More times than can be counted, misinformation regarding the Temple Mount has been used to incite antisemitic violence by Palestinians.
You would think that after nearly 100 years of history repeating itself, the media would catch on, but alas the last few weeks proved otherwise. It’s time for the world to understand what’s really going on at al-Aqsa Mosque and stop buying into the propaganda games of Palestinian leaders. The media have a responsibility to show the full story of al-Aqsa, and the public deserves to know.
NEARLY 100 years ago in 1929, Muslims in Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem (a Hitler supporter) and his supporters spread the lie that the Jews were plotting to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque. This ignited violent riots in the city, which resulted in the burning of Jewish prayer books at the Western Wall, along with the pillaging of Jewish shops and violence against Jews.
Instead of calming the riots, Husseini used the opportunity to enrage the mob further, leading an angry group of Arabs to mass murder the Jewish community in Hebron, effectively ethnically cleansing the city. This has come to be known as the Hebron massacre, which notably occurred long before the State of Israel was declared in 1948 and of course before the “occupation” in 1967.
It is important to note that there was no such plot to destroy the mosque, and that nothing in fact changed at the Temple Mount.
Fast-forward to 1948. The Jews were prohibited from practicing their religion at the Western Wall when the Jordanians occupied the Old City. From 1948 to 1967, there was discrimination against Jews of Jerusalem, with the Jordanians even destroying Jewish synagogues and expelling Jews from the Old City. But in 1967, the tide turned as Israel miraculously won the Six Day War and obtained control of the Temple Mount.
Despite the fact the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, Israel decided to allow the status quo to remain at the Temple Mount and give the Jordanian Wakf Islamic religious trust custodianship over al-Aqsa Mosque, so as not to ignite religious tensions. In an astonishing show of good faith, defense minister Moshe Dayan demanded the Israeli flag at the Temple Mount be lowered, and personally oversaw the meetings with Jordanian religious authorities to ensure they maintained the status quo. But even that didn’t stop the lies.
The Second Intifada was a massive wave of Palestinian violence in which thousands were killed. The impetus? Ariel Sharon visiting the Temple Mount. Sharon’s visit sent shock waves through the Palestinian territories with inaccurate rumors, once again, that Israel was planning to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque. Just as in 1929, Palestinian leaders exacerbated tensions, encouraging violent riots and ultimately an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Once again, nothing changed in the status quo at the Temple Mount, yet thousands died to “liberate” al-Aqsa.
In 2017, tensions erupted again after metal detectors were installed at the entrance of al-Aqsa Compound in response to a terrorist attack there that killed two Israeli-Arab policemen. This security measure triggered another wave of Palestinian violence. Palestinian leaders incited riots and a “day of rage” over Israel’s “aggression” against the Muslim community for the audacity to ensure the safety of Muslim worshippers. Rumors spread like wildfire that Israel was once again “changing the status quo,” and more terrorist attacks were perpetrated, some by children inspired by Arabic social media to become a martyr by “redeeming al-Aqsa.” Despite the rumors, nothing changed in the status quo at al-Aqsa.
In 2021, operation Guardians of the Wall was instigated, once again, by terrorist organization Hamas claiming it was the “defender” of al-Aqsa in a political play to undermine its rivals in the Palestinian Authority. Hamas spread rumors on social media that the Israelis once again were “oppressing” Muslims and changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, despite the fact that tens of thousands of Muslims prayed at al-Aqsa every day of Ramadan. The result: another war, in which Palestinians in Gaza experienced higher casualties than the Israelis. Still, nothing changed in the status quo at al-Aqsa.
THIS YEAR, Palestinian leaders and terrorist organization Hamas are once again using Ramadan to spread rumors that Israelis are “desecrating” al-Aqsa, which has led to massive riots and violence at al-Aqsa Compound throughout the month. They claim Jews are “storming” the Temple Mount, yet video footage shared by Palestinians showed Palestinians using the mosque to prepare for violent confrontation before any non-Muslims entered the premises. During Passover, Israel explicitly banned any Jews from visiting the holy site, so as to avoid an increase in tensions. Despite that, the campaign of incitement surrounding al-Aqsa being “in danger” continued.
Camping out in the mosque with their shoes on for days, Palestinian rioters used the holy site to throw rocks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at Israeli police and non-Muslims, even damaging the mosque itself. This occurred even when police were outside the compound entirely.
The rioters prevented the vast majority of peaceful Muslim worshippers from being able to pray during Ramadan. Yet how was this reported on social media and in the international press? That the Israeli police were preventing Muslims from worshipping at al-Aqsa Mosque. This is the definition of disinformation, fake news, or just plain old lies – not to mention outrageously lazy and irresponsible journalism on the part of the press. Last Friday, a quarter of a million Muslims prayed at al-Aqsa Mosque; this did not make the headlines. Yet again, the status quo has not changed at the al-Aqsa Compound.
It should go without saying that no one has a right to violently assault someone visiting a holy site. Muslims do not have a religious monopoly on al-Aqsa, nor should they. This is a site that is holy to more than one faith, and freedom of religion should be respected. Ironically, it is extremist Muslims attacking others for visiting, then claiming those visitors are threatening the sanctity of the mosque itself, which these extremists are desecrating by wearing shoes and engaging in violence on-site.
The hypocrisy is blatant and shameful, and prevents Muslims and non-Muslims alike from practicing their religion.
The media need to step up and do their job. The truth must be told; otherwise, the violence will continue. Palestinian extremists must not be allowed to dictate the narrative at al-Aqsa as they have for nearly 100 years. Enough.
The writer is a leading activist against antisemitism and is the CEO of Social Lite Creative.