Tag Archives: mufti

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.

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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.

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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.

Same message, different mufti: the rhetoric of the 1940s in 2012

When Sheik Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, who is the Palestinian Authority’s senior religious official, recently recited a traditional Islamic text urging Muslims to “fight and kill the Jews” during a ceremony celebrating the 47th anniversary of Fatah’s establishment, he unintentionally revealed how little the messages of Palestinian religious leaders have changed since the days of another Palestinian mufti by the name of Husseini.

This deplorable rhetorical continuity also serves as a timely reminder that words are usually spoken to inspire deeds. Palestinians, eagerly echoed by many of their world-wide supporters, like to claim that they had no part whatsoever in the Holocaust, and that they should indeed be seen as indirect victims of the Jews who fled Europe.

This “narrative,” which seems particularly popular among Germany’s progressive elites, requires that the historical record of Amin Al-Husseini – the predecessor of the current Palestinian mufti – is ignored. While both muftis call for killing the Jews, Husseini sought and seized the opportunity to contribute to the Nazi’s genocidal undertaking to kill as many Jews as possible.

In a review of a book by Klaus Gensicke about Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis, John Rosenthal emphasized that the mufti did not only collaborate with the Nazis by contributing to propaganda activities aimed at Arab speakers and by organizing the Muslim SS division “Handzar” in Bosnia:

Indeed, perhaps the most shocking finding of Gensicke’s research concerns the repeated efforts of the mufti after 1943 to ensure that no European Jews should elude the camps […] Thus, for example, Bulgarian plans to permit some 4,000 Jewish children and 500 adult companions to immigrate to Palestine provoked a letter from the mufti to the Bulgarian foreign minister, pleading for the operation to be stopped. In the letter, dated May 6, 1943, Husseini invoked a “Jewish danger for the whole world and especially for the countries where Jews live.” […]

One week later, the mufti sent additional “protest letters” to both the Italian and German Foreign Ministries, appealing for them to intervene in the matter. The German Foreign Ministry promptly sent off a cable to the German ambassador in Sofia stressing “the common German-Arab interest in preventing the rescue operation.” Indeed, according to the post-War recollections of a Foreign Ministry official, “The Mufti turned up all over the place making protests: in the Minister’s office, in the waiting room of the Deputy Minister and in other sections: for example, Interior, the Press Office, the Broadcast service, and also the SS.” “The Mufti was a sworn enemy of the Jews,” the official concluded, “and he made no secret of the fact that he would have preferred to see them all killed.” […]

In late June, both the Romanian and Hungarian Foreign Ministers would be recipients of similar appeals from the mufti. The Romanian government had been planning to allow some 75,000 to 80,000 Jews to immigrate to the Middle East, and Hungary — which had become a refuge for Jews escaping persecution elsewhere in Europe — was reportedly preparing to allow some 900 Jewish children and their parents to immigrate as well. The mufti repeated his counsel that the Jews should be sent rather to Poland, where they could be kept under “active surveillance.” “It is especially monstrous,” Gensicke concludes, “that el-Husseini objected to even those few cases in which the National Socialists were prepared, for whatever reasons, to permit Jews to emigrate. . . . For him, only deportation to Poland was acceptable, since he knew fully well that there would be no escape for the Jews from there.”

Inevitably, some people will be inclined to argue that Husseini was only defending the national interest of the Palestinian Arabs when he tried to prevent any Jewish emigration from Europe. But as Gensicke has shown, Husseini was convinced that there was a “Jewish danger for the whole world and especially for the countries where Jews live,” and in May 1943, he also expressed this view in a letter.

Soon after Husseini had written these words, Arab regimes proceeded to demonstrate that they shared this view. The Arab League drafted Nuremberg-style laws designed to disenfranchise and dispossess Jews, and Arab states began to encourage the ethnic cleansing of the ancient Jewish communities that had existed for millenia all over the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of the Jews who had to flee from Arab countries found refuge in the fledgling Jewish state that the Arabs vowed, and tried, to wipe out.

Back then, the motives may have been rooted in Arab nationalism, but as the recent remarks by the Palestinian mufti illustrate, there is a long and – according to the mufti, “noble” – tradition of Jew-hatred in Islam that up to this day is regularly invoked to present the Arab and Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state as part of a fight against Jews that is an integral component of Muslim identity.

Nazi-like rhetoric about Jews is nowadays mostly expressed in Arabic and Farsi, and just like 70 years ago, there is widespread reluctance to confront this rhetoric and face the fact that it is meant as incitement to deadly deeds.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

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.

November 28, 1941: Hitler meets Husseini

Seventy years ago today, Adolf Hitler met with Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, who was widely regarded as the leader of the Arabs of Palestine. Hitler assured the mufti:

“Germany stands for an uncompromising struggle against the Jews. It is self-evident that the struggle against the Jewish national homeland in Palestine forms part of this struggle, since such a national homeland would be nothing other than a political base for the destructive influence of Jewish interests. Germany also knows that the claim that Jewry plays the role of an economic pioneer in Palestine is a lie. Only the Arabs work there, not the Jews. Germany is determined to call on the European nations one by one to solve the Jewish problem and, at the proper moment, to address the same appeal to non-European peoples.”

Here is some fascinating footage that documents not only the historic collaboration between the Nazis and Husseini, but also the enduring impact of this alliance.