As Palestinians Destroy Jewish Holy Sites, Media Focus On Fake ‘Attacks’ on Al-Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian rioters this week twice damaged Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site under Palestinian Authority (PA) control. Seemingly in defiance of its commitments under international agreements, the PA has hinted that it will not cooperate with Israel to repair the damage.
The affair did not generate headlines in any of the major international publications, with the Associated Press only briefly mentioning the arson attack at the end of a piece about the death of a suspected Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank.
Why is it that when Palestinians charge the Jewish state with “desecrating” Muslim holy places, media outlets uncritically echo these false claims, but when the PA administration in Ramallah consistently fails to protect Jewish sites under its control, reporters largely remain silent?
After Israeli forces on April 8 killed Palestinian gunman Raad Hazem following his Fatah-claimed attack in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis and injured more than a dozen others, terror groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were quick to link the act of terror to the pervasive lie that the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City is somehow being threatened.
In a statement, Hamas described last Thursday night’s terrorism as a “natural and legitimate response” to what it called Israeli “crimes” against the Muslim holy site. Palestinian Islamic Jihad likewise invoked the decades-old “Al-Aqsa is in danger” libel, and declared that the “Tel Aviv operation [sic] is a clear message to the occupation that it must stop its incursions into” the Muslim shrine.
For his part, the terrorist’s father, a retired Palestinian Authority security officer, on Friday called for the “liberation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the “desecration of the occupiers” — this, as residents of Jenin gathered at his home to celebrate the deadly terror attack.
Fathi Hazem added: “Make us among the victorious troops who are first to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Allah.”
Yet Israel’s commitment to freedom of worship in its capital for all religious groups — a guaranteed right since the Jewish state gained control over eastern Jerusalem in a defensive war in 1967 — was made stark on Friday, when scores of Muslims attended Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount.
A picture is worth a thousand words:
On Friday, thousands of Muslims were able to peacefully pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (right).
On Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists vandalized Joseph’s tomb, one of Judaism’s holiest sites (left).
— Tamar Schwarzbard (@TSchwarzbard) April 10, 2022
As Israeli tour guide Daniel Rubenstein, who witnessed Thursday’s terror attack, wrote on Twitter, “Being a friend of the Palestinian people means telling them the truth: Al-Aqsa Mosque is safe. There is no danger. Anyone who dies for al-Aqsa is dying for a lie.”
“I call on every world leader, diplomat, NGO, and seeker of peace to amplify this message and help save lives,” he asserted.
Nevertheless, media sites have often uncritically promoted the thoroughly debunked “Al-Aqsa is in danger” libel.
Over the past year, a sample of 18 leading US news organizations ran at least 58 articles citing Palestinian claims that Israel, among other accusations, “stormed,” “attacked,” or “desecrated” the Muslim holy site.
When thousands of Palestinians in May 2021 chanted violent slogans and rioted on the Temple Mount, some journalists described the subsequent police deployment aimed at maintaining order as a “raid” on Al-Aqsa, while blaming Israel for the subsequent Hamas rocket fire from Gaza.
Meanwhile, the actual desecration of Jewish heritage sites by Palestinians receives almost zero coverage.
According to a recent report by Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, “for a decade now, and with increased intensity since 2016, there have been a series of deliberate moves on the ground to obscure and destroy sites relating to Jewish history, which cannot be ‘repurposed’ as Palestinian heritage sites.”
On early Sunday morning, Palestinians in the PA-controlled West Bank city of Nablus (Shechem) vandalized the tomb believed to contain the remains of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Local reports said that about 100 people descended on the site, shattered the tombstone and set fire to rooms inside the complex.
Early on Monday, the Palestinian Authority again failed to prevent destruction at the Jewish holy place, despite its obligation under the Oslo Accords, which are part of the body of international law governing relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
As Joseph’s Tomb is located inside Area A of the West Bank, a territory also known by the Biblical names Judea and Samaria, Jewish pilgrims are usually only allowed to visit once a month under heavily armed guard. During these visits, Palestinians routinely throw rocks at Israeli troops, and sometimes target them with Molotov cocktails and gunfire.
The tomb was also torched in 2015 by Palestinian rioters amid the “Stabbing Intifada,” which at least partially was sparked by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement over “filthy” Jewish feet that were allegedly “desecrating” Al-Aqsa.
In response to the latest developments, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he had “delivered a strong message to the Palestinian Authority, demanding the immediate reinforcement of their officials [at Joseph’s Tomb], and decisive action against rioters and terrorists that harm stability and security in holy places.” Gantz vowed to restore the tomb to its original condition.
However, the PA’s governor of Nablus, Ibrahim Ramadan, quickly rebuked the Israeli minister, insisting that “foreign bodies” would not be allowed to access the shrine.
Late last month, the Jewish cemetery in Hebron was similarly desecrated. Video footage uploaded to social media shows Palestinians damaging the tombstone of Menucha Rochel Slonim, a community leader who lived in the city between 1845 and 1888. The Palestinians burned holy books used by Jewish pilgrims visiting the resting place of the dead.
Four weeks earlier, Israel Hayom reported that the construction of an illegal Palestinian quarry in PA-administered Area B of the West Bank has caused “irreversible” damage to an ancient aqueduct located between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. The aqueduct was one of two used to fill Solomon’s Pools, a large reservoir from which water was funneled via other channels to the Temple in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
Meanwhile, Israel’s N12 News in February 2021 aired a segment about the Palestinian Authority turning a blind eye to the destruction of parts of the site archeologists identified on Mount Ebal in Area B of the West Bank as the altar from the Book of Joshua. PA workers interviewed by the broadcaster admitted that they had ground stones from the site’s exterior wall into gravel to pave a road.
Additional damage to the 3,200-year-old altar, which stands as a testament to the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel, was discovered in January of this year.
It is the media’s role not to spread falsehoods but, rather, to report the facts. In this case, they should note that some 80,000 worshipers — many of them Palestinians — freely attended prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan just hours after a deadly terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, even as the PA is failing to abide by its obligations under international law to prevent the destruction of Jewish holy sites.
Unless news outlets change this “status quo,” Palestinians are liable to continue such ISIS-like behavior with impunity.