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 beyond a merely verbal “Electronic Intifada” to a real intifada of senseless violence and bloodshed.