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January 11, 2018 10:34 am

The Future Does Not Belong to Those Who Slander Israel

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

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Wasfi Kailani. Photo: Dexter Van Zile.

Somebody needs to give Wasfi Kailani a copy of the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. Kailani, who has served as manager of Jerusalem Affairs for the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan since 2008, violated a major component of this treaty by falsely declaring that a Jew set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969.

Kailani leveled the false accusation — clearly intended to defame the Jewish state — at a conference about the Temple Mount that took place at Harvard Law School late last year. The conference, organized by professor Noah Feldman, was titled “Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif: Conflict, Culture, Law,” and was held from November 28-29, 2017.

During his November 29 keynote address, Kailani described Denis Rohan, the man who set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a “Jewish extremist.” In fact, Rohan was an Australian Christian, who — after his arrest — told doctors that he set the fire under instructions from God. Rohan was declared mentally insane, and was eventually sent home to Australia, where he spent the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital. He died there in 1995.

A subsequent inquiry declared that one of the factors that led to the fire was the poor security measures imposed by the Islamic Waqf, which was in charge of the site. “It was additionally made apparent that a mosque worker saw the Australian in the mosque, however did not approach him, even though tourists are banned from entering the mosque in the early morning hours,” Ynet News reported in 2015.

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Kailani offered his demonstrably false information in a speech devoted to two topics — King Abdullah’s commitment to fulfilling Jordan’s obligation as Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, and the evil intentions of Israeli Jews who are visiting the Temple Mount and want to pray there. The Israeli government, Kailani said, is held hostage by the ambitions of groups who want to build a new temple on the Temple Mount.

“The peace process is almost dead,” Kailani declared. “There is no Israeli who desire peace. Israeli erosion of the status quo makes it clear that Israel does not want peace.” He also declared that King Abdullah must protect the Temple Mount from Jewish encroachment on behalf of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. “Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif is unsharable, indivisible and non-negotiable.”

After Kailani gave his speech, Rev. Dr. Robert O. Smith, a Lutheran pastor who has been particularly critical of Israel — going so far as to participate in a pro-BDS conference in South Africa a few years ago — did the principled thing, and corrected Kailani’s false and defamatory claim that an extremist Jew set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“According to my understanding, he was a actually a Christian Zionist — extremist no doubt,” Smith said during the question and answer period after Kailani’s speech. “The concern that I have is that it has also been said to me by Waqf administrators during tours in Al-Aqsa that he was Jewish, and I think that it may be helpful to clarify that point so that we may be accurate and identify other concerns.”

In response, Kailani thanked Smith for the clarification: “I’m not aware of this identity,” he said, “but we learned from many sources that he was a Jewish extremist or something like this, but you are the expert. We will correct it.” With this statement, Kailani implicitly admitted that he and his colleagues have been misinforming their audiences about the identity of the arsonist for quite some time — making it particularly unlikely that it was an honest mistake on the part of Muslim officials who exercise custodianship of the Temple Mount.

A cursory search of the Internet indicates that this lie is a central plank in jihadist propaganda directed at the Jewish state. For example, Hamas falsely described Rohan as an Israeli Jew in a video it produced in 2016.

It is very difficult to believe that Kailani did not know the truth of the matter. He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, propagandistic assertions like this are a clear and direct violation of Article 11 of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, which declares that both parties will “abstain from hostile or discriminatory propaganda against each other, and to take all possible legal and administrative measures to prevent the dissemination of such propaganda by any organization or individual present in the territory of either Party.”

And this isn’t the only part of the 1994 treaty that Jordan has failed to live up to (even if journalists in the Middle East and the rest of the world refuse to cover the issue).

Article Nine of the treaty declares that Israel and Jordan “will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”

Yet anyone who has visited the websites of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and Palestinian Media Watch will know that the Temple Mount, which is under the custodianship of the Jordan, has become a cauldron of anti-Jewish and anti-Western hate. Preachers appointed by the Hashemite kingdom to lecture at Al-Aqsa regularly speak in genocidal terms against Jews, and promote an ideology of Islamic supremacism in a manner that clearly contradicts the notions of religious understanding enunciated in the 1994 treaty.

For example, in October 2016, Sheikh Khaled Al-Mughrabi declared from a pulpit at the Al-Aqsa Mosque that in a final battle between Jews and Muslims, “The children of Israel will all be exterminated … and the Muslims will live in comfort for a long time.”

Somebody in Jordan needs to step up and make it perfectly clear that the future does not belong to those who slander the Jewish people and their homeland.

It’s in their very own treaty.

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