For nearly two millennia, Jewish religious architecture and political infrastructure have been colonized and desecrated by anti-Semitic agitators, enraptured by blood lust and blood libel. Today, as the Jewish state of Israel fights for its very survival, the same aggrieved forces attempt to rewrite history and erase the last indelible imprints of Jewish historical existence.
The Western Wall is the skeletal frame of Jewish historical identity. Enclosing the religious nerve center of the Davidic Kingdom, the Wall has borne witness to unspeakable horrors. The Wall’s resilient stones stood in stoic defiance as its builders were butchered to death by the Romans, Crusaders, Muslim invaders, Ottoman Turks, Brits, and Sunni Arab Palestinians.
Now, the artificial products of post-colonial border mapping, the Sunni Arab nation-states, are hell-bent on resurrecting the demons of Saladin and once again appropriating 12th century, Rashidun Caliphate-era religious supremacism to strip the Wall of its Jewish lineage. According to The Times of Israel, “six Arab states are set to submit a proposal on behalf of the Palestinians to the UN’s cultural body to officially claim the Western Wall as part of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.” The proposal is as politically expedient as it is profane, proactively superimposing a 7th and 12th century Islamic colonial history on the fertile breeding ground of Judaism’s precedent birth.
Accordingly, “the Palestinians seek condemnation of ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City in Jerusalem, as well as for the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967.” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg notes “Muslim authorities have prevented archeologists from conducting any excavations on the Mount, in part out of fear that such explorations will uncover further evidence of a pre-Islamic Jewish presence.”
The Machiavellian strategy here is ingenious: erase the remaining traces of ancient Jewish history and revert to a post-modern binary framework of Jewish (European) settler-colonialist and native, indigenous Palestinian victim; notwithstanding the fact that Mizrahi Jews, or the “Jews of the East,” exemplify an uninterrupted history of a Jewish ancestral history, cultivating the land of the Levant for centuries.
“Muslim authorities have prevented archeologists from conducting any excavations on the Mount, in part out of fear that such explorations will uncover further evidence of a pre-Islamic Jewish presence.”
Through this essentialized lens, Jews —regardless of ethnicity, region of origin, or history— are merely constituent parts of a monolithic white, European colonial, racial construct whereas Sunni Arab Palestinians –partially the colonial vestiges of Islamo-Arab armies during the Crusader-era – are indigenous inhabitants tilling olive fields from time immemorial, an indeterminate primordial, immaculate conception that resists historical analysis.
The theatrics of a virgin-birth are the lifeblood of “the power of a particular Palestinian narrative, one that obviates the possibility of a solution that allows Jews national and religious equality,” explicates Goldberg, “an important disconnect that often goes unnoticed: Many Palestinians believe that “this is not a conflict between two national movements but a conflict between one national movement (the Palestinian) and a colonial and imperialistic entity (Israel).” [left-center political scientist Shlomo Avineri] goes on to write, “According to this view, Israel will end like all colonial phenomena—it will perish and disappear.”
When wishful thinking devolves into cultural anxiety, the leadership of the Sunni Arab Palestinians, along with the exploitive helicopter parents of surrounding Sunni Arab nation-states, reflexively resort to victim-blaming. The trope of “occupation” is a pretense for historically-wrought religious supremacism, one that obscures the moral optics of indiscriminate attacks against Jews. The false dichotomy of occupier/occupied provides cart blanche violence against any and all Jews with shameful impunity.
The millennia-old Jewish presence in Mandate Palestine and subsequent consolidation as a nation-state disrupted the Sunni Arab religious monopoly of the region. As a result, the appropriated racial politics of native Sunni Arab Palestinians and foreign Jews were harnessed to suppress Jewish peoplehood. In a piece entitled “The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada,” Jeffrey Goldberg asserts that “knife attacks on Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere are not based on Palestinian frustration over settlements, but on something deeper.” Goldberg explains:
In September of 1928, a group of Jewish residents of Jerusalem placed a bench in front of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, for the comfort of elderly worshipers. They also brought with them a wooden partition, to separate the sexes during prayer. Jerusalem’s Muslim leaders treated the introduction of furniture into the alleyway in front of the Wall as a provocation, part of a Jewish conspiracy to slowly take control of the entire Temple Mount.
Many of the leaders of Palestine’s Muslims believed—or claimed to believe—that Jews had manufactured a set of historical and theological connections to the Western Wall and to the Mount, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, in order to advance the Zionist project. This belief defied Muslim history—the Dome of the Rock was built by Jerusalem’s Arab conquerors on the site of the Second Jewish Temple in order to venerate its memory (the site had previously been defiled by Jerusalem’s Christian rulers as a kind of rebuke to Judaism, the despised mother religion of Christianity). Jews themselves consider the Mount itself to be the holiest site in their faith. The Western Wall, a large retaining wall from the Second Temple period, is sacred only by proxy.
These events informed the emergence of Sunni-centric Palestinian nationalism, a visceral reaction against Jewish nationalist claims as well as pan-Arabism. After the “Franco-Syrian War and the collapse of the Arab Hashemite rule in Damascus,” the father of Palestinian nationalism, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, shifted his early position on pan-Arabism…to a form of local nationalism for Palestinian Arabs and he moved back to Jerusalem.” Sunni Arab rejectionist posturing stems from a metaphysical denial of Jewish peoplehood. In fact, Hajj Amin-al Husseini made bedfellows with Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler as part of a shared philosophy of Jewish extinction. Indeed as Jeffrey Goldberg elaborates, the erasure of Jewish history is sutured in the precarious tentacles of Sunni Arab supremacist claims:
The spiritual leader of Palestine’s Muslims, the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, incited Arabs in Palestine against their Jewish neighbors by arguing that Islam itself was under threat. (Husseini would later becomeone of Hitler’s most important Muslim allies.) Jews in British-occupied Palestine responded to Muslim invective by demanding more access to the Wall, sometimes holding demonstrations at the holy site. By the next year, violence directed against Jews by their neighbors had become more common: Arab rioters took the lives of 133 Jews that summer; British forces killed 116 Arabs in their attempt to subdue the riots. In Hebron, a devastating pogromwas launched against the city’s ancient Jewish community after Muslim officials distributed fabricated photographs of a damaged Dome of the Rock, and spread the rumor that Jews had attacked the shrine.
In the latest colonial project of stampeding over Jewish peoplehood, Sunni Arab majority states now demand that the Western Wall be considered part of the Al-Aqsa compound. The real estate around Al-Aqsa is owned and managed by the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic trustee, itself a colonial vestige of Muslim reconquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, when Saladin’s Muslim armies slaughtered thousands of Jewish families and established a caliphate as a political assault against the Catholic Church’s crusaders, another colonial enterprise that crucified Jews in the name of religious supremacy.
The Jewish people have been plagued by historical insult after another. Now the bastard offspring of colonial phantoms terrorize and tear apart the Jewish body politic. With a sword in one hand and a perverse UN resolution in another, the Sunni Arab majority threatens far more than the historical legacy of the Jewish people, but their livelihoods in the inevitability of a so-called ‘third intifada.’