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US officials participate in unveiling of settlers’ tunnel in occupied Jerusalem

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Palestinians are outraged after high profile American officials participated in the inauguration of a disputed tunnel in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt were all smiles as they hammered down the last remaining wall standing in front of the controversial “Pilgrimage Road” tunnel.

Dozens of anti-occupation activists affiliated with Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that monitors settlement activity in the occupied territories, protested outside the event. Video of the protest posted on social media shows Israeli police violently detaining some demonstrators.

The tunnel project, sponsored by the right-wing settler organization Elad, has been under construction for the past eight years, and runs directly under the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, adjacent to the Old City.

Israeli archaeologists claim the tunnel was once an important thoroughfare, dating to Roman rule, used by worshipers some 2,000 years ago to reach the ancient Jewish temple. The tourist attraction claims to give visitors a chance to emulate the pilgrimage from the “Shiloah Pool” or Birkat al-Hamra in Arabic, all the way to the Western Wall.

“It confirms with evidence, with science, with archaeological studies that which many of us already knew, certainly in our heart: the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people,” Friedman told a crowd of over 100 people, including top tier Israeli and US officials, according to the Times of Israel. 

“This place is as much a heritage of the US as it is a heritage of Israel,” Friedman said.

Fakhri Abu Diab, a local activist and neighborhood spokesperson in Silwan spoke to Mondoweiss, saying that his community was outraged by the “provocative” performance of Friedman and Greenblatt at the event.

“The ambassador is sending a clear message to us Palestinians: that he wants to kill off any peace negotiations before they can even start,” Abu Diab said. “This could not come at a worse time, especially as the Americans are trying to peddle their Zionist ‘peace plans’ to us.”

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) top negotiator Saeb Erekat published a series of scathing tweets on social media, including one that said Friedman was not an Ambassador, but rather “an extremist settler.”

“Greenblatt and Friedman are advancing prosperity for the settlers, for a racist colonial settlement enterprise. Today they’ll once again insult international law by blessing a project of settlers that has dispossessed dozens of Palestinian families nearby Al Aqsa Mosque compound,” Erekat tweeted.

Senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi also tweeted out her criticisms, saying “Complicity & collusion. U.S. officials are part of the illegal settler enterprise & #IsraeliCrimes.”

In a statement, Peace Now criticized the event as American recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the occupied territory, saying that the tunnel project was “part of the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing in Israel and the United States.”

“The Trump Team chooses to strengthen the hold of the settler fringe in the sensitive area of ​​the Holy Basin instead of advancing a conflict-ending peace agreement,” the group said. “The tunnel, the way it was dug and its geo-political ramifications,  are trampling on the reputation of Jerusalem as a city sacred to all religions and belonging to all its inhabitants.”

Greenblatt responded to criticisms of the event on Twitter, saying “We can’t ‘Judaise’ what history/archaeology show. We can acknowledge it and you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.”

 

A part of the larger City of David National Park tourist attraction, Pilgrimage Road is just one of several archaeological projects in East Jerusalem that has been used by the Israeli government to justify the presence of hundreds of Israeli settlers illegally residing in Silwan and surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods.

In the days leading up to the event, Friedman sat down for an interview with the Jerusalem Post, during which he hailed the City of David as a great example “of the recognition of the Judeo-Christian values upon which both nations [Israel and America] were founded.”

He even likened the City of David in Jerusalem to America’s Statue of Liberty.

Local Palestinian and Israeli activists, however, maintain that the excavations carried out by the Israeli government and settler groups are unreliable.

Emek Shaveh is a left-wing Israeli NGO that, according to its website, works “to defend cultural heritage rights and to protect ancient sites as public assets that belong to members of all communities, faiths and peoples.”

In a press release on Friday, the group said that while the road was being presented as part of an ancient pilgrimage route, it was being done so “in spite of the fact that the horizontal excavation method and the paucity of scientific publications does not enable us to establish with certainty when the road was built and how it fit into the layout of the city of Jerusalem.”

