Facts and Fables of the Middle East
According to most news sources, Palestinians want their homeland back and Muslims want control over sites they consider holy, but is there any factual base to these claims?
The truth is that Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land. The Palestinians discovered their national identity after Israel won the war 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Before this there was no serious movement for a Palestinian homeland however, in the Six-Day War, Israel captured Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, not from Yasser Arafat, but from Jordan's King Hussein.
The first time the name Palestine was used was in 70 A.D. when the Romans overran Jerusalem, smashed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. Adding insult to injury the Romans re-named the land ‘Palestine’, derived from the Philistines, a Goliathian people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, which didn’t work.
Palestine has never existed -- before or since -- as an autonomous entity. It was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their homeland.
There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc. Additionally the Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands, while Israel represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the landmass, but no matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will never be enough.
What about Islam's holy sites.. The claim that the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem represent Islam's third most holy sites? The Moslem ‘claim’ to Jerusalem is based on what is written in the Koran, which talks (in Sura 17:1) of the ‘Furthest Mosque’:
"Glory be unto Allah who did take his servant for a journey at night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque."
But there is no foundation to the Moslem argument that this "Furthest Mosque" (Al-Masujidi al-Aqtza) refers to what is now called the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In fact, the Koran mentions Mecca hundreds of times. It mentions Medina countless times, but never mentions Jerusalem even once. With good reason. There is no historical evidence to suggest Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem.
In the days of Mohammed, who died in 632 of the Common Era, Jerusalem was a Christian city within the Byzantine Empire. Jerusalem was captured by Khalif Omar only in 638, six years after Mohammed's death. Throughout this period there were only churches in Jerusalem. A church, built in the Byzantine architectural style stood on the Temple Mount and was called the Church of Saint Mary of Justinian, .
The Aqsa Mosque was built 20 years after the Dome of the Rock (691-692) by Khalif Abd El Malik. The name "Omar Mosque" is therefore a misnomer. In or around 711, or about 80 years after Mohammed died, Malik's son, Abd El-Wahd, who ruled from 705-715, reconstructed the Christian- Byzantine Church of St. Mary and converted it into a mosque. He left the structure as it was, a typical Byzantine ‘basilica’ structure with a row of pillars on either side of the rectangular "ship" in the center. All he added was an onion-like dome on top of the building to make it look like a mosque. He then named it El-Aqsa, so it would sound like the one mentioned in the Koran.
Many scholars are agreed it is logical that Mohammed intended the mosque in Mecca as the "Sacred Mosque," and the mosque in Medina as the "Furthest Mosque." Which leads us to one inescapable conclusion.
There are no Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Jews on the other hand can trace their roots in Jerusalem back to the days of Abraham.
Interestingly Mohammed issued a strict prohibition against facing Jerusalem in prayer, a practice that had been tolerated only for some months in order to lure Jews to convert to Islam. When that effort failed, Mohammed put an abrupt stop to it on February 12, 624. Jerusalem simply never held any sanctity for the Moslems themselves, but only for the Jews in their domain.
Perhaps the solution to the Middle East mayhem should begin with the truth.