Europe Returns To Jerusalem

Europe Returns To Jerusalem

Absent from Jerusalem for seven hundred years, the Crusaders have never dismissed it from their hearts and minds Muslim/Christian Jerusalem continues to represent the domination of Muslims and easterners in general over the Holy City in the eyes of the Crusaders who look at Jerusalem and the Holy Land as belonging to Western Europe rather than to its Muslim and Christian population.

These profound racist, fanatic feelings persisted after Zionism used them to its advantage. This second Crusade against Jerusalem and the Holy Land was launched on different pretexts: First, the visits of priests and pilgrims to Jerusalem, the visits of travellers and explorers, the reports of spies and surveyors; second, taking advantage of the weakness of the ailing Ottoman Empire in the 19th century and demanding it to be open to Europe in the form of European consulates in Jerusalem, on the pretext of protecting Ottoman subjects, who are pure Arabs, from Ottoman oppression, arguing they were non- Muslim, i.e. Arab Christians of different sects.

On Friday, 15 July 1099 Tancard the Norman broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque during prayer and slaughtered all worshippers with a sword and stole the gold and silver plating the Dome of the Rock. But two hundred years later, or more exactly on 15 August 1291, the last Crusader left Jerusalem, with no more European presence in the Holy Land. However, the turn of the 19th century witnessed a peaceful offensive by large groups of welcome and unwelcome visitors to the Holy Land always passing by Jerusalem, which fascinated them at sunrise and sunset standing on tops of the surrounding mountains. They carried pens rather than swords describing the scenes, drawing detailed maps, having a fixed idea in mind: Colonial Europe must restore what was lost in the Crusades.

Here we find Scetzen s description of the Holy Land, and Edward Robinson s book Biblical Investigations in Palestine , which remained a major reference for a century. Baedeker s tourist guide to many places in the world is well-known, and its special edition about Jerusalem was an important reference for tourists until its occupation in 1917.

However, Europe s scientific revival turned its efforts from the recapture of Jerusalem from religious extremist motives to organized scientific effort in the form of drawing maps, archaeological excavations and investigation of Palestinian customs and traditions, not to preserve them but to prove the Biblical stories and in turn claim that the original people of Palestine are Jews rather than Arabs, and that Palestine is ancient Israel. However, the most valuable works today are the detailed maps which survey Palestine in different periods. Though drawn by racists, these maps remain a major historical reference about the urban development of Jerusalem since the 19th century.

In 1818, the German Sieber produced a produced a preliminary map of Jerusalem, followed by Catherwood in 1833, then the British Admiralty in 1844, but the Dutch Van de Velde published a detailed map of Palestine from El-Arish south to Beirut and Damascus north, with details of Jerusalem. The British Charles Wilson went to Jerusalem in 1865 and published the most important and accurate map of Jerusalem that century with a scale of 1: 10,000 and 1:2,25,000. Surprisingly, the Governor of Jerusalem, Ezzat Pasha shared in this demanding endeavour, by carrying out a survey of Jerusalem in view of the significance of this serious engineering effort. Wilson even went down to well depths and walked in and drew many tunnels and caves under Jerusalem. When British mandate officials in 1937 were in need of a new map of Jerusalem, they found nothing more accurate than Wilson s and they made a few additions to it.

These scientific efforts encouraged the exploration of Jerusalem once again. A number of priests, historians, officers and theologians, including many Jews, met in 1865 and founded the Palestine Exploration Fund under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of York and the patronage of Queen Victoria. The stated objective of the Fund was to explore Palestine s antiquities, geography, geology and natural history. Though apparently innocent, the real objective, as revealed by later correspondence and the Fund s minutes, was to locate Solomon s Temple and David s City and to verify the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The objective because publicly known when Claude Conder polished his book The Recapture of Jerusalem in 1871.

