On Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, UNESCO’s executive board approved the contentious “Occupied Palestine” resolution accusing Israel of a number of violations with total disregard to any Jewish efforts towards peace. Strangely, UNESCO’s leader Irina Bokova and even the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opposed the resolution, but as this week has shown, such resistance among their leadership has little sway over the adoption of resolutions. Apparently the resolutions are voted on and passed by the member states independently of Bokova’s input.
This resolution really amounts to nothing more than slander in the name of UNESCO by Muslim nations against Israel. There is little legal force behind the resolution itself but a similar text is being considered for the World Heritage Committee this week. This deceptive resolution is becoming an influential document in the shaping of Israel’s international relations, so attention to a few details with reference to the resolution is most pressing.
The World Heritage Committee allocates about $4 million annually according to the urgency of requests, priority being given to the most threatened sites. The recent UNESCO resolution presents Muslim interests at and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (without any reference to Jewish ties to the Temple Mount) as being endangered and therefore worthy of support from the World Heritage Fund. The denial of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in this document can lead to financial backing of this denial in the international arena and funding of politicized Muslim efforts to inhibit Israel’s recognition of the full history of Israel. That is to say, Israel is and has been faithful to recognize historical findings both from after the Muslim conquests and before, but this resolution seeks to deny that while furthering Muslim interests at the expense of the international community.
These resolutions are problematic in that they present a clear pro-Muslim and anti-Jewish bias while demanding access to Jerusalem in order to control Israeli excavations beside the Temple Mount. Calling Israel “Israel, the Occupying Power,” is not so surprising as such a title has been used no less than 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. The name “Occupying Power” refers uniquely to Israel in U.N. resolutions. Israeli controlled territory is referred to as ‘occupied’ no less than 2,350 times in at least 90% of the resolutions dealing with Israel since 1967, a staggering number in light of the fact that the word ‘occupied’ only appears a handful of times in less than 15% of the resolutions dealing with other nations accused of military occupation since 1967. These UNESCO resolutions deny the Jewish ties to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in that they refer to site names at and around the Temple Mount only by their Muslim names. Only twice in the most recent resolution do we find any hint of recognition of Jewish ties to the Western Wall and it appears only as a parenthetical statement after the Muslim name of the site.
Israel is a nation, not an Occupying Power; in fact, ‘Palestinian’ was a title saved for Jews (being an insult to non-Jews) until after Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948. Jerusalem is and always has been Israel’s capital. Israel is the Jewish homeland and has been since God gave it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob more than 3,000 years ago. The Romans renamed Israel to Palestine after crushing a Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132 AD. Jews living in ‘Palestine’ were the only people group referred to as Palestinians between 132 AD and 1948. All other ethnicities identified according to other countries: Arab, Egyptian, Turkish, etc. After the liberation of Israel, Jews felt safe to again self-identify, no longer as Palestinians, but by a name reflecting the biblical name of the land and thus a modern name for residents of Israel was born: the Israeli (today there are both Israeli Jews and Arabs living in Israel). Arabs not agreeing with the modern state of Israel saw an opportunity in the abandonment of the ethnic title ‘Palestinian’ and began self-identifying as Palestinians leading up to the Six-Day War in 1967 as a way of claiming a right to establish their own nation centered in this land (something unheard of in history).
If one would like to think of this land as occupied, we may more accurately say that it has only been occupied when non-Jewish nations controlled it: Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, the Muslim empires and now, in part, the so-called Palestinians (previously known as Arabs residing in this region). No nation in history has had Jerusalem as its capital or Israel as its homeland except Israel and the Jewish people. Palestine as a national entity is an idea of the past century and a most detrimental idea at that.
UNESCO’s recent resolution presents Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem as in danger due to alleged illegal activities of the Israeli government. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but this article is not aimed at examining the accusations of the resolution. This article is aimed at explicating the level to which the recent resolution deceptively denies the close connection between Jews and the Temple Mount.
The fact is that Muslims never claimed the Temple Mount as anything more than the site of a beautiful mosque until Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. As evidence from the past century we may take as an example the Mufti Haj Amin el Husayni, the Islamic leader based in Jerusalem who was close friends with Hitler. He wanted nothing more than to eradicate the Jews, but in his booklet on the Temple Mount, he said nothing about the mosque on the Temple Mount having anything to do with Muhammad’s supposed night journey.
