The Los Angeles Times’ article today about a purported increase in attempts by Jewish worshipers to pray on the Temple Mount unnecessarily exacerbates an already tense situation with a provocative, misleading headline, and by publishing false Palestinian accusations as fact. As of this writing, the story by Jerusalem bureau chief Edmund Sanders appears on the top item of the Los Angeles Times home page and is accompanied by a bombastic, misleading headline:
The headline is provocative and misleading given that the site in question, the Temple Mount, is not simply a “site sacred to Muslims,” but is also Judaism’s holiest site, as the article itself makes clear.
Furthermore, the front-page blurb does nothing to clarify the fact that the site where Jews are seeking to pray is Judaism’s holiest site. It says: “Israeli police and Muslim officials say prayers at the Temple Mount-Al Aqsa mosque site are a provocation. One rabbi responds: ‘What is provocative about a person wanting to pray?'”
Those readers who bother to click on the headline in order to read the story will come to a page with a more balanced headline. It states “More Jews praying on site also sacred to Muslims” (emphasis added). The “also” makes clear that the site is holy to Jews, an essential point that the majority of Los Angeles Times Web visitors would miss.
“The Israeli strategy is to take over,” said Mahi Abdul Hadi, chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, a Jerusalem think tank. “We don’t want to share, not because we don’t accept them, but because we don’t trust them.” . . .
Hadi also noted that temple-rebuilding extremists set fire to Al Aqsa mosque in 1969 and plotted to bomb the Dome of the Rock in the 1980s.
But the 1969 Temple Mount arsonist was neither an Israeli nor a Jew. The 1969 arsonist, Dennis Michael Rohan, was an Australian Protestant follower of an evangelical sect known as the Church of God. By his own admission, Rohan hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by burning down the al-Aqsa mosque. On Nov. 15, 2000, the Wall Street Journal published a correction regarding the same false assertion that an Israeli had set fire to the mosque in 1969. It stated:
The arsonist who attempted to burn down Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque in 1969 was an Australian who belonged to a Christian fundamentalist sect. An article in Monday’s edition on talks between U.S., Israeli and Palestinian leaders incorrectly stated that an Israeli had made the attempt.
Assault ‘On the Mosque’?
Second, Sanders reports without challenge the false Palestinian claim that police launched an assault on the Al Aqsa mosque earlier this month. The article states:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this month accused Israel of launching a ‘fierce assault’ on the mosque after soldiers broke up a Muslim riot triggered by a group of Jewish worshipers.” (Emphasis added.)
Jerusalem police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, who was quoted in Sanders’ story, confirmed to CAMERA that the police did not enter, raid or assault the mosque earlier this month, and that it is police policy not to enter or assault the mosque (barring the extreme unprecedented circumstance in which a police officer is kidnapped and held within the mosque). After Arab worshipers attacked police at the Mugrabi Gate on Friday, Oct. 5 and threw stones at Jewish worshippers praying below at the Western Wall, the police entered the Temple Mount plaza and dispersed rioters who were in open areas outside, but in no way launched an assault on the mosque itself, according to Rosenfeld. Police did not direct any assault towards the mosque, nor did they enter it, Rosenfeld said.
The premise of the article, as the headline states, is “More Jews [are] praying on site also sacred to Muslims.” The second paragraph states:
On most days, dozens — sometimes hundreds — of Jewish worshipers ascend to the disputed 36-acre platform that Muslims venerate as Al Aqsa mosque and Jews revere as the Temple Mount with an Israeli police escort to protect them and a Muslim security guard to monitor their movements.
Again obscuring the fact that the Israeli government and police forbid Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Sanders reports selectively about a Jordanian campaign to condemn Israel at UNESCO. His account of the Jordanian effort is highly abbreviated:
Jordan, which has maintained day-to-day supervision of the plaza through an Islamic trust called the Waqf, is asking the U.N.’s cultural body, UNESCO, to condemn Israel for permitting an increase in Jewish prayers.
He doesn’t mention the Jordanian attempt essentially failed, at least for now. As reported by Ha’aretz, Oct. 17:
Over the past 24 hours, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, held intensive contacts with representatives of European countries in an effort to get them to apply pressure on the Jordanians. As evidence of the fact that the Jordanian arguments [about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount] are baseless, Barkan provided them with an article that appeared Tuesday in Haaretz by right-wing activist Karni Eldad in which she attacked the government for not allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. . . .
According to the diplomat, the Russian initiative came as a complete surprise to the Jordanians, the Palestinians and other Arab nations. During a vote held on Wednesday, 28 countries supported the Russian initiative while 23 countries opposed. Among those opposed were mainly Arab and African nations, as well as France – the only EU state to oppose.
“The Russian ambassador is a very serious woman and has presented the initiative in order to save UNESCO from a dangerous politicization,” he said. “Many countries understood that these anti-Israeli resolutions are exaggerated, and as evidence, even Brazil was against the suspension. This is a big achievement for Israel.”
e is a long history of Arab incitement falsely accusing Israel of attempting to take over the Temple Mount including involving the reopening of the Hurva synagogue and the Mugrabi bridge affair. While reporting on Palestinian claims about “dangerous provocations” at the Temple Mount, reporters must take care not to contribute to the incitement and charged environment by reproducing false Palestinian claims as fact.