An exploratory expedition

In 1871, the Fund sent a survey expedition to Palestine, where it stayed for four years during which it produced 26 survey maps with a scale of 1:63,000 covering the region from Tyre to Gaza, showing the names of 12,000 towns, villages, places and shrines. The Fund also produced ten volumes, including special parts about Jerusalem, Palestine s flora, fauna and birds and historical sites, as well as an index of placenames in English and Arabic. The results of the study and the survey were taken to London for scrutiny and verification. The first edition was published in 1881. It is surprising that such an accurate, comprehensive work was conducted in the 19th century, considering the then simple equipment used. Our study of these old maps using new technical methods showed that the villages on the maps were misplaced about a half kilometre to the east and, as expected, there were mistakes in the Arabic names. However, it is particularly noticeable that this classic work ignored completely the people of Palestine who lived there for centuries before and after Jesus Christ. Though full of minute details of the remnants of a Roman column left on sand, this work contained only very little information about the Palestinians and their attachment to their land, with marginal reference to some people, such as cooks, translators, guards and donkey drivers.

One member of the survey team was a young graduate of Woolich Survey School. He was arrogant and a perfect representative of the British colonial mentality at the time. On Sunday, 10 July 1875 the survey team put up their tent near the town of Safad. The residents were suspicious of those foreigners who came to collect information about their country and pelted them with stones, one of which hit the forehead of that young officer. Work was suspended, and the team lodged a complaint with the British Consul in Beirut, who contacted the Ottoman Wali, who, after being offered a reasonable bribe, detained all Safad s residents, levied a fine on them and sent their notables to prison. That officer was H. Kitchener, who later became commander in-chief of the Egyptian army and the virtual ruler of Egypt, and eventually the British War Secretary. He drowned during the First World War.

Excavations continued in an attempt to find evidence of the truth of the Bible and in turn continuous Jewish presence in Palestine. Excavations continued for half a century before the occupation of Palestine and for thirty years during the British mandate costing millions of dollars; however not a single stone was found to prove the false allegations of the Jews in Jerusalem or Palestine.

Now, back to Kitchener. He left Palestine after performing his role in the survey expedition, but came bake in 1883 to share in a geological expedition to explore Araba Valley and southern Palestine. He then went to Egypt which was occupied by the British in 1882 on the pretext of support of Khedive Tawfik to quell the rebellion of Orabi Pasha and other Egyptian officers calling for a national rule in Egypt. He later shared in crushing the Mahdi rebellion in Sudan staged by free nationals against foreign colonialism. Had Kitchener been alive, he would no doubt have been the first British officer to enter Palestine. But that role was played by Allenby, who entered Jerusalem walking in December 1917.

The books which appeared during that period showed an extremist religious inclination towards Jerusalem. Books under the title The Last Crusade , e. g. exalted the return of Jerusalem to Western European Christiany regardless of its Arab Islamic and Christian history.

One of Kitchener s assistants in Egypt was Ronald Storss, a well-educated young aristocrat, who spoke Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Greek fluently. His position in Egypt was Oriental Secretary , equivalent to the position of Minister of National Affaris.

Storrs was appointed military governor of Jerusalem at the start of the British mandate. One of his priorities was to turn the city into a Zionist and Jewish one as for as possible in the 20th century. He was armed with the Balfour Declaration, which became part of the mandate charter later. He made Hebrew the official language of the government of Palestine and renamed the streets according to Western Christian heritage. He placed the Jews in a prominent position in the city council, and promoted the European character at the expense of the Arab Islamic and Christian one by establishing what he called cultural societies . He introduced Roman history and the history of Great Britain into school curricula, and forced Arab students to learn Latin, removing the proper study of Arab history. In the meantime and supported by Herbert Samuel, the first High Commissioner in Palestine, he approved an independent Jewish education system without control over its content. Samuel enforced more than a hundred laws which facilitated seizing Palestine s land by the Jews, and recognized the Jewish Agency as the official representative of immigrant Jews and its legislative assembly as the Jews parliament. He also approved a separate banking system for the Jews and established the nucleus of Jewish ministries of works, electricity and water. But his most serious act was the creation, training and armament of Jewish militia under the misleading name settlement guards , which later became the Haganah army, which occupied Palestine in 1948 and expelled its people, an event later known as the nakba (catastrophe).

