Tag Archives: al-Aqsa

Stanford professor Palumbo-Liu promotes site publishing antisemitic conspiracy theories

Earlier today, I wrote about “BDS solidarity with murderous hatred” at my new Times of Israel (TOI) blog. This post highlights an article written by Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu in the Huffington Post, where he supports a recent BDS initiative to show solidarity with Palestinians despite (or because of?) the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks; he also seemed to endorse baseless accusations that Israel is threatening Al-Aqsa – which, as I’ve pointed out previously, is a lethal libel first promoted by the man who became notorious as Hitler’s mufti. (See also Jeffrey Goldberg’s similar post on “The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada.”)

I noted in my TOI post on BDS that Palumbo-Liu is supporting his views with links that lead to sites devoted to the demonization of Israel, and I argued that “[j]ust as readers who got their news about Jews from Der Stürmer would have found it hard to doubt that ‘the Jews are our misfortune,’ readers who get their news about Israel from the sites cited by Palumbo-Liu will find it hard to doubt that ‘the Jewish state is our misfortune.’”

Among the sites cited by Palumbo-Liu was one I was not familiar with, but when I checked it, I immediately noticed an article promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories, and it quickly turned out that the site features several writers specializing in this field.

Shockingly, Palumbo-Liu – who claims to take antisemitism very seriously – has allowed this site to cross-post his Huffington Post column [archived here], which I noticed only now when I saw that he is promoting the cross-post on Twitter.

Crosspost on Intifada

The Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University apparently likes to be featured on a site that publishes articles explicitly relying on insights garnered from contributors to David Duke’s website. This screenshot of the archived page of the relevant article as it currently appears provides a striking visual illustration: you have the approving reference to “an article on David Duke’s website,” while Palumbo-Liu’s article is featured in the side bar. [as marked in red]

Palumbo Liu and David Duke

From Palumbo-Liu’s article on the site, you could also continue on to another post featured among the recent entries in the sidebar, which promotes a video entitled “They are killing our children.” This post is an excellent example of the 21st century version of the medieval blood libel.

Palumbo Liu and blood libel

The 13-year old Palestinian “killed” in this video had just stabbed and critically injured a 13-year old Israeli Jewish boy; in the meantime, the young terrorist was released from hospital into police custody, while his victim remains hospitalized due to the serious injuries he suffered.

Apparently, Palumbo-Liu didn’t really mean it when he wrote in a Salon article that “Anti-Semitism must be challenged swiftly and decisively by each and every one of us.”

Quite the contrary: as documented here, Palumbo-Liu actually lends his prestige as a Stanford professor to sites and causes that promote antisemitism.

Anticipating Islam’s conquest of Europe and America at Al-Aqsa

Any European who would oppose Muslim immigration by arguing that the current waves of desperate people hoping to find safety and prosperity north of the Alps will pave the way for a hostile attempt to conquer Europe for Islam would certainly be denounced as an “Islamophobe.” But what do you call it when a preacher at the Al-Aqsa mosque – which is usually described as Islam’s “third-holiest” place – passionately announces that “soon, we will trample them [Europe’s Christians and Jews] underfoot, Allah willing”?

Europe will fall to Islam

In an address delivered some two weeks ago at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Muhammad Ayed argued according to a translation provided by MEMRI that in Europe, “all the hearts are infused with hatred toward Muslims.” According to the Sheikh,

“Europe has become old and decrepit, and needs human reinforcement. […] they have lost their fertility, so they look for fertility in their midst. We will give them fertility! We will breed children with them, because we shall conquer their countries – whether you like it or not, oh Germans, oh Americans, oh French, oh Italians, and all those like you. Take the refugees! We shall soon collect them in the name of the coming Caliphate. We will say to you: These are our sons. Send them, or we will send our armies to you.”

