Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Item 7



Claim 22: Israel damages Palestinian holy sites


Palestine, 43rd Session

“The occupying power is continuing its efforts to change east Jerusalem status and to take measures against the al-Aqsa mosque and other religious sites.”

Iraq, 43rd Session

“The city of Jerusalem is changing in character. The international community should bear its moral responsibility to preserve and protect sacred sites as well as the people under occupation…”

Syria, 45th Session

“Syria demands an end to the barbaric practices committed by the occupation army and Israeli settlers, including…the destruction of historical monuments.”

Our Response

UN Watch

Accusations of this nature have often served as a means of inciting the Muslim world into believing that Israel threatens its holy sites, particularly the al-Aqsa mosque.[1] The charge that Israel is “Judaizing” Jerusalem likewise aims at delegitimizing Israeli and Jewish historical rights in the city.

Unlike other Middle East actors, Israel values the preservation of the holy sites of all major religions. Its 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law states:

The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.[2]

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s most holy religious site. Well before the advent of Islam, It housed both the First and Second Temples, each of which stood for hundreds of years before being destroyed by the Babylonians and the Romans, respectively. While under Israeli control, the Temple Mount is administered by the Islamic Waqf under a status quo agreement. Contrary to allegations made about violations of Muslim rights, it is Jews who are forbidden from praying at the site, and their visits are limited to times and restrictions imposed by Israeli security officials.

While Palestinians may object to Jews visiting their most holy site, there are no Israeli initiatives to alter the existing status quo. In addition, commenting on the American peace plan, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman confirmed that “the status quo, in the manner that it is observed today, will continue, absent an agreement to the contrary. There is nothing in the plan that would impose any alteration in the status quo that is not subject to the agreement of all the parties.”[3]

Israel makes every effort to safeguard holy sites. The Palestinians, however, have actively targeted Jewish religious and historical sites. For example, Joseph’s Tomb near Nablus has been attacked on multiple occasions. In 2015, it was torched by Palestinian rioters.[4] Palestinian renovations and excavations on the Temple Mount have also sought to erase Jewish historical ties to the site by removing and destroying ancient artifacts dating back to the periods of the First and Second Temples.[5]

Ultimately, all sacred religious sites are safe under Israeli sovereignty while Jerusalem, a city with a continuous Jewish presence dating back to the biblical era, continues to service its Palestinian residents.

[1] Nadav Shragai, The “Al-Aksa Is in Danger” Libel: The History of a Lie, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2012),

[2] Protection of Holy Places Law 5727 (1967), The Knesset (last visited January 10, 2021),

[3] U.S. sees no imposed change to ‘status quo’ around Al-Aqsa mosque, Reuters (January 29, 2020)

[4] Palestinian rioters torch Jewish holy site Joseph’s Tomb, BBC (October 16, 2015)

[5] Amanda Borschel-Dan, Muslim cleanup project ‘illegally disturbed, removed’ ancient soil on Temple Mt, Times of Israel (June 22, 2018)

UN Watch