By DR. NESSIA SHEMER, ISRAEL HAYOM—
“For Al-Aqsa We Will Run Over Settlers” is the name of a new song put online recently by two Palestinian singers from Ramallah. The popular slogan “Al-Aqsa is in danger” has been used by extremist Islamic elements for decades, since the days of Haj Amin el-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem who was Hitler’s friend, to incite the street. This blood libel, accepted with consensus across the Muslim world, claims that Israel is plotting to collapse the Temple Mount mosques in order to build the third temple in their place.
At the basis of this narrative are certain alleged axioms taken for granted as truths, namely that the Jewish religion has no connection to the place, that a Jewish presence on the mount is detrimental to the holiness of the mosques, before even mentioning, heaven forbid, Jewish prayer there. It is interesting that according to the Quran itself (Chapter 17, verses 4-8) there most certainly were Jewish temples on the mount. Additionally, the Supreme Muslim Council (the highest body in charge of Muslim community affairs in Mandate Palestine under British control) issued a pamphlet in 1924 clearly stating: “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from prehistoric) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”
Another basic premise is that prayer for non-Muslims must be prohibited at the site. As a general tenet, prayer is the most important act in Islam, because it expresses the belief in Allah. Anyone who does not pray, according to Shariah law, is a heretic deserving of death. Prayer to the one God is a universal principle that does not only belong to Muslims, but to other believers whoever they may be, certainly to Jews and Christians. The importance of prayer appears in explicit abundance in the Quran, which states that only especially evil people infringe on the rights of others to pray, such as Pharaoh, who forbade the Jewish people from praying, or the heretics of the Quraish tribe, who prevented the Prophet Muhammad from praying at the Kaaba in Mecca.
Today, however, a paradox has been created whereby Muslims are preventing other religions from expressing their right to pray. If we examine this matter throughout Muslim history, we will discover that the great Salah al-Din, the liberator of Jerusalem from the Crusaders, had no problem signing the Treaty of Jaffa in 1192, which allowed the Christians, among other things, free entrance into Jerusalem and its holy places.
A third basic premise is that a Jewish presence on the mount is a provocation that leads to bloodshed. The riots, however, are not caused by a Jewish presence, but by the lack of it. The mount is essentially abandoned to radical Islamists, for whom the goal is bloodshed regardless. Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, otherwise known as the Al-Aqsa sheikh, operates the “Murbitat” group (the male and female holders of the holy places on Earth). The Murbitat activists, who maintain a permanent presence on the mount, spark provocations when Jews visit the site. Their salaries are paid by the Hamas-affiliated NGO Emarat Al-Aqsa.
One more myth, which is prevalent in Israeli society, is that as long as Muslims are allowed to do what they want on the Temple Mount the status quo of “the Temple Mount for them and the Western Wall for us” will be preserved. However, according to the official ideology of the radical Islamist elements and the Palestinian Authority, not only do the Jews not have a claim to the mount, they do not have a claim to the Western Wall either, which Muslims essentially consider to be the wall where the Prophet Muhammad tied his horse, Al-Buraq, before ascending to heaven.
Let us end with one final point of thought: Had the Muslims captured the Temple Mount in 1967, would they have willingly relinquished the site to a rival religion?
Dr. Nessia Shemer is a lecturer in the Middle Eastern History Department at Bar-Ilan University.