The Temple Mount crisis appears to have been resolved at least for now. Waqf officials announced 27 July that Muslim worshippers can return to the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers following the removal of the metal barriers and infrastructure for surveillance cameras.
Whilst a lot of commentary will focus on the wisdom of the decisions taken by the various regional stakeholders after the 14 July terrorist attack, the reactions to the crisis should also be studied, for they have presented us with an extended and chemically pure example of a phenomenon dubbed “decontextualising Israel to demonise Israel” by my BICOM colleague Professor Alan Johnson.
The technique used in “decontextualise to demonise” (let’s call it D2D) is simple enough. You remove the context of Israel’s actions (in this case the security measures being a direct response to a terror attack involving automatic weapons smuggled into the al-Aqsa mosque) so that Israel’s actions appear motiveless and cruel.
The orgy of D2D since the initial terror attack has been quite a sight. Some examples:
- The day after the attack, Fatah’s Bethlehem branch called on Palestinians “to escalate the confrontations with the occupation forces at the friction points in response to the continued closure of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque”. No mention of the terrorist attack that caused the closure, nor that the assailants took their guns onto the Temple Mount, violating the sanctity of the holy site.
- The Jordanian parliament honoured the two Israeli-Arab terrorists as lawmakers stood in prayer on behalf of the “martyrs”. Speaker Atef Tarawneh pointed to Israel’s “occupation” over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem along with its “oppression” and “tyranny” as a justification for “continued resistance” against Israel.
- Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, an expert at D2D said. “Everyone who knows Israel is aware that restrictions on Al-Aqsa mosque are not due to safety concerns,” adding “Israel is using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to take al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Muslims. There is no other explanation.” In perhaps the most blatant example of D2D, Erdogan expressed outrage that the three terrorists had been shot in order to stop their killing spree: “Israeli soldiers carelessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots,” he complained, ‘by using simple issues as a pretext and then easily spill blood there”.
- In the UK, on parts of the left, D2D is also second nature and the present crisis was no exception. Chris Nineham, the founding member of Stop the War complained that: “Anger at Israeli attacks on the Palestinians is reaching boiling point … the immediate issue was the partial closure of the symbolic Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities and the introduction of metal detectors at the entrances [which] are designed to humiliate and provoke the Palestinians.” Nineham made no mention of the killing of the two police officers on 14 July.
- And finally, on 21 July the Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB), alongside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Muslim Association of Britain, called for protests in London and Manchester after Israel “closed Al Aqsa Mosque, imposed tight security check on worshipers as part of its plans to seize the holy Muslim site”. The organisations “forgot” to mention that Israel had already reopened the Temple Mount five days earlier, failed to provide evidence of the Israeli “plans” to seize the Mount (which would have been difficult as none exist) and, once again, ignored the initial reason for the security measures and closure. They decontextualized Israel’s actions to demonise it.
It’s not just the present that is distorted but the past. The 1948 war is painted as a planned Israeli exercise in ethnic cleansing, ignoring the initial Arab rejection of 1947 UN partition plan and the invasion of Israel by its five Arab neighbors. Israel’s attempts to restore deterrence against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza are reduced to a cruel and motiveless ‘genocide’ by ‘Zionists’ when the antisemitic nature of Hamas and its commitment to destroy Israel is overlooked. The security barrier – primarily chain linked fence built at the height of the Second Intifada – is an ‘Apartheid Wall’ where its reduction in the number of suicide bombings in Israel from 73 in 2000-3 to 12 in 2003-6 is ignored.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and understanding it requires context, something that has sadly too often been lacking in current commentary over the violence in Jerusalem. Amongst all the D2D stands the biggest absence of them all that immediately after conquering the Old City in 1967, Israel – which continues to be harangued for allegedly trying to destroy the Mosque, handed control of the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – back to the Islamic Trust, or Waqf, and forbade any Jewish religious prayer on the entire Mount. It’s this status quo that – despite the accusations to the contrary – has been maintained to this day
Sam Nurding is Research Analyst at BICOM.