14 June 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood and Jerusalem: A Muslim Refutation
It's important to restate the origin of the sanctity of the Haram al-Sharif, the “Noble Sanctuary,” known also to Muslims as “Al-Aqsa,” the “Farthest Mosque,” as it has been interpreted over time in the Islamic world to counter the claims of the Muslim Brotherhood. Recognizing the dynamism of Islamic history will enable us to view the Dome of the Rock in the context of its complex and fascinating history. We will see how Muslims appropriated Jerusalem to develop, legitimize, interpret, and contest ideas about political legitimacy in the Holy Land. However, a secular interpretation will not convince Muslims who are wondering about this from a Muslim perspective. Although there are few challengers to the Muslim Brotherhood's position on Jerusalem and Israel, Abdul-Hadi Palazzi, Secretary-General of the Italian Muslim Association and Director of the Institute of the Italian Islamic Community has gone on the record, repudiating the Salafi interpretation of the Quran by turning to classical Sunni legal sources.
Imam Palazzi responded to Ikramah Sabri, then the chief Muslim official in the Palestinian Authority, the mufti of Jerusalem, on the eve of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, who claimed:
“‘There is no evidence that Solomon’s Temple was in Jerusalem; probably it was in Bethlehem or in some other place.’”
Palazzi wrote that this claim is representative of those who repudiate “... the Jewish heritage [of Islam] as a whole, with the clear attempt even to remove it from historical memory.”
Palazzi asserts that the Mufti's statement points to the sad fact that Muslims are so ignorant of their own history that they are “really inclined to take these words for granted, notwithstanding the fact that they contradict both historical evidence and Islamic sources.” How is it possible that in the twenty-first century, Muslims are so uninformed about their own religion?
Few people realize that the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire left not only a political void, but an intellectual and cultural void as well. In the late nineteenth century, Europeans and Arab intellectuals came to think the Ottomans barbarous, their treatment of religious minorities criminal, and their economic resources ripe for the picking.
In the Arab world, Sunni legal authorities lost their legal preeminence as the result of the modernizing reforms in the nineteenth century reorganization (Tanzimat) of the Ottoman political system. These reforms brought them under the direct control of the Porte, ending their independence as a check and balance against the Sultan's power. At the time, these reforms aimed at reforming the legal bureaucracy in a way that complemented Islamic legal principles, derived from the Shariah, but not based upon a literal reading of the Quran. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the new Turkish government established its power on a secular basis, and the newly independent Arab states followed suit, articulating their political philosophy in nationalist terms. The modern Arab states repudiated Ottoman rule. Arabs repudiated the Ottomans as foreign rulers. Arab nationalism led to a form of willful historical amnesia, the result of their rejection of the Ottoman Empire as a legitimate form of Islamic government. Islamic fundamentalists, heirs to the Salafi movement that broke out against the Ottomans in the 18th century castigated the Ottomans and put forward a modernist answer inspired by the Wahhabis of Arabia. Hassan al-Banna, the Islamic political philosopher who articulated the Salafi position, established the Muslim Brotherhood in 1922. The Salafis characterized Muslim liberals as those, “who are interested in developing the spiritual, ethic and gnostic dimension of the Islamic faith,” and accused them of being “deviated sufis”--the same criticism of the Ottomans voiced by the Wahhabis two centuries earlier.
The Ottoman Empire, until the late nineteenth century, was the most highly articulated expression of Sunni Islam in world history. Adherents to the Hanafi legal school, the Ottomans established their government on the foundation of the rule of law, with even the Sultan required to rule with justice. In 1839, as the Ottomans began to reform their government, its Christian and Jewish subjects sought a shared identity with Muslims as Ottoman citizens. As progress was made toward the creation of Ottoman citizenship, at the same time the power of the sultan became more and more absolute. No longer was he controlled by religious constraints. With the Islamic officials bureaucratized as servants of the Sultan, and no checks on his autocratic powers, Sultan Abdul Hamid II aborted the nascent Ottoman constitutional movement in 1878. Under this cruel tyrant, the situation of Muslims and Jews in the Empire deteriorated, and Christians in Anatolia, the Balkans, and Armenia were massacred. We are still dealing with the world that Abdul Hamid left behind.
The Albanian Muhammad Ali not only famously defeated Napoleon in Egypt, but also defeated the Wahhabis in Arabia for the Ottoman Empire. However, despairing of the Sultan’s ability to stand up against European pressures, he mutinied against the Ottomans after the disastrous Battle of Navarino, on October 20, 1827. Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha invaded and occupied the entire Levant (today's Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan) until a European coalition beat him back into Egypt at the behest of the Ottomans. He also did the most to destroy the preeminence of Sunni Islam in Egypt and the other Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. He destroyed the autonomy of the Sunni religious authorities, bureaucratizing them and extending his personal control over them. He is considered the first modern leader of the Arab world for several reasons: he militarized the Egyptian state, monopolizing all of its production and markets for his personal profit; he created a modern army and navy; he brought all agricultural land into his personal control, wiping out the previous religious and private landholders; he shifted the administration of religious institutions and endowments under his own control, and massacred all of his political rivals. His was the first totalitarian state in the Middle East, mobilized for war in an age of colonialism and imperialism.
When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First World War, the political organization of the Middle East rapidly underwent massive change. New ideas about national self-determinism, secularization, progress, and modernization mixed with disgust at the Ottomans, who were characterized by their Islamic and nationalist critics as corrupt, venal, and un-Islamic. The assault against the memory of the Ottoman Empire in the Arab provinces by the fundamentalist, ahistorical Salafiyyah movement on the one hand, and the secularized socialism of the Baath party on the other, has robbed the Arabs of their appreciation of the Sunni legal tradition and its political philosophy. Now "Sunnism" has come to signify an ethnic group, rather than intellectual one.
Neither the nationalists nor the Islamists consider the historical development of Muslim law, social, and polity as meaningful. Instead, Islamists aim at returning to a mystified Golden Age of their Ancestors the "Salafis", the heroes of the earliest phase of Islamic history.
Great Britain sided with these critics of the Ottoman Empire, supporting the idea of Muslim Arab nationalism. The British nurtured monarchies ruled by scions of two rival clans. They supported the claims of the former ruler of Mecca and Medina, the Hashemite clan. At the same time, attracted by what they perceived as the austerity and purity of the Wahhabi sect, the British established the Saudis as the rulers of the Hijaz, forcing the Hashemites out of Arabia.
Taking root in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the Salafiyyah movement remains at the heart of radical Islamic fundamentalism. The Ottomans deployed Muhammad Ali to suppress the Wahhabis, the original Salafi movement which arose in eighteenth century Arabia. Muhammad Ali successfully suppressed them for the Ottomans in 1813. The claim of descent from Ali undergirded the legitimacy of the Hashemite dynasty in Iraq, Jordan, and Syria where the British sent them; of these, only the Jordanian monarchy survived the storm of socialist military coups that racked the Arab world following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In nearby Egypt, the British supported the monarchy established by the descendants of Muhammad Ali until the Free Officers in the Egyptian army deposed King Farouk.
The Wahhabi movement is based upon the thought of Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah (1263- 1328), a Sunni who lived in the aftermath of the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. Ibn Taymiyyah, a Hanbali judge who fled to Damascus, was explicitly anti- Shi’ite, anti-Sufi, and anti-Christian. His polemics antedate the Crusades, but his polemics called for the restoration of Islamic rule as it was practiced in Mecca in the days of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs, the Rashidun—“the Rightly Guided Ones,” Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Only by recreating the Muslim community (ummah) of Medina and Mecca, thought Ibn Taymiyyah, could the deteriorating condition of the Muslim polity be rectified. His modern heirs include the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, took these ideas to shape an anti-British and anti-Zionist movement in 1922.
Like other moderate Muslims, Palazzi seeks the redemption of Sunni theological orthodoxy and has condemned the Salafi and Arab nationalist movements as twisted ideologies. He laments that Mecca and Medina, whence spread Islam, no longer serve as centers for the transmission of the Sunni Islamic sciences. Rather, Saudi Arabia has marginalized Sunni Islam by emphasizing what he refers to as “a primitive and literalist cult” propagated “through violence and coercion.” The Saudis established a “world center of Wahhabi propaganda in Mecca...the final result of a project whose goal was replacing orthodox Islam” with the heretical “Salafi school.” “From the second half of the nineteenth century CE, Salafis identified the opponent to be silenced with the University of al-Azhar al-Sharif in Egypt and with other traditional center[s] of ... Sunni teaching, always alert ...[to] new theories and individual theological interpretations.”
Palazzi singles out the Muslim Brotherhood as the “main instrument for the "Wahhabisation of the Arab milieu." Its founder, Hassan al-Banna, was, “from a religious point of view...a ‘reformer’... (but [one] no[t] so advanced in Islamic sciences), ...from a political point of view he...was radically anti-Ottoman. Members of the Brotherhood, the basic militants of Islamism " are – from a religious point of view–laypersons who generally [lack training in] the basic... Islamic sciences, but [who are still] appointed as “imams" of important mosques, especially in democratic countries, [where] there is no "Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs" to check their orientation and where imams having a regular ijazah shar’i (sic) [diploma in Islamic law] are rare exception[s].
He explains,
"From a theological point of view, [Salafi] beliefs were refuted by Sunni scholars of the Ottoman period but, after World War II, King Faysal of Saudi Arabia was in need of allies against secular Nasserianism, and the Egyptian leader of the Brotherhood, Sayyed Qutb, received ... worldwide financial support. From that time on, the vast majority of the Muslim Brotherhood adopted the Wahhabi belief. Thus, Saudi Arabian clerics have propagated Ibn Taymiyyah’s teachings throughout the Islamic world today. The Saudis have bulldozed Islamic architecture from the later Islamic dynasties because they judge them to be un-Islamic."
Sunni Islam, particularly in its Ottoman expression, rejected the exclusivist teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah. This does not mean that the Ottoman Empire had not been committed to Holy War. There had been room in Ottoman political philosophy for peaceful, diplomatic relations with non-Muslim powers, and for non-Muslims to have legal rights protected by the precepts developed by the three other great schools of Islamic law: the Maliki, Shaafi, and Hanafi schools. The writings of great Sunni thinkers, like the famed jurist Abu Yusuf (d. circa 866-873), the great theologian and mystic al-Ghazzali (1005-1111), and the renowned philosopher of history Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), were the sources of Ottoman Islam. Like al-Ghazzali, Palazzi is calling for a revivification of the Islamic sciences.
Antidote: A Dose of History
So, what is the Dome of the Rock? Why is Jerusalem holy to Muslims? What is the conflict over the holy place about? Today, opposing claims to the right to control the Dome of the Rock threaten to perpetuate conflict in the Levant for years to come. For many Christians, its destruction will be the undeniable, apocalyptic, eschatological sign of the end of this age. No other single building in the world is as powerful a symbol as the Dome of the Rock. Why is this so? The beginnings of Islamic Jerusalem lie in the ruins of the Jewish Temple, itself built upon the pre-Israelite sanctuary of Melchizedek, whom Abraham honored when he first came to the Promised Land. After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D., the Emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE), built the new Roman city of Aelia Capitolina centered upon a temple to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on ruins of Temple constructed sometime after 129. Hadrian forbade Jews to live inside the walls of the city by imperial decree, a restriction that lasted throughout the Byzantine period. During that time the Church of the Holy Sepulcher replaced the Temple Mount as the most sanctified site in Jerusalem. According to Byzantine tradition, Helena, mother of Constantine, discovered Christ’s burial place and dedicated church in 335, at the former site of Hadrian’s temple to Aphrodite.
Before the rise of Islam, there was one attempt to rebuild the Temple--during the reign of Julian the Apostate in 363. Julian, opposed to Christianity, invited the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. They returned to the city and began to undertake the reconstruction. Workmen gathered building materials, but as soon as construction began, frighteningly strong winds began to buffet the crews, tremblors shook the ground, and balls of lightning flashed all around the mount. Terrified, the workmen scattered, and the project was completely abandoned.
Two great powers had dominated the Middle East in the fourth through the first part of the seventh century. The Sassanians in Persia threatened the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire. Between them stretched the Fertile Crescent. 570, the Year of the Elephant, so-called after an important battle, is the traditional year of Muhammad’s birth. Islam was thus born in a power struggle between Byzantium and the Sassanian Empire. The Sassanians stole the “true Cross” from Jerusalem in 614, and the Byzantines regained it only in 629, seven years after Muhammad’s flight to Medina and only three years before his triumphant return to Mecca.
Arab tribes allied with one or the other of the two superpowers. Some Christians, resenting Byzantine control and taxes, supported the Arab invasion, along with recently converted Zoroastrians from Persia. Jews in Arabia and Persia viewed Islam as means to overthrow the Byzantines, and apocalyptic expectations relating to Islam led Jews to convert to Islam or to support the Muslim conquest of Holy Land. When the Muslim armies moved west towards Byzantium, Jews rode with them. Arab Christian mercenaries in the Byzantine armies turned against their rulers. The Persian Empire collapsed under the Muslim assault. But the Byzantine Empire stood, although it lost its Syrian provinces in 636.
The Dome of the Rock and the Conquest of Jerusalem
When the Muslims arrived in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was the finest monument in the city. The Temple Mount lay buried in garbage. The Muslim relationship to the Rock is based upon the Qur’anic chapter entitled “Isra, The Night Journey, Children of Israel,” Chapter 17: 17--
"Glory to God (Allah) Who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs: for He is the One Who Heareth and Seeth."
Who is this Allah, whom the Muslims regard as their God? As documented by Irfan Shahid, Georgetown University Professor Emeritus of Arabic Language, Christian Arabs in the Byzantine Period used the world “Allah” to translate the word “God” in inscriptions and texts in the Byzanine era.7 It nearly goes without saying that Muslims, Jews, and Christians do not agree about the nature and character of God. Until only recently, the differences among the People of the Book (as Jews and Christians are known in Islam) are not about who Allah is, but rather about how He has acted in history.
The People of the Book agree that God is the creator of the universe, the sovereign ruler of the universe. While Muslims and Jews see God as completely transcendent, totally unlike man, Christians understand Him as personally involved in history, so involved that He condescended to become a man to better communicate His love for His creatures.
The Umayyad Dynasty, which established its first capital in Jerusalem, built the Dome of the Rock. They built a highly symbolic building, utizilizing the architectural vocabulary of the Byzantines to convey important messages about the new ruling religion. The Dome of the Rock is an octagon, an eight-sided structure known as a "martyrium." Byzantine Christians used this kind of building to witness the location of important sites in the history of the Church. The eight sides represent the eight days representing the seven days of creation and the eighth day of the eschatalogical kingdom. The Dome of the Rock was built to resanctify the place where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven. It creates a model of the heavenly kingdom on Earth.
The interior of the Dome of the Rock is well-preserved, with its original decorations still intact. These decorations include beautiful mosaic epigraphy and iconography. The poetry featured in these epigraphs captures the polemical assertions of the newly triumphant religion. The following verses, translated by Palestinian photographer Said Nuseibeh, contain both Quranic material and pious phrases, prayers, and comments which rebuke heretical Christian teachings circulating in the region during the seventh century.
When we consider these verses, we must remember that in those days most biblical teachings were delivered orally. People did not have a handy pocket bible to check Scripture. The mosaic epigraphy inside the Dome of the Rock attests to the differing interpretations of God circulating in the seventh century. They emphatically proclaiming His sovereignty, power, and unity. These verses especially repudiate ideas about Jesus that imply a carnal understanding of his birth.
