Excerpts from the weekly Friday sermon delivered by Palestinian Authority [PA] appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine", Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 11, 1997.
"Oh Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews ...
"Allah will paint the White House black! Clinton is fulfilling his father's will to identify with Israel ...
"The Muslims say to Britain, to France and to all the infidel nations that Jerusalem is Arab. We shall not respect anyone else's wishes regarding her. The only relevant party is the Islamic nation, which will not allow infidel nations to interfere ...
"The homes the Jews are building will become Arab property, with Allah's help ...
"Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophet against the colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs .... Forgive us, Muhamad, for the acts of these sons of monkeys and pigs, who sought to harm your sanctity."
Controversy Sells: Jerusalem's Hasmonean Tunnel a Hot Tourist Spot
Nearly 10 months after Palestinians waged a bloody campaign against Israel for opening the Hasmonean exit to Jerusalem's Western Wall tunnel, the site has become one of the country's hottest tourist attractions for Jews, Christians and, yes, Arabs. Visitors can't help but notice the obvious:
"People are seeing for themselves that the Palestinian claim (that the Hasmonean tunnel goes beneath the Temple Mount, home to Muslim and Jewish holy sites) does not hold water anymore," said Arik Bar Chen, head of Israel's foreign press department who occasionally takes diplomats and journalists on tours of the tunnel. "Nobody's claiming anymore that it goes under the Temple Mount."
Still, many in the Palestinian establishment refuse to acknowledge this publicly, including the Islamic Wakf in eastern Jerusalem, which warned Israel that the opening would spur violence. "The tunnel was built on the blood of Arabs and Muslims and our rights," Wakf director Adnan Husseini told the Middle East News Service on July 11. "The file (on this issue) is still open."
Several Israeli guards currently man the Hasmonean exit on the Via Dolorosa, but mainly for show. The tunnel today is mobbed only by tourists. There has been no violence here since last September, when the opening sparked riots that killed 15 Israelis and 70 Palestinians in the most heated battles since the Intifada.
"The Palestinians were picking at straws at the time, searching for any cause to get the people behind the flag," said Bar Chen.
Based on misinformation regarding the tunnel's proximity to the Temple Mount - spread by the Palestinian Authority and fanned by erroneous news media reporting - the tunnel opening became the last straw at a time of growing frustration amongst Palestinians towards the stalled peace process. What started with Arab youths hurling stones off the Temple Mount at Jews praying at the Western Wall turned to bloodshed as PA police opened fire on Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Fifteen (Israeli) boys died, and for what?" asked Fegi Kahane, who has led tours through the Western Wall tunnels since the mid-1980s. "Fabrications and terrible lies." After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel began work on the tunnel to expose the western retaining wall to the Second Temple. Only about 20 percent of the Western Wall, 67 meters, is visible from the Western Wall Plaza. A single tunnel entrance was opened beside the plaza in 1985.
In 1988, the government opened an exit through the Hasmonean tunnel in the Muslim Quarter that was closed one hour later due to Arab rioting. With the new exit, visitors no longer have to double back to the plaza after reaching the end.
"Three to four times as many tourists use the tunnel today," said Arye Banner, an official with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, responsible for the tourist sites in the Old City. He has taken scores of foreign diplomats through the tunnel since September.
Ironically, in February 1996, Sheikh Abdel Azzim Salhab, head of the Islamic Wakf, warned that: "The opening of such a tunnel will lead to confrontations and disturbances which will severely hurt the city's economy ...."
Now, waiting up to four months to get a ticket, more than 1,000 people view the tunnel each day, paying about $13 for a guided tour. Demand is so high that the tunnel is often kept open until midnight, with groups of 30 shuttled along the route every 20 minutes. While the majority are Jewish, Banner says that Palestinians and visitors from Arab countries come every day.
"The new exit has been good for everyone - good for us, good for visitors who want to touch history and good for (Palestinians) who work and live there," added Banner.
Jerry Dheodorie, an agent with Lawrence Tours in eastern Jerusalem who books tunnel tours for primarily Arabs, says the situation is less than cordial. A group of his Arab friends, who bought tickets, were recently turned away for refusing to wear kippas, he claimed. "I doubt that they require non-Arabs to wear kippas," he said.
Banner denies that anyone has been refused entry. "We ask everyone to out on a kippah, but no one will tell them to leave if they don't wear one," he said.
Local Arab merchants vigorously deny that they have benefited from the increased traffic, claiming that guides swiftly usher tourists back to the Jewish Quarter.
Old City resident Barnea Selavan, who led the first tour through the exit last September, is an exception. Running tours every Friday, he directs his groups to a nearby refreshment-souvenir store called "Step Back in Time 2000 Years," run by an Arab friend named Mike.
Mike complains that they buy nothing but Cokes. The dozen or so adjacent shopkeepers, who striked for two weeks in September to protest the tunnel opening, claim they too have suffered since September.
"No tourists exit the tunnel except the Jews, and they don't buy from Arabs," said the owner of the Via Dolorosa Souvenir Shop, who sells crosses, kippas and turbins.
According to Selavan, while tension over the tunnel has eased, rage is rising in the Old City amongst Arab residents. In recent weeks, he said, Arabs have been intentionally "bumping into Jews" and "casing" the Western Wall Plaza as if they are preparing for violence.
Another Arab merchant near the new exit, fuming over the tunnel opening and the Israeli actions, warns: "There is a big war gonna happen and I pray for a big war. That's the only way to banish them."
Now the peace process is stalled again. With the tunnel controversy apparently cleared, Palestinians are focusing their attention on other flash points - Har Homa and Hebron.
