Former Jerusalem Mufti Ikrima Sabri (appointed by Yassir Arafat in 1994, fired by Mahmoud Abbas in 2006) was interviewed on Al-Arabiya TV a few days ago (May 11, 2012) and, as you can see in the video, declared that Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem. A seemingly strange statement by someone who is supposed to be a scholar, when the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back thousands of years. See our comments below the video.
The Great Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls has been dated to 125 BCE, or 762 years before the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 637 CE by Umar ibn al-Khattab (also mentioned by Sabri in the video). The first line of Isaiah mentions Jerusalem – one of over 600 mentions of Jerusalem in the Hebrew bible (over 800 if you count the word Zion, which usually refers to Jerusalem as well). The Israel Museum (which houses the scrolls) and Google recently made the dead sea scrolls browsable online, and here’s the first few lines of the Great Isaiah Scroll:
If you read Hebrew, you’ll notice the highlighted area refers to Jerusalem in the very first line. Whether you believe in the biblical narrative (which would put Isaiah at least six centuries before this scroll) or not, one would have to be willfully ignorant to suggest there was no Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
That said, Mufti Sabri need not go that far back. He can look at the publications of the same organization which he used to work for, the Supreme Muslim Council, or Waqf, in Jerusalem. In 1930 they published a guidebook to the Temple Mount called ‘A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif’ where they explain the significance of the various buildings, as well give the history of the site. On page 3 you can find the following passage:
In case it’s hard to read the scan, here’s the relevant text:
The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which “David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings”.
That last line is a quote from 2 Samuel 24:25. Interestingly enough, this publication was printed when the Mufti in Jerusalem was Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was famous as a Nazi collaborator who met directly with Adolf Hitler during the war and pledged his support in carrying out the Final Solution. Arrested as a war criminal after the war, he escaped from France to Egypt, which continued to harbor him until his death. That Mufti may have hated the Jews, but he didn’t deny that the Jewish Temple existed on the same plot where the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque now stand.
In the end the explanation is almost certainly simple politics. During earlier times it was politically useful to point out that the Dome of the Rock was built on the same mount where the Jewish temples once stood. When Jews were far from controlling the land, it was actually a slap in the face to point it out – an expression of Muslim power. In today’s world where Israel exists and controls all of Jerusalem, it has become politically expedient to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and all of Israel. It’s just too bad that some people remember history, and so many pieces of evidence remain today. Palestinian Arabs try to make all kinds of arguments to explain why Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state, but trying to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel seems a pretty dumb way to go about it.