Just three-and-a-half months after Palestinians and Muslims celebrated the Oct. 18 vote by the executive board of UNESCO to deny all Jewish connections to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and Western Wall, the rug has been pulled from under their feet.
And the bearer of bad news is not just some agency of the United Nations, but its new secretary-general.
In October, UNESCO made its point explicit by referring to the disputed sites by only their Muslim names and labeling Israel an “occupying power” that uses “right-wing extremists” to badger innocent Muslims.
UNESCO “firmly deplores the continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces, and urges Israel, the occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” the resolution stated.
Well, that was then, and this is now.
Late last week, newly installed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a very different message during an interview on Israel Public Radio when asked about the controversial resolution adopted under his predecessor Ban Ki-Moon.
“It’s clear as the sun is clear that the Temple, which was demolished by the Romans, is a Jewish temple,” Guterres answered.
“No one can deny the fact that Jerusalem is holy to three religions today,” he added.
Guterres’ acknowledgment of a Jewish Temple on the disputed site drew quick and sharp rebukes from Palestinian spokesmen.
Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Affairs minister, complained to Xinhua news service that Guterres had “ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aqsa mosque of pure Islamic heritage,” accusing the U.N. chief of having “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary general … and must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”
Ahmad Majdalani, adviser to to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, accused Guterres of “remarks that give Israel a green light for more measures against Jerusalem … [and] a strike to the credibility of the U.N. as a global organization that should stay on the side of the occupied people and be against the occupying power.”
Muslim authorities themselves published an official “Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif” in 1925 that listed the Mount as Jewish and as the site of Solomon’s Temple: “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord.'”
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All Jewish connections – and especially a past Jewish Temple – are now denied by the Muslim in charge of the site.
WND reported last month that one of Israel’s leading archaeologists was almost expelled from the site for referencing the historic Temple.
Gabriel Barkay was leading a multi-faith group of students from UCLA on the site, reported the Times of Israel. While Barkay was explaining the archaeological significance of what the students were seeing, two Waqf guards shadowing the group overheard his reference to the Temple Mount. They stopped the presentation and took Barkay to Israeli police officers.
Barkay is best known for his 1979 discovery of small silver scroll amulets in a cave in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley containing the priestly benediction from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
The amulets contain the oldest surviving biblical inscription discovered to date, dating back to 600 B.C., and the blessing is still used in synagogues and churches today.
The police informed the Waqf guards Barkay had broken no law and there was no legal reason to eject him. But on the advice of the officers, Barkay refrained from referring to “Temple Mount” for the remainder of the tour, instead calling it “the TM.”
Other tour guides have reported similar confrontations, reported Israel National News.
WND reported in November the forced removal of WND founder Joseph Farah, messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn and 406 Christian pilgrims from the Temple Mount.
Cahn, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Harbinger,” “The Mystery of the Shemitah” and “The Book of Mysteries,” had simply referenced the Temple when his talk to the group was interrupted.
Cahn was told it was unacceptable for anyone to discuss the Temple on the Temple Mount. Muslims contend the site is famous and holy not because of the Temple, which some of them even dispute ever existed, but because Muhammad claims to have ascended to the site from the Arabian desert in a miraculous “Night Journey” on the back of a winged horse.
“While I was speaking, they pulled me aside and told me I had mentioned that there was a Temple on the Temple Mount – which I did – and said I was not allowed to mention the Temple,” explained Cahn. “They also accused me of mentioning America and someone clapped, which was also true. I mentioned one of the mysteries in ‘The Book of Mysteries,’ The Tenth of Av Mystery, that contains the secret of America’s existence. They also accused me of speaking of 1948, the birth of Israel, which I never did.”
Initially, just one representative of the Waqf approached Cahn during his talk – calling him away from the group for a meeting, which was soon joined by several other Waqf members, as well as two Jewish members of WND’s Israeli tour company and Farah.
“As I spoke, more of the Muslim authorities converged on me, and told me that I and the group had to leave the Temple Mount immediately,” Cahn recalled. “I went back to the group and told them that this was exactly the kind of warfare on the mount I had just told them about – but that nothing stops the purposes of God.”
The UNESCO decision was very unpopular with Jews and Christians around the world and was followed in December by the Obama administration refusing to use the U.S.’s Security Council veto to block a resolution calling for the limiting of the Jewish state to the borders it had before the 1967 war. The anti-Israel moves have spurred calls for the U.S. to defund or withdraw completely from the U.N., with Trump also joining in criticism of the world body.
Whether the threat of defunding was behind Guterres’ strong endorsement of Israel’s historic connection to the Temple Mount is unknown, but he told Israel Public Radio that he had no intention to initiate a new peace process between the two parties, despite his own support for a two-state solution.