"In the name of God. The Beneficent, the Merciful... No god exists but God alone, Indivisible without peer. Say, God is One, God is central— Birthing no child, nor birthed in turn— Nothing and no one is comparable. Praise be to God who never fathered a child. No peer exists in all of creation, Nor has God need of counsel." "In every way elevate and magnify God! The Lord giveth life, giveth death— the power of all things made possible. When God ordains a matter God merely says to it, “BE,” and it is. God is indeed my Lord as well as your Lord." "So serve and worship your Lord: this is the straight path of righteousness. Verily God witnessed: there is no God but God!" "The angels and those endowed with knowledge of fairness declare: No god exists but God alone, all-cherished, all-wise! Lord of two worlds— All praise goes to God." "The religion before God is Surrender: the people who were given the Books did not argue about this until after receiving knowledge and they became envious of one another."
The verses regarding Jesus are pointed:
"So believe in God and all the messengers, and stop talking about a Trinity. Cease in your own best interests! Verily God is the God of unity. Lord Almighty! that God would beget a child? either in the Heavens or on the Earth? God alone is the best protector." "O People of the Book! Don’t be excessive in the name of your faith! Do not say things about God but the truth" "The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, is indeed a messenger of God: The Almighty extended a word to Mary, and a spirit too." "Neither Christ nor the angels in heaven scorn servitude and worship of God. Whosoever looks upon worship, considering it something beneath him... they will be swept unto God in the end." "O God, bless your messenger and servant, Jesus son of Mary. Peace be upon him the day he was born the day he dies, and the day he is raised again." "Say only the truth about Jesus over whom you dispute: he is the son of Mary! It is not fitting that God should beget or father a child. Glory be to God!" Muhammad’s centrality in the Islamic faith is attested, too, putting him in the continuous line of prophets from Adam on... "Whoever denies the signs of God... God is swift in judgment." "Muhammad is a messenger of God, The Lord God bless him, And God’s angels and all the messengers bless and invoke peace upon him, by the grace of God."
"Angels and God, all praise the Prophet. So you who consider yourself a believer, go ahead, honor and pray for him too."
Muhammad is a messenger of God. May the Lord God bless him and, come the Day of Resurrection, accept his intercession on behalf of his own community.
"Muhammad is a servant and messenger too! Angels and God, all praise the Prophet. So you who consider yourself a believer, go ahead, honor and pray for him too. God has prayed for the Prophet Muhammad, so peace and God’s blessings be upon him, by the grace of God."
The decorations inside the Dome of the Rock are highly significant. Lavish mosaics are primarily gold, and are original to the seventh century structure. Depictions of pearl and gem drenched crowns, lush gardens, flowing water, stately palms and trees of all kinds, and radiant cities combine to convey a heavenly garden. The absolute sovereignty of God, His majesty, and His goodness are signaled through the richness of these shimmering mosaics. The verses date from the earliest years of Islamic rule in Jerusalem. The polemical nature of these epigraphical ornamentations makes the purpose of the building unmistakable. Just as the architecture of the monument trumpets the triumph of Islam over Christianity, its mosaic embellishments admonish mankind to serve a completely transcendent God. Jerusalem’s connection to Islam is profound, though it has become common to undermine that idea by asserting that because the Holy City is not named in the Qur’an, it cannot have been important in early Islam. Yet Jerusalem was the first direction of prayer designated by the Prophet, and in the earliest phase of his teachings, Muhammad directed his community to follow Jewish traditions and only later differentiated the two communities by changing them. Jerusalem’s significance to Islam was cemented by al-Isra, the Night Journey of Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and al-Miraj, the Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven, where he met with Moses and other Jewish prophets. Muhammad rode on the back of al-Buraq—the winged creature which transported him to the Farthest Mosque—from where he was sleeping next to the Kaaba in Mecca.9 It was during his ascension that Moses and Muhammad agreed that Muslims should pray five times a day. Islamic sources agree on the point that this ascension started from the Rock, mostly identified with the Stone of Foundation (Evn Shetiyah, in Hebrew) dealt with in Jewish sources. Sufis claim that this Rock is a living being. This is proved by the fact that, after al-Isra and before al-Miraj, the Prophet Muhammad...greeted it by saying, "Peace be upon you, o Rock of Allah.”
According to al-Tabari, the tenth century Abbasid chronicler,
On the authority of Raja ibn Hiwan, on the authority of an eyewitness: When Umar came from al-Jabiya to Aelia...he said, “Bring me Kaab!10 And he was brought to him, and Umar asked him, “Where do you think we should put the place of prayer?” “By the rock,” answered Kaab. “By God, Kaab, said Umar, “you are following after Judaism. I saw you take off your sandals.” “I wanted to feel the touch of it with my bare feet,” said Kaab. “I saw you,” said Umar. “But no. We shall make the forepart a qibla, as the Prophet of God, may God bless and save him, made the forepart of our mosques their qibla. Go along! We were not commanded concerning the rock, but we were commanded concerning the Kaaba!” So Umar made the forepart the qibla. Then Umar went up from the place where he had prayed to the heap of garbage in which the Romans had hidden the temple in the time of the children of Israel. And when this place came into their hands, they uncovered part of it and left the remainder. Umar said, “O people, do as I do.” And he knelt by the heap and knelt on a fold of his cloak.
11 Palazzi asserts the traditional Muslim view, that Umar’s “first desire in entering Aelia [Jerusalem] was to find the place of al-Miraj, whose features he had learned directly from Prophet Muhammad’s telling, and to build a mosque there....” And what of this rock? The Muslims considered the rock (al-Sakhra), the site of the Jewish Temple, which Umar had learned “directly from the Prophet Muhammad” was on Mount Moriah, which towered over the city.
Indeed, even the Supreme Muslim Council of Palestine, headed at the time by the notorious pro-Nazi Mufti Al-Hajj Amin Al-Husayni, published a pamphlet in 1935 which stated that the site of the Dome of the Rock
"... 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.”
12 Accordingly, Umar ordered that a mosque be built on the southern side of the Temple Mount, the result being that Muslims face toward Mecca with their backs toward the Rock. Umar and Kaab’s points of view regarding the significance of the Rock reflect two attitudes, each of which emphasizes – respectively – “break or continuity” between Islam and the Bible. Both positions "have more or less influenced the development of Islamic canonical expertise,” wrote Palazzi. The one tradition emphasizes Islam’s continuity with the revelation of the Jewish prophets, while the other tradition emphasizes Islam’s unique claim to the Rock. Thus, the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah) was built in 691 by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik for two reasons. The first is that Umar, according to Islamic tradition, had identified the rock as the site of Solomon’s Temple and also as the place whence Muhammad had ascended into heaven during the Night Journey. The second was polemical. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, known in Arabic as Kanisat al-Qiyama, the Church of the Resurrection, was juxtaposed with the ruined site of the Temple, covered in refuse, and named “Al-Qumama” or “The Dump.” The Muslims called the church “Al-Qumama” to denigrate the former rulers of the city who had so denigrated the Judaic origins of the Christian faith. Restoring the sanctity of the traditional site of Solomon’s Temple, the Umayyad dynasty protected the Rock from further abuse.
Umar (Omar) al-Khattab, the Third Caliph, went to Jerusalem in 638 to accept the surrender of Sophronius, the Byzantine Bishop. Historian Steve Runciman recounts the conquest of Jerusalem:
On a February day in the year A.D. 638 the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem, riding upon a white camel. He was dressed in worn, filthy robes, and the army that followed him was rough and unkempt; but its discipline was perfect. At his side was the Patriarch Sophronius, as chief magistrate of the surrendered city. Omar rode straight to the site of the Temple of Solomon, whence his friend Mahomet had ascended into heaven. Watching him stand there, the Patriarch remembered the words of Christ and murmured through his tears: 'Behold the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.' Umar refused Sophronius’ conditions for surrender, which involved continuing the prohibition for Jews to reside in Jerusalem. As a result of his encouragement, the Jews of Tiberias returned to live in the Holy City.
Thus it was that the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik hired Greek Orthodox masons and artisans to construct the monument as a mashhad, or “place of witness.” Only one structure of this type is still visible, in the Galilean village of Capernaum. There, the octagonal foundation of a Byzantium martyrium marks the location of the house of Peter’s mother, with whom Jesus stayed, and whom He healed. The house itself was preserved inside a domus ecclesias, or house church, where Jewish- Christians worshipped until the time of the Council of Nicea, when the Byzantines took over the site, and built the octagonal church of The Prince of the Apostles, preserving the house, as reported by Egeria in the late fourth century. In 382, Theodosius built an octagonal martyrium called the Church of the Apostles, on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.13 Theodosius probably built the monument in Capernaum at about the same time, part of the process of the destruction of Jewish-Christian culture and the assertion of Byzantine supercessionism in Palestine. The Church of the Apostles may have still stood in Jerusalem at the time of the Islamic conquest, though it may have been damaged in the Persian-Byzantine war of the sixth century.
Strictly speaking, then, the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque. A mosque is a building designed for congregational prayer, modeled on the first mosque Muhammad built in Medina. Literally, a mosque is simply any place for prayer, or “masjid” in Arabic. Instead, it “witnesses” the miracle of Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension. The mashhad was built to embody the Islamic triumph over the Byzantines, using the Byzantine’s own architectural vocabulary. The Dome of the Rock dominates the Jerusalem skyline, the crown of the first capital of the first Sunni dynasty, the Umayyads. Like the Byzantines, who had demonstrated their supercession of Judaism, the Umayyads extended their power over Christianity by reasserting the sanctity of the site of the Jewish Temple.
The importance of the site was so great that the Umayyads built palaces adjacent to the Temple Mount. This Sunni dynasty was engaged in an ongoing jihad against Byzantium. The first Umayyad caliph, Muawiya, declared his caliphate in Gethsamane, according to Irfan Shahid. When the Umayyads lost control of Mecca and Medina, Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock to emphasize Ummayad control over the Holy Land, and that, as an alternative to the now inaccessible Mecca, Jerusalem was now a Sunni pilgrimage center. He transferred the Umayyad capital to the more important city of Damascus in 661.When Walid al-Malik reasserted control over Mecca, to eclipse Jerusalem’s position as a pilgrimage site, he built the Al-Aqsa Friday, or congregational Mosque in 705 to emphasize the Night Journey instead of the Rock, diminishing the importance of the Abrahamic legacy in Islam.
Thus, Jerusalem is "thalith al-Haramayn," the Third Sanctuary" after the Two Holy Places”—Mecca and Medina—to Muslims. The term “Haramayn,” meaning “The Two Sanctuaries” has been applied to Jerusalem alone, because it was administered as a part of the Haramayn. In later years, when different rulers governed Jerusalem and the two Hijazi cities, the term came to be used for Jerusalem and Hebron, and lately even for the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa.
Thus,on the model of Mecca and Medina, the entire city of Jerusalem has been sanctified by the location of the Haram al-Sharif within its walls. Palazzi explained,
To remember the historical milieu compels every sincere observer to admit that there is no necessary connection between al-Miraj and sovereign rights over Jerusalem since, in the time when the Prophet... consecrated the place with his footprints on the Stone, the City was not a part of the Islamic State – whose borders were then limited to the Arabian Peninsula – but under Byzantine administration. Moreover, although radical preachers try to remove this from exegesis, the Glorious Quran expressly recognizes that Jerusalem plays for the Jewish people the same role that Mecca has for Muslims. We read in Surah al-Baqarah: “...They would not follow thy direction of prayer (qiblah), nor art thou to follow their direction of prayer; nor indeed will they follow each other’s direction of prayer....”
All Quranic annotators explain that "thy qiblah" is obviously the Kaabah of Mecca, while "their qiblah" refers to the Temple Site in Jerusalem. To quote just one of the most important of them, we read in Qadi Baydawi’s Commentary: “Verily, in their prayers Jews orientate themselves toward the Rock (al-Sakhrah), while Christians orientate themselves eastwards....”
Palazzi concludes,
As opposed to what sectarian radicals continuously claim, the Book that is a guide for those who abide by Islam—as we have just now shown—recognizes Jerusalem as Jewish direction of prayer.... After...deep reflection about the implications of this approach, it is not difficult to understand that separation in directions of prayer is a mean[s] to decrease possible rivalries in [the] management of [the] Holy Places. For those who receive from Allah the gift of equilibrium and the attitude to reconciliation, it should not be difficult to conclude that, as no one is willing to deny Muslims...complete sovereignty over Mecca, from an Islamic point of view... there is not any sound theological reason to deny an equal right of Jews over Jerusalem. In these troubled times it is difficult to imagine that the majority of Muslims could concede this point. At the very least, however, Muslims should be proud of their contribution to world civilization. Those Muslims who seek to deny the historic legacy of Islam distort the character and nature of their faith. Those who resist Salafi Islam risk their very lives as they take a stand for historical truth. Telling the truth about history will be the strongest antidote to the politicized historical amnesia poisoning the modern Middle East.
An earlier version of this essay was published in Sacred History January 2006.
Notes: Abdul-Hadi Palazzi, “Antizionism and Antisemitism in the Contemporary Islamic Milieu,” downloaded March 30, 2003. All quotations of Palazzi come from this article. Traditionally, a mufti is a religious authority, or jurisconsult, who issues decisions relating to Islamic law. Under their League of Nations Mandate to administer Palestine between 1922 and 1948, the British created the office of the Grand Mufti to represent the voice of the Muslim population. They appointed Amin al-Husseini, who was a minor officer in the Ottoman army with no training in Islamic law, to became the highest Muslim official in Palestine.
I have examined the themes in this article more deeply in the following, “The Beginning of the End of Sunni Preeminence: Muhammad Ali and Jerusalem,” Arab Studies Journal, Spring 1996, 86-95; “The Palestine National Authority and the Death Sentence,” The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment, edited by Austin Sarat, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005; “Mehmed Ali as Mutinous Khedive: The Roots of Rebellion,” International Journal of Turkish Studies, 2002, 8: Sacred Law in the Holy City: The Khedival Challenge to the Ottomans as seen from Jerusalem, 1829-1841, Leiden: Brill, 2004.
On the Saudi destruction of the Ottoman legacy in Arabia and the Balkans, see Andras J. Riedlmayer, "The Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project," In: Markus Koller and Kemal Karpat (eds.) Ottoman Bosnia: A History in Peril (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004): 27-38; Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Bosnia- Herzegovina, 1992-1996: A Post-war Survey of Selected Municipalities. Expert report commissioned by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (The Hague, 2002); "From the Ashes: The Past and Future of Bosnia's Cultural Heritage," In: Maya Shatzmiller (ed.) Islam and Bosnia: Conflict Resolution and Foreign Policy in Multi-Ethnic States (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2002): 98-135; "Convivencia under Fire: Genocide and Book-Burning in Bosnia," In: Jonathan Rose (ed.) The Holocaust and the Book: Preservation and Loss (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001): 266-291;(with A. Herscher)"Monument and Crime: The Destruction of Historic Architecture in Kosovo," Grey Room 1 (2000): 108-122.
“Two Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscriptions from Hira (Iraq)” Lecture at Claremont Graduate University, March 11, 2003. See also Timothy George, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
These translations of the Arabic inscriptions inside the Dome of the Rock are from Oleg Grabar and Said Nuseibeh’s magnificent The Dome of the Rock (New York: Rizzoli, 1996). I have changed the word “Allah” to “God” for emphasis in some places.
In Palazzi’s words: Kaab al-Ashraf, “was a rabbi converted to Islam who, because of his learning...was regarded as the Caliph’s special counselor for all matters connected to the history of Israel.”
Bernard Lewis, Islam: Religion and Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 3, excerpted from Al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rasul w’al Muluk, ed. M.J. de Groeje et al (Leiden: Brill, 1879-1901). Palazzi notes in his footnote 14: Cf. Muhammad Ibn Jarir al- Tabari, Akhbar al-Rusul wa al-Muluk (History of Messengers and Kings), especially the chapter dealing with al-Miraj of "Bab Sayyidna Muhammad" and "Bab ‘Omar.” See also Jalal al-din as-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa (History of the Caliphs) and Mujir al-Ayn al- Muqaddasi, Al-Uns al-jalil fi tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil (The Noble Society in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron, manuscript, al-Azhar Library)
We won't delve into the archeological studies of the location of the Jewish Temple. Here we are concerned only with the traditional Muslim understanding of the significance of the site, based upon the reports of Jews present in Jerusalem at the time of the Islamic conquest.

