Wall Street Journal Falsely Charges Israeli Arson of al-Aqsa Mosque

UPDATE — November 15: The Journal has now issued a correction.

A news article in today’s Wall Street Journal (11/13) falsely charges that in 1969 an Israeli tried to burn down the al-Aqsa Mosque, when, in fact, the arson was committed by a tourist, a fundamentalist Protestant from Australia. It should also be noted that Muslim bystanders attacked Israeli firemen as they struggled to save the mosque.

The Journal claimed that:

Anger against Israel has long been the touchstone of both Arabic and Islamic unity – as has Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, a sacred Islamic site on what Jews call Temple Mount. It was an Israeli’s attempt to burn down al-Aqsa in 1969 that led to the founding of the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference]. (November 13, 2000)

Contrary to the Journal‘s reckless charge, the arsonist, Dennis Michael Rohan, was neither Israeli nor Jewish – he 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 al-Aqsa.

The fire was put out by Israeli firemen, despite attacks upon them by Muslim bystanders, who also cut some of the fire hoses. (Times of London, September 2, 1969)

Wall Street Journal news editors should correct the false charge and might consider hiring a few fact checkers.

In addition, the Journal‘s casual phrase that the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque is what “Jews call Temple Mount” is also highly objectionable. The site has been called the Temple Mount since Jews built the First Temple there 3000 years ago. It was called the Temple Mount 1600 years before the the advent of Islam, and it was called the Temple Mount in the days that witnessed the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem. The site should be referred to as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, known by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

ACTION ITEMS: [In the original alert, action items and contact information were listed here.]

Appendix – other references on the incident:

  1. Jerusalem: The Torn City, by Meron Benvenisti
  2. Old-city Mosque Badly Damaged, New York Times, August 22, 1969
  3. Australian is Seized by Israel as Suspect in Arson at Mosque, New York Times, August 23, 1969
  4. The Burning of al Aqsa, Time Magazine, August 29, 1969
  5. Israelis Indict Australian in Mosque Fire: Sentence of 44 Years is Possible, New York Times, September 2, 1969

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