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LAHORE: Over 1.8 billion followers of Islam, constituting about 24 per cent of the world population, are surely not happy with some Muslim countries like the UAE and Bahrain for establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, but research shows that this Jewish state not only holds great religious significance for them but followers of Judaism and Christianity also deem it to be one of the holiest places on the planet.
Most Muslims are also infuriated over Israeli Premier Netanyahu’s recent secret trip to Saudi Arabia, where he met Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Netanyahu, according to the “Washington Post”, had travelled with MOSSAD Chief Yosi Cohen.
Israel, a dangerous flashpoint to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, the Palestine-Israel issue, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years till 1917, when the British finally conquered it. The Jewish state of Israel, today a “Forbidden Land” for most Muslims, was finally proclaimed under the British Mandate for Palestine in 1948.
Interestingly, as research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” shows, a record number of visitors from Muslim countries had visited Israel in 2018, and the Zionist state had highlighted this fact gleefully to spray salt on the wounds of the Palestinians and their sympathizers in both Muslim and Non-Muslim world. These tourists included nearly 55,000 from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.
The May 6, 2019 edition of the “Times of Israel” had stated: “According to figures provided by the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority, 72,109 citizens of Egypt, Jordan Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia visited Israel in 2018. These numbers mark an increase of 15 per cent from 2017, when 62,658 tourists from the aforementioned countries traveled to the Jewish state.”
The top Israeli media house had maintained: “Residents of Arab countries visit Israel in significantly lower numbers. Only 2,108 Moroccans, 949 Tunisians, 81 Qataris, 56 Omanis, 36 Algerians, 34 Kuwaitis, 25 Emiratis and six Saudis made their way to the Jewish state in 2018. Upon entering the country, tourists from Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel most of whom are thought to focus their trips on visits to religious sites can ask Population and Immigration Authority officials not to stamp their passports, lest they face reprisals when they return. Instead, the Israeli officials stamp a separate slip of paper that the visitors can throw out when they leave.”
The “Times of Israel” revealed: “Data from other Muslim countries was not made available. In 2018, 12,363 Jordanians and 4,947 Egyptians came to Israel, along with 54,799 citizens of the remaining countries that do not have formal relations with Israel. A whopping 37,555 Indonesians visited Israel last year, marking a five per cent increase from 2017.”
In October 2020, Bahrain became the fourth Arab country in the Middle East after the UAE, Egypt and Jordan to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948. Israel already maintains full diplomatic relations with two of its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, after signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively. The Israel-Turkey relations were formalized in March 1949, when Turkey was the first Muslim majority country to recognize the state of Israel.
Basically, 164 of the 193 United Nations member states recognize Israel. On the other hand, there are 29 countries including Pakistan that still do not enjoy diplomatic relations with this Zionist state which was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The countries that do not recognize Israel include Pakistan, Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger, Bhutan, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. The passports of some countries are not valid for travel to Israel. These include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran and Iraq. Some 14 countries do not accept Israeli passports. These are Pakistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
(References: The Jewish Virtual Library, the “Daily Haaretz” of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the “Washington Post” and the “Al-Jazeera” Television, etc)
A couple of days ago, while refuting speculations that Pakistan and Israel might establish formal diplomatic relationship, Islamabad reiterated it would not establish any such ties until there was a viable, independent Palestinian state acceptable to the Palestinians.
Few facts about Israel and its key cities like Jerusalem:
Scholars believe the first human settlements in Jerusalem took place during the Early Bronze Age, somewhere around 3500 B.C. For thousands of years, this Israeli city has seen many bloody conflicts aimed at controlling it. Christians and Jews believe that in 1000 B.C., Hazrat Dawood (Kind David) conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Jewish kingdom. His son, Hazrat Suleman (Solomon) had built the first holy Temple about 40 years later.
(References: The Christian Bible-both Old and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the original Hebrew Bible, the sacred scriptures of the Jewish faith, written at different times between about 1200 and 165 BC. The New Testament books were written by Christians in the first century AD)
The Babylonians occupied Jerusalem in 586 B.C., destroyed the Temple, and sent the Jews into exile. About 50 years after that, the Persian King Cyrus allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Alexander the Great took control of Jerusalem in 332 B.C. Christians believe Jesus (Hazrat Issa) was crucified in the city of Jerusalem around 30 A.D.
In 691 A.D., the Dome of the Rock, a gold-domed Islamic shrine, was built on the site of the destroyed Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. The “Al-Jazeera” holds: “The Dome, located on the Temple Mount, was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik. It’s the oldest surviving Islamic building and was constructed at the very site where Muslims believe Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to heaven. During the Crusades, the Christians turned the landmark into a church. In 1187, Muslims recaptured the Dome of the Rock and re-designated it as a shrine. A silver-domed mosque, called al-Aqsa, sits adjacent to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Both structures are considered holy to Muslims.”
The “Los Angeles Times” had written in 2018: “The first siege of Jerusalem occurred in the year 587 B.C. when the city and its temple were destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. In the 2,605 intervening years, virtually every empire and every great leader has desired to have Jerusalem, or, at least, to leave his mark upon the city.” Research shows Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site and home to the al-Aqsa mosque. Muslims worldwide faced this mosque in prayers before the direction was changed to the mosque in Makkah.
Muslims, Jews and Christians believe Jerusalem and other Israeli cities have footprints of the most-revered prophets like Hazrat Adam, Jesus (Issa), Muhammad (SAW), Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Shu'aib (Jethro), Ayyub (Job), Dhulkifl (Ezekiel), Musa (Moses), Haroon (Aaron), Dawud (David), Sulayman (Solomon), Ilyas (Elias), Joshua (Yusha), Fahnaz (Phineas), Idris (Enoch), Shammil (Samuel), Hud (Heber), Saleh (Methusaleh), Ezra (Uzair), Nooh (Noah) and Lut (Lot), etc.
A December 9, 2003 report of the Doha-based “Al-Jazeera” television sates: “Jerusalem also holds the Dome of the Rock, where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) ascended on his night journey to heaven. The al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary as it is also called, is held by Jews and Muslims alike to be the place where Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was prevented from sacrificing his son Ismail (or Isaac to Christians and Jews) by God’s intervention. But for many people throughout history, Jerusalem has been a prized possession and much fought over. Archaeological work in the area suggests that the city was inhabited as far back as 4000B.C.”
It adds: “Jesus preached the importance of worshipping one God in the towns of Nazareth and Galilee where he lived. But it would be in Jerusalem where he was tried by the Roman official Pontius Pilate as a rebel and false prophet. The sentence he received was death, and Christians believe he was then crucified. This act became the central pillar of Christianity and the place of his (alleged) crucifixion in Jerusalem became the holiest site in Christendom.”
The noted Qatari media house maintained: “By the 11th century, Islam had been in the region for more than 500 years. The city gained a worldwide reputation as a city of the three faiths. But with the Fatimids in power, their empire fighting Christian expansionism, the rulers began to restrict the flow of Christian pilgrims. In 1187 A.D., under the leadership of Salah al-Din, Muslims recaptured the city and, much to the relief of the Christian inhabitants, there was no revenge killing. Those who wanted to leave were permitted to do so, with all their goods and belongings, and those who wanted to stay were guaranteed protection for their lives, property, and places of worship.”
Some more chronology:
In 1914, the First World War led to turmoil, destruction and the need for expansion and conquest by the European powers. So, in 1917, Jerusalem was captured by British forces under General Edmund Allenby. The same year, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour signaled the British Government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine to wealthy and influential Zionist Lord Rothschild. On May 14, 1948, fighting between Jews and Arabs broke out in the city. On May 28, the Jews in the Old City surrendered but the New City remained in Jewish hands.
The “Al-Jazeera” mentions: “The Old City and all areas held by the Arab Legion – the quadrant marking East Jerusalem – were annexed by Jordan in April 1949. The newly-created state of Israel responded by retaining the area it held and so and on December 14, 1949, the New City of Jerusalem was declared the capital of Israel. In 1967, Israeli forces took the Old City in the Six Day war with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. They formally annexed the Old City and placed all of Jerusalem under central administration.” In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, but most of the international community doesn’t recognize this distinction.
Over 15,500 Arabs have till date been deported and replaced since 1967, according to UN figures, in order to increase the Jewish numbers in the city. In 1918, the Jews used to possess only four per cent of the land, the Arabs 94pc and the minorities made up 2 per cent. By 1985, the position had reversed with 84pc ownership for the Jews, 14pc for the Arabs, and about 1 per cent for minorities. In May 2017, the Palestinian group Hamas presented a document that proposed the formation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
In July 2017, three Arabs shot two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For security reasons, the compound was cleared of visitors and closed for Muslim Friday prayers for the first time in 17 years. On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the planning of the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump’s announcement had sparked worldwide anger.