(JTA) – An often-controversial Arab Israeli Knesset member said Jews have no proven historical connection to the Temple Mount and no reason to visit it.
In an interview Friday in a Hebrew-language publication, Joint Arab List MK Hanin Zoabi said, “The name is al-Aqsa, not the Temple Mount, and there is nothing there for Jews,” the Times of Israel reported.
Al-Aqsa is the name of a mosque located on the Temple Mount, a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that Muslims call Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary). The compound, which has experienced considerable tension and violence in recent months, is arguably the most contested religious site in the world: the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest site in Islam.
Zoabi, who is 46 and Muslim, served in the previous two Knessets as well as this one. She has made many controversial comments during her political career and was barred from running in the last election because of her alleged extremist views, before the Supreme Court overturned the decision.
In Friday’s interview she said the Temple Mount, which is adjacent to the Western Wall, is “a place for Muslims only, according to all the agreements signed after the occupation of Jerusalem, and the agreements between Jordan and Israel.
“The Israelis understood that they occupied Jerusalem but are not allowed to occupy al-Aqsa; now they are trying to occupy al-Aqsa too,” she added.
When a reporter asked if she acknowledges that the Jewish First and Second Temples once stood on the site, Zoabi said the Temple “is not part of the political reality in which we live.”
She added that “the existence of the Temple is not verified scientifically.”
Zoabi described Israel’s recent restrictions on men under a certain age entering the mosque, ostensibly to prevent violence, as “a political colonialist war” waged by the State of Israel.
“As far as we are concerned it’s a declaration of war,” she said.
Another Arab Israeli Knesset member, Jamal Zahalka, was questioned earlier this week for harassing Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
In an exchange captured on video, Zahalka shouted at the visitors, “Crazy criminals, you’re all Kahanists, fascists, racists, get out of here, you hurt Muslims.” Kahanist refers to followers of the late Jewish ultranationalist leader Meir Kahane.
Zahalka also shouted: “This is not yours, get out of here, go home, you’re not wanted.”
The altercation came on the second day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and following two days of clashes between Israel Police and security forces and Muslim protesters on the site.
The leader of the Arab Joint List, Ayman Odeh, supported Zahalka and his actions.
“The Al-Aqsa mosque belongs to the Muslims, and the only way to defend it is to continue our struggle for the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines whose capital is East Jerusalem,” Odeh said in the statement, according to the Times of Israel.