12 July 2011

Recommended Links

July 11, 2011


Lebanon: A Lesson in History
Insightful and sobering look at the challenges of teaching history and civics in a fragmented society at war with its neighbors.

25 February 2011

HAMAS and the Origins of the Muslim Brotherhood

“HAMAS in the Context of the Historic Islamicization of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”

Judith Mendelsohn Rood, Ph.D.
Department of History, Government, and Social Science
Biola University

Not to be Cited without Permission
© Judith Mendelsohn Rood


Abstract: Secular Palestinian nationalists and scholars have studied the emergence of the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, but few have paid attention to its characterization of Palestine as an Islamic waqf. Following Hamas’ successful ousting of Fatah from Gaza in 2006, Hamas has been gaining the upper hand in the West Bank and Jerusalem as well because of its continuation of armed resistance against Israel. Hamas’ political success must be understood as a success of the Muslim Brotherhood to repudiate the secular nationalist Palestinian movement. Should HAMAS’s position on land tenure in the Palestinian Authority, defined by the unfounded claim that all land in Palestine is waqf, new problems arise for the development of the secular Palestinian state and is already posing problems for individual municipalities on the West Bank. The ideologically driven Israeli policy in Jerusalem is again matched by ideological Islamist agenda.

Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha has characterized HAMAS’s claim that Palestine is an Islamic waqf as “the main innovative idea” that the Islamic Resistance Movement has contributed to the Arab-Israel Conflict. However, to the contrary, the claim that all Palestine is waqf has been the official position of the Muslim Palestinian political establishment since before the days of the British Mandate. This claim, however, does not fit with the theory or practice of Islamic land tenure during any other period in Muslim history.
The HAMAS charter refers to the land of Palestine as “waqf” that is, set aside as an eternal charitable endowment for the Muslim community. This is exactly the concept that the infamous mufti of Jerusalem, al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini, used to oppose the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine at the time of the British Mandate, a policy that directly led to the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. Thus, the HAMAS position that the land of Palestine is an irrevocable waqf is the same position held by the mufti during the Mandate Period to outlaw Palestinian land sales to Jews, by the Jordanians from 1947-1967, by Palestinian secular nationalist groups, and by the Palestinian Authority today. Land sales to Jews are still defined as treason, and accused collaborators are punishable by death, a penalty often imposed extrajudicially.

Moreover, this was the position of the Muslim effendiyat (elite) of Jerusalem in the 19th century (they actually recognized that all of Palestine was not waqf, but consisted mostly of military land grants). The Ottoman authorities explicitly rejected their claim before the rise of political Zionism in order to encourage the growth of commerce in the region of Jerusalem.
However, now that HAMAS has become the Islamic Republic of Iran’s newest proxy, the claim is more dangerous than ever before. In this article, we will dissect the issue by defining the geographical, legal, and economic meanings of the terms used by HAMAS in order to disprove them strictly on the grounds of Islamic law and government during the Ottoman period. The 1988 Hamas Charter asserts in Article 11:
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgment Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgment Day?

The failure of the Ottoman Empire to maintain and reform its financial and political policies in the face of changes in the international order in the nineteenth century led to the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 and was capped by its calamitous decision to ally itself with Germany in the First World War, when the Empire was ultimately consigned to oblivion. Some Muslims confronted modern challenges to traditional Islam by focusing on the distant past, the Golden Age of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (Rashidun), or the Salafs, (ancestors). Those who seek to emulate these ancestors are called Salafis, and their movement is often referred to in Arabic as the Salafiyyah, and its first major ideologue was the Egyptian Rashid Rida.
Despite the lack of a political consensus among Palestinian Arabs about what form of government ought to be constituted following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, officials administering the major Palestinian Islamic institutions in Jerusalem under the British Mandate to the present day have adhered to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood inspired by Rida and articulated by the Hajj Amin al-Husseini and Hassan al-Banna in the 1930s. This continuity was masked throughout the periods of Hashemite and Israeli rule as the world’s focus was on the emergence of the secular nationalist Palestinian Liberation Organization and its associated rivals. From a minority position that emerged following the First World War in the Middle East, the claim that Palestine is waqf has been widely accepted in the Muslim discourse following the failures of the secularists to win the battle against Israel by the mid-1990s.

