Arabs founded Jerusalem, says Jordan-based institute

A Muslim worshipper offers his Friday prayer outside Jerusalem’s Old City amid the coronavirus restrictions. Al-Aqsa Mosque in the city is one of Islam’s three holy sites. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Arabs founded Jerusalem, says Jordan-based institute

  • Jordanian think tank publishes a white paper that says Arabs have been living in the holy city for the last 5,000 years
  • The white paper also reiterates that “whenever Muslims controlled Jerusalem (in 638, 1187 and 1948), they did not expel Christians and Jews”

AMMAN: Arabs were the first inhabitants of Jerusalem and have lived there for at least 5,000 years, according to a white paper published by an Amman-based think tank.

“They founded and built it in the first place — and have been there ever since,” the paper says.

Using unpublished documents, the paper, from the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, seeks to correct the misperception “that Arabs are newcomers to Jerusalem.”

The institute, an Islamic non-governmental entity, is headed by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, personal envoy and special adviser to King Abdullah II of Jordan, since 2000.

Among the many references the document uses to make its point is the Amarna Correspondence, a series of diplomatic letters between Canaanite city-state kings and their Egyptian overlords during the 14th century B.C., which mention Jerusalem. The paper presents pictures of the cuneiform tablets uncovered in Egypt in the late 19th century to validate its argument.

Along with archaeological discoveries, the Biblical record is also used as a source to establish original Arab presence in Jerusalem. The Bible, the paper says, shows that “the Arabs, Hamites, Canaanites, and Jebusites were the original inhabitants of the land of Palestine, including the area of Jerusalem.” Canaanites and Jebusites were there long before the Jews, even before Judaism was revealed.

The 108-page document quotes passages from the Old Testament to establish that “Jerusalem was always an Arab city” and notes that, “the Palestinian Arabs of today are largely the direct descendants of the indigenous Canaanite Arabs who were there over 5,000 years ago. Modern-day Arab Muslim and Christian Palestinian families (such as the “Kanaan” tribe, direct descendants of the Canaanites) are the oldest inhabitants of the land.”

The paper mentions Salah Eddine Ayyoubi — the Muslim historical figure who fought the Crusaders and reclaimed Jerusalem in the 12th century, allowing the Christians to remain and inviting Jews expelled from Jerusalem by the Crusaders to resettle in the city — to validate its point.

According to Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, former president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, the white paper is a “well-referenced and clearly argued document.”

Nusseibeh’s family has been, since the seventh century, entrusted with the keys to the historic Church of the Holy Sepulcher (situated in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem). The paper, he says, “debunks the Israeli and extremist Jewish narrative in more than one way, replacing it with a clear historic overview of continued Arab presence in the city and benevolent Islamic rule.”

On the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy sites, which is a pivotal theme of the white paper, Nusseibeh, one of the leaders of the first Palestinian intifada, says the document “recognizes the Palestinian role in the Hashemite custodianship, thereby emphasizing the special political relationship between the Palestinian people and the Hashemite Kingdom. In more than one way, it shows that a Hashemite custodianship of the holy sites, especially in the context of peace, promises a more secure place for all three religions than does the present policy of the Israelization of Jerusalem.”


• Using unpublished documents, the paper, from the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, seeks to correct the misperception that Arabs are newcomers to Jerusalem.

• Along with archaeological discoveries, the Biblical record is also used as a source to establish original Arab presence in Jerusalem.

The white paper also reiterates that “whenever Muslims controlled Jerusalem (in 638, 1187 and 1948), they did not expel Christians and Jews.”

Rather, it says, they guaranteed their rights and religious rights and even welcomed Jews into the city. This, it points out, is in contrast to the Christian expulsion of Jews in 630 and their slaughter of Jews and Muslims (and even Orthodox Christians) in 1099, and unlike “the Jewish slaughter of Jerusalem’s original inhabitants in 1,000 B.C.; the Sasanian-Jewish expulsion of Christians in 614, and even the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.”

In other words, contrary to the misperception that Islam has no moral right to Jerusalem, Islam has historically been more peaceful and tolerant of other religions than either Judaism or Christianity, it notes.

