Palestinians pull claim to Western Wall after U.S. State Department objects

December 2, 2010

Following condemnation from the U.S. State Department and others, the
Palestinian government has pulled a report stating that Jews have no
historic connection to the Western Wall.

The study, which was
prepared by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a well-known writer and official with the
Palestinian Ministry of Information, stated that the Western Wall—the
holiest site in Judaism—is actually part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex,
Islam's third holiest site.

On November 30, the U.S. State
Department called the report "factually incorrect, insensitive and
highly pro­vocative." A State Department spokes­man said his agency had
"repeatedly" told the Palestinian Authority to "consistently combat all
forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish
connections to the land."

For years, Palestinian officials have
attempted to claim sole rights over traditionally Jewish holy sites in
East Jerusalem and the West Bank, both of which Israel captured during
the 1967 Middle East War.

To the consternation of Jews around the
world, Palestinian leaders recently persuaded UNESCO to declare two
sites that Jews revere as the burial places of biblical patriarchs and
matriarchs in Hebron and Bethlehem as protected Palestinian sites.

Israeli
prime minister Benjamin Netan­yahu urged Palestinian president Mahmoud
Abbas on December 1 to recognize Jewish religious and historical ties to
the Holy Land. "Turn to your people and tell them: 'There is a Jewish
people here. They have been living here for close to 4,000 years. We
recognize this people. We recognize their historic connection to this
land and this city.'"

Although unnamed sources in the Palestinian Information Ministry told the Jerusalem Post that hackers had removed the study from an official website, an unnamed Palestinian official told the Washington Post that the ministry decided to pull it "because it does not reflect our position."

Taha
told the Associated Press on December 1 that "facts" back his study.
"I'm not against the Jews," Taha said. "The research says it's for
Muslims, not for Jews."  —RNS