More than a year after the May 2021 war between Gaza-based Iranian proxies and Israel, major U.S. news outlets are still getting the origins of the conflict wrong. This is but one of several takeaways from a Sept. 22, 2022 Washington Post article (“Outside audit says Facebook restricted Palestinian posts during Gaza War”).
Reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin claimed that the war was “initially sparked by a conflict over an impending Israeli Supreme Court case involving whether settlers had the right to evict Palestinian families from their homes in a contested neighborhood in Jerusalem.” As CAMERA has documented, this is entirely false.
The 2021 war was not launched over a property dispute in eastern Jerusalem involving a handful of families. Rather, it was intentionally launched by proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which calls for Israel’s destruction. Iran was hoping to use the attacks to exert pressure on Israel’s ally, the United States, with whom it has been engaged in negotiations over Tehran’s illegal nuclear weapons program. Indeed, Iran has said as much.
On May 6, 2021, the Middle East Media Research Institute translated a speech by Asghar Emami, the head of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, which has trained and equipped operatives from Hamas, Hezbollah, PIJ, and other terrorist groups. Summarizing his remarks, MEMRI reported that “General Emami explained that Iran can easily tighten its grip around ‘the throat of the Zionist regime’ in order to extract pressure and extract concessions from America.” Emami, MEMRI said, “continued to say that while Israel has airplanes that can reach Iran, Iran does not require airplanes to target Israel, it can place Israel ‘under siege’ via the artillery and mortar shells of the ‘resistance axis.’”
Every Gaza-based terrorist group that participated in the conflict is linked to Iran. Some, such as PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), are fully owned subsidiaries. That Iran helped coordinate their attacks, even reportedly running an operations room out of Lebanon to push disinformation, is now an established fact. It has been well documented in a bevy of literature, including an entire book—all of it publicly available at the time of the Post’s September 22, 2022 report.
That the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism would use its terror proxies to launch a war against a state whose destruction is its raison d’etre is unsurprising; it has done so on multiple occasions. Iran’s IRGC is known to have trained, funded and equipped the terrorist groups that participated in the conflict. But the Post prefers to parrot the utterly asinine claim that an entire war was started, hundreds of rockets launched, over an eviction dispute in eastern Jerusalem.
The Post continues to echo anti-Israel propaganda, claiming that another contributing factor to the conflict was “Israeli police storming the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.” But as CAMERA noted at the time, no such thing occurred. In fact, in an act of premeditated violence, Palestinian terrorists rioted at the mosque, using weapons that were preassembled to attack Israelis. Footage available and distributed to press showed hundreds, if not thousands, of large rocks and staging points set up to assault Israelis. Israeli border police responded, breaking up the rioters.
Importantly, as CAMERA’s Ricki Hollander has noted, the attempt to link al-Aqsa to the Sheikh Jarrah land dispute (covered in depth here) was part of a Hamas-orchestrated disinformation campaign. In using the language “stormed al-Aqsa,” the Washington Post is but echoing their propaganda (examples of which can be found here). Also left unsaid by the newspaper: Hamas hoped to use the conflict to weaken its rival, Fatah, which rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). That the Gaza-based terrorist group hopes to expand its foothold is now a subject of growing concern for policymakers—no thanks to many major media outlets which, as CAMERA has highlighted, continue to ignore the looming threat.
The Post’s report is weak on other fronts, as well. Indeed, its entire premise—that Facebook discriminated against Palestinians by limiting social media posts during the 2021 war—is full of holes. The newspaper relies unquestioningly on a report by a group called Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which asserts that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, “failed” to properly moderate social media platforms during “wartime.” BSR’s report, the Post asserts, “bolsters complaints from Palestinian activists that online censorship fell more heavily on them.”
The evidence? “Early on during the protests,” the Post says, “Instagram, which is owned by Meta along with WhatsApp and Facebook, began restricting content containing the hashtag #AlAqsa.”
BSR’s report “says that the #AlAqsa hashtag was mistakenly added to a list of terms associated with terrorism by an employee working for a third-party contractor that does content moderation for the company. The employee wrongly pulled ‘from an updated list of terms from the US Treasury Department containing the Al Aqsa Brigade, resulting in #AlAqsa being hidden from search results,’ the report found.” Yet, this shows an almost comical lack of knowledge about Palestinian terrorist groups.
Calls to “defend” al-Aqsa are part of what is known as the “al-Aqsa libel.”
As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) notes in a lengthy report on the subject, “’Al-Aqsa is in danger’ is a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and eventually, the State of Israel” (The ‘Al-Aksa is in Danger’ Libel: The History of a Lie, Nadav Shragai).
JCPA notes that the “birthfather” of this enduring libel was a future Adolf Hitler collaborator, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. In 1924, al-Husseini falsely claimed al-Aqsa mosque was in danger from Jews to help him raise funds for the building’s restoration. The mosque, in recent decades described as Islam’s third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina, had languished in the latter part of Jerusalem’s rule by the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917).
In 1929, the Mufti used lies alleging Jewish designs on the mosque to inflame an already organized and armed Palestinian Arab populace—leading to attacks on Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods and nearby Jewish communities that killed 133 Jewish men, women and children and wounded 339.
Use of the al-Aqsa libel to stir violence against Jews has been repeated many times since. For example, in 1969 a deranged Protestant fundamentalist named Dennis Michael Rohan attempted to set fire to the mosque. Not only did Palestinian leaders and press claim Jews committed the arson, Muslim bystanders attacked Israeli firemen attempting to put out the blaze.
In 2000, while engaging in U.S.-led peace talks with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat simultaneously was arming and preparing for the second intifada. A Sept. 28, 2000 visit to the Temple Mount by then-Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon provided what senior Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti called a “good excuse” for outbreaks of organized violence and terrorist attacks that would, over the course of five years, murder more than 1,000 Israelis, mostly non-combatants, Jews and Arabs alike, and foreign visitors.
In 2015, the al-Aqsa libel was employed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It trended on social media prior to what the media labeled the “Stabbing Intifada,” in which dozens of Israelis were attacked with rocks, knives, vehicles and guns, following claims that Israel sought to “storm” or “destroy” the mosque. The rallying cry’s effectiveness is such that al-Aqsa features prominently in Islamist propaganda, including those of numerous terrorist groups like the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. That this history is seemingly unknown to both BSR and the Washington Post, is disqualifying and deprives both from being taken seriously.