Press Briefing -
Introduction of the Temple Mount Preservation Act
July 19, 2001
Office of Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07)
For Immediate Release Contact: Jenn Mascott
Thursday, July 19, 2001 (202) 225-2815
Cantor Introduces Temple Mount Preservation Act
Legislation would stop American taxpayer sponsorship of the erosion of
Judeo-Christian heritage in Jerusalem
WASHINGTON -- This morning, Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) introduced
the Temple Mount Preservation Act with bipartisan support. The Temple Mount in
Jerusalem, Israel, represents thousands of years of our Judeo-Christian
heritage and is one of the most sacred sites to Christianity, Judaism, and
Islam. Chairman Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have been
excavating and removing ancient religious artifacts from the area under the
Temple Mount. Cantor's legislation would cut off all aid to Arafat and the
Palestinians until all unauthorized excavations from the Temple Mount come to
an end. Cantor conducted a briefing regarding his legislation and reported on
his recent trip to Israel where he witnessed first-hand some of the ongoing
destruction of the Temple Mount. Cantor said, "This issue has
implications not only for my constituents in Virginia, but for individuals
across the globe."
During the briefing, Cantor presented photographs released by the Committee
for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, a
coalition of Israel's leading archaeologists, authors, and public figures, led
by Hebrew University Archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar. The photographs
demonstrate the excavation of religious artifacts, paving, and unauthorized
construction conducted by Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
"Connected with such destruction is extreme religious intolerance -
contrary to the Jeffersonian principles of the free exercise of religion held
dear by all Americans," said Cantor.
Press Briefing - Introduction of the Temple Mount Preservation Act
Remarks by Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)
WASHINGTON, July 19— Thank you for coming today and for your interest in
this important issue. I also want to thank my colleagues and friends,
Congressman Pence and Congressman Weiner, for joining me. I am particularly
grateful for your interest in the destruction of the Temple Mount and what I
view as one of the most unprecedented attacks on religious heritage of our
time. Connected with such destruction is extreme religious intolerance
contrary to the Jeffersonian principles of the free exercise of religion held
dear by all Americans. This issue has implications not only for my
constituents in Virginia, but for individuals across the globe.
Thousands of years of Judeo-Christian heritage is under siege at this most
sacred of sites to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Temple Mount is the
site of the Biblical temple built by King Solomon, as well as the temple
visited by Jesus as a child and again as an adult. Today, I have information
produced by archeologists that provides hard evidence of the destruction on
the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In 1967, Jerusalem was united under Israel’s sovereignty. Since that time,
Israel has been legally responsible for the Temple Mount. The government has
allowed equal access for all religions. Shortly after the 1967 War, the
Israeli government delegated authority for the daily oversight of the Temple
Mount to the Waqf, a Muslim Foundation, in tacit cooperation with Jordan.
Jordan’s role as custodian of Muslim religious interests was codified in the
Israel-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994.
In the aftermath of the negotiations surrounding the Oslo Accords, Chairman
Yasser Arafat took control of the Waqf, bringing about a change in the policy
of free access for all religions on the Temple Mount. He began by replacing
the Jordanian-affiliated clergymen and officials and named Mufti Ikrima Sabri
the chief Muslim administrator. Sabri, known for his anti-Semitic and
anti-American views, has since declared that the Jews have no right to the
Temple Mount. More recently, Arafat has denied Jewish and Christian worshipers
access to the historic Temple Mount and has restricted media from visiting the
Beginning in early 1998, Arafat’s Waqf has permitted large-scale bulldozing
and destruction of the Temple Mount antiquities. Thousands of tons of fill
have been unearthed and simply dumped into the nearby Kidron Valley.
Archeologists have verified these artifacts date from the period of the First
Temple [circa 1006 BC (BCE) to 586 BC (BCE)]. Anybody with any reasonable
perspective would hold that the Temple Mount should be preserved and any
disturbance thereon closely monitored. But now, there are bulldozers and
stone-cutting machines hacking away every day. I know that in my District, we
are known for historical sites, such as Montpelier, the home of former
President James Madison. I can tell you that bulldozers come nowhere near the
residence, or its estate.
I just returned from Israel two weeks ago. While there, I met with individuals
and government officials who verified the media reports of the destruction.
The Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the
Temple Mount is comprised of former government leaders, archeologists, and
academics who are concerned and have banned together to fight the destruction
of the religious site. I saw ancient ruins unearthed from the time of the
First and Second Temples. I saw construction equipment and materials
protruding from the top of the Temple Mount, visible from the Southern Wall of
the Temple Mount. I met with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, who
confirmed the pattern of destruction.
At this time, I’d like to turn to the pictures, which reflect the evidence
compiled by these archeologists. The first series of photographs depict the
Temple Mount site as it has evolved since the mid-1990s. Particular attention
should be given to the heavily treed landscape early on, and later, the paved
plaza replacing the trees. Attention should focus on the southeastern area of
the Temple Mount, under which an area called Solomon’s Stables was connected
with the Second Temple. In this area, Arafat has directed the destruction of
what may have been part of the Temple complex. The Waqf’s action destroyed
physical remnants of the religious site, including arched entranceways and
colonnades believed to have played a role in religious life two thousand years
ago. The pictures depict bulldozers crushing evidence of the religious site
and new construction masking any trace of the temple.
There have been several press accounts reporting this grand-scale destruction
of the Temple Mount, the full text of which are in your packets. I would like
to bring your attention to one in particular. This is from an Op-Ed carried by
the National Review in October 2000, in which the author stated,
"Moreover, the Waqf has devoted the past 33 years to an extensive
campaign of excavation, systematically destroying any evidence of Jewish and
Christian presence on the Temple Mount, so that they could argue as they
now do that it has always been an exclusively Muslim place."
Further evidencing the calculated plan of Arafat’s to destroy our
Judeo-Christian heritage, we saw in the Boston Globe in March 2001 a quote
from Sheik Ikrima Sabri: "The Temple Mount was never there…There is not
one bit of proof to establish that. We do not recognize that the Jews have any
right to the wall or to one inch of the sanctuary…Jews are greedy to control
our mosque…If they every try to, it will be the end of Israel."
The bottom line is, Chairman Arafat’s intent is to deny access to the Temple
Mount for any individuals other than followers of Islam. In addition, the
evidence produced today clearly shows that Arafat is intent on erasing
Judeo-Christian connections to the holy site. And that is why I am introducing
today the Temple Mount Preservation Act that would cut off all aid to Chairman
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority until all unauthorized excavations of the
Temple Mount are stopped.
Currently, the United States is on track to send $125 million in aid this year
to the United States Agency for International Development USAID for the
Palestinians. This money is part of a $400 million package over three years
appropriated by Congress in 2000. Additionally, the U.S. annually provides
approximately $75 million in indirect aid to the Palestinians again
administered through the USAID.