Rain clouds are seen over the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City October 30, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Challenging Arab myths about Jerusalem

Gershon Baskin, a sincere Anglo-Israeli, has provided reasons for the Palestinian demand for Jerusalem to be the Capital of a Palestinian State.

Jerusalem is the unique capital of the Jewish state. Palestinian demands to proclaim Jerusalem their capital, entirely or partly, are spurious. I believe that the only reason that Palestinians insist on this is to delegitimize Jewish rights to our 3,000 year old capital and our country. My argument: the Palestinians have no claim to Jerusalem as their capital other than their demand for it to be so, and to eventually usurp Israel.

Other than their insistence, one rarely hears of any reasons for the Palestinian demand. Recently, an uber-liberal Israeli journalist, Gershon Baskin, has provided some in his article “Encountering Peace: Negotiating Jerusalem, negotiating peace,” available on his website. Baskin, a sincere Anglo-Israeli (immigrant from an English-speaking country) and longtime “peace” advocate and activist, writes a weekly opinion column for the Jerusalem Post.
Baskin writes:

“The first direction of Muslim prayer was Jerusalem, but later changed to Mecca.”

This is correct, but relatively unimportant. In 613 CE, when Mohammed first began to proselytize his new religion of Islam in the Arabian peninsula, the Jews were the only group of tribes in the vicinity who were not pagans. At that time there were many Jews in the Hejaz region, particularly in the vicinity of Medina. Mohammed naturally proselytized the Jews first, proclaiming that he was the last prophet, superseding Moses (and Jesus).

Jerusalem, long a pilgrimage site for both Jews and Christians, was the logical choice for Mohammed to elevate by directing prayer there, in the hope that this would attract Jewish proselytes. But the Jews rejected Mohammed, so he changed tactics, attacking the unbelievers and redirecting prayer towards Mecca, his birthplace. Mecca was already a venerable pilgrimage site containing the Kaaba, the cubic-shaped structure supposedly built by Adam according to a divine plan, later rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael.


“It is from Jerusalem where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven to receive the Quran. Jerusalem is mentioned twice in the Quran as Al Aqsa – the distant mosque and Beit al Maqdas (the holy house), in reference to the Holy Temple.”

This assertion is hotly disputed. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran, in contrast to the Bible, where it is named more than 600 times. But some Muslim authorities insist that the “furthest mosque” is the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. However, this mosque was built in 715, a century after Mohammed’s death, and purposely given its name, meaning “furthest mosque” in Arabic.

Other Muslim authorities maintain that the furthest mosque pertains to a mosque outside of Mecca. Some others proclaim that Solomon’s Temple was the furthest mosque, while former Palestinian president Yassir Arafat and current president Mahmoud Abbas have insisted that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (and no Jews either). Clearly, the Muslims are of different minds on the issue and Mohammed’s ascension from Jerusalem is hardly convincing, except for true believers.


“Jerusalem is the third most holy city in the world for Muslims and according to their tradition, the obligation of Haj (pilgrimage) is not complete until after visiting Mecca and Medina, the pilgrim completes the journey with a visit to Jerusalem.”

Yes, Jerusalem is the third holiest Muslim city, because that’s what the Muslims believe. But why does that qualify Jerusalem to be capital of Palestine? Is either Mecca, the holiest city, or Medina, the second holiest, the capital of Saudi Arabia? No, despite Mecca and Medina’s status, the Saudi capital is Riyadh.

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, in his excellent article The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem, maintains that Jerusalem only has importance in the Muslim world when infidels, Jewish or Christian, control it. Pipe explains, “No foreign Arab leader came to Jerusalem during the nineteen years when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, and King Husayn (r. 1952-99) himself only rarely visited. King Faysal of Saudi Arabia spoke often after 1967 of his yearning to pray in Jerusalem, yet he appears never to have bothered to pray there when he had the chance. Perhaps most remarkable is that the PLO’s founding document, the Palestinian National Covenant of 1964, does not once mention Jerusalem or even allude to it.”


“Jerusalem is the most segregated city in the world. Israelis and Palestinians dwell in separate parts of the city.”

This is a ridiculous assertion, the same class as “Gaza is the world’s most densely populated place.” Cities all around the world with diverse populations have neighborhoods dominated by certain ethnic groups. It’s natural. Toronto is a prime example, with a mosaic of cultural neighborhoods stretched throughout the city. Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx offer similar examples.

If Jerusalem were a segregated city, you wouldn’t see Jews and Muslims together in shopping malls, supermarkets, stores, businesses and movie theaters. You wouldn’t see Arabs working together in all of the above. You wouldn’t see Arab doctors, nurses, and pharmacists in hospitals and drug stores. Etc., etc., etc.

However, in Jerusalem, when Jews live in predominantly Arab neighborhoods, their lives are endangered. Not so for Arabs. For example, there is a minority of Arabs living in the Jewish Quarter, but when Jordan occupied the Old City of Jerusalem, all Jews were banned and synagogues were demolished. If Palestine becomes a state, it will be judenrein, according to President Abbas. Which is preferable, ethnically-oriented neighborhoods or Jew-free countries?

Jerusalem is not the city with the largest Palestinian population, nor is it a city that was ever an Arab capital. It has been largely ignored by the Muslims, who have always treated it as a backwater.

Once there was an Arab capital near here, but it was in Ramla, not in Jerusalem. “According to historical sources, Ramla was founded at the beginning of the 8th century by the Umayyad Calif Suleiman ibn Abd el-Malik. It served as the Umayyad and Abbasid capital of the Province of Palestine (Jund Filistin), and the seat of Arab governors of the province in the 8th and 9th centuries. In the 14th century, Ramla regained importance for a short time as the provincial capital of the Mamluks.” (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

The real reason that Palestinians insist that Jerusalem must be their capital city is to delegitimize the Jewish history of Jerusalem, which dates back 3,000 years, and by extension to erase the Jewish connection to all of Israel. We can understand the Arabs’ wish to supplant the Jews in our homeland, but that the world community supports them in their racist plan is immoral and disheartening. Thanks in part to the sincere but misdirected efforts of “peace” advocates such as Gershon Baskin, negotiations are now under way to set permanent borders between Israelis and Palestinians based on the fictitious “1967 borders” and to designate Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine. My prediction is that these talks will fail.


Latest posts by Steve Kramer (see all)