Middle East Eye reported that it spoke last year to a local guide who said “the excavations have not found one single artifact from the King David era, which dates back 3,000 years.”

“What has been found are artifacts from various extinct empires, mainly Arab and Muslim, which have controlled Jerusalem over the centuries,” MEE reported.

Abu Diab echoed that point, saying that the Israeli archaeologists “destroy and discard any evidence that contradicts their political narrative. They are not interested in historical truth, only in furthering their Jewish claims to our lands.”

He went on to highlight the damaging effects the extensive underground excavations have had on his community.

Abu Diab confirmed MEE’s report that the excavations have caused immense cracks in the walls and floors of homes in Silwan located directly above the tunnels.

“The houses in Silwan could fall apart at any time. There are a whole network of tunnels under the ground. Our houses are being attacked above ground by the settlers and bulldozers, and underground by the archaeologists and the excavators,” Abu Diab said.

Cracks in the walls of a home in Silwan located above an excavation site (Photo courtesy of Fakhri Abu Diab)

Like countless other Palestinian activists, Abu Diab believes the Israeli government “has been using archaeology as a cover and an excuse for their political goals” in Jerusalem. “They want to kick us Palestinians out and replace us with Jewish settlers.”

Emek Shaveh made similar remarks in its statement on Friday:

“The use of archaeology by Israel and the settlers as a political tool is a part of a strategy to shape the historic city and unilaterally entrench Israeli sovereignty over ancient Jerusalem. It is a process which is likely to produce devastating results for both Israel and the Palestinians.  It is inexcusable to ignore the Palestinian residents of Silwan, carrying out extensive excavations of an underground city and to use such excavations as part of an effort to tell a historic story that is exclusively Jewish in a 4,000 year-old city with a rich and diverse cultural and religious past.”

As for Friedman’s claims that the tunnel project solidified Israeli claims to the city, Abu Diab had this to say to the ambassador: “We Palestinians, the natives of this land, ignore all of these statements. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living on these lands for centuries.” No one, he said, “can never erase our heritage and culture from this land.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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23 Responses

  1. eljay on July 2, 2019, 8:18 am

    … Israeli archaeologists claim the tunnel was once an important thoroughfare, dating to Roman rule, used by worshipers some 2,000 years ago to reach the ancient Jewish temple. …

    “It confirms with evidence, with science, with archaeological studies …

    …that “terror tunnels” pre-date the Palestinians by roughly 2,000 years.

    … “This place is as much a heritage of the US as it is a heritage of Israel,” Friedman said. …

    Because “all your base are belong to us”? Or because the U.S. is also a “Jewish State”? Or both?

    • eljay on July 2, 2019, 11:28 am

      || eljay: … that “terror tunnels” pre-date the Palestinians by roughly 2,000 years. … ||

      More precisely: …that Jewish “terror tunnels” pre-date those of the Palestinians by roughly 2,000 years. …

      • Jesseab on July 2, 2019, 10:22 pm

        Why are the Zionists becoming more brazen than ever? You couldn’t possibly see this even 5 years ago.

  2. Ronald Johnson on July 2, 2019, 9:30 am

    The lies are beyond counting:

    “Mendacity is a system that we live in,” declares Brick. “Liquor is one way out an’death’s the other.”

    ― Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

  3. Ronald Johnson on July 2, 2019, 11:35 am

    If I may comment again, I found a reference that questions the presumed location of the second temple:

    http://www.ameu.org/getattachment/b1368b52-4ca0-4be3-bca2-0155a17563c9/What-if-the-ruins-of-King-Solomon’s-Temple-are-NOT.aspx

    The wikipedia entry also places the temple mount by the pool of Siloam:

    “Second Temple period
    During the Second Temple period, the King’s Garden was used as a staging area for Jewish pilgrims who, during the ]festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, used the spring-fed Pool of Siloam to wash and ritually purify themselves before ascending the Great Staircase to the Temple Mount while singing hymns based on Psalms. On Sukkot water was brought from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple and poured upon the altar (Suk iv 9) and the priests also drank of this water (Ab. R. N. xxxv).”

