The Al-Aqsa Mosque Libel

Why Israelis must keep confronting it.

The Palestinians keep repeating the same baseless charges against Israel. “Israel is an apartheid state.” “Israel wants to expel all the Arabs from the ‘occupied’ West Bank.’” And so on and so ridiculously forth. The charge that has been most in evidence this April, is that “Al Aqsa is being attacked.” A report on how to deal with such charges is here: “Deactivating Palestinian dog whistles,” by Douglas Altabef, Israel Hayom, April 21, 2022:

In a geopolitical version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” the Palestinians have continually employed a series of dog whistles that are intended both to rally the faithful and gain the sympathy of an unwitting world. Chief among them, of course, is the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount − the site of large pilgrimages during the month of Ramadan, which started at the beginning of April, and disturbances throughout the year − is “under attack.”

In the classic mode of projecting one’s own conduct onto others or seeking to do so, Palestinians who are intent on rioting invoke the threat to Al-Aqsa as the rationale for their actions. But we all know that Al-Aqsa is never under threat. If anything, Israeli police and authorities treat it with kid gloves, allowing violence to flare up rather than taking steps that could be seen objectively as some kind of incursion.

On April 15, when the rioting by Arabs started on top of the Temple Mount, a reluctant Israel held back. It requested that the Jordanians, who control the Waqf that administers the Al-Aqsa mosque and compound, deal with the rioters. Only after that request was turned down, and several hours had passed, during which rocks and Molotov cocktails were being hurled by the rioters onto the Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall far below, did the Israeli police take over and institute their riot control measures. They did not “threaten” Al-Aqsa at that or any other time, and the Palestinians knew it. It was only after some of the rioters had entered Al-Aqsa to collect more of their stockpiled weapons – rocks and explosives — and to hurl them through mosque windows at the police on the esplanade, that the Israeli police briefly entered, to seize both those rioters and the stockpile of weapons. Then they left, having ensured that the tens of thousands of peaceful worshippers would not have their prayers disrupted by the rioters. In fact, later that very day, 50,000 Muslims prayed on the Temple Mount in peace. By April 22, that number had grown to 100,000 worshippers. These worshippers were not taking part in the riots, and in fact videos show some of them angrily pushing the rioters away from the mosque. It was Israel that, in suppressing the rioters, made the mosque and most of the compound safe for Muslim worshippers.

Yet the inevitable pattern is that the “threat” to Al-Aqsa is used as a call to arms. Rioting ensues, Israeli security forces react, and the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs point to the security reaction as proof that Al-Aqsa was indeed threatened.

In the world of PR and advocacy, this is called great work if you can get it. It also means that you are relying on the Pavlovian reaction of useful idiots who unquestioningly buy into this choreography of events and the reaction to them.

The Palestinians and their supporters keep repeating the phrase about Israeli “threats to Al-Aqsa” that they had to counter with their rocks and explosives. They have reversed the order of things. It was the rioters who first erupted violently on the Temple Mount, and only then did the Israeli police intervene to disperse, disarm, and arrest the rioters.

We have seen the same pas de deux with the alleged threats to the Sheikh Jarrah squatters. And then there is my personal favorite: The supposed attempts by Israeli authorities to “Judaize Jerusalem.” The logical question then arises: if we know all of this, why can’t we head it off at the pass?

The property disputes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, between Jewish owners who had clear title and Arab squatters, who had none and yet have refused for years to pay any rent, were presented by the Palestinians as part of a sinister plot to “Judaize Jerusalem.” Only a few dozen properties were the subject of litigation. None of the Arabs could produce a valid title. One Arab family presented what turned out to be a clumsy forgery of an Ottoman land title. Another Arab family claimed to have bought its property, without any title to prove it, from a man named “Ismail” who promptly disappeared. There has been no attempt to “Judaize” east Jerusalem. In 1967, when Israel took possession of the territory, there were 66,000 Arabs living in the area; now there are 340,000. If Israel is trying to “Judaize” east Jerusalem, it is not trying very hard.

Here is a simple suggestion: Get a jump on the situation and tell the world − here is what to expect. Then, detail exactly what the chain of events will be, including the reaction that the receiver of the information will be expected to parrot.

Don’t wait for the Palestinian lies to be spread. Tell everyone exactly what those lies will be, and then predict the reaction they are expected to elicit. Pre-empt the nonsense and lies, by setting them out —and labelling them as such — before the Arabs have tried to convince the world to believe them.

One thing that Arabs do very well is to stay on message. This might be a triumph of rote dogma over nuanced reasoning, but it serves their purposes very well. In other words, they are not embarrassed to constantly repeat a set of talking points about a series of totally fictitious events. Said enough times, however, they eventually appear to be truthful.

Over and over again, the Arabs repeat the same calumnies. Endless repetition of a false charge, as Goebbels knew, can make it accepted as the truth. They take care to describe Israel in every statement as “apartheid Israel,” or “colonial-settler Israel”; they always call Judea and Samaria “occupied territory,” they always bewail the Zionist control of “occupied Jerusalem,” they deceptively call for a return to “the 1967 lines” (which really means “the 1949 armistice lines”), and now they hysterically claim that there is an Israeli “threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque.” They never change their phrasing. Mere repetition will make all those lies into truths accepted by many.

Always pre-empt what the Palestinians will say, and then point out exactly where the falsehood lies, and the response those falsehoods are expected to elicit both from the Arab audience, and from the wider audience of the unwary and the uninformed.

There is an irreducible core of supporters of the Palestinians or, more exactly, of haters of the Jewish state – the Palestinians are for them merely a convenient excuse for their pre-existing antisemitism –who will believe anything the Palestinians say about Israel. But there are others who have been kept fooled and badly informed about Israeli-Palestinian relations, and who may be persuaded that they have been ill-used by Palestinian propagandists.

To counteract the messages of the Palestinian propagandists that never vary, keep pre-empting by letting the world know that “this is what they are now going to say about us” and “here’s why it is preposterous.” For example, “they are now going to talk — watch for it — about our supposed threat to the sanctity of Al-Aqsa, but the threat comes from their rioters, who stockpile rocks and explosives inside the mosque, and then throw some of them out the mosque windows at the police, disrupting the peaceful worshippers inside trying to say their prayers.” Or “the only limits placed on worship on the top of the Temple Mount are prohibitions on Jewish prayers, both those said aloud and those which are mouthed silently. It is the Israeli police who enforce those rules. There has not been, and will not be, any change in this policy. Those who accuse Israel of being intent on taking over Al-Aqsa are simply lying.” Or “100,000 Muslims prayed peacefully at Al-Aqsa on April 22, their security assured by the Israeli police who kept the rioters at bay.” Or “did you know that the rioters set off fireecrackers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, and even played soccer — how is that for desecrating a sacred space?”

It’s infuriating to have to keep saying the obvious, but it’s the only way to keep turning back the tide – the tsunami — of Palestinian propaganda. To date, Israel has been in reactive mode, but Douglas Altabef has a point. Israelis shouldn’t wait to reply to lies, but instead beat the Palestinians to the punch, uttering the lies they will be telling before they do, but holding those lies up for immediate critical inspection, and answering them, before the Palestinians, caught in the headlights, have had time to react.

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