Monday, January 25, 2016

  • Monday, January 25, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
Last year, the PLO published a document meant to provide proof that Israel is violating the sanctity of the Temple Mount.

It is filled with lies; for example it blames Israel for the fire at the Al Aqsa Mosque set in 1969 by an Australian. For now, we will concentrate on one specific claim, about the status quo.

When it defines the history of the status quo, it says:

The Treaty of Berlin of 1878 has this to say about holy places under Ottoman rule:

Article LXII. The Sublime Porte having expressed the intention to maintain the principle of religious liberty, and give it the widest scope, the Contracting Parties take note of this spontaneous declaration. In no part of the Ottoman Empire shall difference of religion be alleged against any person as a ground for exclusion or incapacity in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, admission to public employments, functions, and honors, or the exercise of the various professions and industries, in any locality whatsoever. The freedom and outward exercise of all forms of worship shall be assured to all, and no hindrance shall be offered either to the hierarchical organization of the different communions, or to their relations with their spiritual chiefs.

Ecclesiastics, pilgrims, and monks of all nationalities traveling in Turkey in Europe, or in Turkey in Asia, shall enjoy the same rights, advantages, and privileges.

The right of official protection by the Diplomatic and Consular Agents of the Powers in Turkey is recognized both as regards the above-mentioned persons and their religious, charitable, and other establishments in the Holy Places and elsewhere. The rights possessed by France are expressly reserved, and it is well understood that no alterations can be made in the status quo in the Holy Places. The monks of Mount Athos, of whatever country they may be natives, shall be maintained in their former possessions and advantages, and shall enjoy, without any exception, complete equality of rights and prerogatives.
Tha section on the status quo is not even an entire sentence of the Article, and the Article itself makes clear that religious liberty is the highest goal and the maintenance of the status quo is not meant to limit that freedom to worship.

Analysis of this article throughout the decades that discuss the status quo all concentrate on who is allowed to make physical changes to designated Holy Places and who can act as administrators.

The major conflicts over the status quo of holy places were by various Christian denominations who were perpetually fighting (often literally) over rights to Christian holy places. This is described by L. G. A. Cust in 1929:

The present position therefore is that the arrangements existing in 1852 which corresponded to the Status Quo of 1757 as to the rights and privileges of the Christian communities officiating in the Holy Places have to be most meticulously observed, and what each rite practised at that time in the way of public worship, decorations of altars and shrines, use of lamps, candelabra, tapestry and pictures, and in the exercise of the most minute acts of ownership and usage has to remain unaltered. Moreover, the Status Quo applies also to the nature of the officiants. Thus, the Franciscans alone of the Roman Catholic Orders are allowed to celebrate Mass independently in the Holy Places, although the clergy of any Roman Catholic Order can attend. The Patriarch himself, of course, has the right to pontificate. Similarly, of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches none other than the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has any standing in the Holy Places. The Russian Church during the last quarter of the 19th century made strenuous efforts to obtain independent privileges and to maintain altars of their own, for the saying of the Liturgy in the Russian language, but this was successfully opposed by the Hellenic elements. \ Russian clergy are, however, able to take part in the services.

Freedom for all to visit and even to pray individually at holy places is not considered as a violation of the status quo, as the examples given here show.

Clearly the status quo on the Temple Mount itself allowed visitors throughout the 20th century, as the Waqf itself published a guidebook for visitors. (This is the guidebook that said that it is "beyond dispute" that this is the site of Solomon's Temple.)

Did the Waqf forbid any non-Muslims to silently pray? Not based on this booklet, which gave specific examples of what visitors should not do - smoke or bring in dogs.

To say, as the PLO claims, that religious Jews visiting the Temple Mount and even silently praying there violates the status quo is just another lie.

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