The following passage about violence in Jerusalem and recent tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, in an article by John Reed in the Financial Times (Arab-Israel tensions: Jerusalem tales, Dec. 16th), is quite typical of the disinformation about Jerusalem that passes for serious news within much of the British media.
Jewish settlers, who get political and financial support from the Israeli state, believe they are reclaiming property inscribed as theirs in history and scripture. Silwan’s overwhelmingly Arab residents see the arrival of the settlers as a form of forceful colonisation, a view shared by Israelis who oppose the settlements. The influx has inflamed emotions among Palestinians already on the defensive from some Israeli rightwingers’ demands for the right to pray at al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, and a place reserved for Muslim worship since Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the six-day war.
“We are not against Jews,” says Umm Mohammad, voicing the belief that the three monotheistic faiths’ adherents can live in peace. But she says “al-Aqsa is a sacred place — it’s where the Prophet Mohammed went up to heaven.
First, Reed and his protagonist, Umm Mohammad, seriously misread readers by failing to mention that al-Aqsa, the site where Jewish “right-wingers” are demanding the right to pray, is of course also known as the Temple Mount, the location where the first and second Jewish Temples stood, and thus the holiest site in Judaism.
Indeed, a uniformed Financial Times reader would likely be misled by these passages into believing that radical Jews are attempting to stir trouble, and heighten tensions in the holy city, by encroaching on a site which is only sacred to Muslims.
Despite claims to the contrary, it’s hard to understand how the fierce determination to ban Jews from praying at their holiest site, and the insistence that the site (sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims) should only be reserved for Muslim prayer is anything other than an expression of intolerance and religious bigotry.
There are indeed good practical reasons to maintain the status quo at the Temple Mount (where Jews can visit but not pray), but let’s be clear about one thing: the extremists in this Reed’s tale are those who would riot and engage in violence at the mere sight of Jews peacefully praying to G-d at the spiritual epicenter of their faith.