The ‘Al-Aqsa is in Danger’ Libel

Using propaganda to instill anguish and anger.

The surest way to whip up the Palestinians, to provoke their anguish and anger, is to claim that “Al-Aqsa is in danger.” More on this charge, and its malign consequences during the last century, can be found in this enduringly relevant article from mid-May: “‘Al-Aqsa Is in Danger’: The Anatomy of a Lie,” by Chaim Lax, Honest Reporting, May 18, 2023:

Over the past 100 years, one of the most dangerous lies to emerge from within Palestinian society is the claim that “Al-Aqsa is in danger.”

This allegation holds that Jews / Zionists / the State of Israel are planning on destroying Al-Aqsa Mosque and replacing it with the Third Temple.

Unlike other myths spread about Israel and the Jewish People, this libel is particularly dangerous as it has – and continues to – inspire deadly anti-Jewish violence….

The myth that Jews and Zionists are threatening to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque can be traced back to 1921, soon after the establishment of the British Mandate of Palestine.

This antisemitic libel was originally manufactured and disseminated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

For the Grand Mufti, the purpose of spreading this libel was to incite against the Zionists and local Jewish community, to deride his political opponents as those who were giving up the mosque to the Jews and to aid in the creation of a national Palestinian ethos.

What was originally a Palestinian Arab myth confined to the British Mandate was soon spread to other parts of the Muslim world by Sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Muzaffar, a Muslim religious leader and Palestinian nationalist.

Between 1922 and 1924, al-Muzaffar led various delegations to large Muslim communities in the Middle East, North Africa and India, collecting funds for the renovation of the Dome of the Rock and the Haram Al-Sharif (which Al-Aqsa Mosque is a part of).

As part of his financial appeals, al-Muzaffar claimed that the collected funds would be used not only for the renovations but also for the “defence of the Haram Al-Sharif.”…

It was easier for al-Muzaffar to gather money from Muslims around the world if he could alarm them about a supposed “Jewish threat” to the Haram al-Sharif, and the need for donations to be given to him, al-Muzaffar, in order that he might “defend the Haram al-Sharif” from that nonexistent threat. Worried Muslims were ready to open their wallets for such an effort. It would be fascinating to know how much al-Muzaffar kept for his own care and feeding, as the Defender of the Mosque. We have a right to be suspicious.

Throughout the 1920s, the lie that ‘Al-Aqsa is in danger’ permeated the atmosphere of tension that existed within the British Mandate.

For example, in September 1928, after a religious partition was set up at the Western Wall, the Jewish community published a letter openly stating that this should not be construed as a threat to the mosques.

However, two months later, the General Muslim Conference passed a resolution that served as a “statement of the danger which threatens the Mosque owing to the ambitions of the Jews to expropriate it from the hands of the Moslems.”

The Muslims refused to accept the assurance of the Jewish community that a religious partition at the Western Wall was no threat to them, and had nothing to do with what went on at Al-Aqsa, which – it could have been pointed out — stands 2,428 feet above the level of the Western Wall where the Jews put up the partition, intended to separate Jewish sects from each other.

This tension came to a head in August 1929 when Palestinian Muslims, incited by rumors of an imminent Jewish plot to destroy Al-Aqsa, rampaged throughout the land. In total, 133 Jews were killed over six days, including 67 members of the ancient Jewish community of Hebron.

Every few years during the Mandatory period, the Palestinians would whip themselves up into a frenzy about the putative Jewish threat to Al-Aqsa. They never asked themselves what exactly that threat consisted of. Had the Jews given any sign that they were planning to set fire to. Al-Aqsa? Or to turn it into a synagogue? Or raze it and build a Third Temple in its place? When have the Jews ever tried to touch a hair on the head of Al-Aqsa?

During the 1930s and 1940s, when the political fight over the future of the Land of Israel took on a much more important role, the centrality of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian national narrative diminished, and – with it – the libel that the mosque was under the threat of destruction by Jews and Zionists.

Then, with the Jordanian conquest of eastern Jerusalem in 1948 and the banning of Jews from the Old City, the libel virtually vanished from the public sphere.

The “threat to Al-Aqsa” disappeared when the Mosque, and the Temple Mount, and the entire Old City, were in the hands of the Jordanians between 1949 and 1967. The only real threat of destruction during that period was not to Al-Aqsa, but to Jewish sites in east Jerusalem. The Jordanians blew up 56 of the 57 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Not content with that effacement of the Jewish presence, they vandalized and destroyed tens of thousands of tombstones in the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world, the Mount of Olives Cemetery, which held 150,000 ancient graves. The Jordanians pulled up those tombstones from the cemetery. Some they crushed into gravel for use in road building, and others they used to line the latrines of Jordanian army barracks.

