Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Ha'aretz: The Supreme Islamic Council has published a religious ruling according to which not one centimeter may be given up.

By Danny Rubinstein - Ha'aretz 21 June 2000
[IMRA: Rubenstein leaves the impression that Islam applies some special status to Israel by designating it "wakf" when the "wakf" designation applies to any area that comes under Islamic control. From a religious standpoint, Spain is just as much "wakf" as Israel.]
About two weeks ago, the Supreme Islamic Council assembled and approved a document called the "Jerusalem Covenant." The importance of the document lies in the Islamic religious ruling (fatwa), which determines that: "There is a religious prohibition against giving up even a centimeter of holy Jerusalem." Members of the council termed the meeting and the document historic events. But unfortunately for them, the drama of the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from Lebanon took place at the same time, and the "historic document" about the Jerusalem Covenant received no attention other than limited coverage in the Palestinian media.

The council, which includes heads of the (Muslim) Arab community in the city, was founded right after the annexation of East Jerusalem to the State of Israel in 1967, when there was awareness of the necessity for institutions for the Muslim community, in light of the fact that the city was run by non-Muslims. Such a council existed during the (non-Muslim) British Mandate period in the country, and was headed by the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. It was dispersed during the period of Jordanian Muslim rule of the city (1948-1967), and was re-established after the Six-Day War.

The council meets infrequently. It is not recognized by the Israeli government, and officially has no authority. This time it was assembled by the present mufti of Jerusalem, who heads it. The Jerusalem Covenant was published in cooperation with Faisal Husseini, Jerusalem affairs minister for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The religious ruling in the document is actually similar to rulings with political implications which are published by Jewish rabbis on the issue of the prohibition against withdrawing from parts of the Land of Israel, and against handing them over to non-Jews. Such Jewish halakhic rulings have been published for decades, from time to time, and the Palestinians pay them a lot of attention.

In the covenant of Hamas, for example, published when the Islamic resistance movement was founded in 1988, there is a reference to an Islamic law from the Middle Ages, which defines the entire country as sanctified Islamic land (wakf). It is not impossible that the heads of the movement combed the sources looking for such a law, after they saw their Jewish colleagues issuing halakhic rulings in a similar spirit, in regard to exclusive Jewish ownership of the entire land.

The title "Jerusalem Covenant" tried to link this declaration by the Islamic Supreme Council to one of the most famous chapters in Islamic tradition, "The Covenant of Omar." This chapter describes how the Muslim caliph Omar ibn al-Hatab captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines and promised to preserve the religious rights of Christians and Jews.

According to the Islamic Supreme Council, the religious prohibition against giving up areas in Jerusalem applies to the eastern part of the holy city. In other words, the prohibition has a defined geographic framework, which suits the political stance of the Palestinians, who demand Israeli withdrawal in the city to the 1967 borders, and the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.


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