    The caution, always, is to “Call 811 before you dig”.

    • RoHa on July 3, 2019, 2:33 am

      I found, and posted, links to one or two websites that gave reasons for doubting that the ancient Jewish Temple was on the location of the Dome of the Rock.

      There does not seem to be any doubt that the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Jupiter Capitolina was builton the mount, after Hadrian rebuilt the city . (The layout of the Old City is Hadrian’s.) Constantine had this temple demolished.

      The city later became largely Christian, with a church or monastery on the Mount. I do not know what happened to the church. Perhaps it was destroyed in the Persian conquest and destruction of 614.

      It is alleged that the Jewish contingent of the Persian Army slaughtered many Christians, but this is not definitively established. However, it seems that they did clear buildings off the site, and began to build a Jewish Temple. The Byzantine reconquest stopped that, and the place was a rubbish dump when the Muslims arrived.

      • LiberatePalestine on July 3, 2019, 9:53 am

        Even if there had been a temple there long ago, why would that matter? Today there is an important mosque.

        Recently this site published a photo showing a bunch of Israëli and Yankee Zionists happily exhibiting a picture of occupied al-Quds with a Jewish temple in place of the mosque. Zionists’ depravity knows no bounds.

    • MHughes976 on July 3, 2019, 1:13 pm

      Ernest Martin, leader of the Worldwide Church of God, argued very spiritedly – it is his arguments that are generally used – for a Temple site near the point where the ancient road that the Ambassador is celebrating begins, but I must say I’m not persuaded. Accounts of Titus’ assault on Jerusalem seem to me to make much more sense on the mainstream view of where the Temple was. On the other hand no scientific problem about ancient Jerusalem, such as the size and location of the Antonia Fortress, are solved by turning a roadway whose existence has been known for over a century – it was discovered by Frederick Bliss, an American, in 1897 – into a tourist trap.
      There also seems to be a paradox in the Ambassador’s views in that at some points the vital feelings of connectedness – which in turn seem to be the basis for claims to political rights – are for Jews and Christians alike, at other points only for Jews.
      Of course you can have a feeling of connectedness with a place for reasons other than ancient history and religion, for instance living there and having been born there, as is the case with the Palestinians of Silwan who live (for how long will they?) above the archaeological activities. Feelings of this kind are rational in that they reflect something inevitably connected with the living of one’s life. To surround and glorify feelings based on ancient history with mystical and paradoxical rhetoric while treating feelings based on real life and real circumstances as trivial and beneath mention is to express religious sentiment of a very cruel kind.

  4. LiberatePalestine on July 2, 2019, 11:52 am

    → It confirms with evidence, with science, with archaeological studies that which many of us already knew, certainly in our heart: the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people

    Science cannot confirm a subjective claim. As was pointed out, the evidence actually contradicts most of the Biblical myths invoked as props for the criminal Zionist project.

    In any case, note the usual Zionist concern for «the Jewish people» alone. Not a thought is given to the possibility that «centrality» for one group might extend to others, such as Muslims, Christians, and Palestinians generally. In Arabic, the city is known as al-Quds, literally ‘the holy one’; not even Mecca or Medina (the latter meaning simply ‘city’) gets so lofty an appellation. And if you want to see the centrality of occupied al-Quds to Christians, just look at the hordes of them that descend upon various sites where their mythological Jesus allegedly lived and died.

    Ah, but Jews are special. They’re god’s chosen people. Everyone else must make way for them—except their imperialist backers, bien sûr. As Rabbi Yaacov Perrin declared in his eulogy to Zionist mass murderer Baruch Goldstein, «one million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail».

