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

Arab News - - News Middle East - Daoud Kut­tab 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 non­govern­men­tal 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.”

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 1000 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.


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.


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.

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