If this sounds “Islamophobic,” the politically correct thing is of course to simply ignore this story – and this is just what most of the mainstream media seem to have done. It almost goes without saying that this is not the first time that politically inconvenient stories from the Muslim world have been ignored. Frequently these are stories that would show deeply ingrained Muslim Jew-hatred; however, the arguably very belated revelations in a recent New York Times report about the shocking “tolerance” adopted by the US military regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children by its Afghan allies also provide a more general indication of how eagerly western institutions apply double standards that downplay or ignore profound evils in Muslim societies.

Personally, I would agree that the above cited remarks by the Al-Aqsa preacher are not necessarily newsworthy. After all, one can find fanatics who come up with deranged rants in every creed. But since Muslims claim the Al-Aqsa mosque as Islam’s “third holiest” site, one should assume that the Islamic Waqf – which was left in charge of the whole Temple Mount after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War 1967 – would ensure that crackpots don’t get a platform in this supposedly so important mosque.

Unfortunately, however, the hate-filled rant envisioning a Muslim conquest of Europe was by no means a unique incident. Over the past year, MEMRI has documented several similar “sermons,” and one can only speculate how many go undocumented and what is preached in local mosques all over the Muslim world.

On July 24, Sheik Ahmad Al-Dweik declared in an address at the Al-Aqsa mosque that the “Caliphate” promised by Allah “will be the number one country in the world.”

“It will fight the U.S. and will bring it down. [The Caliphate] will eliminate the West in its entirety. […] Allah promised that there would be an Islamic state, and that we would prepare for the West whatever strength and steeds of war we can, in order to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Islam and of Allah, until we become those who command and Islam rules [the world].”

Similar remarks were made by two other persons speaking at the mosque in early July.

Islam will rule earth

In March, another preacher addressing worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque on two different occasions recalled Islam’s history of conquest and declared:

“today, the religion and ideology of Muhammad – including Islam’s men of Truth, the men of the Caliphate and of jihad – are laying siege to America, despite its nuclear arsenal. They are laying siege to Europe and to the fabricated democracy, the great lie.”

“America will be trampled by the hooves of the horses of the Caliph of the Muslims, Allah willing. This is the promise of Allah.”

In February, Palestinian political researcher Ahmad Al-Khatwani (Abu Hamza) urged his fellow Muslims at Al-Aqsa to treat “Islam in a political manner, on the basis of the Islamic creed in its political sense.” He explained:

“If the Muslims accept Islam as a political and ideological foundation and guide, they will be able to confront America and its war on the Muslims, and they will be able to vanquish it with ease. We pray that Allah will enable the Muslims to wage war on America and against its true terrorism. May He grant victory to the Muslims, and may they raid America on its own land and the land of heresy everywhere.”

In January, a cleric speaking at the Al-Aqsa mosque praised the terror attacks in Paris as “defense of the Prophet Muhammad.”

Last November, a Palestinian publicly prayed in the Al-Aqsa mosque:

“Oh Allah, annihilate America and its coalition. Oh Allah, enable us to cut off their heads. Oh Allah, help our brothers, the mujahideen in the land of Iraq and Syria.”

Annihilate America

These “sermons” seem to indicate – and encourage – support for the savagery of the Islamic State terror group.

In addition, there are plenty of examples showing incitement of Jew-hatred in the vilest and most primitive terms imaginable.

Jews are evil

The video clips show that most of these rants are not formal sermons with worshipers listening attentively. It seems more like a Muslim version of Speakers’ Corner, where anyone – any man, that is – who feels like delivering a hate-filled rant against the Jews and the West can do so at Islam’s “third holiest” site. Men and young boys mull around, some stop to listen; but in general, the reaction of the audience shows that no one regards it as unusual to come to a supposedly very sacred place of worship and hear non-Muslims demonized and Islam exalted as destined for the bloody subjugation of the non-Muslim world.

So it seems that Muslims are quite flexible when it comes to perceived violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. As the recent violence has shown once again, the mere idea that non-Muslims might dare to even just think about a prayer while visiting the Temple Mount easily enrages Muslims, whereas they apparently don’t mind at all when self-styled “defenders” of Islam use the Al-Aqsa mosque to stockpile rocks, debris and incendiary devices to attack police and visitors. Likewise, nobody seems to have a problem with fanatics bellowing out hate-filled rants at Al-Aqsa on a fairly regular basis.

