(JTA) — An Arab Knesset member claimed that Jews have no religious ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
On Monday, Masud Ganaim of the Joint Arab List told Israel Radio that “historically, religiously, it is a Muslim site, period,” the Religion News Service reported.
The remarks came a day after Tisha b’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples on the Temple Mount, the scene of Palestinians rioting on Sunday. Four Israeli police officers were lightly injured and three Palestinians were arrested in the clashes. A similar riot occurred there last year on Tisha b’Av.
The Temple Mount, located adjacent to the Western Wall, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, making it one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Israeli law bars non-Muslims from praying on the site, which is managed by Muslims and is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Many rabbis, including Israel’s two chief rabbis, have ruled that visiting the Temple Mount is a violation of halachah, or Jewish law, although in recent years, several modern Orthodox rabbis have argued that Jews should be allowed to visit the site and pray there.
In his comments to Israel Radio, Ganaim said, “The State of Israel knows that Jews and Israel have no legitimacy to the site, except for their legitimacy as an occupier — a legitimacy [won] by force.”
Formerly a member of the Islamic Movement party, Ganaim, 50, has been in the Knesset since 2009 and joined the Joint Arab List in the lead-up to the 2015 elections, when the new party formed as an alliance of four Arab parties.
Monday’s comment about the Temple Mount was not Ganaim’s first inflammatory remark. In May 2010 he said the State of Israel should be replaced with an Islamic caliphate.