Whose Holy Sites are Under Attack in Jerusalem?
To hear Mahmoud Abbas tell it, Al-Aqsa Mosque -- Islam's third holiest shrine -- is under systematic attack by Israel. And not only Al-Aqsa, which sits atop Temple Mount, but all other Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Such was the alarm sounded by the Palestinian leader at last week's Arab League summit. In return, Arab leaders pledged a $1 billion fund to protect "Arab East Jerusalem."
Abbas followed up this Sunday during a trip to Amman, where he and King Abdullah signed an agreement to protect holy sites in Jerusalem. Again, Al-Aqsa was depicted as a prime target of Israeli attacks. But for good measure, the two leaders also professed to become protectors of all Muslim and Christian shrines in Jerusalem.
Not only was all this a bogus concoction since Al-Aqsa and all other religious shrines in Jerusalem remain open and under full Israeli protection. But conspicuously missing from all these supposedly threatened targets were Jewish holy sites in Israel's capital, where Temple Mount and the Western Wall are Judaism's most sacred places.
Somehow it escaped the attention of Abbas and King Abdullah that, if they really were sincere about protecting all sacred sites in Jerusalem, the only actually vulnerable shrines in Jerusalem and adjoining West Bank are Jewish ones.
As if to underscore this fact, while Abbas and King Abdullah were huddling in Amman to meet nonexistent threats to Christian and Muslim shrines, Palestinian youths were hurling rocks at Israeli visitors on Temple Mount. The stone-throwing barrage failed in its objective to deny Jews access to Judaism's holiest site. Israeli police saw to that.
But some intrepid journalist ought to straighten out King Abdullah and Abbas about who really respects sacred ground -- and who doesn't.
When the monarch's father was on the Hashemite throne, Jordan seized control of East Jerusalem, including Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Under Jordanian rule, scores of synagogues in Old Jerusalem were vandalized and destroyed. Quite a contrast with this year's Good Friday rites as Christian pilgrims from near and far peaceably walked along Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is said to have been crucified. Since Israel seized East Jerusalem in 1967, this has been common practice during every Easter holiday.
In sharp contrast, the total disregard of Jewish religious sensibilities by Arabs and their leaders continues to this very day. Under Abbas' and the Palestinian Authority's sway in the West Bank, Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and Joseph's Tomb in Nablus have become regular targets of Palestinian vandals.
But somehow this doesn't seem to bother Abbas in the least.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers