Members of the Jewish community have dismissed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' recent claims that Israeli forces are trying to "rob Muslims and Christians of their holy shrines" and that Jerusalem "would forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian."
"The arson attack at the hand of a fanatic criminal happened under the nose of the Israeli occupation authorities. It was the beginning of [a] series [of attacks] that have not been interrupted since that fatal day. Their ultimate goal is to rob Muslims and Christians of their holy shrines, destroy the Al Aqsa mosque and build the alleged Jewish temple," Abbas said in a statement marking the 43rd anniversary of the arson attack on Al Aqsa, accordig to the Palestinian News Network.
Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Temple Mount, a site considered most holy in Judaism and also revered by Christians. It is believed the Jewish temple originally stood on the disputed land before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
The attack on the mosque referenced by Abbas occurred in 1969 at the hands of Denis Michael Rohan, who started a fire inside the ancient mosque, gutting one of its wings and destroying a 1,000-year-old pulpit inside. Rohan, a reportedly mentally ill evangelical Christian from Australia, had attempted to raze the mosque in hopes of speeding up Christ's second coming, or return to Earth.
Abbas also claimed in his speech that Jerusalem "is at the core of Palestinian identity and remain[s] the eternal capital of the Palestinian state," according to PNN.
The Palestinian Authority president further insisted that "there will be no peace, no security and no stability unless the occupation, settlers and settlements are gone from Jerusalem," the news wire reported.
The Orthodox Union in New York City called the Palestinian president's remarks "outrageous" for insisting that Jerusalem was eternally Arabic, Islamic and Christian and apparently held no Jewish ties.
"President Abbas' statement is only the latest in which he and other Palestinian leaders have outrageously denied the millennia-old connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount," Orthodox Union representative Nathan Diament said, according to the Jewish Week.
"The existence of our two holy Temples is not 'alleged' -- it is fact. Just as it is fact that Jerusalem has served as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people since the times of King David; just as it is fact that only under modern Israeli sovereignty have Jerusalem's holy sites been protected and open to access by people of all faiths; and just as it is fact that Jerusalem must and will remain a united city, and the capital of Israel and the Jewish people eternally."
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, also challenged Abbas' statement, saying his words were a denial of reality and "distances the chances for peace."
"Those who wish to return Jerusalem to the cycle of denial and bloodshed, and to erase its Jewish past for the sake of a political struggle should be condemned," Rabinowitz added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared the rabbi's sentiment, saying he was "disappointed" to hear Abbas "echo outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the Temple Mount, conspiracy theories that are the usual domain of extremist elements," the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Temple Mount, revered for thousands of years by various faiths, is believed by some to be where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, as related in the Bible. Muslims believe it is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Excavations have been ongoing at the site for years, with items periodically unearthed dating to the 1st century AD.