The Muslim link to Palestine is through Jerusalem, based upon the identity of the Dome of the Rock with the Night Journey and Ascension to Heaven of Muhammad, described in the Quran as happening only at the indeterminate “Furthest Mosque,” which traditionally has been identified with Jerusalem. The reason for the journey to the “Furthest Mosque” was for Muhammad to ascend to heaven to meet with Moses and the biblical prophets on the site of the Temple, where the Sakinah (Arabic) or Shechina (Hebrew), (the Glory of God) had once rested. To the consternation of well-educated Muslims worldwide, officials in charge of the Islamic institutions in Jerusalem serving the Palestinian National Authority, established May 4, 1994, took the position of HAMAS even further, stating that the Temple of Solomon itself was not located in Jerusalem. Ikramah Sabri, the then mufti of Jerusalem, said that “There is no evidence that Solomon’s Temple was in Jerusalem; probably it was in Bethlehem or in some other place.” He was also quoted as saying: "There is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history." This assertion was made despite the existence of a well-known pamphlet for tourists published in 1935 by the Islamic authorities themselves, pointing out that it is “beyond dispute” that the Dome of the Rock sits on the site of Solomon’s Temple. The issue was so provocative that the Shaykh of Al-Azhar, the head of Islam’s most venerable and greatest religious university, in an article entitled “Does Solomon’s Temple Exist Under the Current Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem?” published in Al-Ahram, November 2, 2000, felt compelled to explain its importance to his people. Yasser Arafat echoed this claim repeatedly until his death, and FATAH officials have continued to do so to this day, in total agreement with HAMAS, in order to deny any Jewish claims to the holy site.

In July, 2009 Avi Diskin, head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), told the Israeli cabinet that “Egyptian cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood "had allocated some $25 million for the purchase of property and to build Hamas charitable institutions that would expand the group's reach in Jerusalem." This activity points to the importance of properly understanding the evidence in the Islamic law records relating to the historic role of the Islamic institutions in administering Islamic awaqf in practical and political terms in order to prove that such claims cannot be substantiated according to Islamic law.

I. The Conquest of the Arab Provinces and Ottoman Empire Land Tenure
According to Hamas’ charter, the Islamic claim to eternal sovereignty over “Palestine” resides in the very fact of the Islamic conquest.
This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgment.

It happened like this: When the leaders of the Islamic armies conquered Syria and Iraq, they sent to the Caliph of the Moslems, Umar bin-el-Khatab, asking for his advice concerning the conquered land - whether they should divide it among the soldiers, or leave it for its owners, or what? After consultations and discussions between the Caliph of the Moslems, Omar bin-el-Khatab and companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, it was decided that the land should be left with its owners who could benefit by its fruit. As for the real ownership of the land and the land itself, it should be consecrated for Moslem generations till Judgment Day. Those who are on the land, are there only to benefit from its fruit. This Waqf remains as long as earth and heaven remain. Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void.

This understanding, however, is incorrect and cannot be justified according to Islamic law as it was practiced “in Palestine” under the Ottomans, and before them the Mamluks and the Ayyubids, stretching back to the conquests of Salah al-Din in 1187 and even to the peaceful submission to the third Caliph, Umar, of Jerusalem in 636 by the Patriarch Sophronious. One of the hallmarks of Salafi teaching, which is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood, is that since the previous regimes which have ruled the Muslim world were not truly Islamic, the history of their governance and laws cannot be held to have correctly followed the Shariah, and therefore cannot be used to determine proper Islamic policies. This willful amnesia was repudiated by the Ottomans during the Wahhabist rebellions in Arabia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but since the end of the First World War there has been no Muslim authority powerful enough to challenge the Salafists today, as we have learned since 9/11.
The Ottomans followed a well-articulated Sunni system of imperial land tenure based on the Levitical concept that asserts that God is the owner of the land, and the state and its subjects are but its possessors, who are to use of it justly for the benefit of its subjects. As such, the sovereign had the right to dispose of the land—to utilize it for its peoples’ benefit—as he saw fit within the administrative laws of the empire. The right of usufruct, as the scholars name it, is earned by properly using the property—keeping it productive—and ensuring that the state can tax its produce so that it will be able to sustain the safety and prosperity of its subjects.
The root of Ottoman identification of Jerusalem with Mecca and Medina lay both in their status as the three holy cities of Islam and in their juridical status following the original Muslim conquest of Syria. At an assembly in the Syrian military camp at Jabiya in 637, the Caliph 'Umar declared the lands which surrendered unconditionally to his armies as fay, (lands that would pay tribute to the central government, and which were to be held as a perpetual trust for all Muslims). Thus, Syria and Iraq were regarded as lands subject to the kharaj (land tax assessed upon non-Muslim landholders). According to the Jabiya agreement, revenue from the conquered territories was to be collected and given to the central government, and those who had participated in the campaigns of expansion would be enrolled in the diwan (imperial) registers. Those so enrolled would be entitled to fixed stipends and land grants. The lands were thus not divided and parceled out among the military, but instead were controlled directly by the central government. Muslims would not settle these lands and pay the ushr (land tax assessed on Muslim proprietors, i.e., the tithe): rather, the original inhabitants would remain on their property, but would pay the kharaj.
Under Islamic law, fay lands were thus held by the state, but its use was left in the possession of their inhabitants, who paid tribute from the revenues of the land to the central treasury of the state. Over the course of time the population increasingly became Muslim. The distinction between Hijazi and Syrian Muslims blurred, and the Muslims of Syria began, in effect, to pay the kharaj along with the non-Muslims because they lived on conquered lands worked by non-Muslims. When the Mamluk territories, encompassing the later Ottoman provinces of Sidon, Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Tripoli (Libyan), Bengazi, the Hijaz, and Yemen, were conquered by the Ottomans, they were exempted from paying the normal miri (imperial land) taxes because of their status as kharaj land, unlike the Hijaz and Basra, which were categorizied as provinces paying the ushr tax.

The Ottomans, after their conquest of the Arab provinces and the creation of the Eyalet (Province) of Damascus during the years 1517-1520, recognized existing practices regarding the taxation of arable land in the Province of Damascus. In keeping with the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, upon their conquest of the Arab provinces, the Ottomans declared these conquered territories as belonging to the bayt mal al-muslimin (the common treasury of the state), to be used for the benefit of all Muslims, and by extension, the dhimmis, or protected minorities living among them. As such, under the Ottomans, the conquered lands of Syria continued to be considered kharaj lands whose usufruct could be granted or leased out in the name of the bayt al-mal by the Sultan as imam (leader), of the Muslim community.

The Ottomans organized the systems administering awqaf, timars (military land grants), and iltizams/malikanes (tax farms) on the varying types of land that they conquered. The Ottomans also had a well-articulated system for administering trade, and all other forms of production and property, based upon the sixteenth century Siyasetname (Administrative Law Code) of Sulayman the Magnificent. Devised by the brilliant Ebu Su’ud Effendi, the Shaykh al-Islam (Chief Jurisconsult of the Empire) based upon the Shari’ah and the Qanun (administrative law), this code stipulated that land could be disposed of (in the legal sense of disposition or use) in three ways: it could be assigned as a grant in return for military service, it could be leased directly to cultivators, or it could be held in perpetual trust for the Muslim subjects of the empire as waqf. Many parcels of land throughout the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces were divided and subdivided into fractions, some of which were assigned as military estates and some of which were assigned as waqf, while other portions may have been private property or shared pasture land. The land tenure system was designed to prevent the permanent alienation of land from the state, with one single exception: the assignment of land by the Sultan to an individual as milk (private property). This property always would revert ultimately to the state upon the death of the owner and his descendants.

During much of the Ottoman period, the city of Jerusalem was administered as a part of the Province of Damascus following the pattern of the classical timar system—some land in Jerusalem’s hinterlands was granted to military officers in return for their service to the Sultan. Other lands, recognized as property held as waqf by the Greek Orthodox Church (and a few others as well) under previous Muslim dynasties (the Ayyubids and the Mamluks), were integrated into the Ottoman administration. The city was the capital of the sanjaq of Jabal al-Quds (the administrative district of the mountains of Jerusalem). Other sanjaqs of the southern part of the Provinces of Sidon and Damascus—Jabal Nablus, Gaza, Jaffa, Ramla, Lydda, Acre, Hebron, Sidon, Jenin, Tulkarem, Karak—were all tied to Jerusalem through the legal system, evidenced by documents regarding cases from these towns scattered throughout the Ottoman Islamic court registers.

The sanjaq of Jerusalem and the mountainous lands of the sanjaq of Nablus (Jabal Nablus) were distinguished geographically from what is called in the court registers "the land of Palestine" (ard filastin) encompassing the towns of Gaza, Ramla, and Lydda (Lod). This distinction tallies with the description of Palestine given by Volney in the late eighteenth century, who described it as a geographical unit including all of the land "between the Mediterranean to the West and the chain of mountains to the East, and two lines, one drawn to the South, by Khan Younes, and the other to the North, between Kaisaria [Caesarea] and the rivulet of Yafa [Jaffa]." He noted that Palestine was "almost entirely a level plain, without either river or rivulet in summer, but watered by several torrents in winter" and that it was "a district independent of every pashalic [sanjaq]," which occasionally had "governors of its own, who reside at Gaza under the title of Pashas; but it is usually, as at present, divided into three appanages, or melkana, viz. Yafa, Loudd [Lydda/Lod] and Gaza.”

Thus, the term ard filastin, "the land of Palestine," was used during the Ottoman period to refer specifically to a geographical area in agricultural use and divided into tax farms, whether administered as independent sanjaqs or attached to adjacent sanjaqs. Historically this land was controlled directly by the central government in Istanbul by leasing it to Ottoman officers. In the period before the invasion, 'Abdullah Pasha, governor of Sidon, obtained the lease. The important point here is that a significant portion of the rich agricultural lands identified in the Islamic court records dating from the Ottoman period as “Palestine” were not attached to the imperial awqaf of Jerusalem, and thus were not administered by the notables of the city representing the Ottoman government, but directly by the Ottoman government in Istanbul. To the south lay Hebron, sometimes nominally a part of the sanjaq of Jerusalem, but in fact a rebellious and nearly autonomous town with a powerful and militant leadership of its own.

In Jerusalem, the Ottomans administered Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock together with the Waqf of the Two Noble Sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina (al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn). This admininstrative feature explains the relative unimportance of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Empire. Since the three cities were organized for purposes of revenue as one institution, and since the Ottomans placed a higher degree of importance on Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem was overshadowed in an institutional sense. Nevertheless, its rank as the third holiest city did confer status and important privileges to the ulama (learned authorities) who served as administrators of the imperial awqaf there. One of the most important posts in the city was the shaykh al-haram, (the superintendent of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa). Moreover, al-Aqsa had its own waqf, as did other mosques, tombs, schools, hospices, etc., which received revenues from many shops, agricultural lands, and other income-producing urban and rural properties throughout Bilad al-Sham which were dedicated and assigned to them.
In the sixteenth century, the wife of Sulayman the Magnificent, originally a Christian from somewhere in the Russian Empire, endowed the Khasseki Sultan imaret (foundation, waqf) with Greek Orthodox church properties in the vicinity of Bethlehem, Lydda and Ramla. The Palestinian National Authority still recognizes this fact, and the Christian tenants and sharecroppers who have resided on these lands still are not the legal landowners. The financial support of the Holy Cities, and the annual hajj pilgrimage, obviously were not solely a Palestinian responsibility. Financial obligations were imposed not only on towns and villages in the administrative districts of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Hebron, but also on other cities throughout the empire, including Damascus, Aleppo and cities in Anatolia and the Balkans. The Waqf of Sayyidna Ibrahim al-Khalil (Abraham, the Beloved Friend of God, as he is known to Muslims) located in Hebron, and known in the West as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, held claim to the revenues of many southern Palestinian villages and agricultural lands and was administered as a part of the other important imperial awqaf. Peasants living on lands dedicated to the support of these awqaf were among those exempted from paying the miri (imperial land tax, or kharaj)—instead, they paid to support the Hajj and the Haramayn awqaf. For example, taxes (payable in kind) were assessed on land held as awqaf by the Greek Orthodox church in Bethlehem and its neighboring villages throughout the district of Jerusalem. Such lands—and this means most of the arable lands in Bethlehem, for example— are still categorized in this manner to this day. This fact has the Christians living in these regions are literally caught between a rock and a hard place today—their village lands are still categorized as waqf with double ownership: the Greek Orthodox Church, which is the owner of the use of the property and the property itself, and the Khasseki Sultan Waqf, which claims a share of the produce of the land. This complicated situation has allowed the Israelis to confiscate what they call abandoned state lands in the West Bank, which in the past were administered by the Porte, and by Hamas, which now claims all property is waqf, belonging to the Muslim community.

