During a tempestuous Tisha B’av fast day, which saw masked Palestinian rioters clash with police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, an Arab Knesset lawmaker took to the airwaves Sunday to rebuff claims that Jews have any historic connection to the flash point holy site.
MK Masud Ganaim of the Joint (Arab) List party rejected the notion that a Jewish temple had ever existed at the site, and blamed the disturbances on Israeli “provocations.”
“Historically, religiously, it is a Muslim site, period,” Ganaim told Army radio.
“The State of Israel knows that Jews and Israel have no legitimacy to the site, except for their legitimacy as an occupier — a legitimacy [won] by force,” he said.
He spoke several hours after riots on the Mount that were allegedly sparked by inflammatory statements from a Jewish woman who was filmed saying that “Muhammad was a pig.” A mob of Palestinian rioters barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
Ganaim blamed the violence at the site on a visit that day by hundreds of Jews, among them Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home party).
“What Minister Ariel did is a provocation; he entered [the compound] provocatively,” Ganaim said, adding that “he should have been satisfied with being nearby, at the Western Wall,” which is located beneath the Temple Mount.
“I think that my presence there [on the mount] as an Arab-Muslim Knesset member is fine, it’s natural, and I believe that the Al Aqsa mosque is a holy place for Muslims, period,” he said.
When asked if a Jewish temple ever existed at the site, Ganaim said, “No, no.”
“As a history teacher I know this… Perhaps it is known [that there was a temple somewhere], but not there, not there. You are welcome to go look for the Temple in a different place, at a different time,” Ganaim said.
The Temple Mount is considered Judaism’s holiest site, but according to most rabbinic schools of thought, Jews are forbidden by Jewish law from visiting the site, which is administered under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities, or Muslim trust. Still, some Jews do enter the site, although they are forbidden from praying there by Israeli authorities.
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that the Second Temple stood at the site until its destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE. The fast of Tisha B’av commemorates the destruction of the first and second temples.