On December 22, 2003, after meeting with Israeli leaders, Egyptian Foreign
Minister Ahmed Maher was assaulted by Palestinian rioters while visiting the
al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Israel has sovereignty and overall
security control of the Temple Mount, while the Islamic Wakf maintains civil
authority on the compound. Accordingly, Jerusalem police accompanied Mr. Maher
and his Egyptian security entourage to the entrance of the mosque and waited
outside the site. Mr. Maher was then surrounded by angry Palestinians who threw
shoes at him and shouted "traitor" and "collaborator." The
Israeli police rushed into the mosque to assist Egyptian bodyguards in
evacuating Mr. Maher from the site. Maher was taken in a Magen David Adom
ambulance to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
The Arab press and Palestinian officials denounced the attack and
Palestinian leader Arafat dispatched his chief political officer, Farouk
Qaddoumi, to Cairo to apologize. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat, who
condemned the attack, was quoted in the Jordan Times as saying that Mr.
Maher's visit was fully coordinated with the Palestinian leadership, and
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei told Al-Jazeera that he was
"shocked and furious" over the attack by Palestinian extremists on
In a now-familiar pattern, however, BBC suggested that it was Israel who was
ultimately to blame for the incident. On a BBC World news report on the
afternoon of the attack, Monday, December 22, host Julian Marshall and reporter
Jill McGivering appeared to be trying hard to establish some sort of Israeli
responsibility for the incident.
MARSHALL: And who was responsible for his security when he went to the
McGIVERING: Well, I'm sure some questions are going to be asked about that
and also about the wisdom of the decision to allow him to visit the site which
is of course very sensitive. We understand that, again, from both the report by
Israeli police and from the pictures we've seen, it seems as if the people
around him, while he was actually in the mosque, when the attack started,
seemed to be his own security guards. Israeli police must have been fairly
close at hand because they went into the mosque after the scuffle had broken
out and were also helping to get him out. But they weren't around him at the
time it happened it seems.
MARSHALL: Is it usual for Israel to take visiting Arab dignitaries to pray
at the Al-Aksa mosque?
McGIVERING: Well, we know it is a very sensitive site. Of course, it isn't
that common for them to have people of that sort of profile, that sort of
status. He was the first Egyptian official to visit here for more than two
years. It may have been perhaps in Egypt's mind some sort of gesture - positive
gesture - of reconciliation that although Mr. Maher had made the decision not
to visit with Palestinian leaders during this particular visit, he was focusing
on Israeli officials, maybe he thought this was a way of balancing and showing
that of course his loyalties are not one-sided. But clearly, it's something
that has gone a little bit wrong. This is not how his visit was intended to
An article on BBC's website on the same day ("Egypt Minister Attacked
at Mosque") quoted Ms. McGivering as saying that the incident was sure to
cause some embarassment for the Israelis. Embarassment,
responsibilityit's all part of the BBC pattern of blaming on Israel--even
when Palestinians attack Egyptians.