It’s a perennial hit: Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later gained notoriety as a Nazi collaborator, did it already in the 1920s; senior Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti did it in 2000; and now Ali Abunimah is doing his bit to keep the tradition of spurious claims about Jewish threats to Al-Aqsa alive.
On his Electronic Intifada blog, Abunimah has a post announcing that Likud leaders plan to go to Al-Aqsa, that they are calling for “cleansing” Jerusalem and building a Jewish temple instead of the mosque. At the bottom of the post there is an update that sort of acknowledges that there is no basis to the story, but unsurprisingly, this doesn’t prevent Abunimah from concluding:
There’s certainly no doubt that whoever published this flyer – which was taken as real by the Israeli media – is tapping into a history of calls and growing support for destroying Al-Aqsa. Feiglin’s supporters too are clear about their desire to take over the Temple Mount.
When I looked at the post, it had just over 100 tweets and some 150 Facebook endorsements. Hitler’s mufti would have loved such an efficient way to spread his incitement.
Here are some screenshots documenting the spread of Abunimah’s tale in the Twittersphere (click to enlarge):
As Abunimah knows full well, since 1967, Israel has treated the Temple Mount very differently from how the Jordanians treated Jewish holy sites before 1967. Here is a short summary:
Today, an Islamic Waqf, or religious committee, manages the Temple Mount, though Israel provides security and upholds decisions made by the waqf about access to the site.
For Jews, visiting the Temple Mount is a very controversial subject- both in terms of religious allowance and because non-Muslim prayer is prohibited at the site. Although freedom of access to the site is enshrined as law, Israel does not allow non-Muslim prayer on the Mount so as not to offend Muslim worshippers. Beyond this, many rabbi’s say that since the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies stood near the center of today’s Temple Mount, Jews are religiously forbidden from entering the area.
Arabs can enter the Temple Mount through one of ten different Muslim-only gates from various sites in the Old City. Tourists and Jews are only allowed access to the site through the Mugrabi Gate which is located just above to the left of the Kotel, or Western Wall plaza.
I outlined the tradition of incitement that Abunimah is now so eagerly adopting on my Jerusalem Post blog in October 2009; the (currently inaccessible) post is reproduced below, with some of the links that are no longer functional in […]. Additional examples of this “tradition” can also be found here.
80 years of Al-Aqsa incitement
It’s not about the “occupation” – the call to “defend” the Al-Aqsa mosque against imaginary Jewish onslaughts has been used with often deadly consequences since the 1920s.
* * *
In Israel, the news that President Obama was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize came together with news of renewed violence in Jerusalem. It’s unlikely that the Nobel laureate will be briefed about the recent riots in Jerusalem – after all, among the world’s many violent conflicts that require the president’s attention, the incidents in Jerusalem are hardly more than minor disturbances. But it’s a great pity that Obama will probably not be informed about the recent violence in Jerusalem, because these events tell the story of the Middle East conflict in a nutshell and illustrate why peace has proven so elusive.
Some of the crucial points have been highlighted in an excellent commentary by Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper that was published last week in the Jerusalem Post. Hier and Cooper rightly contrast the easy accessibility of the Western Wall – which can be visited by anyone – with the restrictions imposed on visits to the Temple Mount, where non-Muslims have access only at strictly limited hours and are prohibited from praying or performing any religious rituals.
However, not for the first time, recent events have shown that observing all these restrictions still doesn’t guarantee that visitors will not be pelted with stones by Palestinian Muslims who see themselves as heroic “defenders” of the Al-Aqsa mosque – which is threatened only in their fevered imagination.
It’s safe to assume that those stone-throwing youngsters have never asked themselves how come that the “occupied” Temple Mount is under the authority of the Muslim Waqf authorities. If they had ever asked this question, they would find out that in 1967, when Israel gained control of the area, Israel acknowledged the authority of the Waqf over the Temple Mount as an immediate gesture of goodwill – which came after almost 20 years of Jordanian control of the area, when Jews had been prevented from coming to the Western Wall in breach of the armistice agreement, and when Jewish property, places of worship and cemeteries had been systematically destroyed and desecrated.
The idea that the Al-Aqsa mosque is threatened by Jews is an invention that goes back to the days of Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later gained notoriety as a Nazi collaborator. In the 1920s, al Husseini renovated the “Haram al-Sharif” – as the Temple Mount is known in Arabic – and he began to accuse “the Zionists” of plotting to rebuild the Jewish Temple. His incitement contributed to repeated outbreaks of violence against Jews that culminated in the Hebron massacre of 1929.
Some 80 years later, al Husseini’s legacy is echoed in the incitement spread by the likes of Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, and Sheikh Kamal Khatib, another leading figure of this group.
Both of these Islamic leaders have made statements and speeches that mix fervent Muslim piety, fanatic nationalism, antisemitism and racism. While Salah doesn’t give interviews to Jewish reporters, Khatib declared in a recent interview on Israeli radio that Jews have no historical connection to the Temple Mount and that Muslim sensibilities were offended by the presence of Jewish security guards “from Ethiopia” – whom he referred to with a racist slur against blacks. For good measure, some Islamic Movement followers shouted during a recent demonstration the triumphalist Muslim slogan often used in attacks against Jews: “Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud, jish Muhammad saya’oud” – that is: “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, Mohammed’s army will return”. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1119789.html]
What is rather depressing is the fact that no Palestinian or Arab leader would denounce these kind of offensive statements, the baseless accusations and the completely undignified denial of the historical and spiritual Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Quite the contrary: even the famously “moderate” Palestinian prime minister Salaam Fayyad thought that the incitement was a good opportunity to rail against Israel, and Israeli Arab Knesset members happily joined in.
Western news reports on these events largely follow the “balance recipe” that reflects the assumption that if there is Palestinian violence, there must be a legitimate grievance. What Western audiences never get to see is how on these occasions even the most outlandish fabrications are used to incite Muslim fervor. Here are a few of the absurdities offered on the website “Islamonline”, which published an “interview” with “Sheikh Ali Abu-Sheikha, one of the 200 Palestinians besieged inside Al-Aqsa Mosque”. According to the Sheikh’s fevered imagination, this is what happened: [http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1254573453665&pagename=Zone-English-Muslim_Affairs/MAELayout]
“The Israeli occupation authority has mobilized thousands of settlers and extremist Jews during Sukkot to perform their rituals inside the holy Al-Aqsa itself. Backed and protected by the Israeli police, settlers have come up with drums and trumpets to perform their rituals inside Al-Aqsa. Brazenly challenging the Muslim and Arab world, Jews have announced their intention to storm Al-Aqsa. … The Israeli police has installed barriers on roads leading to Al-Aqsa. This all aimed at facilitating the situation for Jews to storm the mosque. … All Israeli provocations indicate a plan to accelerate the building of the so-called Jewish Temple … on the ruins of Al-Aqsa. According to the declaration of Israel’s Minister of Interior, there is a suggestion to divide Al-Aqsa between Muslims and Jews. Consequently, Israel tries to carry out such plan during these days.”
No doubt Haj Amin al Husseini would have liked this story – it’s just the kind of incitement he started some eighty years ago, when there was no “Israeli occupation authority” … Maybe the Nobel Prize will help Obama to find a way to bring peace to a region where religious leaders have been coming up with fabrications like this for many decades, and where even today, absurdities like this are eagerly believed by many and seized by “moderates” to advance their political agenda.