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Dividing Mecca
Israel - Middle East
Friday, March 23, 2012
Alf Cengia

Now there’s a novel idea!  You might even call it a paradigm shift in global good will.  Stay with me here...

Let’s split the city of Mecca up among the three monotheistic faiths.  After all, we do believe in the same God – right?  Let’s all share the holy terrain – maybe build a few churches and synagogues alongside the mosques.

Let’s have some Christian church bells ringing with the Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) along with some interfaith dialogue as we decide who gets what part of Mecca.  We might even go on an exciting archeological dig to see what kind of early Christian (or other) artifacts we could find buried around and under the Ka’ba.

Wouldn’t that be fun?  Well...maybe not.

On second thoughts, scratch that idea.  Somehow, I don’t think the current tenants would be very amused despite their reputation for peace and tolerance.  What about Vatican City and all the neat stuff stored in the archives?  Scratch that as well.  Something tells me the Vatican wouldn’t jump into the Ecumenical city-dividing spirit either.

Yet apparently a lot of people are quite keen to get into the real estate sub-division business when they’re dealing with someone else’s property. And we all know where I’m heading with this.

Of course the Vatican has had its eyes on several sites in Israel and Jerusalem for decades.  One of those sites, for example, is King David’s tomb.  But more significantly, in December 2011 Arutz Sheva quoted Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Inter-religious Dialogue as saying:

“There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved. The part of Jerusalem within the walls – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally-guaranteed statute”. (Emphasis mine)

In Jerusalem: The Heart & Soul of the Conflict Yedidya Atlas wrote that Quatar hosted a conference called “International Conference for the Defence of Occupied Jerusalem.”.  He noted that they convened to discuss the “legal status of Jerusalem before and after the Israeli occupation, the reality and the future of Jerusalem under occupation, and the status of the holy places under international law.”

He also rightly noted that: “The real reason, the Islamic reason, was to perpetuate the lie that Jerusalem is not Jewish.”

It should be common knowledge by now – but worth repeating - that while the word “Jerusalem” is mentioned 669 times in the Tanach (Old Testament) it appears zip times in the Koran.  Muhammad never visited Jerusalem and there was no Mosque built there until “682 CE”.

The Temple Mount site became desolate until the Jews came pouring back into the land and Israel regained control of Jerusalem.  As Atlas points out, “The reason that Jerusalem is so important to Muslims is because it actually is important to the Jews.”

Yet aside from the 669 hits for “Jerusalem”, if we plug “Zion” into our Bible database search engine we get another 155 hits for the Tanach. The very first hit in 2 Sam 5:7 calls Zion, the city of David.  Samuel predates Muhammad, the Koran and Islam by some 1500 years.  Interestingly, the majority of hits for “Zion” come from Psalms and the prophetic works of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.

However, none of these statistics matter in the slightest to those want a slice of Jerusalem.  Moreover, Zion is cast as a distasteful word uttered too often by the course lips of the pro-Israel camp.  The word “Zion” is linked to racism, anti-democracy and, hence, is “anti-Palestinian”.

In a recent lecture on Christian Zionism delivered at Cairo Cathedral, Stephen Sizer stated that:

“Greater Israel can succeed in being a democracy should it incorporate the inhabitants of Palestine as full citizens with equal rights, if it gives up its Jewish nature. Or, Israel can remain a Jewish colonial state, but only at the expense of giving up its democratic nature.” (Emphasis mine)

It’s a sad irony - if not a total contradiction - to Sizer’s comments, that non-Jewish Arab-Muslim Israeli citizens enjoy roles in the Israeli parliament.  That concept is an anomaly in the Middle East region where non-Muslim government officials do not exist under Islamic regimes.  But the reference to “Jewish nature” is something else.

In his contribution to the book “Those Who Forget The Past – The Question of Anti-Semitism” (pp 422-437) Jonathon Freedland struggled with the question – Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?  He tries hard to be fair and impartial almost to the point of being apologetic in favor of the anti-Zionist claims.

Paradoxically, he cites former Palestinian-Israeli member of Knesset, Azmi Bishara as an example as one who couldn’t legitimately be labeled as anti-Semitic, despite his criticism of Israel as a “Jewish ethnic state”.  Bishara’s argument against ethnic Jewishness in Israel briefly goes something like this:

In other nations, a migrant or refugee has the right to be become full citizens and acknowledged as such i.e. Americans, British, Australians and Canadians etc. However, “Israel’s non-Jewish citizens cannot join the Jewish majority...”

On the surface, Bishara’s argument sounds reasonable.  Yet we should remind ourselves that non-Jewish citizens of Israel become full citizens with all the privileges.  Yet, unlike America, Britain etc, the term Jew is uniquely linked to Israel’s patriarchs and the bloodline.  There is no Australian, French or American patriarch.  There’s nothing racist to it.

Ironically, in 2009 Bishara made this controversial statement:

“Well, I don't think there is a Palestinian Nation at all. I think there is an Arab Nation, I always thought so and I didn't change my mind. I don't think there is a Palestinian Nation, I think it's a Colonial invention Palestinian Nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did it come from? What I think -- there is an Arab Nation. I never turned to be a Palestinian Nationalist, despite my decisive struggle against the Occupation. I think that until the end of the 19TH century, Palestine was the South of Great Syria.”

We forget why modern Israel was born and the long history of tragic events that led to that rebirth.  For hundreds of years the Jews were killed, persecuted, dispossessed of rights to their land and chased out of many countries.  All through that they maintained their unique identity and the memory of Zion.  Now they have a nation where that identity can be preserved.

Yet people still insist on expurgating the word “Jew” from the land and even Jesus Christ Himself.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal exemplifies the anti-Zionist mentality.  He has referred to Jesus as the “Palestinian prince of hope and peace...” (Emphasis mine). Furthermore, the Vatican synod of 2010 stated that, “We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people.”

Call it any name you feel comfortable with but it plainly smells anti-Jewish to me.

Patriarch Fouad Twal should be familiar with Revelation 5:5.  That would be where Christ is called the Lion from the tribe of Judah – not Palestine.  And we all know what lions do.

Finally, just between you, me and Zechariah 14, I’d feel a heckuva lot more comfortable dividing Mecca than touching Jerusalem.

About Alf Cengia

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