Swastika graffiti at the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: BASHI DARSHAN/TAZPIT)
Anti-Semitic graffiti equating Jews and Nazis was found scrawled on the Temple Mount Sunday morning, leading to an outpouring of anger by Jewish and Zionist organizations.
The graffiti, showing a Star of David and a swastika joined by an equal sign, was found during a time of tension between Muslims and Jews at the holy site, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently calling for Jewish pilgrims to be barred “by any means.”
“This is our Aksa [Mosque]...and they have no right to enter it and desecrate it,” Abbas declared on Friday. In response, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman accused the Palestinian leader of joining the Islamic State terrorist group of being a “Holocaust denier who speaks about a Palestinian state free of Jews.”
While the site is ultimately administered by Jordanian religious authorities, Israeli and Palestinian police secure it.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit under close monitoring but are not allowed to pray, a prohibition at the heart of the tensions.
Last Monday, police trapped dozens of Arab rioters at the Aksa Mosque for hours after the mob collected rocks, fireworks and firebombs in order to confront police and disturb Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. The rioters set up barricades at the entrance to the Aksa Mosque.
Police removed the barricades while under attack from a barrage of rocks, pushed the hooligans toward the mosque and locked them inside.
While it was removed almost immediately, Jewish visitors to the holy site managed to photograph Sunday’s graffiti and circulate images of the scrawl on social media. Two similar scribbles were found nearby, according to the police.
In response to Abbas’s words, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged American and European leaders to denounce his “assault on the religious freedom of the Jewish people” in an open letter on Sunday.
According to Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the heads of the Jewish organization, the Palestinian leader “sounds no different than Hamas when he labels Jews visiting the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – a ‘desecration,’ and calls upon Muslims to defend al-Aksa Mosque against a nonexistent threat.”
“The PA president’s latest assault is consistent with Palestinian leadership’s efforts in word and deed to deny the Jewish people’s historic connection to the Holy Land. The PA is seeking to rebrand Rachel’s Tomb, where a matriarch of the Jewish nation is buried, as a mosque.
Palestinians have tried to burn down Joseph’s Tomb near Nablus and have made it virtually impossible for Jews to worship there safely, without the presence of the Israeli military. Palestinian leaders from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas deny that Solomon’s Temple stood atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” they added.
The graffiti should serve as a wakeup call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and should spur him to extend Israeli sovereignty over the holy site, said Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, a private organization dedicated to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple.
Both temples were located at the site where the Dome of the Rock now stands, and religious Jews pray three times a day for its rebuilding. Many in the ultra-Orthodox community eschew ascending the mount and believe that only divine intervention will bring about a third temple, while members of the national-religious stream of Judaism take a more active approach.
“This despicable act is yet another indication of the lack of Israeli sovereignty on the Mount. Jews seeking to visit and pray at their holiest site, should be able to do so without fear of intimidation or violence,” Richman said, calling for free worship for non-Muslims and the end of what he termed “Hamas rule” there.
Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount but are prohibited by Israeli law from praying thereon.
Tom Nisani, a university student and a member of the nationalist Im Tirzu student group who was at the Temple Mount Sunday morning, asked on his Facebook page how people “educated and raised in Nazism” could “dare compare something, anything, to Nazism,” a barb aimed at the Palestinian education system, which critics have charged contains anti-Semitic incitement.
Reuters and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.