barred from the tombs of the prophets Samuel and Rabbi Shimon Hatzadik in Jerusalem; the tomb of Rachel located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem; and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.[25]
*
In October 2000, Palestinians destroyed the compound of Joseph’s Tomb near Nablus. Palestinian rioters ransacked the site and set fire to it despite the Palestinian security services’ agreement to protect it.[26]
*
In October 2000, Palestinians attacked and desecrated a Byzantine-era synagogue in Jericho, setting it on fire and damaging an ancient mosaic.[27]
*
Palestinians from Bethlehem and nearby towns have on numerous occasions attacked Rachel’s Tomb, near Bethlehem. In September 1996, hundreds of residents of Bethlehem, led by the Palestinian Authority-appointed governor of Bethlehem, Muhammad Rashad al-Jabari, attacked the tomb and set fire to the scaffolding around it. Other incidents at the site have included shooting attacks on Jewish worshippers and security forces as well as petrol bomb attacks.[28]
*
Following Israel’s withdrawal from all of Gaza in 2005, Palestinian mobs burned down a number of synagogues in the former Israeli settlements there. At least four synagogues in the former settlements of Morag, Netzarim, Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom were set on fire.[29]
*
In February 2008, Palestinian terrorists burned down the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) library building in Gaza City, kidnapping two guards and destroying hundreds of books.[30]
*
On Sept. 16 and 17, 2006, Palestinians attacked seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza following Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam.[31]
*
Unknown gunmen set fire to the YMCA building in the West Bank town of Qalqilya in September 2006; in April 2006, gunmen set fire to the outside of the building. Islamic officials accused the organization of conducting missionary work and called for the closure of the YMCA in the West Bank.[32]
*
In 2002 during an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) counterterrorism operation in Bethlehem, dozens of armed Palestinian militants took over the Church of the Nativity, trapping about 60 clergy in the Church.[33]

Israeli PM Announces Plan to Preserve National and Holy Sites, including 2 in West Bank

Experts available for comment on archaeological and holy sites

United States:

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder and President, The Israel Project
Tel.: 202-857-6644 (office) (Washington, D.C.)
E-mail: jenniferm@theisraelproject.org
Web site: www.theisraelproject.org

Dr. Mitchell Bard, Executive Director, American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise
Tel.: 301-565-3918 (Maryland)
E-mail: mgbard@aol.com
Web site: www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org

Hershel Shanks, Editor, Biblical Archaeology Review
Tel.: 201-966-9888
Web site: http://www.bib-arch.org/

Israel:

Prof. Yedidia Stern, Bar-Ilan University, Faculty of Law
Tel.: 972-2-530-0849 (office direct)
E-mail: sternyz@mail.biu.ac.il

Footnotes:

[1] “PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at Today's Cabinet Meeting at Tel Hai,” Israel Prime Minister’s Office, Feb. 21, 2010, http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2010/02/spokestart210210.htm; Waked, Ali, “Abbas, Haniyeh: Heritage sites will ignite a war,” YnetNews, Feb. 23, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3853485,00.html

[2] “Hamas calls for uprising over West Bank sites,” Alalam, Feb. 24, 2010, http://www.alalam.ir/english/detail.aspx?id=98727

[3] Waked, Ali, “Abbas, Haniyeh: Heritage sites will ignite a war,” YnetNews, Feb. 23, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3853485,00.html

[4] Waked, Ali, “Abbas, Haniyeh: Heritage sites will ignite a war,” YnetNews, Feb. 23, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3853485,00.html

[5] Lazaroff, Tovah; Freund, Michael, “Coming of age at Rachel’s Tomb,” JWeekly.com, Nov. 2, 2007, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/33725/coming-of-age-at-rachel-s-tomb/

[6] Prusher, Ilene R., “Does Hebron clash signal new round of settler revolts?” Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 9, 2008, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2008/1209/p06s02-wome.html; Myre, Greg, “Curfew's Gone, but Troops Still Hem In Hebron Family,” The New York Times, July 21, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/21/world/curfew-s-gone-but-troops-still-hem-in-hebron-family.html

[7] Lazaroff, Tovah; Freund, Michael, “Coming of age at Rachel’s Tomb,” JWeekly.com, Nov. 2, 2007, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/33725/coming-of-age-at-rachel-s-tomb/

[8] “Bethlehem University research project explores importance of Rachel's tomb,” Bethlehem University, May 4, 2009, http://www.bethlehem.edu/archives/2009/2009_026.shtml

[9] “Israel to include West Bank shrines in heritage plan,” Reuters, Feb. 21, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61K1QL20100221