Israel's 1967 Close Call
Six weeks after the Six Day War a U.S. - U.S.S.R. resolution concerning the peace was rejected by the Arabs, thus saving Israel from a political disaster potentially undoing the military victory.
Israel's immediate post-war euphoria may well have contributed to the near disaster. It produced a Cabinet June 19 position furnished to the U.S., giving the Sinai to Egypt, most of the Golan to Syria and leaving West Bank issues to be negotiated.
Friday, July 20,1967 found Israel's Foreign Minister Abba Eban in "one of the most embarrassing discussions that ever took place between the United States and Israel" when Arthur Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., revealed the draft resolution he and Gromyko had agreed on. [All Abba Eban quotations are from his 1992 book "Personal Witness"]. All parties were to immediately withdraw their forces from territory occupied after June 4 and were to immediately acknowledge their right to maintain an independent national state and to live in peace and security.
Eban "vehemently" objected that this would give up all the positive results to date since "withdrawal of our forces was no longer to be conducted in peace with secure boundaries". The word "Israel" was not in the draft, "the Arab states would have no difficulty in making a general statement and then claiming its inapplicability to Israel". It was "Kosygin's call for unconditional withdrawal against which the U.S. and Israel had battled successfully in the United Nations ... . It was a terrifying moment for me when all of the gains of the June and July sessions appeared to be slipping away, not as a result of enemy pressure, but as a consequence of an American ambition to achieve an accord with Russia."
The Gromyko-Goldberg draft was the Soviet formula minus provisions for Israeli war reparations to the Arab states and condemnation of Israel, a compromise Secretary of State Dean Rusk, a few days before, characterized as trading "a horse for a rabbit". The horse was Israeli withdrawal and the rabbit what Israel would receive.
As Eban's meeting with Goldberg was about to end in an "indignant departure", Goldberg received the message that Egypt and Libya would not accept a resolution acknowledging the rights of all the states in the area.
While the Arab rejection of the proposed agreement was publicized, Israel's severe negative reaction was not reported. AIPAC's Near East Report (July 25,1967) had good coverage of the episode but reported not so much as a hint of Israel's unequivocal dislike of the resolution.
The 1968 American Jewish Yearbook reported in the same vein, adding that the "episode was to have one positive result: it demonstrated to Moscow that Washington did not intend to humiliate it ... but would support any constructive move to achieve a just peace in the Middle East." Because the Arabs rejected the proposal, it was not introduced. To give it and its rejection status, on August 30 Goldberg sent a letter to U.N.General Secretary U Thant advising that "while the U.S.S.R. was still saying harsh words about us in public, [it] joined with us for an acceptable resolution ... the readiness of the Soviet Union to propose it for favorable consideration by the Arab states was a very significant step though it was rejected."
Although the U.S. severely compromised itself in the joint proposal,the subsequent record does not suggest any amelioration of the Soviet's hard line in response.
Why the U.S. acceptance of a "horse for a rabbit" at Israel's expense? Why the continued Arab belligerency which preceded the war? Ironically, a key factor may have been Israel's euphoria inspired June 19 peace setting terms volunteering to give up much of its win: Syria would obtain the Golan to its international boundary and Egypt would recover Sinai; both subject to demilitarization. West Bank issues would be negotiated. On June 22 Eban presented Israel's proposal to Secretary Rusk who was pleased that Israel had formulated it without external pressure. Rusk promptly made it available to Egypt and Syria.
Also, the U.S. was optimistic about the U.S.S.R. and the Arabs. Both Israel and the U.S. underestimated Egypt's basic attitude. In his July 23 address at the 15th anniversary celebration of the Egyptian Revolution President Nasser charged that the Zionists and the big powers sought to "crush the Arab revolution, to do away with Arab aspirations and to place our countries within the sphere of their influence." On November 25,1967 he told his generals: "don't pay any attention to anything I may say in public about a peaceful solution."
Eban says the September 1,1967 Khartoum declaration providing for Israel no peace, no recognition, no negotiation, and no territorial bargaining was a "direct answer" to Israel's offer which Rusk had conveyed to Egypt and Syria. Still, Eban would find a domestic benefit in Israel's June 19 proposal seeing it as answering "Israeli liberals who fault the Eshkol government with insufficient zeal for peace." But that consideration had little impact since the proposal was kept "secret". There was no news coverage. Yitzhak Rabin first learned of it in 1968 from some Americans when he was ambassador.
Paradoxically, Israel's generous proposal may well have figured importantly in the willingness of the U.S. to accept the "horse for rabbit" exchange at the expense of Israel. Also, it signaled the Arabs that Israel was voluntarily ready to give up more than all the parties had expected -- a sign of weakness to be exploited. Peace making must be realistic, not euphoria-based.
Dr. Joseph Lerner, Co-Director
Dr. Lerner, a leading economist, was a senior US government official from 1952 until 1976. Dr Lerner relocated to Jerusalem in 1986.
Palestinian Survey Results
The following are the results of the Palestinian Arab agency known as Jerusalem Media & CommunicationCentre [JMCC] Public Opinion Poll Number 21 of a random sample of 1,197 Palestinians age 18 and over in the West Bank  and Gaza  who were interviewed face-to-face on 3 and 4 July 1997. The statistical error is +/- 3 percentage points.
1. In general, to what extent would you say you are optimistic about the future? Would you say you are very optimistic, optimistic, pessimistic, or very pessimistic?
10. Some Palestinians think that the level of corruption in the Palestinian Authority is high; others think that there is corruption but it is not widespread; while others think that there isn't any corruption. What do you think?
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