Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 29: Israel violates Muslim holy sites by excavating under Al-Aqsa Mosque

examples

Palestine, 46th Session

“Israel continues with its daily violations… in addition to excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Kuwait, 46th Session

“Israel’s…continuation of excavation and excavation work under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other religious sites in Jerusalem, is a clear and frank violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention…”

Our Response

UN Watch

The false charge that Israel is conducting excavations and activities that threaten the very foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been deployed on many occasions by the Palestinians to incite their own people as well as the wider Muslim world.

For example, this charge was made in 2006 when Muslim leaders accused Israel of digging underneath the mosque. At least one foreign journalist investigated and found no evidence to support the claim.[1] Similarly, in 2007 when Israel conducted salvage excavations in connection with repairs of the Mughrabi Gate leading from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, it was accused of attacking the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In fact, the excavations were not near the Mosque and Israel had taken a number of steps to prove that its activities were not endangering Al-Aqsa, including deploying security cameras at the excavation site to provide real-time evidence.[2]

The most prominent excavation site in the vicinity of the Temple Mount is the Western Wall Tunnels, which were opened in 1996.[3] The major tourist attraction and archaeological site runs from the area of the Western Wall plaza and emerges in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The tunnels are not under the Temple Mount itself and are certainly nowhere near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.[4] The map below, taken from the Roman Aqueducts website, shows the route of tunnels.[5]

Pursuant to Israeli law, all excavations are conducted under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority.[6] In addition, archaeological activities at sites such as the Temple Mount, which are legally defined as holy sites, require approval of the Ministerial Committee for Holy Places, which consists of the Ministers of Justice, Education and Religious Affairs.[7]

The Islamic Waqf that administers the Temple Mount has, on numerous occasions, carried out unauthorized and illegal excavations on what is Judaism’s holiest site, disturbing, damaging and potentially destroying Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage.[8] The biggest of these occurred in the late 1990s when the Waqf damaged a site on the Temple Mount known as Solomon’s Stables to create the underground prayer hall now known as Marwani Mosque.

The archaeology-rich Old City of Jerusalem, home to the Temple Mount and Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, the Al Aqsa Mosque and other mosques holy to Muslims and a number of ancient churches, has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967. An Israeli inter-ministerial committee found that when the site was under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967, 56 synagogues were destroyed along with the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives which had been in continuous use for more than 2,000 years.[9]

Ultimately, it is not Israel that threatens the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque or any holy sites under its control.

[1] Joshua Brilliant, ‘Israel digging under Al-Aksa,’ or not, UPI (January 3, 2006), https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2006/01/03/Israel-digging-under-Al-Aksa-or-not/44541136322503/.

[2] Nadav Shragai, The Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: The Urgent Need for a Permanent Access Bridge, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (October 24, 2011), https://jcpa.org/article/the-mughrabi-gate-to-the-temple-mount-in-jerusalem-the-urgent-need-for-a-permanent-access-bridge-2/; see also Dr. Gideon Avni, Why must excavations be conducted next to the Temple Mount right now, of all times? Israel Antiquities Authority (2007), http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=17&sub_subj_id=469.

[3] Rebecca Trounson, Tunnel Opening in Jerusalem Sparks Protests, LA Times (September 25, 1996), https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-09-25-mn-47381-story.html.

[4] Aren M. Maeir, The Western-Wall Tunnels: An Archaeological Appraisal, MFA (October 1, 1996), https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFA-Archive/1998/Pages/The%20Western%20Wall%20Tunnels-%20An%20Archaeological%20Apprai.aspx. Nadav Shragai, The “Al-Aksa Is in Danger” Libel: The History of a Lie, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2012), https://jcpa.org/al-aksa-is-in-danger-libel/.

[5] Roman Aqueducts (last visited May 3, 2021), http://www.romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/foto/hasmoneanaqueductplan.jpg.

[6] The Law of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA Law), Israel Antiquities Authority (last visited May 2, 2021), http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=45&subj_id=220&autotitle=true&Module_id=7.

[7] Antiquity Sites that are also Holy Places, Israel Antiquities Authority (last visited May 2, 2021), http://www.antiquities.org.il/Article_eng.aspx?sec_id=41&subj_id=227&id=204.

[8] Amanda Borschel-Dan, Muslim cleanup project ‘illegally disturbed, removed’ ancient soil on Temple Mt, Times of Israel, (June 22, 2018), https://www.timesofisrael.com/muslim-cleanup-project-illegally-disturbed-removed-ancient-soil-on-temple-mt/; Ilan Ben Zion, Temple Mount authority reportedly carts off antiquities to the dump, Times of Israel (December 24, 2012) https://www.timesofisrael.com/temple-mount-authority-carts-off-antiquities-to-the-dump/; Joshua Hammer, What is Beneath the Temple Mount? Smithsonian Magazine (April 2011), https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-is-beneath-the-temple-mount-920764/.

[9] Cabinet Report Says Jordan Destroyed 56 Old City Synagogues, Desecrated Cemetery, JTA (November 2, 1967), https://www.jta.org/1967/11/02/archive/cabinet-report-says-jordan-destroyed-56-old-city-synagogues-desecrated-cemetery.

UN Watch