“The Battle over Jerusalem Has Just Begun”

The Palestinian “victory” celebrations that took place after Israel removed metal detectors and surveillance cameras from the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem bode badly for the future of stability and peace in the Middle East.

To the Palestinians and many Arabs and Muslims, the Israeli move is viewed as a sign of weakness. In their eyes, the removal of the security cameras and metal detectors is capitulation, pure and simple.

How do we know this? Easy: look at the Palestinian response. Rather than acknowledging the conciliatory nature of the Israeli government’s decision, aimed at easing tensions and preventing bloodshed and violence, the Palestinians are demanding more.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the controversy over the Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount, which came after three terrorists murdered two Israeli police officers at the holy site on July 14, is part of a larger battle with Israel.

We have reached a new level in this discourse: Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are now openly admitting that it is not the metal detectors or security cameras that are at issue.

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Incitement, lies and the strange eclipse of the Dome of the Rock

In the wake of the recent violence over Temple Mount, a reader wrote to tell me something I hadn’t realised.

I had wrongly assumed that the al Aqsa mosque as well as the Dome of the Rock were built on top of the actual site of the Jewish Temple. In fact, only the Dome of the Rock is situated on top of where the Temple itself stood. Al Aqsa, which was built later, squats on the southern end of Temple Mount which was extended by Herod.

This raised a question in my mind. As we all know, the Arab and Muslim world incites murderous violence against Israel by claiming (entirely falsely) that al Aqsa is “in danger” from the Israelis. They use the term al Aqsa as a synonym for the whole area of Temple Mount and not just the mosque of that name.

But since the Dome of the Rock is also a mosque; and since it was deliberately built on top of the Jewish Temple in order to bury it both literally and figuratively; and since the Dome of the Rock is a more magnificent edifice and older than al Aqsa, why is it barely mentioned other than in passing? Why is al Aqsa classified as the third holiest Islamic place after Mecca and Medina? Why is it only al Aqsa for which the Arab and Muslim world goes to war against the Jews?

To shed some light on this, I consulted two excellent and authoritative pieces of work: an article in Middle East Quarterly by Daniel Pipes entitled The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem, and a book-length paper by Nadav Shragai for the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs entitled The “Al Aksa is in Danger” Libel: The History of a Lie.

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