The sharecroppers and tenants who worked these lands never received the “tapu” registration required for private land under the Ottoman Land Law of 1858 because these lands were waqf. Moreover, unworked land lapsed after three years into the category of mawat, (waste lands), which the Israelis also claim to have the right to confiscate, as against the HAMAS claim that all land in Palestine belongs to the Muslim community as waqf, no matter its condition. Under Ottoman law, to the contrary, a tenant who brought dead lands into cultivation could claim it as mulk, or freehold land. And if there was a time of political instability, peasants could leave the region until calm was restored within three years without losing their claim to land that they had improved. None of these laws is still in effect today.
Some two-thirds of the actual sum of the jizya (per capital poll tax on non-Muslim dhimmis) revenues collected in the district of Jerusalem in the first half of the nineteenth century ended up in the hands of the provincial governor of Damascus, who at the time also served as the amir al­hajj, the commander of the hajj caravan from that city. It followed that the Porte would entrust this official with the collection and disbursement of the jizya. In other words, under the Ottomans, taxes paid by Jews and Christians in Jerusalem and its environs actually were sent outside of their territories to support the pilgrimage caravan to the Muslim Holy Cities in the Hijaz and the Haramayn Waqf.

Jerusalem, governed within the framework of Ottoman provincial administration, derived its status, then, from Muslim land law, but was not identified with Palestine under Ottoman rule. During the period of Sultan Mahmud II's reforms in the 1820s, the Ottomans explicitly identified the Muslim sanctuary in the city of Jerusalem, and its important imperial awqaf, with the exempted Sharifate (the Office of the Descendants of the Prophet) of Mecca and Medina (known to the Ottomans and other Muslims as the Haramayn (the Two Sanctuaries). Unlike current Palestinian usage of the term, during the Ottoman period "haramayn" did not refer to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, or to the buildings of the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem and the Tomb of Ibrahim al-Khalil (Cave of Machpelah) in Hebron, each of which had their own awqaf in addition to becoming attached to the Haramayn waqf during the centralization of religious institutions under a new ministry by the Ottomans in the nineteenth century.
The term traditionally had a specific meaning to Muslims, including the Ottomans: it referred only to the Holy Cities of the Hijaz. Jerusalem was called "thalith al-haramayn," (the third after the Two Holy Places). When, near the end of his life in 1566, Sulayman the Magnificent dedicated additional revenues and produce from throughout Bilad al-Sham (the Syrian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire) in support of the Khasseki Sultan Waqf (The Endowment of His Beloved Wife), for example, one of the titles he used to describe himself was "khadim al-Haramayn" “Servant of the Two Holy Cities,” referring to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. Indeed, this relationship was manifested in the special fiscal relationship of Jerusalem with the Haramayn that was central to Ottoman administration of the city, particularly during the reform period of Mahmud II, all the way up to the Turkish defeat in the First World War in 1917 and the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate on March 3, 1924.

Therefore, what was actually “waqf” were some lands scattered, throughout the empire: some of which belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, which had to pay the jizya and kharaj taxes on lands it leased to peasants to work. These individuals had to pay taxes, including a land tax as a portion of the produce to support the waqf which funded the Hajj Pilgrimage and the four Muslim sanctuaries of Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and Hebron. “Palestine” therefore was most definitely NOT a waqf under Islamic or Ottoman law. It was governed completely separately under the military land grant system and its lands were leased as iltizam/malikane (tax-farms).

II. Awqaf Under Ottoman Control

Under Islamic law, a waqf is a legal entity, comprising land or property whose revenues are set aside to benefit the entire Muslim community and its non-Muslim inhabitants who were considered as having joined the ummah by agreeing to accept Islamic rule. It has long been thought that this stipulation meant that such trusts were endowed for charitable purposes, and that it was the charitable purpose of such awqaf which made them valid and sound under Islamic and Ottoman law. However, that is not the case. A valid Islamic waqf, the waqf sahih, came to mean an endowment that is made from lands that pay the ushr or kharaj tax. The meaning of the waqf in the Ottoman context is that such lands can never be permanently alienated from the central treasury of the Islamic state—bayt mal al-muslimin. Property and land so endowed thus became in essence inalienable, removed from legal transfer, as church property is in the West. Since the ownership of such property ultimately belongs to God, only the use of the property, and the produce and revenues that it yields can be allotted to the beneficiaries of the waqf. The logic of this arrangement is based on the Islamic notion of the common good of the people residing in a just state, whose resources are exploited and protected for the benefit of all Muslims.

In the mid-1820s, Sultan Mahmud II began to implement reforms in waqf administration throughout the empire. He sought to reassert direct state control over all awqaf in the empire, based upon the formal recognition of the previously uncodified, but inherent distinction between canonically valid and invalid awqaf. This distinction was always inherent in the Ottoman system: Mahmud formalized it in order to reassert control of all miri—state lands in the empire. From this period onward, under Ottoman law, there were two officially recognized forms of awqaf: waqf sahih (the valid waqf ) and the waqf ghayr sahih (invalid waqf). Valid awqaf were made from lands paying the kharaj and the ushr, and thus were located in Syria, Iraq, and the Hijaz. Invalid endowments, however, reassigned revenues due to the treasury ostensibly for some religious or charitable purpose or a specific purpose by which awqaf could legitimately be established. There were three types of the "invalid" awqaf accepted by the Ottomans until 1825. The first type allowed the revenues of land to be made waqf, while the substance of the land, and its right of use and possession, were kept by the treasury; the second, the right of use is given as waqf, while the substance and revenues remain with the treasury; and the third type assigned both possession and revenue to the waqf, while the substance remains with the treasury. Under Ottoman administrative law after 1826, all awqaf not falling under the category of sahih were deemed invalid, since they were established upon land that had been alienated at some point from imperial lands. It is often thought that charitable and religious trusts were valid because they were established for ostensibly religious or charitable purposes. However, this is a misplaced assumption that has caused great confusion in the interpretation of the institution of the waqf in the Ottoman period. What is important is not the purpose of the waqf, nor the type of possession, but the nature of the land in the Ottoman system of land tenure.

These reforms reiterated that the lands of Syria, including the sanjaq of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Sidon were not waqf. That this was the clear situation is the Ottoman response to a request made on 28 May 28, 1837 recorded in the registers of the Islamic court in Jerusalem. The governing council (majlis) of Jerusalem asserted in a petition asking the Sultan to bar a group of Ashkenazi Jews from conducting trade in the city because “the lands of this region are miri and waqf.” The Muslim authorities of the city clearly understood that the land in the region was state land, and that some of it had been set aside as waqf. This request the Porte denied.
Indeed, in other cases, the Porte ruled that foreigners could purchase waqf property in order to restore it to productivity and usefulness. When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated and the Turks surrendered and withdrew from its Arab provinces, the Muslim community no longer had a Muslim sovereign whose legitimacy they accepted as the ultimate authority to decide political questions. When the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, the problem of sovereignty thus became the basic political issue facing Muslims: should Islamic control be restored over the former Arab provinces, and if so, how should it be constituted?

The Turkish defeat led to the de facto separation of the Palestinian, Syrian and Hijazi elements of the Haramayn Waqf. Thereafter, the term in Palestinian usage came to mean first, Jerusalem and Hebron, referring to the two sanctuaries—Al-Aqsa and Sayyidna Khalil. After 1948, when Hebron went under Hashemite sovereignty, the term “Haramayn” came to refer to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

III. Enter The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood is a modern ideological movement that was founded in Egypt in 1928. Ideologically it was shaped by the anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism in Egypt and the Middle East generally, and by the Arab-Jewish conflict in mandatory Palestine specifically. The Muslim Brotherhood has long been the most important of the Sunni opposition groups in the Arab world. Its aim is to reestablish the Caliphate and to govern according to the Shariah. While legal in Transjordan and then Jordan, it has been banned in Egypt and Syria, where it threatens to overthrow the current regimes. Violent splinter groups of the Brotherhood have arisen worldwide. Rashid Rida, Hassan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb are the chief ideologues of the movement. They sought to create a vanguard to oppose the secularization of Islamic society, which they thought was accelerated through the introduction of imperialism, capitalism, Zionism, socialism, and communism in the period leading up to the First World War.
The Salafi Movement, and therefore the Muslim Brotherhood rejects all Muslim regimes since the death of ‘Ali as illegitimate and un-Islamic, and of all of these, considers the Ottoman Empire the most illegitimate. The Wahhabi doctrine has been at the heart of Saudi Arabian identity since its first irruption in 1740 when they rejected the legitimacy of the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs remember Turkish rule as a time of oppression and subjugation. Arab nationalist animosity regarding the historic legacy of the Ottomans burns hot to this day: from this perspective, the Ottoman defeat was at once a judgment on the Turks and a challenge to the Arabs, who struggled between the various ideological options available to them in the period between the world wars and thereafter. The entire twentieth century framed the failures of all of their ideological movements to solve the political dilemmas posed to the Arabs by the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The Saudis and the Hashemite Jordanians competed for most of the last century over which dynasty could legitimately claim to be the rightful guardian of the Islamic Holy Cities: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. The impact of this competition was to further fragment the Arab Muslim political consensus over the fate of the lands entrusted by the League of Nations to the British in the form of a mandate to govern the region until its inhabitants were ready for self-governance. When King Hussein ultimately relinquished his claims to the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1988, leaving the PLO to administer their Islamic institutions, Yasser Arafat actually had to make dual appointments of key Islamic positions. Both Jordanian- and Saudi-approved officials initially served the Palestinian National Authority, since the PLO needed to assuage both powers in order to continue to receive their financial—and political support. Only when it became clear that Arafat had thrown in his lot with the Iranians during the Karina incident in the midst of the Al-Aqsa Intifada did both Saudi Arabia and Jordan abandon the PA. Since Arafat’s death, both Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been cooperating with the PA in order to attempt to rein in HAMAS and keep Iran out. They have not succeeded.

IV. The Islamicization of the Palestinian Resistance
The British, who invented a status quo in Palestine by creating de novo an Islamic administration in Palestine by placing in the office of the “mufti” Hajj Amin al-Hussayni, who engineered the policies that generated the dominant, and most radical, Arab response to Zionism. His fingerprints are all over the Islamic administration in Jerusalem even today. The fact that the mufti’s religious polemic led to the Nakba, the catastrophic Arab defeat in 1948, was precisely the reason that the Palestinian liberation movement reframed its opposition to Israel in terms of secular Arab nationalism.

The Islamicization of the Palestinian resistance to Zionism began with the British creation of the office of “Grand Mufti” in 1918 and the appointment of Hajj Amin as mufti in 1922. Traditionally, a mufti is a religious authority, or jurisconsult, who issues decisions relating to Islamic law. Under the British Mandate, for the first time the mufti became the highest Muslim official in Palestine. He was also named president of the newly created Supreme Muslim Council, becoming the officially recognized religious and political leader of the Palestinian Arabs. The fact that the mufti and his policies were opposed by the majority of the Palestinian Arabs for many different reasons, including those who took exception to his interpretation of Islam and Zionism, has emerged in Palestinian and Zionist historiography only recently.

