The Jewish connection to the land of Israel goes back to biblical times and two Jewish commonwealths existed during biblical and post-biblical times. The original Christians were a breakaway from Judaism and date from Jesus’ time. The Muslim Arabs, in contrast, arrived in the land only centuries later, in the seventh century, occupying Jerusalem in 638. Despite the wealth of historical knowledge existing of Jewish and Christian life in Israel, the PA officially asserts that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem, that the Jewish Temple never stood in Jerusalem, that Jesus was a Palestinian, and that Palestinian Arabs are descendants of earlier, Phoenician inhabitants of the land. Yasser Arafat declared once that Palestinian Arabs are descended from a non-existent Canaanite king named Salem, who supposedly preceded the Jewish settlement in the land:
“Those of you who lit the intifada fire must now act as defenders of this young state, whose capital is Jerusalem. It is Bir Salem [the fountain of Salem]. Salem was one of the Canaanite Kings, one of our forefathers. This city is the capital of our children and our children’s children. If not for this belief and conviction of the Palestinian nation, this people would have been erased from the face of the earth, as were so many other nations” (Arafat in an address in Jericho, August 18, 1994, cited by historian Martin Gilbert, New Republic, November 14, 1994).
At the time of the 2000 negotiations, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami recounted that when Israel was offering to concede sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinian state, the PA was not prepared that the agreement should mention a historical connection between the Jewish people and that place ( Haaretz, July 7, 2004).
ZOA National Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, “Although Abbas undoubtedly did not intend to let slip a statement that the Palestinian Arabs are not the original inhabitants of the land, he did just that in his speech. This is an important admission because it gives the lie to the Palestinian Arab claim that Jews are purely new arrivals whereas Palestinian Arabs are natives from time immemorial. Despite Abbas’ admission, it is clear from recent events, like the destruction of churches and attacks on Christian institutions in Gaza in recent days that extremism, violence and chaos lies in store for all non-Muslims residing in a Palestinian Arab state, should one be created in the near future, a goal supported by so many governments, including the Bush Administration.”