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My recent commentaries on the Middle East have touched off a virtual
international firestorm on the Internet.

Since writing

“Myths of the Middle East”
less than two weeks ago, I have been inundated with e-mail from all over the world — at least 5,000 letters from Israel alone! The article has been translated into a dozen languages. It has been the subject of network television debates. It has been read on Israeli national radio. And, while most of the reaction has been passionately favorable, there have been threats on my life and the lives of my family members. There have been vicious, obscene, vulgar and profane denunciations.

The reaction illustrates just how far apart the Arabs and Israelis are in the so-called “peace process.”

There has clearly been no progress since 1947.

In fact, there is ample evidence that some Arab leaders are right now attempting to revise history in new ways that strongly suggest there is nothing Israel can ever do to appease the violence in their hearts.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Republica, March 24 of this year, Sheik Ikrama Sabri, the Palestine Authority’s top Muslim figure in Jerusalem, decreed that the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Jewish Temple, has no religious significance to the Jews.

“Let it be clear: the Wailing Wall is not a holy place of the Jews, it is an integral part of the mosque (grounds). We call it al-Buraq, the name of the horse with which Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem,” he said.

In fact, the Temple Mount area and the Western Wall are, according to Jewish scholars, the only truly holy sites of Judaism.

Yasser Arafat himself has made similar statements recently, claiming the city of Jerusalem has no real significance to Jews.

On Al-Jezira television, June 28, 1998, he said, “Let me tell you something. The issue of Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian issue. It is a Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and Christian issue.”

Asked by the interviewer if one could also say it is a Jewish issue, he replied, “No. Allow me to be precise — they consider Hebron to be holier than Jerusalem.”

Arafat is among those Arab leaders making the incredible suggestion that there was never a Jewish Temple at the site.

“Until now, all the excavations that have been carried out have failed to prove the location of the Temple,” he claims. “It is 30 years since they captured the city and they have not succeeded in giving even one proof as the location of the Temple.”

Do you really think there can be compromise with people this delusional?

This was no casual remark by Arafat. In an earlier speech broadcast on Voice of Palestine Oct. 10, 1996, he said, “Let us begin from the holy Buraq wall. It is called the holy Buraq wall, not the Wailing Wall. We do not say this. After the holy Buraq revolution in 1929 … the Shaw International Committee said this is a holy wall for Muslims. This wall ends at the Via Dolorosa. These are our Christian and Muslim holy places.”

Now, perhaps you understand why even today the Muslim police known as the Waqf attempt to deny Jews and other non-Muslims access to these sites. Now, perhaps you understand why, during times when Jerusalem has been occupied by Muslims, Christian churches and Jewish synagogues were destroyed or desecrated.

This alone should demonstrate conclusively to any non-biased observer that the troubles in the Middle East today will not be solved by the creation of a “Palestinian state.” It’s time to point out to those who do not yet know that the leader of this movement — Arafat — is not a “Palestinian” at all. Indeed, he was born in Egypt.

But his family does have some history in the area — though he’s not likely to acknowledge it on ABC’s “Nightline” or CNN.

You see, it was Arafat’s uncle who served as the grand mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s. It was his uncle who concluded, for the first time, that Mohammed had ascended into heaven from the site known as the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. And it was his uncle who, in an unholy alliance with Adolf Hitler, condemned the Jews and their designs on their eternal capital city.

The truth is that Jerusalem has a unique importance to Jews. It has always been a place described and revered in Jewish law. For centuries since the Diaspora, Jews around the world have prayed toward Jerusalem, mourned the destruction of their Temple and hopefully repeated the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Again, I say, until all the parties to war and peace in the Middle East acknowledge basic history and archaeology, there is little point in pretending that peripheral land concessions can bring peace.

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