To be sure, there are a few individual Muslims who have sharply criticized Muslim conduct at Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount, notably the well-known writer Qanta Ahmed who has repeatedly published heart-felt calls for tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Last December, a Jordanian preacher even explicitly suggested that a part of the Temple Mount platform “where there are trees” should “be allocated for the prayer of the Israelites.”

But those lone voices are drowned out by overwhelming support for Muslim hypocrisy and supremacism. As I have argued previously, the Temple Mount has become a symbol of Muslim fanaticism, and those who most like to invoke the platitudes about Islam as a religion of peace are perhaps most cowed by the constantly repeated threats of Muslim violence. The well-practiced reflex of deferring to threats of Muslim rage was starkly illustrated when the UN Security Council (UNSC) published a warning about the recent violence avoiding any mention of the historic Jewish ties to the Temple Mount by referring to the compound only with the Arabic term “Haram al-Sharif,” and demanding that “Muslim worshipers at the Haram al-Sharif must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocation.”

As documented above, the reality ignored by the UNSC is that Muslim worshipers at the Haram al-Sharif are absolutely free to indulge in violence, threats and provocation.

While Israel may have little choice but to constantly try to appease the always simmering Muslim rage about as yet unfulfilled dreams of Islam’s global domination, Arab leaders and media try their best to pour fuel on the flames. Particularly noteworthy is perhaps that Al Jazeera chose to promote incitement even in English: there is little doubt that the news network knows (or could know) about the vile rants that are regularly delivered at Islam’s “third holiest” place; yet, it featured a contemptible “analysis” explaining “Why Israel wants a religious war over Al-Aqsa.”

This is quite plainly what psychologists call projection: since the days of the Palestinian leader who later became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti” – who is still considered a Palestinian hero – Arab and Muslim leaders, as well as activists like Ali Abunimah, have fabricated Jewish or “Zionist” threats to “Al-Aqsa” (increasingly understood not only as the mosque, but the entire Temple Mount compound) to incite often lethal violence.

It should not be overlooked that this incitement also serves as an important tool to prop up Muslim “solidarity.” The powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was established in 1969/70 after the guards employed by the Islamic Waqf failed to prevent a mentally ill Australian Christian tourist from entering the mosque to set a fire there. At the OIC website, there is no hint of the negligence of the Islamic Waqf guards; instead, the implication is that the “criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque” happened because Jerusalem is “occupied.” Palestinian media regularly repeat the libel that the Australian was a “Jewish terrorist;” most recently it was featured in TV programs and media commentaries marking the anniversary of the arson towards the end of August. Similarly, the previously cited Al Jazeera screed also implies that the 1969 arson happened because “Jews wanted to take the Noble Sanctuary.”

It is thus hardly surprising that the OIC currently plans once again “to hold an emergency meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the OIC Member States to discuss the Israeli violations in the occupied city of Al-Quds and ways to stop the Israeli aggressions on Al-Aqsa Mosque.” In addition, the OIC secretary general recently sent a letter to the heads of major international organizations voicing “his strong condemnation of the Israeli attacks on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” and warning “that burning parts of the mosque, attacking worshipers inside it by occupation forces, and arresting those stationed in its courtyards are crimes, aimed at freedom of worship.”

In the same letter, the OIC insists without the slightest sign of embarrassment that Jews and Christians should be denied freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.

This shameless hypocrisy is perhaps inevitable as long as freedom of worship for Muslims at Al-Aqsa includes the freedom to indulge in vile fantasies of Islam’s coming conquest of the non-Muslim world.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

The Temple Mount as symbol of Muslim fanaticism

In recent weeks, there have been numerous media reports warning about escalating tensions and possible violence on the Temple Mount.  Even if you just read the headlines and leads, the situation sounds pretty dire, as this selection from Al Monitor, Sky News and the Washington Post illustrates:

Israeli Restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque Could Spark Violence: Israel is imposing tighter restrictions on Palestinian Muslims wishing to access Al-Aqsa Mosque while allowing more Jewish visits that disrespect Islamic customs.”

Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb: ‘The chief cleric at one of the world’s holiest mosques tells Sky News that acts of Jewish prayer could spark a regional war.”

Jewish activists want to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, raising alarm in Muslim world.”

These headlines and leads also tell us already who is to blame for this potentially explosive situation: Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount and maybe even pray there. Well, who could imagine a greater outrage than Jews wanting to visit and perhaps pray at the historic site of the Jewish Temples?  And who would dispute that followers of the “religion of peace” have every right to react to such an outrage with threats of massive violence? After all, Muslims are used to having their holiest sites off-limits to “infidels.” True, frustrated journalists who don’t make it into Mecca and Medina may point out that “You don’t have to be a Catholic to go to the Vatican. You don’t have to be Jewish to go to the Western Wall… You don’t have to be Buddhist to hear the Dalai Lama speak” – but there is obviously no reason to expect similar openness from Islam. Indeed, as a Guardian contributor casually remarked: “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if Jews were allowed to freely visit the Temple Mount and pray there. And of course, in the Guardian as elsewhere, it’s the Jews who are the extremists.

However, this kind of reporting and commentary isn’t as biased as it may seem, because it unfortunately reflects the view of the Israeli authorities.  As a recent Jerusalem Post report about violent attacks by Muslims explains:

“Although the [Israeli] Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount – which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim religious trust – the court also allows police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a ‘disturbance to the public order.’ […] Asked what has precipitated the pronounced uptick in violence, Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Arabs are growing increasingly incensed by religious Jews who increasingly illegally pray there in an act of civil disobedience. ‘The Arabs don’t like Jews coming there to pray, and an extreme group of Jews is going there to provoke them,’ he said.”

In other words, Israel’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that Jews have the right to pray on the Temple Mount, but it has also given Muslims a veto right: if they don’t like it and become violent, then they’ll get their way and Jews who exercise their supposed right are accused of engaging in a provocative “act of civil disobedience.” In practice that means that the Saudi policy of treating “infidels” like dogs who have to be kept off Muslim holy grounds is all too often also enforced on the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount threats

 Sky News screenshot

While I myself am not religious and have little sympathy for the political agenda of the more prominent activists who push for greater access to the Temple Mount, I don’t quite agree with the conclusion offered in a recent article by Avi Issacharoff that “[r]adical Muslim and Jewish groups at times seem to have forged an unholy alliance to push for holy war.”

As most of the reports on anything that happens on the Temple Mount emphasize, it is probably the most explosive spot on earth – but it is so explosive because the whole world takes it for granted that it is perfectly acceptable that “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if they had to acknowledge the fact that first and foremost Jews, but also Christians have a historic attachment to the Temple Mount and that the claim of exclusive Muslim control is a ridiculous anachronism rooted in the glorification of Islamic imperialism and supremacism.

One of the very few Muslims to publicly acknowledge the long pre-Islamic history of the Temple Mount and its significance is Qanta Ahmed, who earlier this year published a fascinating four-part report on her visit to the site. In the final part of her report, she recounts her visit to the Al Aqsa mosque, where her Muslim guide showed her some massive ancient columns, explaining: “This was the entrance to the Second Jewish Temple that was here before Al Aqsa. You can see it is absolutely distinct.”

Reflecting on this sight, Qanta Ahmed writes:

“Somehow, these hardy arches, these massive pillars had escaped even the Romans’ determined destruction of the Second Temple. Before this place was made ours, it had clearly been theirs. We were on borrowed ground.”

