Congress Bill Would Protect
July 22, 2001
From the Jerusalem Post
By Melissa Radler
NEW YORK (July 22) - In a bipartisan bid to stop the destruction of ancient
Jewish artifacts located under the Temple Mount, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)
introduced legislation into Congress on Thursday that would eliminate aid to
the Palestinian Authority should it continue to authorize the removal of
archeological antiquities from Judaism's holiest site.
Introduced with 16 co-sponsors, the Temple Mount Preservation Act was lauded
by Jewish leaders here who are have become increasingly concerned with
Palestinian leaders' claims that Jewish history at the Temple Mount is
fabricated, and their efforts to excavate and destroy such history in
Jerusalem's Old City.
Calling the destruction "one of the most unprecedented attacks on
religious heritage of our time," Cantor stated at a press conference that
under the current circumstances, "thousands of years of Judeo-Christian
heritage is under siege at this most sacred of sites to Christianity, Judaism,
and Islam." The legislation, which calls on the Bush administration to
"prohibit assistance to the PA or its instrumentalities unless the
president certifies that no excavation of the Temple Mount in Israel is being
conducted," states that the "massive excavations and unsupervised
destruction of artifacts |are undeniable affronts to the concept of religious
freedom and tolerance that must be respected in order to achieve and maintain
peace in the Middle East."
After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Wakf, or Islamic religious
trust, began authorizing widespread bulldozing and destroying of antiquities
dating back to the First Temple period, which have been dumped in the Kidron
Valley nearby and, according to some reports, sold on the black market, in
Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the PA-appointed mufti of Jerusalem and chief Muslim
administrator of the site, was referred to by Cantor in the legislation as an
anti-Semite. Sabri has publicly, and repeatedly, denied any Jewish link to the
Temple Mount. At the Camp David peace summit last year, PA Chairman Yasser
Arafat also reportedly rejected any Jewish claims to the Temple Mount.
According to Cantor's legislation, "the actions of Yasser Arafat and the
PA threaten to eliminate all historical evidence of Jewish activity on the
Temple Mount and serve to discredit Israeli claims of sovereignty over the
Temple Mount." The US is set to provide the Palestinians with $125
million this year as part of a three-year, $400 million package approved by
Congress in 2000, as well as an additional $75m. in indirect aid through the
US Agency for International Development.
"I think it's important that Congress understand that the Palestinians
can't be trusted on many levels, not the least of which is that they can't be
trusted to preserve the important religious sites in Jerusalem," said
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), one of the bill's co-sponsors. "I think we
need to hold them accountable and the Cantor legislation seeks to do
that," he said.
For a Christian member of Congress and co-sponsor, Rep. Mike Pence
(R-Indiana), the desecration of Jewish history on the Temple Mount is "an
outrageous example of an attempt by the PA to show no regard to the important
claim that both Jewish and Christian history have on that site."
"When you think of the millions of believing Christians and Jews across
America who cherish that site, and that $125 million is being used to excavate
the site without any regard to its unique history and without any regard to
standard archaeological protocol, it is totally unacceptable," said
Pence. "We are not an honest broker in the Middle East, we are a friend
of Israel in the Middle East, and this is precisely the moment that a friend
and partner writing the checks can speak to the recipient of those
Jewish leaders praised the legislation as a step toward raising awareness of
the destruction that is currently occurring in Jerusalem. "This
legislation sends a very important message," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the
executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, "that all those who want to see the site preserved
are not going to assist those responsible for that desecration."
Reminder: A copy of the text of this Congressional bill is available at www.templeinstitute.org
under the "current events" link. While at our site, please sign and
submit the petition in favor of this legislation. The Temple Institute
produced a short film, "Reviving the Stones" (ordering information
which documents the Moslem Wakf's campaign of destruction on the Temple Mount.
Pictures of the destruction and other pertinent information are available at http://www.har-habayt.org/