Completing the work of the Romans: the WAQF and the Temple Mount

by Maskil on November 11, 2007

Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) deserves a vote of thanks to for taking on the WAQF (Islamic Trust) over the deliberate destruction of ancient Jewish relics on the Temple Mount. In fact, Shurat HaDin (ILC) appears to be one of the few bodies emerging from this disgraceful episode with any form of standing.

According to their news item:

150 Israeli Citizens File Landmark Criminal Prosecution of The Waqf Over Temple Mount Destruction

Shurat HaDin Leads Legal Effort to Confront Jerusalem Islamic Extremists

November 5, 2007: A group of 150 Israeli citizens, representing a broad cross section of the Israeli public, have initiated an unprecedented criminal prosecution of WAQF (Islamic Trust) leaders in Jerusalem – alleging that Islamic officials have engaged in the deliberate destruction of ancient Jewish relics on the Temple Mount. The indictment was filed in the Jerusalem District Court today by means of a private law suit. The private indictment is first of its kind in Israeli legal history and utilizes a seldom applied section of the criminal code. If convicted, the WAQF officials face years in prison.

All who care about the Jewish past, present (and presence) and future in this land should be grateful to the ILC for having tackled this matter, where those responsible failed to do so. The ILC is worthy of your financial support, and not just on this issue. See their website for further details.

Let’s look at the conduct of the various players in this shameful drama:

The actions of the WAQF are, of course, totally disgraceful. Given their record over the past decades, however, they are pretty much what we might have expected, and should have been anticipated. In a nutshell, they are simply carrying on a process of de-Judaisation and Arabisation/Islamisation that has been going on since at least the 1920s. The role of the WAQF belongs to a long gone era; the era of Moshe Dayan and his compliant West Bank mayors. It has no place in the present day realities of Islamofascism and terror. The role of the WAQF needs to be completely limited, to the point where they are purely responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the mosques that existed prior to 1967, and can wield little more than a broom on the Temple Mount. They should certainly not have the authority to excavate, still less build extensive underground structures purporting to be mosques. (I haven’t even touched on the safety and engineering aspects of much of their “work”.) In the early days of the Israeli administration of the disputed territories, the important principle of maintaining the status quo between conflicting religious interests was strictly applied to holy sites. It should be no different here.

The inaction (and even hindering) on the part of the government is likewise a scandal. Given what we’re steadily finding out about the personalities and policies making up the Olmert government, however, we should probably not be surprised. Still, this does not excuse their dereliction of duty in this case.

Special mention needs to be made of Israel Antiquities Authority, the body charged with preventing just such vandalism. According to their website:

Antiquities Law. The Antiquities Law 1978 was enacted in order to protect the antiquities of the country, i.e., any object, which was made by man before 1700 CE, or any zoological or botanical remains from before the year 1300 CE…

IAA Law. The Law of the Israel Antiquities Authority states that the IAA is the organization responsible for all the antiquities of the country, including the underwater finds. The IAA is authorized to excavate, preserve, conserve and administrate antiquities when necessary.

This body should accordingly be the focus of most of the censure, and part of a campaign to restore stability should include compelling the IAA to carry out its legal obligations, if necessary by means of court action. Donors should also make it clear that any further support is dependant on the IAA playing its proper role in the protection of this and other historical sites.

What about the Jewish people at large? While condemnation has been fairly widespread, it appears that this is just not an issue that will bring people out into the streets. So, just why should we care strongly about this issue, when we already appear to be suffering from cause/issue “fatigue”?

I have a few suggestions as to why we should see this as important:

Every culture, nation or tribe I can think of cares about the historical record contained in the archaeological stratum beneath its feet. There is no reason why we should be any different. Quite the opposite; as a nation still attempting to reconnect with our past and our land after an absence of two millennia, we have more reason than most.

A strong interest in archaeology was long a part of the healthy Israel myth/ethos. I would like to think that it is still something that could help lead us out of the blind alley of post-Zionism.

Even if the concept, idea or site of the Temple is no longer central to Judaism (or at least to mainstream Judaism), the Temple and its remains are a key part of our history (both the actual events and the remaining archaeological record). I regard it as self-evident that if we don’t care about our past, it will be that much more challenging to care about the present and the future.

This wanton destruction of the concrete record of the Jewish presence here is bound to give ammunition to those few who call for the removal of all Islamic structures on the Temple Mount and the building of a Third Temple. While this is not a major concern at the moment, it is not a negligible one either, nor should we underestimate the dangerous potential of these trends.

Even if Israel at some stage in the future feels the need to give up the Temple Mount in one of those acts of self-flagellation euphemistically referred to as “sacrifices”, there is no reason why we should allow the destruction to begin already. Demonstrating that this is an issue that evokes strong feelings today may even lessen such a possibility in the future. (We politely don’t mention much these days that the Temple Mount was chosen as the site for Islamic shrines because of its existing status as a Jewish holy site. This is something of a Muslim tradition worldwide.)

Lastly, we should care about it because it is part of a larger campaign to erase and deny history, repudiate our claims to a homeland here and deligitimise the very existence of the state. (This history denial in some ways resembles its far more dangerous cousin, Holocaust denial. On the one hand, an attempt to deny that events or a whole era ever took place. On the other hand, an attempt to wipe out all physical traces of our history from the archaeological record.)

It is one of the ironies of our recent history that one of the ex post facto justifications for the continued occupation of Judea and Samaria and the annexation of east Jerusalem was to ensure the protection of the holy sites of all faiths. Happily, the Christian and Islamic holy sites are at least enjoying this protection!

Additional links:

150 Israeli Citizens File Landmark Criminal Prosecution of The Waqf Over Temple Mount Destruction

Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center

Israel Antiquities Authority

The Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction

(This is an unofficial site covering the work of the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, who have manfully been “holding the fort” on the issue for years.)

The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities, by Mark Ami-El

(The JCPA has provided wise counsel on this issue since at least 2002.)

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