Hajj Amin, whose influence on Palestinian political culture remains profound to this day, was deeply influenced by Rashid Rida, the leading Islamist teacher when he was a young man. As a soldier in the Ottoman army he was stationed in Smyrna where he witnessed the Turkish extermination of the Armenians, an event that left him deeply impressed by Turkish racial nationalism. He traveled to Damascus to support Faisal, who had declared an Arab state in Syria only to be expelled by France. On Amin’s return to Palestine in 1921 he soon became involved in riots against the Balfour Declaration and Jewish immigration. He became a fugitive from British justice for his radical politics, but then was nevertheless pardoned, and placed in control of all former Ottoman awqaf properties and the Islamic court bureaucracy in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine by Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner of the British Mandate. The mufti, however, had had no Islamic religious training or certification as a member of the ulama, the Muslim officials trained and authorized to make religious decisions in the Islamic world.
At first, the mufti may have been hopeful that the British would treat the Arabs in Palestine fairly. While he was working on building an Arab Islamic university in the Mamilla district in West Jerusalem adjacent to the site of a Muslim cemetery in the late ‘20s, he worked with Jewish architects and construction crews to build the Palace Hotel, which he envisioned as a business whose profits would fund the university. The cemetery actually extended further than was then known, as the builders discovered when they began excavating to lay the foundation of the new hotel. The mufti sought to change the purpose of the waqf, endowed by Salah al-Din after his siege of the city in 1187 in order to build the campus, including the hotel. Thus, despite the fact that he worked closely with Jews while he was leading the Arab Higher Committee’s building program, early on his attitude towards them changed. He also rejected and dissolved the secular-nationalist Moslem-Christian Associations and began emphasizing the idea that the Palestine was waqf—the possession of the Muslim ummah in perpetuity. In the absence of Muslim sovereignty during the Mandate, he merged the idea of waqf , the kind of property that the Muslim authorities had administered before 1917, with the idea of state land (timar), a factor in 1837 but no longer. Amin began collaborating with Hassan al-Banna, considered the father of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1935. The mufti thus articulated the idea that Palestine itself is a “waqf” sometime between 1929, when the Palace Hotel opened, and 1935, when they founded the Muslim Brotherhood in support of the Arab Higher Committee’s opposition to Zionism. Hajj Amin was able to rally a force of about two thousand Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood volunteers who fought in the Negev against the nascent Israeli state, and to field a Palestinian militia under the leadership of Qassam al-Ahmad, who was killed at Qastel and who has become the eponymous inspiration for the armed brigade of Hamas today.

Following the Mandate Period, the administration of Muslim institutions in Palestine shifted to the Transjordanian Ministry of Religious Foundations. Transjordan had de facto sovereignty over al-Haram al-Sharif (aka the Temple Mount) and paid the salaries of the Muslim officials employed in the Islamic court. The Muslim Brotherhood became the channel for Salafi ideas during this time. Outlawed for decades in Egypt and Syria, after 1948 clandestine cells operated in Muslim towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza under Jordanian rule, even when the cells in Egypt and Syria were practically wiped out. However, as a result of the 1948 war, Transjordan took possession of the Temple Mount and the administration of waqf properties and the Islamic courts in the West Bank as protector and guardian of the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem and Haram al-Khalil in Hebron in 1950. Thus the Hashemite dynasty administered the Islamic institutions in Jerusalem until 1988, when King Hussein relinquished his sovereign claim to the Palestinian National Authority.
In 1964, President Gamal abd al-Nasser, Egypt, created the Palestinian Liberation Organization to fight a guerilla war against Israel. The PLO’s Muslim leadership included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the majority were secular nationalists, many of whom were nominal Christians. For the next thirty years, the PLO waged battle ostensibly with the support of the majority of all Palestinians, and, although the corruption and authoritarian nature of Arafat’s rule became well-known, they were willing to overlook his flaws in order to present a unified front against Israel, to share in his increasing power and international status, and to hold onto some sense of dignity. Egypt took over the Gaza Strip in 1948 using what Nasser claimed was the “State of Palestine” to infiltrate groups of Palestinian fighters into Israel until his ignominious defeat in 1967.

In the 1970s and early 80s, Israel permitted Saudi Arabia to fund an alternative group of Muslim administrators and officials, which eventually led to the establishment of the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, as the Gazan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. HAMAS emerged as an alternative to the failed policies of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, FATAH in the late 1980s. For the employees of the court, like many Palestinian Muslims, many of whom were sympathetic to, if not members of the Muslim Brotherhood, this was an exciting development, an opportunity for those who had remained under Israeli occupation to regain some of the power that the “outsiders” –the PLO—had asserted over them, the “insiders” who had steadfastly endured under the Israeli “occupation.” Discussions surrounding the disposition of Saudi Arabian charity from the PLO via SAMED—the “Steadfastness Fund” which provided social services to the Palestinian poor, widows, and orphans, and the sick—to the nascent HAMAS organization were intense. SAMED: Palestinian Martyrs Works Society – established in 1970 to provide vocational training to the children of Palestinian martyrs; played an important role - in the 1970s and 1980s, and especially during the First Intifada - in the economic and social welfare infrastructure of the Palestinian communities.

The emergence of HAMAS in the mid-1980s resulted from a Faustian bargain the Israelis made with the Saudis, allowing them to build mosques and provide social services through funds and personnel as a counterbalance to the PLO. Some people even suspect that an Israeli agent helped to name the movement—pronounced in Hebrew as “KHamas,” which means “terror” –to make the message clear. Dividing the Palestinians along ideological lines certainly has been advantageous to those Israelis and Palestinians who oppose negotiating a settlement. The homicide bombings and their inevitable reprisals have made Palestinians and Israelis pay a heavy price for this political decision. The resulting polarization has hastened the re-Islamicization of Palestinian society. It has also prevented the PLO from achieving any tangible political goals and reignited virulent anti-Semitism.

Popular Palestinian frustration with the corrupt and ineffective PLO, exiled into seeming oblivion in Tunis in 1982, particularly in the years before the First Intifada of the Stones (1987-2002), enabled HAMAS to emerge in 1986 as the most robust political rival to the PLO. On July 28, 1988 King Hussein of Jordan relinquished the Hashemite claim to Jerusalem, as well as the right to govern the West Bank or the Palestinians. The Islamic court employees were now to be paid by the PLO, preparing the way for the Palestinian National Authority, led by the PLO, to take over the administration of Islamic institutions in Jerusalem. Weakened by the war in Lebanon, its Tunisian exile, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 the PLO committed itself to the peace process just as HAMAS began to emerge as a political force.

Meanwhile, during the Iraq War of 1990, Arafat had thrown his support behind Saddam Hussein, thereby incurring the wrath of Saudi Arabia. After a short period of time, during which there were two parallel groups of Muslim officials in the PNA, one Jordanian-trained and one Saudi-trained, the Palestinians chose the Saudis in order to placate them. These developments solidified the position of HAMAS in Palestinian Islamic institutions, and explain the intricate connections between FATAH/PNA and HAMAS during the al-Aqsa Intifada in the early 2000s.

What the Israelis did not expect was the cooptation of the Islamists by the PLO, which lasted until the death of Arafat. The Al-Aqsa Intifada of 2000 was characterized by a vicious cycle of suicide bombings and Israeli reprisals, which, along with the corruption and tyranny of Arafat, destroyed law and order in the territories. With his passing, the time had come for HAMAS to challenge its “brother” resistance movement by leveraging Iranian support via Syria. The resulting complete breakdown of civil society in Palestine was the tragic legacy of the Oslo Peace Process. Eventually, to the horror of Palestinian moderates who supported a two-state agreement with Israel, including many members of the PLO, an overwhelming majority democratically elected HAMAS to power in Gaza January 6, 2006.

Under the shadow of an increasingly belligerent Iran, a belated, and failed, Saudi attempt to forge a moderate coalition of the PLO and HAMAS was followed by the brutal expulsion of the PLO from Gaza on June 15, 2007. HAMAS is now completely under the control of Tehran, according to former Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziyad Abu Amr, the Palestinian scholar-diplomat who failed to convince HAMAS to recognize Israel and engage in diplomacy under the aegis of Saudi Arabia.

The ideology that has driven Israeli policy in Jerusalem and the West Bank for more than four decades, especially the suppression of the emergence of municipal self-government in the Arab villages of East Jerusalem and the neglect of the Arab inhabitants in the Occupied Territories, has undermined moderate Palestinians who sought a negotiated peace. The Second Intifada resulted in the breakdown of Palestinian society, including its legal, political, and social institutions. The violence of the Israeli response has radicalized the Palestinians even more, because the deaths of many innocent victims—family members, friends, and neighbors—who now include everyone in Gaza— are indelibly imprinted in Palestinian minds. The re-Islamicization of the conflict, enabled by the belief that their only alternative is armed struggle is almost universal among both Muslim and Christian Palestinians that I spoke with during my most recent trip to Bethlehem. The first, the Intifada of the Stones, began as a non-violent tax revolt in Bethlehem soon turned violent when Islamists took control of the narrative. The catastrophic Islamist Al-Aqsa Intifada, characterized by the collaboration of the PLO with HAMAS, has just barely been quelled on the West Bank, where the PNA is achieving a semblance of law and order. However, the foreboding calls for “Days of Rage” called for by members of the Palestinian cabinet illustrate how easily the current campaign of non-violence could easily dissolve into another armed uprising. However, there is another dimension to this situation.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the “Nakba” (“Catastrophe”) in which 600,000 Christian and Muslim Arabs lost their homes, the Palestinian national movement was basically secular. It is still politically incorrect to focus on sectarian identities in discussing Palestinian politics, primarily because Palestinian Christians desire to be understood as in fraternal solidarity with Muslim Palestinians against Zionism. The ahistorical claim that Palestine is waqf however, now represents a very real threat to the historically Christian communities on the West Bank and in Jerusalem. In March 2010, Palestinian activists are resurrecting the 1970s/80s concept of “sumud” (“solidarity”) to frame the third, ostensibly non-violent, “Al-Quds” (“Jerusalem”) Intifada, which has been called in the wake of Israeli settlement projects in East Jerusalem.
As Asma Afsarrudin, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame has rightly asserted,

...although the system of dhimma (literally, protection) extended to Jews and Christians was considered sufficiently humane in pre-Modern Muslim societies, today it would rightly be considered as plainly discriminatory and unjust within the modern state system, which defines citizenship not by faith but on the basis of birthplace and residence.

This view, however, is under direct attack by HAMAS, which seeks to establish an Islamic state governed by Islamic law. Following the April 2, 2002 takeover of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem by the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade/Tanzim and the punitive Israeli attacks on that town during the duration of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the position of moderates in the West Bank became extremely tenuous. With the takeover of HAMAS in Gaza, the situation deteriorated completely. And, as Benny Morris argues, the maximalist Muslim position, that all Palestine is waqf, is at its heart the same jihadist position that has characterized Arab opposition to Israel all along.

V. Alternative Interpretations
War between Muslims and Jews is not inevitable. Muslim moderates are challenging the ideologically-driven Islamist apologetic against Israel. The most important one is Imam Abdul-Hadi Palazzi, Secretary-General of the Italian Muslim Association and Director of the Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, who has been calling for a revitalization of traditional Sunni Islam. He has taken aim at the historical amnesia of the Islamist movement. In his response to the 2001 statement made by the mufti of Jerusalem denying Jewish ties to the Haram al-Sharif, Palazzi wrote that Sabri “is representative of those [Muslims] who repudiate “… the Jewish heritage [of Islam] as a whole, with the clear attempt even to remove it from historical memory.” Muslims are so ignorant of their own history that they are “really inclined to take these words for granted, notwithstanding the fact that they contradict both historical evidence and Islamic sources.” He argues against the Salafi claim that Palestine is an Islamic waqf by revisiting the issues surrounding the Night Journey.
To remember the historical milieu compels every sincere observer to admit that there is no necessary connection between al-Miraj and sovereign rights over Jerusalem since, in the time when the Prophet... consecrated the place with his footprints on the Stone, the City was not a part of the Islamic State – whose borders were then limited to the Arabian Peninsula – but under Byzantine administration. Moreover, although radical preachers try to remove this from exegesis, the Glorious Quran expressly recognizes that Jerusalem plays for the Jewish people the same role that Mecca has for Muslims. We read in Surah al-Baqarah:

“...They would not follow thy direction of prayer
(qiblah), nor art thou to follow their direction of prayer; nor indeed will they follow each other’s direction of prayer....”