Vera Baboun, a member of the Palestinian National Council and former mayor of Bethlehem, said that the Jerusalem white paper articulates the “diverse historical realities away from the exclusive narrative that Israel is adopting to deny the cultural, human, historical and religious rights of the Arab Palestinians whether we’re Christians or Muslims.”

It “puts the readers face to face with their own misconceptions and lack of knowledge, thus debunking the exclusive Israeli political or Biblical narrative which is used to negate the right and the existence of the Palestinian rights in Jerusalem or the Palestinian land at large,” she said.

The paper notes that Islam has been dominant in Jerusalem for 1,210 out of the last 1,388 years. “This is more than the period of Jewish domination over the last 3,020 years (953 years) or Christian domination over the last 2,000 years (417 years).”

To counter the prevailing notion that Jerusalem finds no mention in the Holy Qur’an, the paper states that for over 1,300 years, it was customary for Muslim pilgrims to visit Jerusalem after they had completed the Hajj to Makkah and Madinah.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem is one of Islam’s three holy sites.  According to the classical commentaries on the Qur’an, “the city,” “the land,” “the Holy Land,” “the Mount,” “the Temple” and “the Olive” all refer to Jerusalem or places in Jerusalem.


Iraqi expert on armed groups shot dead in Baghdad

Updated 7 min 4 sec ago

Iraqi expert on armed groups shot dead in Baghdad

  • Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Hisham Al-Hashimi outside his home in the Zeyouneh area of Baghdad
  • Al-Hashimi was a well-connected security analyst

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi analyst who was a leading expert on the Islamic State and other armed groups was shot dead in Baghdad on Monday after receiving threats from Iran-backed militias.
Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Hisham Al-Hashimi, 47, outside his home in the Zeyouneh area of Baghdad, a family member said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. The family member heard five shots fired.
Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Al-Hashimi was a well-connected security analyst who appeared regularly on Iraqi television and whose expertise was sought out by government officials, journalists and researchers.
Weeks before his death, Al-Hashimi had told confidantes he feared Iran-backed militias were out to get him. Friends had advised him to flee to the northern city of Irbil, in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
He rose to prominence as an expert on the inner workings of IS and even advised the US-led coalition during its yearslong battle with the extremists.
After Iraq declared victory over IS in December 2017, he increasingly turned his attention to the Iran-backed militias that helped to defeat IS and now wield considerable power in the country. He was an outspoken critics of some of these groups, which have thousands of heavily armed fighters.
News of his killing spread quickly, with fellow researchers, journalists and others taking to social media to express their condolences.
The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed shocked at the assassination and said the UN strongly denounces the “cowardly act.” In a tweet, she called on the Iraqi government to quickly find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
British Ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hickey, said he was “devastated and deeply saddened” by the news of Al-Hashimi’s death. “Iraq has lost one of its very best — a thoughtful and brave man,” he tweeted.
Iraqi researcher Fanar Haddad said Al-Hashimi was a “strikingly bright mind and a true gentleman,” calling his death a “major loss and an unforgivable crime.”
Asked what Al-Hashimi’s death might signify to critical analysts, he said, “Critical voices are liable to be silenced if and when deemed necessary.”
Political analyst Ihsan Al-Shammari, a colleague of Al-Hashimi, said those who killed him wanted to “silence the voices that disagree with their opinion” and blamed the shooting on the proliferation of armed groups in the country.
Many saw his death as a worrying sign as the government struggles to rein in the militias.
The Iran-backed groups have been blamed for a spate of recent rocket attacks targeting US interests. Authorities launched a raid last week in which they detained 14 members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah group in Baghdad, but all but one were released just days later, in what was widely seen as a capitulation by the government.
In a statement, Al-Kadhimi said Iraqi security forces would “spare no effort” in pursuing his killers.
“We will work with all our efforts to confine arms to the state, so that no force will rise above the rule of law,” the statement said.
In some of his final tweets before he was killed, Al-Hashimi lamented the country’s bitter divisions and the corruption plaguing its political system.
“The rights, blood and dignity of Iraqis have been lost, and their money gone into the pockets of corrupt politicians,” he tweeted Sunday.