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May 17, 2023 11:06 am

Refuting Mahmoud Abbas’ UN Lies, Nearly 4 Million Muslims Visited the Temple Mount During Ramadan

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avatar by Maurice Hirsch


Jewish visitors gesture as Israeli security forces secure the area at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, Photo: May 5, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Since June 7, 1967, when Israel liberated the Temple Mount from the illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), Israel’s governments have guaranteed that the site remain accessible to both Israel’s Muslim population and — subject to security precautions — to many Muslims who live in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). This guarantee was once again demonstrated during this year’s month of Ramadan, when nearly four million people visited the site.

Jerusalem resident Fadi Mattour: “Praise Allah Master of the Universe, this month [of Ramadan] was very special. It was a wonderful month. The estimates of the [Jordanian] Waqf are that nearly 4 million visitors visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque this month, and this is a very large number.”

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[Official PA TV News, April 21, 2023]

The record 4,000,000 visitors was made up of both Palestinians, who were given broad permission to enter Israel to visit the site, and Israeli Muslims.

Despite the record numbers of visitors, in his speech this week to the United Nations to mark the “Nakba” — the term that means “catastrophe,” which is used by the Palestinians to describe Israel’s creation – PA leader Mahmoud Abbas baselessly charged:

Israel, ladies and gentlemen, beyond all its crimes against our people since the Nakba … it desecrates the holy Islamic and Christian religious places in Palestine … just as it denies the Palestinians their right to freedom of worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque — the holy compound of Jerusalem which is the exclusive right of Muslims alone.

[Mahmoud Abbas, Speech in the UN, May 15, 2023]

As Palestinian Media Watch has already noted, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque — built in 693 and marked in red in the picture below — is just one small part of the entire Temple Mount — marked in green in the picture below —  in recent years, for political purposes, the Palestinians refer to the entire site, including the expansive courtyards and the golden topped Dome of the Rock (built in 691), as the “Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

While the entire site is indeed holy to Judaism and Islam, a 1924 guide to the Temple Mount, published by the Supreme Muslim Council, clearly states that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is just one entity on the wider Temple Mount — referred to as “Al-Harm Al-Sharif” or “The August Sanctuary” — whose “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” [emphasis added]

While permitting Muslim prayer on the site, as a rule, and despite the fact that no positive decision was taken by the authorized ministerial committee, Jewish prayer on the site has been mostly prohibited.

Since 1967, Israel has made no substantial structural changes on the site. On the other hand, the Waqf — the Jordanian organization that controls and manages the current Islamic edifices on the site — illegally dug out a large area (some 600 square yards (500 square meters)) known as “Solomon’s Stables” and turned it, in 1996, into another covered prayer area which they named the El-Marwani Mosque.

Despite the fact that Israel has done nothing to change the nature of the Temple Mount — and while the visits of Jews on the Mount are considerably restricted — the PA constantly uses the battle call that “Al-Aqsa is in danger” to invoke religious tension and to spark violence. The calls often intensify during the month of Ramadan.

This year was no different.

A month before Ramadan started, Advisor to the PA Presidential Office on Jerusalem Affairs, Ahmed Al-Ruweidi, was already busy denying Jews all their rights to freedom of religion on the Temple Mount, claiming that “coming days are dangerous for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” due to Israel’s alleged  intent to “reduce the Palestinian presence”:

Advisor to the [PA] Presidential Office on Jerusalem Affairs Ahmed Al-Ruweidi emphasized that the coming days are dangerous for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque … and that the goal of the initiatives that are being published [by Israel] one after the other is to establish the occupation’s sovereignty and determine new facts on the ground, in order to reduce the Palestinian presence.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 28, 2023]

Al-Ruweidi continued his baseless conspiracy theory, falsely claiming that Israel’s goal is to “declare ‘the national Holy Basin,’ … as a purely Jewish area, and to establish in its heart the alleged Temple in place of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque…”:

In a statement yesterday [Feb. 27, 2023], he explained that the final goal of all these initiatives is to declare ‘the national Holy Basin,’ which includes the Old City [of Jerusalem] and its surroundings, as a purely Jewish area, and to establish in its heart the alleged Temple in place of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque…”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 28, 2023]

Leaving no room for misunderstanding, Al-Ruweidi then reiterated the PA ideology denying Jews any rights to the Temple Mount, claiming that the entire area — all 144 dunams — are the “exclusive right of the Muslims.” This “exclusive right,” according to Al-Ruweidi, even extends outside of the Temple Mount wall, and includes the Western Wall, which Al-Ruweidi claims as “part of the Mosque” and which is “purely Islamic waqf” — i.e., an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law that Palestinian leaders have claimed Muslims are commanded to free from non-Muslims:

