in response to the passage of a UNESCO resolution strongly condemning Israeli policies at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the “Temple Mount.”
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Temple Mount Sifting Project works to “sort through debris” from an excavation undertaken in 1999 by the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that has managed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The decision to fund the archeological project was made following a controversial UNESCO resolution that passed this week, and which Israeli leaders have condemned for not using the Jewish term for the site, instead referring only to the holy site by it’s Arabic and Muslim names, Al-Aqsa and Haram al-Sharif.
However, UNESCO made clear in the resolution that the site was important for all three monotheistic religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Netanyahu slammed the decision at the time, calling it “delusional” and adding that “to say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.””With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left.
But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win,” he said, later adding a rhetorical question on his Twitter that stated “What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?” According to Haaretz, the archeological project is run by the right-wing settler group Ir David Foundation, also known as Elad, the main financiers of the contentious archeological digs around the Old City of Jerusalem, while also managing the City of David National Park, which was established to promote Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
The park is the only tourist site in Israel run by a private organization, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ)Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and “Judaizing Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.
The organization began the buying and takeover of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem in the early 1990s, and later established the City of David Settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh.Israeli authorities announced a plan to build a Jewish history park in Wadi Hilweh in February 2014, for which seven families had received eviction notices for the project, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center.
Israeli excavations at the entrance to the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood have also destroyed Islamic antiquities from the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphate eras, including a Muslim cemetery, according to the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and HeritageThe Elad group has also remained a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan last year, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighborhood in the past 20 years, ARIJ reported.
Rights groups have claimed that these excavations often seek to promote Jewish heritage and attachment to the occupied city, while neglecting Palestinian history, in order to promote claims of Jewish ownership and further displace Palestinians, particularly those living in neighborhoods around the Old City.