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Israel Rejects Jordan Complaints of Desecration of Old City Holy Places

March 7, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel presented to Secretary-General U Thant today, documentary and photographic evidence of 20 years’ of wanton destruction, desecration and vandalism by Jordan against Jewish property and holy places in Old Jerusalem and surrounding areas which it occupied in the 1948 war against Israel. The evidence, submitted by Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, was accompanied by a letter challenging Jordan’s right to complain about Israel’s efforts to clear uninhabitable slums in the area and erect modern housing for Jews and Arabs alike.

Ambassador Tekoah’s presentation was in direct reply to letters and documents submitted by Muhammed H. El-Farra, permanent representative of Jordan, to the Secretary General on Feb. 23 and Feb. 28. The Jordanians charged that Israel was destroying the character of “Arab Jerusalem” and was sullying Moslem holy places by its clearing operations and archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the West Wall.

Ambassador Tekoah accompanied his documents with a 54-page book containing scores of photographs of Jewish homes, synagogues and cemeteries wilfully damaged or destroyed by the Jordanians. The booklet was published in English, French and Spanish.

“With regard to the West Wall,” Ambassador Tekoah wrote, “it is to be observed that it is the most Holy Place of all to Judaism.” He said that archaeological excavations near the West Wall and the Temple Mount area, had always taken place… “during the period of the Mandate and during the Jordanian occupation…Approval has been granted for the continuation of these excavations, outside the area of the Temple Mount, that is outside the walls surrounding the Haram esh-Sharif.” The Israeli envoy noted further that “a clear distinction exists between the Haram esh-Sharif and the Western Wall which were recognized as two separate Holy Places,” by the United Nations.

Concerning Israeli slum clearance operations in the Mughrabi quarter of the Old City, a Jewish quarter. Ambassador Tekoah pointed out that though it faces the West Wall it is not a holy place but secular property. “No modern civilized Government or municipal administration would have tolerated the slum conditions which the Jordanian Government created in this Quarter.” he said.

Noting that the Jordanian representative complained about plans to construct new housing in the modern part of Jerusalem, including the former “no man’s-land” and areas occupied by Jordan in 1948. Ambassador Tekoah wrote that “this complaint refers to vacant land of which about two-thirds is public domain or belongs to Jewish private persons or institutions. Only one-third is owned by private Arab landlords. No person at all is being evicted and none of the land in question belongs to any ecclesiastical institution or is Waqf (Arab foundation for the administration of Moslem holy places) property.”

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