Following Israel’s liberation of eastern Jerusalem (including the Old City) in 1967, the “Al-Aqsa is in danger” libel resurfaced, particularly in Jordan and Palestinian society.

In fact, the Israelis did nothing after 1967 to endanger the Muslim hold on Al Aqsa. The Mosque continued to be off-limits to the Jews. But what was surprising was the host of prohibitions concerning the Temple Mount that were placed by Israeli authorities not on Muslims, but on Jews visiting the Temple Mount. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan unilaterally decided, just after the end of the Six-Day War, that Jewish visitors to the Mount would be forbidden from saying prayers, whether openly or silently, and would not be allowed to bring with them onto the Mount any prayer books, prayer shawls, or tefillin. Jews would not be allowed to visit the Temple Mount on Fridays, out of solicitude for Muslim feelings. Furthermore, while Muslims could visit the Temple Mount at any time of day, seven days a week, Jews were allowed to visit only on five days of the week, and then only for three hours in the morning, and one hour in the afternoon. Were the Muslims grateful to Israel for limiting Jewish access to the Mount, and forbidding Jewish prayer on the site? Not in the slightest. Their aim remains unchanged: to drive the Israelis off the Mount, and out of the Old City, entirely, as part of a campaign to squeeze Israel back within the 1949 armistice lines, before trying again to destroy the Jewish state.


July 19, 2023 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Another element in this saga of British and Arab harrassnent of Jewish worship at the wall is the British police’s brutal dispersal of a protest demonstration protesting the harassment of the Jewish worshippers at the wall, The demonstrators were members the Jabotinsky Revisionist movement’s Beitar youth organization. The Jabotinsky Revisionists were not Orthodox or especially religious. However, they saw the attacks on the Jewish worshippers at the Wall as an attack on the Jewish people as a whole, not just the Orthodox community. Their movement taught that they were obligated to come to the aid of of their fellow Jews, whatever their religious beliefs , when they were being oppressed. And they believed that the British authorities were obligated to treat Jewish worshippers and holy places with respect, since after all Judaism was a part of the Jewish experience and national identity.

    The Beitar youth held their demonstration at a spot that was within sight of the Western Wall, but some distance back from it, perhaps 100 yards. They didn’t make any speeches. Instead they sang Hatikvah, and unfurled many “Zionist” flags (later the Israeli flag). After this peaceful silent protest, they were about to disperse when the British police, who were out in force to monitor the demonstration, waded in with the billy clubs and cracked the heads of as many demonstrators as they could get the clubs on. on, causing some to suffer serious injuries.

    When the inevitable British investating commission looked into the incident, the police claimed that the crowd was unruky and they waded in to prevent a riot. Even though there were several witnesses who were not participants in the demonstration or affiliated with the revisionist movement who testified that there was no unruliness whatsoever, the British investigators naturally accoted the policemen’s story and acquitted them of all blame.

    The British handling of the Jewish worshippers at the Wall, and their equally brutal treatment of the peaceful Jewish protest, cut one more nail in the coffin of Jewish trust in the British authorities,

  2. Excellent historical summary by Hugh Fitzgerald. A few minor corrections. The partition curtain was not set up to separate rival Jewish sects, but to separate men from women worshippers, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish custom. Some Jews, even Orthodox Jews, criticized this decision on the grounds that this separation of the sexes applied only to synagogues. Men and women had prayed side by side at the Wall from roughly 1850 when the Ottoman government first authorized Jewish prayers there to 1928, men and women had prayed there side by side. I don’t know what rabbi originally proposed putting a curtain separating the sexes at the wall. But the chief rabbi at the time approved the change.

    It was a British official who first noticed the addition of “appurtanances” near the wall, not the Arab guardians of the mosque. He on his own authority , he sent British police to remove the “appurtanances” (the curtain and a few chairs) on the most holy day in the Jewish calendar, Yom KIppur, in the middle of the prayer service. An especially brutal and callous action even for the British Mandate authorities. At the same time, the official informed the Arab guardians of the mosque about this Jewish “outrage.” For the next twenty years, the Arab authorities on Temple Mount, the waqf, considered it their duty to harras the Jewish worshippers at the Wall (Hebrew the kotel) in every way they could think of. This including interrupting the Payers with a Muslim Muezin call by an n imam who stood directly above the WEstern Wall, using a megaphone and a loudspeaker to drown out the Jewish prayers and damage the hearing of the Jewish worshippers. Even more gritty techniques were spread human and animal dung on the paths used by Jewish worshippers to get to the Wall, and poring buckets of sh__t on them from location on the Mount directly overlooking the Jewish worshippers. More later.