UK courts: Western Wall is in occupied territory

The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) lost an appeal Aug. 4 of a British ban on a vacation advertisement that described the Western Wall as part of Israel. The IGTO appealed after the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint in April that the Kotel is actually in the Occupied Territories. An image on the advert for vacations in Israel showed a picture of the wall with the gold Dome of the Rock in the background, captioned “Jerusalem.” A spokesman from the ASA said: “After careful consideration, including of a report from the Independent Reviewer, the ASA Council has decided not to overturn its original upheld decision. The original adjudication will remain unchanged.” (Jewish Chronicle, London, Aug. 5; IRNA, Aug. 4)

Roads leading to Jerusalem’s Old City were heavily congested and checkpoints overcrowded Aug. 13 as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempted to reach the al-Aqsa Mosque to perform prayers on the first Friday of Ramadan. Israeli forces deployed at checkpoints around the city and prevented large numbers of young Palestinians from entering the Old City, and military patrols chased hundreds of others trying to bypass the checkpoints. Young men and women were prohibited from entering the holy city for prayer, while those aged 30-45 could apply for a special permit to enter the city. (Ma’an News Agency, Aug. 13)

Meanwhile, another conflict surrounding the hotly contested holy site has pitted Jew against Jew. On July 13, feminist activist Anat Hoffman, founder of the Women of the Wall movement, was arrested for carrying a Torah scroll at the Western Wall—which Israeli courts have prohibited women from doing. Progressive Orthodox rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, along with dozens of protesters, demonstrated at the Israeli embassy in Washington following the arrest. (Haaretz, July 29)

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine and the struggle for Jerusalem.

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  1. More politicized archaeology in Jerusalem
    We examined above some insidious Israeli propaganda regarding the Western Wall. Now here’s an example from the other side. We note, however, that the subhead in this Nov. 24 Associated Press story is slightly misleading. The Palestinian report does not exactly say that the Western Wall is “not holy to Jews.” If you actually read the article, the report seems to say that the Wall isn’t really a survival of Solomon’s Temple, while conceding that Jews do regard it that way. This is a case of politicized archaeology, of which there has been plenty on both sides

    Palestinian official: Jerusalem’s Western Wall not holy to Jews, belongs to Palestinians
    JERUSALEM – An official Palestinian report claiming that a key Jewish holy site—Jerusalem’s Western Wall—has no religious significance to Jews evoked an angry response from Israelis Wednesday, threatening to further inflame tensions over the disputed city.

    Decades of archaeology have shown that the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, was a retaining wall of the compound where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood 20 centuries ago. The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, is built atop the ruins…

    Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy minister of information in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his five-page study published on a Palestinian government website reflected the official Palestinian position.

    Part of the report disputes that the Western Wall was a retaining wall of the Temple compound, discarding centuries of documentation and archaeology.

    “This wall has never been a part of what is called the Jewish Temple,” the report claimed. “However, it was Islamic tolerance which allowed the Jews to stand before it and cry over its loss.”

    The report concludes that since Jews have no claim to the area, it is holy Muslim territory and must be part of Palestinian Jerusalem.

  2. US high court to rule on status of Jerusalem
    The US Supreme Court on May 2 granted certiorari in MBZ v. Clinton to determine whether the political question doctrine deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to enforce a federal statute that explicitly directs the secretary of state how to record the birthplace of an American citizen on a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on a passport. US citizen Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem in 2002. His parents asked the State Department to record his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, but were told it could only be listed as Jerusalem because the US does not recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. His parents filed suit in 2003, and a federal district court dismissed the suit as a political question. (Jurist, May 2)