Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
[ Palestinian land ownership ] [ Palestinian social policy ]

East Jerusalem is irrelevant to Palestinians

There is a lot of fuss about East Jerusalem. Although Edward Said blames the Israelis for not turning the city over to the Palestinians, he admits Israel’s readiness to concede control over Muslim sacred places in Jerusalem. What more do the Palestinians need?

Edward Said says Jerusalem is off limits to Palestinians. That is simply untrue. Indeed, Professor Said admits that forty percent of Palestinian applicants get passes to Israel, more than the United States or European Community countries issue to visitors from poor countries. The ratio is quite high, considering that Israel is at war with the Arabs. One wonders how many Palestinians visited Jerusalem’s Muslim shrines before the 1940s, before the Israeli issue got hot. Likely, not many.

If the Jews’ right to Jerusalem is disputed, what right do Palestinians have to it? Palestinians built nothing meaningful in Jerusalem - unlike the Jews. Palestinians were not the majority of the population in Jerusalem, nor had they been in the past two centuries - again, unlike the Jews. Why, of all Arabs, should the Palestinians control the Jerusalem's Islamic shrines? Why preserve a modern Islamic temple and not restore the Jewish one, whose ruins are still on the same site? The Dome of the Rock was built on the site of Mohammed's ascension into Heaven to celebrate the supposed triumph of Islam over Judaism.

The demand of Israel sharing control over East Jerusalem with Palestinians is hypocritical. The Palestinians do not let Israelis visit the Jewish holy places in their hands. But Arabs behave that way. The Saudis refuse to share control of Mecca and Medina with other Muslims. If Palestine gains East Jerusalem, the city would be off-limits to Jews.[1]

Edward Said rejects the idea of putting the Muslim sacred places in Jerusalem under joint Islamic jurisdiction. Why? What special relation do the Palestinians have with East Jerusalem Islamic shrines? Why should places in Israel holy to all Muslims belong to the one Arab nation all the rest despise? Edward Said does not care about Muslim control of the Jerusalem shrines; he is fanning Palestinian nationalism. Edward Said thinks control will improve the Palestinians’ status among Arabs. Professor Said's meat is Palestinian political gain, not principles. Israel prefers international control to Palestinian control for good reasons. It is one thing for Israel to deal with a representative body of Arabs at large and another to deal with an enemy.

Edward Said admits that though Israel allocated the Palestinians as many as thirty thousand housing units in East Jerusalem, the Palestinians built nothing. Palestinians are not interested in Jerusalem.

Two of Edward Said’s propositions are incompatible: that the Jews’ historical right to the land is a nuisance and that Palestinians have a right to the Muslim holy places. Yet Jewish archeological remains are both more extensive and older than the Islamic ones. Jerusalem is also more central to Judaism than to Islam, where she comes after Mecca and Medina. Arabs kept Jews from visiting Jewish holy places until the Israelis reconquered Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians did not flock to Jerusalem en masse to visit Muslim sites.

The passion for the Dome of the Rock suggests that Palestinians are staunch Muslims, yet Palestinians are notoriously irreligious among Arabs. In any case, Islam respects the Bible—which specifies the Jews’ right to the land. Though that may be irrelevant for many secular Jews, the Palestinians should respect it, since they claim to revere the Bible.

[1] Indian Muslims first asked that from the Saudi Arabia seventy-five years ago, to no avail.