When the Palestinians Didn’t Claim Al-Aqsa

We will probably all have heard or seen that catchphrase beloved of anti-Israel folks: From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free! 

Of course, the river is the Jordan, the sea is the Mediterranean and the mantra is shouted by Israel-haters at rallies and written by them on banners and placards. Had they been around in 1964 however, they might have found that such a slogan would have attracted a degree of puzzlement, especially from Palestinian leaders and the “Palestine” that would be “free” could not be defined by such a short – never mind rhyming – catchcry.

Oh, Al-Aqsa! The Palestinians didn’t always claim you! (Picture source: Australian Broadcasting Network)
The Palestinian National Charter, adopted on May 28th 1964 by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) describes in 29 articles the aims and ideals of the PLO. Article 2 refers to “Palestine with its boundaries at the time of the British Mandate”. However, one startling section that is often ignored is Article 24 which rejects Palestinian sovereignty “over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip [under Egyptian control] or the Himmah Area”. The Himmah area is a part of northeast Israel that was at that point under Syrian control.

Two points emerge:

– The Palestinian leadership had no interest in establishing its state in any area that was occupied by another Arab state – that includes east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

– The only state they were interested in would be wherever Israelis were living.

Roll forward some four years and things had changed a lot. Syria, Jordan and Egypt had attacked Israel in June 1967 (actually, the Egyptian aggression started on May 23rd). This backfired spectacularly with all three countries losing territory. Egypt lost the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, Jordan lost the West Bank and Syria lost the Golan Heights.

This led to an extensive revision of the National Charter in July 1968. Article 2 remained with its definition of “Palestine with its boundaries at the time of the British Mandate“. However, there is no longer a rejection of Palestinian control over the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank. These were all now regarded as part of a future Palestinian state. What had changed? They were now under Israeli control.

Mahmoud Abbas and other members of the Palestinian leadership have for some time now been using the fate of the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a means of inciting terrorist attacks on Israelis claiming that the Jews were planning to destroy it and were desecrating it with their “filthy feet”. The world media would do well to remember that while he claims the shrine and insists that a Palestinian state must include east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that claim goes back no more than a few decades.

by Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh

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