PA promotes religious hatred against Jews
"Those who planned the burning of Al-Aqsa
were senior Jews of high position"
PA Minister: Al-Aqsa was burnt "by criminal hands...
in collusion with the criminal occupation"
Israeli Arab MP: "Israel set fire to Al-Aqsa"
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
In 1969 a non-Jewish Australian started a fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He was arrested and tried in Israel. The Israeli court found him to be mentally ill and ordered him hospitalized. He was later sent back to Australia.
As part of its promotion of religious hatred against Jews, the Palestinian Authority disseminates the libel that Israel and Jews were behind the 1969 arson. Since the Al-Aqsa Mosque is an important holy site for Muslims, accusing "senior Jews of high position" of trying to destroy it is clearly an attempt by the PA to promote religious hatred against Jews. This particular accusation appeared in a documentary film about the arson, and was shown at an event under the auspices of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
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Palestinian Media Watch has documented that this libel has been propagated by the PA for years.
Joining the PA in spreading the libel this year:
(See longer excerpts and sources below.)
- The Muslim Israeli Arab MP Ibrahim Sarsur, who told a Palestinian news service that he "demands" an annual Muslim commemoration of the day that "Israel set fire to Al-Aqsa."
- The PA Minister of Religious Affairs, who stated that the Al-Aqsa Mosque "was set on fire 44 years ago by criminal hands... in collusion with the criminal occupation."
- The Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO, which referred to "the crime committed by the occupation in setting fire to [the] Al-Aqsa [Mosque]."
- The official PA daily, which accused "Israeli authorities" of the arson and of attempting "to the present day... to harm the Al-Aqsa Mosque."
- Official PA TV, which claimed that "one of the Jews set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that it would go up in flames."
Using events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to promote religious hatred has been an effective PA weapon in the past. In September 2000, Yasser Arafat sparked the five year PA terror campaign (the second Intifada) by claiming that then Opposition Leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was an affront to Islam that desecrated the Mosque. Through video clips and sermons, the PA's controlled media sent out a call to respond with terror and violence. That violence lasted five years and left over 5,000 Palestinians and Israelis dead. The PA named the terror campaign the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" because the killing of 1,200 Israelis and Jews, primarily in suicide bombings, was said to be the response for the defilement of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
For this reason, the ongoing libel that "senior Jews of high position" were behind the 1969 arson and the claim that Israel plans to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque are dangerous accusations.
The following are longer excerpts of the PA media reports repeating the libel:
PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash: "Where is the Al-Aqsa Mosque? ... It is lost. It was set on fire 44 years ago by criminal hands, in the shadow of a criminal occupation, and acting in collusion with the criminal occupation."
[Official PA TV, Aug. 23, 2013]
Documentary narrator: "From investigations conducted by the Islamic Council it became clear that there was more than one perpetrator [of the Al-Aqsa Mosque arson in 1969] and that the fire was planned by senior Jews of high position, especially since the roof can only be reached from a wooden spiral staircase located outside the Al-Aqsa building. This proves that careful, premeditated measures were taken to completely destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The proof is that the occupation authorities were slow to extinguish [the fire] and that the water supply to the Sanctuary (i.e., the Temple Mount) had been cut off during those hours."
[Official PA TV Live, Aug. 21, 2013]
"Head of the Islamic Movement [and Israeli MP for the United Arab List], Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur has demanded that the day on which the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire, every year on Aug. 21, be declared a global day for aiding the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
He said: 'The time has come for Muslims, free people and those who desire peace and stability in the world to take a brave step forward in the project of the liberation of Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, by announcing the day Israel set fire to Al-Aqsa as a global day of supporting the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. This would mean announcing an entire project for rescuing it from the Israeli occupation and its crimes.'
He added: '...Several people lit this ominous fire, not only Michael Denis Rohan who was exposed and arrested and said to hold Australian citizenship. Since that day, he has disappeared without a trace and the case was closed in order to hide the facts. He was claimed to be deranged, since the plots against the Al-Aqsa Mosque come one after the other since that day and to the present day.'"
[Ma'an (Palestinian news agency), Aug. 21, 2013]
"The Palestinian National Council (PNC, i.e., the legislative body of the PLO) warned of the consequences of the continuation of the Judaization of Arab-Palestinian Jerusalem by the occupation's authorities.
In an announcement [published] today, Tuesday, on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the crime committed by the occupation in setting fire to [the] Al-Aqsa [Mosque], the [Palestinian] National Council emphasized that every day, the occupation continues the crime of setting fire to Al-Aqsa and to Jerusalem, capital of the State of Palestine, by continuing the settlement, the Judaization and the expulsion of its residents.
The Council emphasized that the occupation is determined to ignite flames on Palestinian land specifically, and in the region in general and to destroy any chance of peace."
[WAFA (the official Palestinian Authority news agency), Aug. 20, 2013]
"Today, Wednesday, Aug. 21, is the 44th anniversary of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque fire of 1969, after the radical Jew Michael Denis [Rohan] set fire to the Mosque... Israel arrested the criminal and the Israeli authorities transferred him to a psychiatric hospital... after a short period of time he was deported to Australia. At the time he said that he did what he did 'according to divine instruction'... Prior to setting fire to Al-Aqsa and to the present day, the Israeli authorities have attempted in various ways and [by various] means to harm the Al-Aqsa Mosque by continuing excavations beneath it and building interconnecting tunnels. This has led to the destruction of the Mosque's foundations at the Sanctuary of Jerusalem (i.e., the Temple Mount). The Israeli authorities still attempt to Judaize Arab Jerusalem and constantly try to hide [from view] the Dome of the Rock, a symbol of Arab Jerusalem in the eyes of the world, in a pathetic attempt to convince the world that Jerusalem is not Arab but Jewish. Likewise, they continue to incite against Muslims, and no one has ruled out the possibility that another 'deranged' Jew will set the Mosque on fire again."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 21, 2013]
PA TV program Houses of God showed footage of a fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque:
PA TV narrator: "On August 21, 1969 AD, after East Jerusalem was occupied, one of the Jews set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that it would go up in flames. The fire completely destroyed its wooden platform, ornaments and southern sections."
[Official PA TV, Aug. 21 and June 28, 2013]
Sheikh Ishaq Feleifel, regular columnist in the religion section of the official PA daily, also repeated the false statement that a Jew set fire to the Mosque in 1969:
"The 21st of Ramadan is the day that saddens the heart of every Muslim and that is the anniversary of the day the Al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire by a Jew who was accused of insanity."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 2, 2013]