All Quranic annotators explain that "thy qiblah" is obviously the Kaabah of Mecca, while "their qiblah" refers to the Temple Site in Jerusalem. To quote just one of the most important of them, we read in Qadi Baydawi’s Commentary: “Verily, in their prayers Jews orientate themselves toward the Rock (al-Sakhrah), while Christians orientate themselves eastwards....”

Palazzi concludes that the Quran reveals the Jewish connection with Jerusalem.

As opposed to what sectarian radicals continuously claim, the
Book that is a guide for those who abide by Islam—as we have just now shown—
recognizes Jerusalem as Jewish direction of prayer.... After...deep reflection about the implications of this approach, it is not difficult to understand that separation in directions of prayer is a mean[s] to decrease possible rivalries in [the] management of [the] Holy Places. For those who receive from Allah the gift of equilibrium and the attitude to reconciliation, it should not be difficult to conclude that, as no one is willing to deny Muslims...complete sovereignty over Mecca, from an Islamic point of view... there is not any sound theological reason to deny an equal right of Jews over Jerusalem.

Other Muslims are challenging the HAMAS/Muslim Brotherhood’s doctrines on Israel to show that the Qur’an recognizes that God has given the Jews Jerusalem as an eternal bequest. There is an alternative Muslim narrative regarding the Jews and the Muslims.

VI. Brass Tacks: What is to be Done?
Many of the disputed holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories are of world-historical importance. Not only Jews, but Christians and Muslims consider these holy places sacred. The issues of historical preservation in the face of commercial development and competing historical narratives have emerged as Israel has articulated its policies over Jewish Heritage Sites in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The media has zeroed in on two of the most important contested sites: Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of Machpelah (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron, where the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried. On March 15, 2010, Jewish Jerusalem celebrated the reopening of the Hurva Synagogue, which had been destroyed by Transjordan during the battle for Jerusalem on May 25, 1948. The restored synagogue features paintings of both Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of Machpelah, one to the right of the Holy Ark and the other to the left. These decorations plainly assert Jewish claims over both of these other holy sites, located in the West Bank. The official Muslim reaction to the rededication of the synagogue, which was immediately linked to the threat of the rebuilding of the Third Temple, was harsh with calls for a new intifada, the “Al-Quds” intifada, coming from the Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas and other Islamist groups, due to this latest “provocation.” However, these developments were overshadowed by the controversy over Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem during Biden-Mitchell visit.
The issue of Jerusalem is one of the “final status” issues, like refugees and the borders of a Palestinian state, ran the Oslo Peace Process off the tracks. For the past several years, policy wonks in Foggy Bottom have been trying to design a “roadmap” to get the process back on track. In this, they have failed abysmally. And while time has passed, Israel’s religious Zionist parties have demanded unilateral actions to assure that Jewish settlements in the West Bank will not meet the same fate as those that were abandoned in Gaza in 2005.
In Israel, the Islamic movement emerged independently of these developments. Although the Israeli Islamic movement stands in solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, its day-to-day concerns are quite different. Under Israeli law, an Islamic court system adjudicates personal status laws for Israeli Muslims. An autonomous Muslim authority controls all functioning Islamic properties, although mosques, many which stand unused or abandoned, archeological sites, and architecturally significant buildings languish under state (Israeli) control as abandoned property. In Jerusalem, the condition of the Muslim monuments in Jerusalem is undeniably deplorable.
This situation is not unintentional. In their 1999 book, Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem (which unfortunately was largely overlooked in the aftermath the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the 9/11 attacks), Amir S. Chesin, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek's adviser on Arab affairs from 1984 to 1993 and then for more one year for Kollek’s successor, the conservative Likud politician Ehud Olmert; Bill Hutman, senior reporter for The Jerusalem Post specializing in coverage of the city; and Avi Melamed, deputy adviser to the mayor on Arab affairs from 1991 to 1994 and principal adviser from 1994 to 1996 documented Israeli policy in Jerusalem from 1967 until 1998. As they make clear, Israeli national policies vis a vis the Palestinians overrode the issues facing the municipality of Jerusalem. According to former U.S. Ambassador to Israel W. C. Harrop, who reviewed the book and who helps to boil down their argument, the authors rightly recognize that Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had four objectives: (1) rapidly expand Jewish population in East Jerusalem, (2) hinder and discourage the growth of the Arab population, (3) induce Arab residents to move out of the city and the West Bank, and (4) surround East Jerusalem with a barrier of Jewish settlements separating it from the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Harrop identifies “three interwoven” themes that the authors detailed in their book. “First,” Harrop writes, there is
a detailed dissection (perhaps "vivisection" would be more appropriate) of the Israeli government's systematic discrimination against the Arab citizens of East Jerusalem, a process which began immediately in June 1967 and (notwithstanding an elaborate public relations campaign to the contrary) continues to the present day.

“Second,” continues Harrop, there is “an iconoclastic analysis of the historic role played by Teddy Kollek, an analysis which is hard-edged yet not unsympathetic, a psychological study of a larger-than-life politician who was disingenuous despite himself.” The former ambassador then points to the third theme, which he says, is “written more in sorrow than in anger….” This is “a discussion of the great harm Israeli policy has done to Israel's own interests…along with speculation as to how an honest attempt to incorporate the Arab population into Israeli Jerusalem might have eased the difficult passage toward a settlement.”
Chesin, Hutman and Melamed document the “discriminatory zoning provisions, strict limits on construction of new Arab housing, denial of basic municipal services (water, sanitation, electricity, trash collection, road pavement and maintenance, parks and sports facilities, adequate schools) to Arab areas, subsidization of housing for Jewish families in East Jerusalem, expropriation of Arab land (23,378 dunams -- about 5800 acres -- over 25 years) for construction of nine Jewish neighborhoods to close the ring around Arab Jerusalem, and the construction of housing units in the West Bank to lure Arab residents out of the city.” These techniques implemented Israel’s true policies towards the Palestinians of the West Bank and Israel, despite the fact that “Israelis generally, and certainly Mayor Kollek, understood the political importance of presenting their harsh policies in a more humane and gentle light.” Harrop concurs with the authors that “Kollek was a master at persuading visitors to Jerusalem, and the international public as a whole, that his government was acting with enlightenment and compassion toward the Arabs of East Jerusalem.” He writes,
Kollek well understood the risks Israel ran by not doing more to improve the Arab standard of living (the intifada was especially virulent in Jerusalem). His repeated but unsuccessful efforts to obtain more resources for East Jerusalem from a string of Israeli prime ministers -- Meir, Begin, Peres, Shamir, Rabin, -- were quite authentic and even heartfelt, as was his creation and promotion of the international Jerusalem Fund for the betterment of the entire city. …This public persona of the mayor is well-known and admired.

The ambassador continues,

The authors of this book, however, reveal a different and darker side: Kollek was the architect and executive of the policy to shift Jewish population into East Jerusalem. Perhaps more tellingly, the reason he was driven to seek special supplementary funding to support municipal programs in East Jerusalem was that he failed to allocate any reasonable share of his regular budget to the Arab neighborhoods. A friend of Kollek's, former Foreign Ministry Director General Reuven Merhav, undertook a historical analysis of the city budget in 1990 on the mayor's behalf. After overcoming the resistance and dissimulation he encountered from city government officials, Merhav assembled the data and found that, while the Palestinians comprised 28 percent of the population of Jerusalem, they had been allocated only 2 to 12 percent of the budgets of the various municipal departments. While there is some ambiguity as to whether Kollek had been fully aware of the severity of this discrepancy, the report was so damning of the mayor's administration that it was quietly shelved.

Reflecting on the legacy of Israeli rule over East Jerusalem, he concludes,

The authors believe that Israel has tragically mismanaged the governance of Jerusalem and, by demeaning the lives of its Arab citizens, has made a lasting resolution of the conflict between Arabs and Jews far more difficult. … The intensity and passion of the three Israeli Jewish authors, and perhaps also their chagrin at their own role in the story, waves like a flag in the final paragraph:
“Do not believe the propaganda – the rosy picture Israel tries to show the world of life in Jerusalem since the 1967 reunification. Israel has treated the Palestinians of Jerusalem terribly. As a matter of policy, it has forced many of them from their homes and stripped them of their land, all the while lying to them and deceiving them and the world about its honorable intentions. And what makes all this so much more inexcusable is that there was no reason for it. Governing Jerusalem properly would not have jeopardized Israel's claim to the city. Indeed, it likely would have eased the growing conflict over Jerusalem's future. That massive error in judgment, we believe, is the tragedy of Israel's rule in East Jerusalem since 1967.”

In an article published by the History News Network blog on April 5, 2010, Professor Dror Wahrman of Indiana University discussed the issues relating to the controversy that scuttled the “proximity talks” before they’d ever begun. Wahrman, grew up in the divided city, and worked as a tour guide there for many years, writes that he has a “deep investment in its 3000 years of history, with its rich cultural and religious associations.”
“Until recently,” he writes, that he
believed that, despite the overblown rhetoric that Jerusalem inevitably elicits, the actual political problem it posits can lend itself to a reasonable solution. That Jerusalem is not in truth “united” is what makes such a solution possible. It has clearly Jewish parts and clearly Arab parts, and those function well independently of each other. Jews and Arabs mingle but can also retreat to their own space. An operational modus vivendi, in other words, already exists. Jerusalem’s overload of holiness is centered in a very small area in and around the Old City: several reasonable solutions for this “holy basin” have been suggested, combining pragmatic arrangements on the ground with creative fudging of the ultimate sovereignty which can be left in the hands of God.

Since 1995, the year that Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin and future Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) published their proposal for sharing Jerusalem between Israel and the State of Palestine, there has been an elegantly simple solution that would allow both to claim the Holy City as their capital. Wahrman explains the concept for the shared capital.
And as for the symbols of real national sovereignty, if you actually mark on a map the Israeli “capitol hill,” that is the hill that houses the Knesset, the main Government Ministries and the Supreme Court, and then the Palestinian projected “capitol hill” in Abu Dis, a township on the Mount of Olives, you will discover that they are more or less equidistant from the holy places in the Old City. A perfect geographic basis for a balanced urban compromise.

Wahrman argues that “micro-geography” matters. By this he means that outside analysts who work with small-scale maps can never understand the real issues facing the Palestinians and Israelis as they try to sort out who will control what hill, valley, stream, or field adjacent to this or that village, city, house, or settlement. Only people who walk the perimeter of the wall through disputed neighborhoods in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, al-Azariya, Abu Tor, and Shaykh Jarrah can understand what is at stake in Jerusalem.
Walking through Wadi Fukin, Bittar, and countless other miniscule features of the Palestinian landscape, one realizes that architectural and agricultural features of Arab settlement in the rural areas of Palestine are quickly being covered in the debris, wastewater runoff, and mud generated by construction—both Israeli and Palestinian—throughout the West Bank. This development is political because it relates to both sides’ claims to have the right to decide the future of the land. In the rush to make “facts on the ground,” historic preservation of the rural and urban heritage of the Holy Land is left in the dust.
Thus, while the rest of the world is now somewhat aware of the complexities that Jerusalem and its hinterlands—which includes the villages surrounding Jerusalem on the West Bank—they still do not have the information that they need to follow the news. There has been a lot of dissimulation and disingenuousness about these issues over the past month. Israeli municipal planners have had detailed, large scale maps showing precisely where they planned to build settlements for over thirty years. Thus, while Jerusalem’s fate has recently grabbed the headlines again, precious little micro-geography has been taught about what the issues are. While Vice President Joe Biden and George Mitchell met with Abu Mazen, President of Palestine, and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were meeting to start those “Proximity Talks” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu, vowed to continue Israeli building projects in the eternal Jewish capital, as they have since 1967, claiming, as Professor Wahrman put it, “not to understand what all the fuss is about.” He writes,
These seemingly clear-cut statements actually mask much confusion and misinformation. Most people outside Israel/Palestine, and even many Israelis, do not actually understand the often complicated micro-geography of what is happening on the ground. But in this case, the micro matters. It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and thus to a large extent the future of American relations with the Islamic world, depend on the proper understanding of local Jerusalemite geography.

