Wednesday, January 04, 2023


Where to start with the absurdities of this situation? 

Let us not forget that the Arabs originally turned up as an invading, colonising culture in the ‘Holy City’, and that they purposefully chose to build their sacred megacentre right astride the remains of one still cherished by a subset of the locals they had only recently conquered.

Crucially, they had been minded to do this to the most sacred Christian site in Jerusalem (the Holy Sepulchre), but were persuaded to pick on the Jews instead by the displaced Patriarch.

There is nothing unusual about what the Arabs carried out at the Temple Mount. Christians would do the same in multiple locations around Mesoamerica, most famously in Mexico City. 
They would also turn the beautiful mosque in Córdoba into a cathedral and Islam would return that favour with Justinian’s Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Standard operating procedure for incoming ‘traditions’. 
But why indeed should Jews not be permitted to pray at their most sacred religious site? 

Oddly, in reporting the visit of minister Ben-Gvir, the BBC appears to be hinting here that to desire to do so is somehow inherently dangerously extremist and ‘right wing’. 
Just imagine that 12th century crusaders had turned the Dome of the Rock into a church (it’s a wonder they didn’t, but those French-speaking Norwegians from Normandy were some of history’s most locally-adaptive invaders, occasionally cosmopolitan even), had held on to Jerusalem and were now denying anyone else spiritual access to the site. 
We’d be banging on about revanchist colonialism in a manner that would perhaps be even less historically appropriate than it could alternatively be in the case of the earlier Arab invasion. 
The Arabs frankly get a massive free pass as an oppressed ‘indigenous’ culture in this part of the world, which surely derives from our current myopic obsession with later Western European imperialism (and which tends to ignore the role of the Arabs’ co-religionists, the Ottoman Turks, in their later subjugation). 
It was not hard to spot English-speaking commentators during Qatar2022 referring to the Moroccans as ‘Arabs’ — sometimes even the Iranians — yet these same individuals would almost never dream of branding the Mayan or mestizo people around here as Spaniards. (It is occasionally irksome as a southern Briton to be called an inglés, but normandés would be so much worse!) 
In their day, of course, the Mexica/Aztecs had also functioned as a brutal, geographically-mobile warrior horde with what might rather generously be described as a questionable human rights record.
Anyway, that somewhat lucky survivor in Jerusalem — the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — has been more or less shared for centuries...albeit with occasional ugly brawls breaking out between its resident tribes of caretaker monks. 
As a historian one likes to focus on fact over fantasy, yet it might be worth noting that the Temple Titus had demolished is the hooey hotspot least associated with conveniently-fabricated fairy tales about the birth, death and general comings and goings of supposedly divine prophets.

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