Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The erasure of Jewish history and heritage

The Arab and Muslim outcry against Israel's proposed restoration of Jewish heritage sites in Hebron is symptomatic of a campaign to deny and erase Jewish history and heritage in the region as a whole. Read my guest post on CiFwatch.

The rebuilt Hurva synagogue in the old city of Jerusalem (With thanks: Eliyahu)

Rising from the ashes like a phoenix, the rebuilt Hurva synagogue is about to be inaugurated in Jerusalem’s Jewish quarter.

The synagogue, restored to 19th century magnificence with its finely carved wooden pillars, gilt ornamentation and frescoes of Jerusalem, is a rare symbol of the revival of Jewish life after Israel’s post-1967 reunification of the city. The synagogue was razed to the ground in 1948, dynamited by the Transjordanian Arab Legion, along with scores of other synagogues. The old city was depopulated of thousands of its Jewish inhabitants, their homes looted, the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives desecrated and its tombstones used for latrines and as paving stones.

However, when Jubilation1 pointed out the destruction of the synagogues on the Jeremy Sharon thread, her comment was summarily deleted.

It is not clear to what exactly the moderator objected – was it Jubilation’s reference to Jerusalem’s destroyed Jewish past ? Or was it her cautionary remark: If you can’t learn from history you deserve to have it repeated”?

In case it was the former, the Guardian is not alone in suffering from a pre-1967 amnesia – blotting out Jewish ties to what is now know as ‘occupied Arab land’. When demonstrators protest against the eviction of Arab residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in so-called ‘Arab East Jerusalem’, the media routinely fail to disclose that Jews expelled in 1948 still held the title deeds to these homes. The rights of the ‘indigenous’ Arabs rights invariably trump Jewish rights in the eyes of the Left. The media will not tell you that acres of land in ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ is the property of the JNF, that Kalandia refugee camp was built on Jewish property (or, for that matter, that Jews owned acres of land in the Golan Heights and in Jordan).

In case the phrase ‘if you can’t learn from history you deserve to have it repeated’ offended the moderator, Jubilation1 was simply stating a fact. She might well have been thinking of Joseph’s tomb near Nablus, which the Palestinians reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble in 2000 before turning it into a mosque and painting its dome green. Clearly, Israelis have learned from history that unless they assume responsibility for the restoration and preservation of sites important to Jewish heritage, they cannot rely on Arab and Muslim authorities to do it for them.

As Jeremy Sharon remarks, the Palestinian campaign against Israel’s efforts to preserve and maintain sites holy to Jews is part of a larger campaign of delegitimisation. There is a relentless campaign afoot to erase the Jewish presence not just in Palestine, but all over the Arab world, whose extensive Jewish history predates Islam by 1,000 years. Last month, it was shocking to learn that the Iraqi authorities were erasing Hebrew inscriptions at the shrine of Ezekiel, south of Baghdad as a prelude to turning the shrine into a mosque. The six Jews left in Iraq cannot singlehandedly be expected to prevent the inexorable Islamification of traditional Jewish holy sites. Certainly the UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, who was quick to express her concern at Israel’s proposed restoration of Rachel’s tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, has had nothing to say about irreversible changes to Ezekiel’s tomb.

David Harris of the American Jewish Committee has identified a ‘troubling pattern of trying to deny or extinguish a Jewish presence deeper into the region’. The western media are accomplices in this campaign: a seasoned Middle Eastern affairs journalist had been surprised to discover that Harris’s wife had, as a Jew, been forcibly expelled from her native Libya. The journalist had no idea that Jews had ever lived in Libya nor that every trace of the millenarian Jewish presence had been obliterated almost overnight. So un-newsworthy was the story at the time, that the New York Times, Harris says, devoted exactly two tiny news briefs in 1967 to the end of the Libyan Jewish community.

Harris finds it hard to explain the lack of media interest. Perhaps the media did not want the extra complication of the exodus of a million Jews from Arab countries to cloud their simplistic explanation of who the bad guys are in this conflict.

The erasure of Jewish history and heritage goes hand-in-hand with the fabrication of a novel Islamic history. Yasser Arafat, echoed by the Palestinian media, mosques and schools, had pioneered the idea that the Palestinians were the descendants of the ancient Canaanites or Jebusites. Not only did Arafat deny any Jewish tie with Temple Mount, he oversaw its desecration in the late 1990s and 2000 when the Waqf, which controls the site, dug up priceless archealogical artefacts.

In 2000, after hundreds of years of revering the site known as Rachel’s Tomb, Muslims began calling it the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque. Bilal ibn Rabah was an Ethiopian slave who served in the house of the prophet Muhammad as the first muezzin and then became a fighter in the Muslim wars. The Palestinian Authority claimed that, according to Islamic tradition, Muslim conquerors named the mosque erected at Rachel’s Tomb after Bilal ibn Rabah.

Yet another attempt by Muslims to disassociate their religion from its Jewish roots.

Read post and comments

Crossposted at Solomonia

Jews in the Holy land? What Jews? Via Solomonia


Love of the Land said...

Excellent article and contribution in the face of this new attack to delegitimize the Jewish people and it's heritage.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

David Harris adds something to this discussion:


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Now, an Arab so-called "human rights" group, funded by the EU and other pro-Arab bodies, has declared that restoration of this synagogue is -- a "war crime" no less.