One of the many fanciful claims behind the Mideast crisis is that Jerusalem has always been an Arab city.

The latest official rhetoric from Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority even goes so far as to suggest that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

Such characterizations are hardly worthy of addressing, yet, as long as one of the principals involved in the dispute adamantly denies the historical facts, they must be addressed.

The truth is that it is the Arab presence in the land before the nation of Israel was reformed by United Nations mandate in 1948 that is being exaggerated — particularly in Jerusalem.

A travel guide to Palestine and Syria, published in 1906 by Karl Baedeker, illustrates the fact that, even when the Islamic Ottoman Empire ruled the region, the Muslim population in the city was minimal.

The book estimates the total population of the city at 60,000, of whom 7,000 were Muslims, 13,000 were Christians and 40,000 were Jews.

“The number of Jews has greatly risen in the last few decades, in spite of the fact that they are forbidden to immigrate or to possess landed property,” the book states.

Even though the Jews were persecuted, still they came to Jerusalem and represented the overwhelming majority of the population as early as 1906.

Why was the Muslim population so low? After all, we’re told that Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam. Surely, if this were a widely held belief in 1906, more of the devout would have settled there.

The truth is that the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land persisted throughout its bloody history, as is documented in Joan Peters’ milestone history on the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict in the region, “From Time Immemorial.”

First published in 1984, Peters’ book was a best-seller — and for good reason. It shatters many of the Middle East myths that are still shaping international public policy and the so-called “peace process.”

A vicious disinformation campaign followed publication of the monumental book. That’s one reason you’ll be fortunate if you can find one dusty, old copy today tucked away on the shelf of a large used book store. (The good news is that you can now get a freshly printed copy of the 600-page tome from WorldNetDaily.)

It is absolutely must-reading for anyone interested in understanding the conflict that threatens nearly every day to escalate into a world war. The truth is sometimes hard to accept. But truth is the only reliable foundation for peace.

The Muslim claim to Jerusalem is based on what is written in the Koran. Unfortunately, the city is never mentioned by name. The closest it comes to a reference is in Sura 17:1, which refers to the “furthest mosque.”

Today, many Arabs claim this is a reference to the Al Aqsa Mosque — the place where Allah supposedly took Mohammed for a journey and the site from which the prophet of Islam reputedly ascended into heaven. The current Arab uprising in Jerusalem is called the Al Aqsa Intifida and centers around this claim. But is it legitimate?

Mohammed died in 632 AD. At the time, Jerusalem was a Christian city. It was captured by Khalif Omar six years after Mohammed’s death. Prior to the capture, the Church of Saint Mary of Justinian stood on the Temple Mount. There was no mosque in the entire city.

The Dome of the Rock was built in 691. Twenty years later, the Church of Saint Mary was converted into a mosque with the familiar dome on top. It was named Al Aqsa, so it would sound like the “furthest mosque” mentioned in the Koran.

That’s the basis of the Islamic claim to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Yet, even some top Israeli officials, if ever so briefly, flirted with the idea of compromising on the Jewish claim to this historic and spiritual epicenter of Judaism in a fanciful bid for peace through appeasement.

As Joan Peters reminds us in “From Time Immemorial,” it was only “politically” — through military force — that the Jews ever lost their land. They never abandoned it physically, nor did they renounce their claim to the nation — the only continuous claim that exists. Once again, only politics — and the temptation to pursue a false peace at any price — threatens the Jews claim on their eternal capital.

Editor’s note: Joan Peters’ classic history of the Middle East, “From Time Immemorial,” is once again available — both online and through WorldNetDaily’s toll-free order line, 1-877-909-1776.

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