Already in a melancholic mood from the decay and neglect she witnessed all over Islam’s supposedly third-holiest site – something noted also more recently by another Muslim visitor – Qanta Ahmed ends her report with a somber conclusion:

“Nowhere in my long ago travels and imperfect memory is the anoxia of Islamism more apparent than [in] the spent bosom of the Farthest Mosque [i.e. Al Aqsa]. Here, we have become the Farthest Muslims. I feel our departure most acutely in Jerusalem, the world’s gentle biographer, the beating, romantic heart of all belief, to all People, of all Books. Jerusalem, dear Muslims, is home to a gilded dome rendered hollow, little more than a fading husk to the richness once contained therein. She is ours no more.”

Once we hear even remotely similar sentiments from Muslim leaders, we will know that the Middle East is on the mend and peace is really possible.

In the meantime, it would be already a big step in the right direction if journalists and commentators hesitated a bit before they nonchalantly report – and implicitly justify – threats of Muslim violence. Ironically enough, the recent “Islamophobia” report of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) lectures us that the notion “that Muslims are inclined to violence including revenge and retaliation” is “Islamophobic.”  So the next time a Sky News reporter hears the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem threatening that the “whole region will be engulfed by war” if Jews want to pray on the Temple Mount, he could perhaps ask the Grand Mufti to explain this threat in view of the historic Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount and claims that Islam is a “religion of peace.” And maybe next time a Guardian blogger – particularly if he happens to be a Christian priest – writes about how easily “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic,” he could ask himself what it would take for him to write with equal understanding about the threat of a billion Christians worldwide going ballistic.

As long as the media depict Muslim violence in the name of Islam as an inevitable reaction to any perceived provocation and give a free pass to the Muslim leaders who never tire to threaten such violence, we can regard the OIC definition of “Islamophobia” as no more than a cynical political tool that allows Muslim leaders to incite violence with impunity – and we can expect that the Temple Mount will remain a dangerous symbol of Muslim fanaticism.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog on December 12, 2013

 

Tweeting the century-old Al-Aqsa libel

Friday night, I discovered that on his Electronic Intifada blog, Ali Abunimah had put up a post claiming that Likud leaders were planning to go to Al-Aqsa early Sunday morning and that they were calling for “cleansing” Jerusalem and building a Jewish temple instead of the mosque. At the bottom of the post, Abunimah added an update that half-heartedly acknowledged that there was no basis to the story, but he nevertheless concluded by claiming:

“There’s certainly no doubt that whoever published this flyer […] 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.”

In response, I wrote a post pointing out that spurious claims about Jewish threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque had been used by Arab agitators for almost a hundred years: it was the notorious mufti Haj Amin al Husseini who first used this libel in the 1920s. In the almost 100 years that have passed since then, it was of course only sites sacred to Jews that were desecrated and destroyed in Jerusalem.

When I wrote this post last night, I noted that Abunimah’s post had about 100 tweets and some 150 Facebook endorsements. Some 24 hours later, it had 381 tweets and 523 Facebook “likes”, and there were the beginnings of a Twitter intifada: word of the evil designs of the wicked Likudniks had reached the popular Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who send out a tweet about it – and she has more than 100 000 followers…

Luckily, by that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department and professor at Princeton, had also gotten word of the story and found out that it was a hoax. Realizing that it was a very dangerous hoax, she sent out multiple tweets to alert her more than 20 000 followers.

Mona Eltahawy quickly deleted her original tweet and also helped to get out the message that it was a hoax, but by that time, the Al-Aqsa libel was already spreading like wildfire. As one tweet by a professor of sociology put it: “Scared of all the fake rumors about Al #Aqsa. First rule of sociology is if enough people believe something, it will have real consequences.”

Maybe Ali Abunimah will be pleased by the thought that just like with his #IsraelHates- campaign, he once again managed to cause a stir in the Twittersphere – and this time around there was even the specter of going from a merely verbal “Electronic Intifada” to a real intifada of senseless violence and bloodshed.