The British Consul s activities

Back in the 19th century, when the European influence reached the Holy Land on the pretext of protecting non-Muslim minorities, the first penetration was opening a Russian consulate to protect Arab Orthodox Christians in Jaffa in the first third of the 19th century, followed by a Prussian consulate in 1838 headed by the energetic Consul Schultz. The Catholics had their presence a century earlier as many Maronites embraced Catholicism. In 1845 the British Consul James Funn and his wife arrived in Jerusalem where he found Jews as the only non-Muslims to protect. They were a small group of the poor who welcomed British aid, but only a few embraced Christianity, which was his aim.

He wrote a number of books about his visits to every spot in Palestine. His wife as well wrote about him in her memories after his death. He was a Christian fanatic ad a believer in the Bible as a true historical record. If he had lived to date, he would have been a Zionist par excellence. Though land fertility and the activity, produce and hospitality of Palestinian farmers surprised him he described them in racist words, wishing, while touring fertile plains and hills, they would disappear and go to hell and be replaced with ancient Israelis to regain their ancestors land. That was not a passing whim. Later, some missionary and scientific societies went to Palestine for investigation purposes. The major religious society consisted of members of the Templars, a group mostly German. They were not based in Jerusalem, though it was their centre of interest in Palestine. They set up settlements at Sarona, Filhilmina and Haifa for their enclosed community, with very little contact with the outside world. However, their agricultural projects were not settlements or of a political nature, but were similar to the religious societies which immigrated to America and settled in special communities, such as the Amish and the Mormons. It is worth noting that the early Zionist settlers in Palestine were not familiar with agriculture or farming, but replicated those German settlements in terms of design and lifestyle, with a big difference of course in that those Zionist settlements turned into fortresses where weapons were stockpiled and soldiers trained in preparation for seizing Palestine.

But those religion societies were not isolated. An American society called American Colony was founded in Jerusalem in the place occupied today by a hotel with the same name. They came originally from Sweden, settled in Chicago (USA), then immigrated to Jerusalem as Americans. Their record of achievement included building health clinics, assisting in building schools and a marvellous collection of photographs of life in Palestine. The American Friends Society known as the Quakers built the Friends School in Ramallah where many generations of Palestinian young men and women who played a major role in society were taught. The Quakers still provide excellent services to the Palestinians, and, moreover, from their base in Philadelphia, promote solidarity with the Palestinian people in the hub of American politics.

One of the most important societies which existed in Palestine from the late 19th century to World War I was the German Scientific Society whose annals contained detailed reports about the Holy Land and its people. Particular reference must be made to Gustav Dalman s substantial volume which gave minute details of the life of Palestinian villages and heritage with pictures and drawings. A Swedish female researcher lived at the village of Artas, near Jerusalem, and wrote a detailed book about several generations of the village from their birth to marriage, with a description of the village s social structure.

In addition to the above, hundreds of other travellers, priests, adventurers, spies and survey officers came to the Holy City, making and leaving their mark, but their work filled Arabs imagination with Jerusalem s fascination, history and religious significance.

The ideas which all those people carried were fixed in the minds of the Europeans, as if they had replaced the Crusade occupation seven hundred years ago with ideological occupation which remains fixed in their minds. That led extremist American Protestant groups to adopt Zionism. These religious views remained as emotions and legacy in the West s mentality, but Jerusalem, its people and the entire population of the Holy Land have been severely afflicted as Zionists turned these views into political principles, action plans and financial, military and political support for Israel s policy of occupation, settlements and expulsion of the land s legitimate owners. The gravest disaster was in 1917, when Britain issued the Balfour Declaration and opened Palestine s doors to new disastrous European colonialism, the greatest catastrophe Palestine has ever seem for four thousand years, but it must come to an end.


* Founder and President of Palestine Land Institution, London


Salman Abu Setta*


Jerusalem fascinates its visitors when they approach it beyond the mountains. This is Jerusalem as viewed by Tristram Aylis in 1899

The famous picture of the Mayor of Jerusalem, Saleem Al-Husseini, hoisting the white flag of surrender of the city to the first British soldier on 9 December 1917

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century droves of European tourists converged on Jerusalem carrying their then modern cameras. This is one of their pictures taken outside the walls of Jerusalem in 1872

An engineering drawing of the Dome of the Rock from the inside, 1847

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