In Islam, until the Temple Mount became a way to undermine the modern state of Israel, the name for the mosque on the Temple Mount was a play on words in Arabic, which associated the mosque with the more famous one near Ji’rrana, a village located between Mecca and Taaf in the Arabian Peninsula (now Saudi Arabia). The name “al Aqsa” actually means “the farthest” and originally referred to the farthest from Mecca of two mosques near Ji’rrana in Saudi Arabia. The understanding in early Islam was that the farthest mosque near Ji’rrana was the location of Muhammad’s night journey. When the mosque was built on the Temple Mount it was easy to think of it as “the farthest mosque,” but there was never a claim that it was the al Aqsa of Muhammad’s night journey until such a claim became politically beneficial for Muslim interests.
Islamic tradition tells of a Torah abiding Jew who also claimed to have accepted Islam (after a Jewish massacre at the hands of Muslims). According to Islamic tradition, this Jew, called Ka’ab al-Ahbar was the one who recommended the Temple Mount as the place to build the mosque in Jerusalem after the Muslim conquest reached the holy city. It very well could be that he was the one who suggested the name al Aqsa. Referring to a mosque as “the farthest mosque” implies a great Islamic achievement in expanding the Muslim world and so merits the level of adornment that the structures on the Temple Mount possess to this day.
A series of Muslim inscriptions that make up a 240-meter mosaic frieze inside the Dome of the Rock do not include the story of Muhammad’s night journey, suggesting that as late as 692 AD the idea of Jerusalem as the location of the night journey had not yet been established. The first time Muslims claimed (and only for a time) that Jerusalem was the location of the night journey was during the crusades. But this view was quickly abandoned after the Muslims recaptured the holy city.
Jerusalem was originally considered holy in Islam for reasons other than the supposed night journey. Muhammad first had his converts praying to Jerusalem twice a day until the Jewish community in the Arabian Peninsula upset him by their refusal to accept his invented and distorted version of their faith. If Jerusalem were as significant to Islam as political Islam claims today, one would expect Jerusalem to have become the capital of a sovereign Muslim state (which never happened), and a cultural and scholarly center for Islam (again, never happened). Numerous places in other surrounding countries became spiritual centers in Islam (for instance: Baghdad, Cairo, and Istanbul). For most Arabs until the past century, Jerusalem was a mere vacationing spot with a nice mosque in a city holy to Jews. Jerusalem was a sign of the power of the Muslim empire, having reached even to the city in which Judaism and Christianity were born.
The only spiritual significance given to Jerusalem in Islam until the reestablishment of the state of Israel was in the Muslim recognition that both David and Solomon ruled from and encountered God in Jerusalem. That said, let’s take a look at David’s, Solomon’s, and later Jewish ties to Jerusalem using our most ancient and reliable source: the Bible. Jerusalem is mentioned 823 times in the Bible. Zion (another name for Jerusalem) is mentioned 161 times in the Bible. In the Quran, Jerusalem is never referenced explicitly and most likely not even implicitly.
In 1 Samuel 5, we read that David conquered the Jebusites (about 3,000 years ago) and relocated his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem. The Israelites were instructed by God to visit Jerusalem during each of 3 biblically commanded feasts: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14–17, 34:18–23, Deuteronomy 16). And finally, Jerusalem is the city to which Ezra and Nehemiah and the rest of Israel returned after the Babylonian exile (Ezra 7:8, Nehemiah 2:1–9). Even in the days of Abraham we see spiritual significance attributed to Jerusalem in that a tithe was given in honor of God in Jerusalem (then known as Salem; see: Genesis 14:18–20, Hebrews 7:1–4, 7–8).
Abraham was instructed to bind up Isaac on Mt. Moriah (another name for the Temple Mount) until God provided a sacrifice in his place (Genesis 22). Moses spoke of a mountain of inheritance in which God would make a dwelling for Himself (Exodus 15:17). The ‘dwelling’ place that Moses foresaw was the Tabernacle in King David’s day and the ‘house’ (Temple) in King Solomon’s day situated on the Temple Mount. Within a short time we see the Temple Mount being referred to as the Mount of the House (which is what it’s still called in Hebrew to this day). The Temple was referred to as “the house” (its first destruction being prophesied of in Jeremiah 26:18 & Micah 3:12). In English we refer to the Mount of the House as the Temple Mount. There is no logical reason to take an invention of Islam in preference to the truth of the Bible with reference to a place that is and only ever has been the capital of the people of Israel.
Jerusalem is the inheritance of the Jewish people and the place from which God will establish His throne when Messiah Yeshua returns to rule and reign on the earth. God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Let us not fear the decisions of UNESCO and Muslim political and spiritual deceptions in the modern world but let us respond lovingly with power to these recent denials of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Let us put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the deceptions of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–18). Pray that Jerusalem will be established as a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:7). Be watchful of the political changes taking place in connection with this recent resolution and be a voice for righteousness (Isaiah 62:6). We know God’s plans for this place and we must boldly proclaim this Good News wherever we go.