WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration condemned a Palestinian Authority paper that denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall.
“Regarding a claim by a senior Palestinian official of the Western Wall is an Islamic Waqf, we strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday. "We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of de-legitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land."
Multiple Jewish groups and members of Congress have slammed the Palestinian Authority for the paper, which appeared on its website last week signed by a senior Ministry of Information official.
"We are deeply concerned that the Palestinian study dismissed a Jewish connection to the Western Wall,” said Conrad Giles and Rabbi Steve Gutow, the chairman and president, respectively, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national umbrella for Jewish policy groups. “We intend to share with Palestinian leaders our worry that this study could resurrect a false narrative that Jews have no connection to the land and could reignite ugly religious battles over free worship and access."
The JCPA statement comes on the eve of a JCPA tour of Israel and Palestinian areas. Gutow and Giles said they would raise the matter when they meet with Palestinian leaders, who in recent months have otherwise acknowledged Jewish connections to the land of Israel.
Other groups condemning the paper include the Orthodox Union, B’nai B’rith International, the Zionist Organization of America and J Street.
The OU, which was the first group to condemn the paper, praised the Obama administration.
"As we stated last week, this official government propaganda is contemptible, historically false and runs afoul of efforts to achieve peace with the State of Israel," the OU said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, also has condemned the paper.
The Western Wall’s origins as the outer wall of the Jewish Second Temple are grounded in archaeological evidence and in contemporary descriptions.