Even pilgrims are staying away from Jerusalem

Israel has a new train line: 25 minutes from Ben Gurion airport to Jerusalem. The Christian pilgrims would love it but they’re not here. Instead, there are soldiers and visiting American Jews. My taxi driver says American Jews come with thousands of dollars of cigarettes and drive around looking for soldiers to give them to. He says American Jews love Israel more than Israelis. Then he moves his machine gun – it’s on the front seat – and says: ‘Welcome to Israel.’ The American Jews go south to the massacre sites of 7 October to stare at the bullet holes. I don’t. You can’t forget the war here. At the

Light and shade in the Holy Land – a century in spectacular images

Roger Hardy is a romantic. That much I deduce from the language he uses to describe how photographers were drawn to the special quality of light in Palestine. Their images, he writes, ‘capture the play of light and shade on the limestone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, the glistening watermelons on sale at open-air markets, the white apartment blocks of the new metropolis of Tel Aviv, the dusty rubble of houses blown up by soldiers during the rebellion of the 1930s’. The last few words reveal a steely realism, too, a quality developed, no doubt, during the more than 20 years he worked as a Middle East analyst for the

Israel is an apartheid state

If you’re after evidence of apartheid in Israel, you don’t have to look very far. Amid rioting by Palestinians and Arabs, the Israel Police has declared the Temple Mount in Jerusalem off-limits. For ten days, only practitioners of one religion will be allowed to visit. For context, Temple Mount is home to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism, and is where the First and Second Temples stood until their destruction by the Babylonians and Romans, respectively. Following Jerusalem’s conquest by Islamic imperialists in the 7th century, a succession of caliphs worked to Islamise the Temple Mount by erecting Muslim worship sites including the Dome of the

Why do parts of Britain erupt whenever Israel defends itself?

There has been a huge amount of comment in recent days on the latest round of exchanges between Israel and the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. As usual whole slews of celebrities and other important figures on the international stage have lamented the fact that Israel has put so much effort into the defence of its own citizens. As usual these ignoramuses cry about ‘disproportionate’ death tolls. As though it would all be a lot fairer if Israel turned off the Iron Dome system for a night or two and let the increasingly sophisticated weaponry of its enemies rain down, unmolested, upon its people. But all this,

Hamas, not Israel, is to blame for the latest bloodshed

I was born in the Jordanian-occupied Old City in Jerusalem and lived in a UN refugee camp from 1966 until 1999. During the First Intifada, I worked for B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and in 1996 I founded the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring group. With my background in Palestinian campaigning and as a resident of East Jerusalem today, you might assume that I am against Israel’s current military actions. But this could not be further from the truth. The blame for this month’s bloodshed lies solely at the feet of Hamas. Those who wish to divert attention from Hamas’s war crimes would

Riots in Jerusalem

In 2015, I was nearly beaten by a far-right mob in Jerusalem. Thursday night’s riot in the holy city reminded me a lot of that evening. Thankfully, this time, nobody died, but that same feeling of tension, anger and violence was in the air. My run in with the mob began at a small vigil to protest against the murder of a family at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. For some reason they decided we were ‘left-wing protesters’ — the police were able to encircle us but could do nothing to stop the bottles being thrown, the spit, the curses. Our crowd of attacks moved on, beating any Arabs they

Who was to blame for the death of Jesus?

In 1866, the Russian historian Alexander Popov made an astonishing discovery. Leafing through a Renaissance Slavonic translation of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, Popov found detailed notes on the trial of Jesus written by none other than Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who sentenced Jesus to death. The notes, finally published in a German edition 60 years later, were impressively detailed. They described Jesus as a ‘crooked’ and ‘horse-faced’ man whose eyebrows met over his nose. They showed how he had arrived in Jerusalem in the week before his death in the company of secretly armed partisans, intending to occupy the Temple. And they proved that Pilate had been forced