Communicated by the Israel Government Press Office, August 20, 1998
Annex III, Appendix I, Article 32 of the 28 September 1995 Oslo 2 accord: “2. Both sides shall respect and protect the listed below religious rights of Jews, Christians, Moslems and Samaritans: a. protection of the Holy Sites; b. free access to the Holy Sites; and c. freedom of worship and practice.”
Article V(2b) of Annex I spells out specific arrangements concerning the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus and the Shalom al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho. These arrangements are designed “to ensure free, unimpeded and secure access to the relevant Jewish holy site.”
In addition to the present siege on Joseph’s Tomb, the PA has assaulted other holy sites, such as Abraham’s Oak Russian Monastery. Located in the Palestinian-controlled part of Hevron, the monastery belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On July 5, 1997, Palestinian policemen arrived at the monastery and ordered the monks and nuns to vacate the premises. The PA officers physically removed all of the monks and nuns, and took over the site.
The GPO also released examples of official Palestinian remarks about Jewish holy sites. For example: “If the Jews really want peace, they must absolutely forget about having any rights over the Temple Mount or Al-Aksa Mosque… the Western Wall also belongs to Moslems, and was given to the Jews as a place of prayer only because the British asked and the Moslems agreed out of the goodness of their hearts. The Western Wall is just a fence belonging to a Moslem holy site.”
— Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, the official PA Mufti (senior Muslim cleric) who was appointed to his position by Yasser Arafat, in an interview with the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon, May 22, 1998.
“The archeology of Jerusalem is diverse – excavations in the Old City and the areas surrounding it revealed Umayyad Islamic palaces, Roman ruins, Armenian ruins and others, but nothing Jewish. Outside of what is mentioned/ written in the Old and New Testaments, there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces/ remains in the old city of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity.”
— PA Information Ministry Press Release, 10 December 1997.
“Be alert and treat Joseph’s Tomb and Rachel’s Tomb as parcels of Palestinian land which must be liberated, and treat Joseph and Rachel as two people who died, like anyone else.”
— excerpt from an article in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, 1 December 1997, concerning Jewish holy sites in Nablus and Bethlehem.