[10] Keinon, Herb; Lazaroff, Tovah, “'Abbas campaign is hypocritical,'” The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 24, 2010, http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?ID=169511

[11] “President Peres meets with UN Special Coordinator Serry,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb. 24, 2010, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2010/Pres_Peres_meets_UN_Coordinator_Serry+24-Feb-2010.htm

[12] “Protection of Holy Places Law,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 30, 1998, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Protection+of+Holy+Places+Law.htm

[13] Shragai, Nadav, “The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dec. 2, 2007, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=1923; “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 28, 1995, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/THE+ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN+INTERIM+AGREEMENT.htm

[14] Kershner, Isabel, “Palestinian Christians Look Back on a Year of Troubles,” The New York Times, March 11, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/world/middleeast/11christians.html?_r=1; Butcher, Tim, “West Bank: Islamic clerics want to close YMCA,” The Telegraph, April 28, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/1516911/West-Bank-Islamic-clerics-want-to-close-YMCA.html

[15] “Protection of Holy Places Law,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 30, 1998, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Protection+of+Holy+Places+Law.htm

[16] “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 28, 1995, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/THE+ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN+INTERIM+AGREEMENT.htm

[17] Foreign Ministry Legal Advisor, “Terrorist Penetration and Armed Combat in Holy Places - Legal Perspectives,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, April 11, 2002, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2002/Terrorist%20Penetration%20and%20Armed%20Combat%20in%20Holy%20Pla

[18] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[19] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[20] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[21] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[22] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[23] Ami-El, Mark, "The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities," JCPA, Aug. 1, 2002; Lefkovits, Etgar, "Temple Mount relics saved from garbage," The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2005, http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm

[24] Shragai, Nadav“The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Viewpoints (JCPA), July-August 2009, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=3052; Jordanian Annexation of West Bank, Resolution Adopted by the House of Deputies, Amman, 24 April, 1950,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign+Relations/Israels+Foreign+Relations+since+1947/1947-1974/10+Jordanian+Annexation+of+West+Bank-+Resolution+A.htm

[25] Gilbert, Martin “Jerusalem: A Tale of One City,” The New Republic, Nov. 14, 1994, accessed via Nexis.com

[26] Shragai, Nadav, “The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dec. 2, 2007, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=1923; Kershner, Isbabel, “Pilgrimage to Roots of Faith and Strife,” The New York Times, Oct. 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/world/middleeast/24tomb.html?_r=1

[27] Shragai, Nadav, “The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dec. 2, 2007, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=1923; Dovkants, Keith, “Israel pounds more targets,” The Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4901/Israel-pounds-targets.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[28] Shragai, Nadav, “The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dec. 2, 2007, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=443&PID=0&IID=1923

[29] Waked, Ali, “Shalom slams ‘barbaric act’,” YnetNews, Sept. 15, 2005, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3140767,00.html

[30] “YMCA library building in Gaza City blown up,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center,” Feb. 21, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/gj_200208e.pdf

[31] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Israel and the Occupied Territories,” U.S. Department of State, 2007, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90212.htm#

[32] Kurshner, Isabel, “Palestinian Christians Look Back on a Year of Troubles,” The New York Times, March 11, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/world/middleeast/11christians.html?_r=1; Butcher, Tim, “West Bank: Islamic clerics want to close YMCA,” The Telegraph, April 28, 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/1516911/West-Bank-Islamic-clerics-want-to-close-YMCA.html

[33] “Chronology of the Siege,” PBS, April 1, 2002, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/siege/etc/cron.html; Myre, Greg, “Militants Briefly Take Over Bethlehem Building,” The New York Times, Dec. 20, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/international/middleeast/20cnd-bethlehem.html

www.theisraelproject.org

http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/c.hsJPK0PIJpH/b.672581/k.DB67/The_Israel_Project__For_Freedom_Security_and_Peace.htm

4 comments:

News Service said...

There is hardly any indication that this document originated with The Israel Project and there is no live working link to their Web site or to the article, which is easy enough to find.

Do you think that is fair? Would you like it if someone did that to your original materials?

It is understandable if you do not link to a hostile Web site or organization, but clearly you support the ideas in this article, so why didn't you give credit and a proper working link?

Ami Isseroff

GS Don Morris, Ph.D. said...

I apologize-you are correct I must provide the proper acknowledgment-if you read my blog regularly you know I do so-this was an error on my part-I obviously made a human error-all the best-doc

GS Don Morris, Ph.D. said...

http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/c.hsJPK0PIJpH/b.672581/k.DB67/The_Israel_Project__For_Freedom_Security_and_Peace.htm

Marie said...

Destruction of sacred places bothers me so much. I wonder if humanity will ever change and become human...