    • mondgesicht on July 9, 2019, 12:51 am

      “God’s chosen people”.
      What kind of god would choose people like that?
      A god who is inhuman and greedy and who selects the most likely group of subjects able to provide him with the goods he wants.
      Those “chosen people” have no idea why they were chosen.
      But they seem to assume having been chosen will mean something in the long run. I wonder what their reward will be.

  5. Kay24 on July 2, 2019, 4:09 pm

    They are so desperate to justify their crimes, the land theft, and occupation, they have to dig deep into the dirt, to find a piece of pottery, so that they can prove their point.

    It is known that one their own, Moshe Dayan, had a excavation spree stealing Palestinian artifacts, and stealing it away by the helicopter loads. He apparently had a huge stash in his personal collection, which is now in some museum. They steal everything they can from their victims, don’t they?

    • eljay on July 2, 2019, 6:42 pm

      || Kay24: They are so desperate to justify their crimes, the land theft, and occupation, they have to dig deep into the dirt, to find a piece of pottery, so that they can prove their point. … ||

      Thing is, no amount of pottery shards will ever prove or validate the Zionists’ hateful and immoral point that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right” to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state and to do “necessary evil” unto others.

  6. Jackdaw on July 3, 2019, 12:57 pm

    Titus Flavius Josephus, the first-century Roman-Jewish historian, wrote that 2.7 million people used to visit Jerusalem during the various Jewish holidays, bringing with them some 256,000 sacrifices.

    https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Ascending-a-2000-year-old-Pilgrimage-Road-593766

    You know guys, ‘the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on’.

    • eljay on July 4, 2019, 9:14 am

      || Jackdaw: Titus Flavius Josephus, the first-century Roman-Jewish historian, wrote that 2.7 million people used to visit Jerusalem during the various Jewish holidays, bringing with them some 256,000 sacrifices.
      . . .
      You know guys, ‘the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on’. ||

      You’re absolutely right: Those 2.7 million people are long gone. The caravan moved on centuries ago but the Zionist dogs keep barking.

      • Jackdaw on July 5, 2019, 7:26 am

        No. Those 2.7 million are now 7 million and growing.

    • Boris on July 5, 2019, 11:41 am

      Dogs don’t believe neither science nor facts.

      • RoHa on July 6, 2019, 2:43 am

        Mooser, your sock-puppet is blithering, with double negatives.

      • Mooser on July 6, 2019, 12:32 pm

        “Mooser, your sock-puppet”

        Not mine, not mine at all. I only operate the “Steve Grover” sock-puppet account.
        No, “Boris” and “Jackdaw” are another person’s parody Zionists.
        I don’t know who they belong to, but he (or she) puts my efforts with “Grover” in the shade.

      • Tuyzentfloot on July 6, 2019, 12:57 pm

        I ran the Jackdaw parody for a while but got bored and passed it on. When people ask me what an antisemite is I just say ‘like this one , but then against Jews.’ They get it right away but they think it’s a bit over the top.

      • Mooser on July 7, 2019, 3:05 pm

        “I ran the Jackdaw parody for a while but got bored and passed it on”

        Good decision. I hate myself for doing the “Steve Grover” comments.

      • Tuyzentfloot on July 8, 2019, 8:34 am

        Good decision. I hate myself for doing the “Steve Grover” comments.That’s not too good. I only risked to become a self-hating ME. You on the other hand..
        I’ll get my hat.

      • Mooser on July 8, 2019, 11:37 am

        “You on the other hand…”

        Look, “Tuyzenfloot”, I’m stuck on a horny dilemma! If I stop the “Grover” posts, James North will turn me in to the Mods, and I’ll get banned.
        But I must admit, North has forced me to confront some ugly things about myself.
        Didn’t know I had it in me.

  7. eljay on July 5, 2019, 9:15 am

    || Jackdaw: No. Those 2.7 million are now 7 million and growing. ||

    No. Those 2.7 million are long gone. Keep barking.

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