On the day Ramadan started, the PA Supreme Fatwa Council called on Palestinians to visit the site in light of the “fierce attack” it is under and its “desecration.” As PMW has repeatedly shown the PA uses the term “desecrate/desecration” as a euphemism for the visits of Jews to the site:

The [Palestinian] Supreme Fatwa Council called on the citizens to go during the [Muslim fasting] month of Ramadan to Jerusalem and its blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is desperately in need of this in light of the fierce attack that is being waged against its existence, its sanctity, and its unity through desecration and aggression.” [emphasis added]

[WAFA, official PA news agency, March 23, 2023]

In the eyes of the PA, any Jewish visit on the Temple Mount is an “invasion”:

Official PA TV host: “We will begin with the settlers’ latest invasion yesterday [March 30, 2023] — more than 70 settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas and held Talmudic [i.e., Jewish] rituals near the gates, in the plazas, and next to the Gate of Mercy.”

[Official PA TV, “Good Morning Jerusalem,” March 31, 2023]

A group of Arab rioters barricaded themselves inside the actual mosque with rocks and fireworks, and threw and fired at Israeli forces, who were then forced to intervene. This elementary act of law enforcement on the holy site sparked the anger of PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, prompting him to invoke the “desecration” trope, claiming that Israel refuses to learn that the “Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to the Palestinians and all the Arabs and Muslims”:

[PA] Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that Israel, with its desecration of the sanctity of the holy sites and the places of worship, and in the attacks that we saw against the worshippers in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, is disregarding all the international norms and conventions and international and humanitarian law in Palestine…

He emphasized that Israel does not want to learn from history that the Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to the Palestinians and all the Arabs and Muslims and that invading it is a spark of revolution against the occupation.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash similarly distorted the acts of law enforcement calling them “aggression against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” and then exaggerated their effect claiming they would “spark of religious war … whose price will be paid by the entire world…”

Supreme [PA] Shari’ah Judge of Palestine and [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas’] Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations Mahmoud Al-Habbash said that the occupation forces’ ongoing aggression against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and persecuting the worshippers and those carrying out Ribat [i.e., religious conflict over land claimed to be Islamic], arresting them, and attacking them, including women, children, and the elderly [refers to Israeli forces removing Arab rioters who had barricaded inside the mosque with rocks and fireworks, which they threw and fired at the forces], is a spark of religious war that the occupation state is striving to ignite in a variety of ways and whose price will be paid by the entire world…

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

The Supreme PA Presidential Committee for Church Affairs distorted the events even more, curiously claiming that rioters barricading themselves inside the mosque with rocks and fireworks, which they threw and fired at the security forces, should be considered one of the “religious ceremonies in the Al-Aqsa Mosque”:

The Supreme [PA] Presidential Committee for Church Affairs in Palestine condemned the barbaric attack that the Israeli occupation forces committed against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and against the worshipers inside it … and emphasized that only the Muslims have a right to hold all their religious ceremonies in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2023]

Abbas’ Fatah Movement also used the law enforcement operation as an opportunity to call on all the Fatah frameworks and members to “defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and resist the “invasions,” stressing that the Temple Mount is “holy only to the Palestinians”:

The Fatah Movement called for general preparedness from our people and the Fatah frameworks and members in order to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque, carry out Ribat there, and be there and resist the invasions and calls for the so-called “offering of sacrifices.” …Fatah emphasized the great pride in our residents in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and in all those carrying out Ribat and staying there who are adhering to their Jerusalem and their right, and they are standing against the ongoing invasions in spite of the intensity of the violence and the aggression and emphasizing that this place is holy only to the Palestinians.

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 7, 2023]

Fatah’s Jerusalem branch added: “The historical and legal status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque goes back hundreds of years, and that only the Muslims and no one else have a right to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 7, 2023]

The PA’s rejection of Jews’ rights to pray or even access the Temple Mount continues unabated also after Ramadan has ended. The PA’s Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein recently reiterated that Al-Aqsa “belongs to the Muslims” and that no one else can “participate with them there”:

As he proved in his speech at the UN, Abbas has no problem whatsoever not only denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, but also denying Jews their right to freedom of worship on the site.

Try as they may, no part of Palestinian propaganda will ever be able to detach the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount.

Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.

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