History has always been written by the winners, but we’ve been reminded recently that it can be rewritten by anyone.
It’s a nasty habit that has to stop if we’re ever to see anything resembling peace in the Middle East.
Palestinian leaders, from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the current grand mufti of Jerusalem, like to pretend the Temple Mount never was the site of a Jewish Temple, let alone two of them.
That lie is poisonous. It leads young and gullible Muslims to believe that Israel, Jews and the West are trying to con them out of their third-holiest site, Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), by “pretending” the site is the holiest in Judaism.
That lie motivates those young people to riot and to kill.
That lie undermines what little trust exists between Israelis and Palestinians.
It is inexplicable that The New York Times, as we discussed recently, nurtured that lie by twisting historians’ words to make it appear that uncertainty over the exact location of the Temple on the Mount is actually uncertainty about the existence of any Temple there.
It is all too explicable but nonetheless despicable that the lie spread to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which considered a resolution declaring the Western Wall — known to be part of the expanded platform Herod built to support the renovated, upgraded Second Temple — to be a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex and thus a Muslim cultural artifact.
UNESCO dropped that declaration but did pass a resolution Oct. 21 that condemned nonexistent Israeli aggressions against Muslim freedom of worship and access to Al-Aqsa. That resolution itself rests on a bed of lies, but at least those lies fall in the realm of political debate and propaganda about the present, when Muslims are the only people allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, which has roughly 200 Muslim visitors for every Jewish visitor.
Alas, the crimes against history are not limited to the Palestinian side.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t resist one-upping Abbas and Co. in the game of historical revisionism. Speaking to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem the day before UNESCO voted on its anti-Israel resolution, Netanyahu said Adolf Hitler planned only to expel the Jews from Europe until Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini complained in a meeting in 1941 that such a policy would simply drive the Jews to Palestine.
Instead, the mufti urged Hitler to “burn them,” according to Netanyahu’s telling.
In other words, the prime minister shifted the blame for the Holocaust to the mufti from Hitler, who never made any secret of his desire to destroy the Jews and sanctioned mass killings in Ukraine before meeting with the mufti.
Netanyahu thus committed a double crime: He created a less evil version of Hitler, and he drew attention away from the mufti’s real hatred of Jews and support for the Holocaust. He also put himself and Israel on the diplomatic defensive at a time when Israel should be unchallenged atop the moral high ground amid the random Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.
When two peoples have millennia-old claims to the same real estate, it’s hard to resist twisting history to fit one side’s narrative. But it’s also long past time for Israelis and Palestinians to turn from the past to focus on a present and a future when both exist and neither is going away.