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PA Removes Study Denying Jewish Claim to Western Wall

The Palestinian Authority has backpedaled -- for now -- on its claim that Jews have no connection to the Kotel, due to pressure by the US.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 12/2/2010, 5:28 PM / Last Update: 12/2/2010, 5:47 PM

Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority has backpedaled on its claim that one of Judaism’s holiest sites has no connection to the ancient history of the Jews.

A “study” posted on the official PA Ministry of Information website that claimed the Western Wall (the Kotel) is actually a Muslim holy site named the “Al-Buraq Wall” has mysteriously disappeared from the page.

The so-called “study,” posted at the beginning of this week by the PA Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Information D. Mutawakkil Taha, claimed that “Jews did not worship at the Wailing Wall at any time until the Balfour Declaration of 1917.”

Taha, a well-known writer and poet, claimed the Wall is held under the sovereignty of the Waqf (Islamic Religious Trust) and is owned by an Islamic Algerian Moroccan family. “The al-Buraq Wall is in fact the western wall of the Aqsa Mosque,” he wrote. “This wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and weep over its destruction.”

The Western Wall is part of the original wall surrounding the Temple compound on the Temple Mount on which the First and Second Holy Temples stood. The wall is the only original remnant of the Temple compound that was still visible before modern archaeological digs uncovered other remains. This is why Jews have been mourning the Temple at the Western Wall for centuries. The site is also known as the Wailing Wall because Jews to this day go there to pray and pour their hearts out, sometimes weeping as they mourn the loss of the Holy Temple.

An Arabic-language statement issued by the PA government hinted that the page had been removed by hackers. According to the statement, the website had been “penetrated” by unknown perpetrators. Nevertheless, said the PA Ministry of Information, it was “determined to show the truth and [continue] to show all that is happening in Palestine to the world.” However, the site appeared to be functioning perfectly when Israel National News attempted to access the home page and several other areas on the site.

Media reports quoted a senior PA official in Ramallah who revealed the U.S. had asked the government of Mahmoud Abbas to remove the report, which was gone by Wednesday.

Earlier this week, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters the U.S. “strongly condemns these comments and fully rejects them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative... We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meanwhile has acknowledged the PA’s compliance with the U.S. demand to remove the offensive document, but said it was not enough.

“It is important for confidence-building that the Palestinian Authority publicly prepare its people for peace and reconciliation, and that can only be accomplished if Palestinian leaders will publicly disassociate themselves from such remarks, and condemn all statements calling Israel fundamentally illegitimate,” the PMO said in a statement. “As long as the Jewish States continues to remain illegitimate in Palestinian eyes, there will be no real peace.”

Various American Jewish organizations weighed in with strong statements of support for the U.S. government’s prompt response to the PA attempt to delegitimize the Jewish claim to the Western Wall.

“Maintaining historical accuracy and integrity is critical, and the Western Wall’s origin as the outer wall of the Jewish Second Temple is irrefutable,” noted American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, who serves as rabbi of the Western Wall, commented in a statement Wednesday that the PA’s attempt to again "rewrite the sanctities" of Israel "damaged not only the speakers’ reliability and the dignity of history, but primarily the efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.”

Long History of PA Attempts to Rewrite History
The PA attempt to claim of Muslim ownership of the Western Wall actually goes back as far as 2005, when the claim first appeared on the Ramallah government’s Religious Affairs site.

The PA has dedicated much effort to rewriting history and denying the Jewish connection to the Wall, which is located in Jerusalem -- a city which served as the Jewish capital for 1,600 years before Islam’s founder, Mohammed, authored the Koran.

In 2009, Al Quds Open University lecturer Shamekh Alawneh also said in a televised lecture that Jews invented their connection to the Wall for political purposes. He insisted the Jewish claim to the Western Wall “has no historical roots” in a TV program broadcast on PA TV called “Jerusalem – History and Culture.”

According to Muslim tradition, the founder of Islam, Mohammed rose to heaven from the Temple Mount although the event is not mentioned in the Islamic primary holy text, the Koran. Muslim legend claims that Mohammed tied his horse, Buraq, to the Wall before ascending to heaven.