The Internationalisation of Holy Sites: Sovereignty à la Mode

Saudi Arabia has reportedly stated that any claim to the Internationalisation of Holy Sites, in its territory, would tantamount to a Declaration of War against the Kingdom. Assuming the report is correct, it would be extremely interesting that calls for the internationalisation of Jerusalem are “accepted” but not of Mecca. I can already hear the voices of those stating that there's a difference between the two cases, but is this argument valid?

The Problem with the Internationalisation of Sites

The fact that a site is sacred and important to one religion, or a set of them, it doesn't mean that the sovereignty of the country (where that site is) can be violated by other political entities or states. Breaching the walls of any state is inviting chaos and the eventual destruction of that sovereign entity – is that what the globe wants in the Saudi and Israeli cases? If so, then let's be honest about it and just say it.

For example, the Shrine of Fátima is in Portugal – should the State of Vatican City call for the control of Cova da Iria, and would Portugal accept it? Of course not. Should the site of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil be dominated by Rome? No. In both cases, Portugal and Brazil have absolute sovereignty over these Catholic holy sites.

Mecca is the Prophet's city: Al-Masjid al-Haram (considered to be bayt Allah) is there; and Muslims are required to go there on pilgrimage for Hajj, at least once in their lifetime. Mecca is situated in Saudi Arabia, so naturally the Kingdom has full sovereignty over it regardless of being considered a Holy Place by over 1 billion of Muslims worldwide.

Jerusalem is more complex an issue because:
  1. It is the incontestable Jewish Holy City. It is the City of David, the centre of Jewish life and prayers for thousands of years. 
  2. It is a holy city of Christians. Jesus preached in Jerusalem and his prophesied fate was sealed there.
  3. For political reasons, Muslims in the 20th century claimed the city (which is not even once mentioned in the Quran, since Prophet Mohammed has never even been there) was one of Islam's holy cities; in utter contradiction to Al-Quran. 
Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem is situated in Israeli territory, therefore the Jewish State has complete sovereignty over the City of David. Sovereign Israel is to have full control of all of its Holy sites – including the Temple Mount – regardless of how many other religions may have an interest in being connected to the city. Just like sovereign Saudi Arabia is to keep absolute control of Mecca and all its Holy Sites, regardless of any imaginary claim by either Qatar or Iran.

Sovereignty à la Mode

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf is in charge of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as part of an Agreement signed between Israel and Jordan (who funds and controls the Waqf entirely).

When Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, then defense minister Moshe Dayan decided it would be best if the Jordanian Awqaf Ministry would continue to administer the site, in order to avoid a larger conflagration with the Muslim world. Jews would be allowed to visit, but not to pray, he decided — utilizing the rabbinical consensus in Jewish religious law that Jews should not set foot atop the Mount for fear of defiling the temples’ most sacred space, the Holy of Holies.  - Dov Lieber

The Israeli Left obviously made a very bad decision in 1967. Moshe Dayan opened a dangerous precedent that Qatar seems to be wanting to use, because if Jordan can control a holy site located in another sovereign country, why shouldn't Qatar or even Iran try to control Mecca's Holy Sites as well? Imagine if the State of Vatican, sitting in Rome, would claim control over the Fátima Shrine in Portugal.

So, is it just for other countries to control parts of other sovereign nations? Nay. Does doing so tantamount to a declaration of war? Aye.

Brien Hallett stated that “A reasoned declaration of war justifies the resort to war by stating the grievances that have made peace intolerable and the remedies that will restore peace.” Based on this statement, one can say that Saudi Arabia has grounds to declare war against Qatar, or whomever dares to try controlling Mecca.

And since agreements, and the Status Quo, do not last forever; it is fair to say that the day will come when Israel will have to take a stand and have the courage to undo Moshe Dayan's mistake – metal detectors in Holy Sites are reprehensible, but if Muslims continue to use the Temple Mount as a Boot Camp and a Weapons Cache (as it will be proven) to prepare for the next Big War with Israel, all the while waging attrition mini-wars against Jews in the site, then Israel must regain control of all the Jewish Holy Sites, in the Historical Homeland of the Jewish People, by force to restore true Peace once and for all. Destruction precedes re-construction.

Sovereignty means full control without any interference from external entities. Israel is a sovereign country, therefore it makes no sense (not even pragmatic sense) for it to continue allowing Jordan, Turkey, Iran et al to interfere in any issue or site related to its capital city.

I end with a bastardisation of a quote by Mao Tse Tung:

Israel's problems are complicated and our brains must also be a little complicated. If they start fighting, we fight back, fight to win peace. 

(Image: Masjid al-Haram [Ed] - Google Images]

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Saudi Arabia just wants a pretext to go to war against Qatar and Iran, two allies by the way.

  2. Sovereignty must be respected in both countries. Jordan travelled to Ramallah to show support for the Palestinian case, kick the waqf out of the temple mount.

  3. I'm pretty radical about these things: no one has the right to violate a country's borders. And no entity should control sites in other people's countries! Concerning Jerusalem: it's on Israel to fix the problem and show the Arab world who's in charge. If she puts her head on the floor, sure the Arabs will put their foot on her neck!

  4. I like the adulteration of Mao Tse Tung's words. Sovereignty is a sacred thing and the Jerusalem issue is evidence that doing things to appease certain people, and to get a quick fix, never works. Never. We put our national interests first - and in the Israeli case, whomever resists the Plan, shall soon discover that it is futile to do so. Good job.


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