He then describes the consequences of Israeli policy in the city over the past thirty-three years. Professor

In my lectures to students taking my course on the Arab-Israel Conflict, we spend a great deal of time learning to define what we mean by “Jerusalem”? This is, as Professor Wahrman says, “Not as obvious a question as it sounds.” We are not talking about the mile square Old City, surrounded by the Ottoman walls built by Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. Professor Wahrman explains:
When Israel conquered East Jerusalem from the Jordanians in 1967, it passed a law that unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem and reunited the divided city as its “eternal capital” [recognized by no sovereign country in the world]. Only that what was in fact annexed was a huge, sprawling area – 70 square kilometers! – that took a significant bite from the West Bank (The Jordanian East Jerusalem was only 6.4 square kilometers). Its meandering boundaries made little urban or geographical sense: the only clear logic of the hastily drawn map was to annex maximum land and minimum Palestinians. And yet several villages, and even a large refugee camp, suddenly found themselves part of Jerusalem, to which they had never belonged before. And now, when Israelis are reaffirming their commitment to their eternal capital, much of that outpouring of devotion is actually directed at areas that have absolutely nothing to do with the historic or holy Jerusalem; a fact that is willfully suppressed by some and no longer known to many others.

“Furthermore: what is “Israeli construction in East Jerusalem,” the putative bone of contention?” asks Wahrman. “Once again,” he states, “the answer is far from unambiguous.” He explains:
Soon after the Six Day War, Israel began building a series of large neighborhoods beyond the 1948-1967 border (the ‘Green Line’). Some restored a long-standing Jewish presence that was cut short during the war of 1948: the Jewish Quarter in the Old City that was conquered by the Jordanians during the war and destroyed; the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, which actually remained in Israeli hands throughout this period, but as an isolated lifeless enclave. Some extended Jewish Jerusalem into new areas, which were either adjacent to pre-1967 Jewish neighborhoods or were on unoccupied hills further out: French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, Giloh. By the time the peace process began with the Oslo Accords in 1993, these were already substantial neighborhoods with tens of thousands of people living in them, and thus became an inevitable factor in the negotiations. Few, even on the Palestinian side, expected these post-1967 Israeli neighborhoods to be evacuated. This was the so-called “Consensus” – a loaded reified term in Israeli politics – that Netanyahu and the Israeli government now invoke whenever they insist that nothing has changed in 43 years of Israeli government policy in Jerusalem. Which is, in fact, an utter misrepresentation. Neither of the recent storms about Israeli construction in East Jerusalem is part of the urban reality encompassed in the “Consensus.”

For example, he says,
Take Ramat Shlomo, the neighborhood in which an expansion of 1600 units was approved while Joe Biden was in Israel, a public snub that triggered the present storm over Jerusalem. In 1993 this spot was a barren hill. There were no buildings on it, no inhabitants, nothing. It was a hill, moreover, that was part of the contiguous section of East Jerusalem which was likely to revert back to the Palestinian side in any plausible geographic enactment of a two-state solution with Jerusalem as capital to both. Ramat Shlomo, like Har Homa, which was a major project of Netanyahu’s first government in the late 1990s, were last-ditch efforts to alter the map after negotiations had begun. However their fate is decided now, it is at least questionable whether they should unthinkingly merit the same status in negotiations as those neighborhoods that had already been in place in 1993, at the ostensible beginning of the peace process. But since these are neighborhoods in which most Israelis have never set foot, let alone foreigners, they are largely unaware of these distinctions. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are painfully aware of them. Their projected share of the city is a moving target, and one that is continually shrinking.

He then describes what he calls the recent, “even more pernicious,” “second eye of the storm.”
To understand the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, you really have to go there. You have to see for yourself these few buildings that have recently been taken over by Jewish settlers in the middle of a dense Palestinian neighborhood. The houses are literally wrapped in Israeli flags. Everything about them cries provocation. The Palestinian families that lived in them until their evacuation several months ago are now living in makeshift encampments opposite their former houses. Israeli police and military are present in large numbers. They ensure the safety of the settlers. They harass – sometimes violently – the weekly demonstrators, Israelis and Palestinians together, who every Friday march to protest this new outrage. But they do little to protect the Palestinian neighbors from the heckling and even violence of the newcomers. Sheikh Jarrah also includes the Shepherd Hotel Compound, where the approval of twenty settler units was announced on the day Netanyahu was in Washington, and thus got some press attention.

Another trouble spot is the conflict over the area known as Silwan, where the ancient Siloam springs are located. This is an even more intractable conflict. Wahrman writes:

It is actually but one of several such projects recently gaining ground but not always noticed by the press, including the six-story “Beit Yehonatan” in the large Palestinian village of Silwan, and a new settlement in the Palestinian village E-Tur on top of the Mount of Olives. These are completely different types of construction projects. They are hardly a response to natural urban growth, like Ramat Shlomo or the other large neighborhoods. Rather, they are small Israeli beachheads in the middle of well established and densely built Palestinian neighborhoods. They are ideologically driven and populated by settlers of the most aggressive type, whose behavior grates even many in the broader settler communities (Recently the small settler community in Sheikh Jarrah was filmed singing songs of praise for Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish terrorist who killed dozens of Muslims during prayer in Hebron in 1994; and singing so loudly that their Palestinian neighbors could not but hear every word). The goals of these small settler enclaves is to proclaim Jewish superiority everywhere, while disrupting the tissue of co-existence that depends on leaving Palestinians spaces of their own.

Israelis often protest Palestinian complaints that Israel really doesn’t want peace. Wahrman helps us to see why the Palestinians believe this.
In every case the government and the municipality – currently run by a right-wing mayor, Nir Barkat, who seems all too eager to stoke any fire that comes his way – put forth arguments that supposedly justify the invasion. Some are legal arguments about ownership, sometimes going back eighty years (as in the case of Sheikh Jarrah) and sometimes based on a recent purchase (as in the case of the Shepherd Hotel). Some are historical arguments, mobilizing traditional Jewish associations of those particular spots – partly true, partly invented or stretched – to buttress a claim from times immemorial. But the goal, the methods, and the consequences are always the same: an intrusive encroachment into Palestinian space, eyesore houses emblazoned with Israeli flags, aggressive settlers that often seek confrontation with the neighboring Palestinians, and a permanent disruptive presence of Israeli military and police that inevitably follow the settlers. That the legal argument is but a veneer is demonstrated by the fact that ever since the incongruous high-rise intrusion into the Palestinian village of Silwan, named by the settlers “Yehonatan House,” was declared by Israeli courts illegal and due for immediate demolition, Jerusalem’s mayor has openly defied this ruling.

Wahrman writes, “In terms of sheer damage to co-existence in a complicated city, therefore, twenty units in Sheikh Jarrah sow more immediate hatred than 1600 units in Ramat Shlomo.” And he is right. The propoganda value of such policies is great. Last fall, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation invited a 16-year old Muslim girl whose entire family had been evicted from their home and was now living in the street to speak at a conference on Arab-Jewish relations. They young girl described in great detail how she and her family lived their lives day-to-day, trying to go to school and work while living on the street. Anecdote upon anecdote builds up the dossier against Israel’s infringements upon the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Wahrman argues against the assertions of Ambassador Harrop and authors Chesin, Hutman and Melamed, writing,
To present such aggressive acts as a continuation of the policies of Israeli governments over 43 years is simply untrue. Until recently, Israeli governments carefully avoided such conflicts, and thus allowed Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Holy City to remain surprisingly resilient in the face of many challenges during the first generation after 1967. Efforts to disrupt this pattern began by individuals and small groups, often with private American funding. Their intensification over the last decade and a half has largely flown under the radar, despite being a development with momentous consequences (much greater, say, than those of the settlement ‘outposts’ that have received so much attention). Their protestations of innocence notwithstanding, the support for this game-changing policy from Netanyahu’s government together with the zealous mayor of Jerusalem is unprecedented.

Wahrman finds the current Israeli government to blame for the deterioration of Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s government is deliberately undermining this balance and rapidly changing the urban circumstances, thus rendering a compromise less and less likely. As it turns out, counter to Netanyahu’s claims, these actions are not in the Israeli vaunted “Consensus.” Even at this juncture when the left in Israel is unprecedently [sic] weak, many Israelis (42% according to a recent poll) oppose these new Israeli policies and support a complete freeze of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The U.S. should not let manipulative rhetoric about the eternal city and 3000 years of history obfuscate the actual intersection of historical and geographic facts, nor stand in the way of the policy conclusions that must be drawn from them.

However, taking the larger view, which includes not only the municipality of Jerusalem, but the issue of settlements and Israeli “heritage sites” in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, and the entire course of the conflict, it is not only the Jerusalem municipality or Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians which is to blame for the current impasse.
The Palestinians’ continued willingness to support violent action against Israel, and their continued hope for a one state solution, has resulted, contrary to all reason, to support for HAMAS. Emboldened by its defeat of FATAH in Gaza in 2007, and backed by an extraordinarily aggressive Iran, the maximalists again are threatening to lead the Palestinian remnant to their complete destruction. All attempts to convince the Palestinians to abandon jihadist ideology have failed, despite the fact that the Arab world is ready to accommodate Israel in the current Middle Eastern state system.
Recent calls for a bi-national, secular state instead of a two-state solution are distractions from the real issues at hand. Improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people, fostering the development of municipal and national government in Gaza and the West Bank, and fighting against Islamist opportunism are goals that can be achieved under the shadow of the Iranian threat. Only on the micro-level can political progress be made. The conflict has to become localized. Only by rejecting the regionalization of the political issues facing the Palestinian and Israeli conflict can the international threats on the macro-level be challenged.
The general squalor of the Muslim and Christian Quarters (including the Armenian Quarter) stands in contrast to the beautifully restored Jewish Quarter. The municipality should work with organizations seeking to preserve these monuments as a show of good faith before the radicals turn the city into a battleground. Perhaps Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, as part of a reconceptualized peace process, could work to restore the neglected Muslim neighborhoods and monuments of Jerusalem in a bid to fend off Hamas and Islamic Jihad as they seek to cash in on Muslim anger over this neglect. Israel and her international allies could urge UNESCO to move on Jordan's nomination of the Old City of Jerusalem as a World Heritage site, and invite international investment in the restoration of neglected treasures. Building a few playgrounds might prevent the march to making Jerusalem a battlefield once again. In 2009, the Palestinian academic, intellectual, and cultural communities attempted to celebrate Jerusalem’s Arab identity, but Israel frustrated these efforts by preventing the organizers from achieving their goals. A paradigm shift is needed to thwart the Islamist threat to Israel. Below are concrete steps towards localizing the conflict and to reinvigorate the peace process that could break the cycle of despair now characterizing the region within the parameters of the Beillin-Abu Mazen plan of 1995.

Immediate Steps Within the Realm of Realpolitik and Reason: Localize Conflict Management and Resolution
1. Establish embassies in West and East Jerusalem
All states having diplomatic relations with Israel should immediately establish embassies in Israel and Palestine.
Arab League states establish embassies in East and West Jerusalem.
Use these embassies to kick start economic development and housing in various neighborhoods.
2. Latin Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and other Christian landowners in Palestine/Israel to cooperate by developing local community development boards.
3) UNESCO overseas restoration and preservation of Islamic monuments and archeological sites.
Turkey to cooperate with Israel and Palestine with historical preservation projects.
4) Educational programs for Palestinian and Israeli students focusing on holy sites throughout the land.
Educational institutions currently training tour guides to spearhead these efforts, emphasizing change and continuity over time.
5) Truth and Reconciliation commissions to document and memorialize history. Institutions of higher learning to cooperate with education ministries.
6) UNRWA to close refugee camps throughout the Middle East.
Repatriate and reimburse Arab and Jewish refugees according their wishes—return, compensation, or memorials—on a case-by-case basis.

With my apologies for the formatting!