* * *

This is a slightly different version of a post at my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Elder of Ziyon quotes my post and adds several examples documenting the relentless attempts to incite hatred and violence against Israel with fabricated stories:

The Al Aqsa Heritage Foundation and various Muslim firebrands are well-known for creating false rumors about supposed Israeli designs on the Temple Mount. They do it practically every week on their website, and many of those make it into the mainstream Palestinian Arab press. Here are just a few I have documented over the years:

November 2008: Israel Antiquities Authority drawing up plans to build the Third Temple

April 2009: Israel is building a subway to the Temple Mount

June 2009: Netanyahu is planning to build the Third Temple

September 2009: Israel will give exclusive access to Jews to the Al Aqsa Mosque for 50 days a year

February 2010: Cracks on the Temple Mount is from Israeli construction and plans to destroy it

March 2010: Israel will start construction of the Third Temple on March 16, 2010

UPDATE 2:

Some very interesting additional material can be found in a post with the great title “Liar Liar, Mosque on Fire” by Zionist Shark at IsraellyCool: There is a very useful aerial view of the Temple Mount, and a link to an article by Mordechai Kedar who explains how Jerusalem came to be seen as holy by Muslims.

Al-Aqsa incitement from the mufti to Ali Abunimah

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.

No bridge-building, please!

When a prime minister has to stop the demolition and replacement of a dilapidated pedestrian bridge due to concerns that widespread rioting might erupt, it shouldn’t be hard to guess that this is yet another story where Muslim “sensibilities” dictate what can and what can’t be done. Fixing a pedestrian bridge may seem like a rather mundane chore, but if those generally oh so moderate and pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood types choose to regard the repairs as yet another “violent act that amounts to a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” even the most urgently needed repairs have to be postponed. Indeed, as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (who regards Hitler as an instrument of Allah) has warned, there is always the worry that “illegal settlers and Israeli security forces” might use the new bridge.

But unsurprisingly, it’s not just the famously “moderate” Islamists that rant about this supposedly sinister “Zionist scheme of aggression” – other “moderates” (like veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat) are equally eager to denounce Israel’s “determination to judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places.”

It’s worthwhile remembering that Israel could have taken control of these places after its victory in 1967, but in a goodwill gesture that looks rather naïve by now, Israel decided to leave control of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Muslim Waqf. And it’s also worthwhile remembering that this goodwill gesture followed 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.

Israel’s conciliatory conduct in 1967 was just one of many attempts to avoid inflaming Muslim religious passions. Even back then, there was already a veritable “tradition” of using invented Jewish “threats” to the Al-Aqsa mosque to incite violence. In the 1920s, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later gained notoriety as a Nazi collaborator, began to renovate the “Haram al-Sharif” – as the Temple Mount is known in Arabic – and he started 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 seven decades later, another popular Palestinian leader – Marwan Barghouti – followed the same script to ignite the so-called “Al-Aqsa Intifada:”

“On the eve of Sharon’s visit I participated in a TV panel, on a local TV station. I found this to be the right opportunity to call upon the public to go to Al Aqsa on the following morning because it is not possible for Sharon to arrive at the Temple Mount [El-Haram Al-Sharif] ‘just like that’ and walk away peacefully. […] I saw within the situation a historic opportunity to ignite the conflict. The strongest conflict is the one that initiated from Jerusalem due to the sensitivity of the city, its uniqueness and its special place in the hearts of the masses who are willing to sacrifice themselves [for her] with not even thinking of the cost.”

In 2007, Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, instigated riots at the Temple Mount in order to obstruct archaeological work, threatening: “Whoever is playing with fire should know that the fire will consume him and whoever schemes to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque will have his house destroyed.” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal accused Israel of “perpetrating a new attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel claimed that the archaeological work was a cover for transforming the Al-Aqsa mosque into a synagogue.

The legacy of al-Husseini is obviously well and alive: currently, it serves to prevent the rebuilding of the only access point to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims, because the Mughrabi Gate is the only gate whose keys are in possession of the State of Israel – the other nine gates are controlled by the Waqf and are reserved for Muslims only… Yes, there is such a thing as politically correct Apartheid.