Times of London columnist claims to have watched Jews pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque (Updated)

Though a column in Times of London by Janice Turner (Let's break free of this age of intransigence, April 28) included two sentences about Israel, nearly every word is misleading or false.

(See important update at the bottom of the article.)

Though a column at Times of London by Janice Turner (Let’s break free of this age of intransigence, April 28) included only two sentences about Israel, nearly every word is misleading or false.

First, it’s unclear what she’s referring to when she speaks of the “peaceful co-existence” of the Oslo Accords, as there were nearly 300 Israelis killed in Palestinian terror attacks between 1993 (when Oslo was signed) to 2000.  And, the Oslo Accords didn’t die as a result of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It died as the result of the 2nd Intifada and the Palestinian rejection of two Israeli peace offers after Rabin’s death.

But, this is the least of Turner’s deceit. 

The first sentence in the paragraph we highlighted, where she claims to have watched “ultra-orthodox settlers enter the Al-Aqsa mosque” to “pray”, would strike anyone familiar with regulations at the holy site as (at the very least) extraordinarily unlikely.  Jews are not allowed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and are not allowed to pray anywhere on the Temple Mount.  In fact, Jews even suspected of silently praying on the Temple Mount are often arrested.  Further, we confirmed with Israeli Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld in a phone call this morning that – as we suspected – no Jews have entered the mosque and there have been no ‘incidents’ of illegal Jewish prayer.

The only report we could find that’s similar to the claim made at Times of London was a story in a Turkish news agency quoting a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority (a Jordan-run agency) alleging that more than 300 “Jewish settlers” (a term often used by Palestinians to refer to all Jews visiting the Temple Mount) entered the “the Mosque compound” to perform Passover rituals.  First, note that this Palestinian official is only claiming Jews performed Passover rituals at the larger Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, not, as Turner claims, at the mosque itself.  But, even this allegation is clearly untrue, as the large priestly blessing during the Passover holiday took place – as it always does – at the Western Wall, not the Temple Mount.

It’s truly ironic that Turner, in decrying what she describes as the state of political “intransigence” throughout the world, complains that “fake news” has replaced “real news”, as her claim in the very next sentence that Jewish settlers entered and prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque appears to be a complete fabrication. 

(We’ve complained to editors about this inaccurate claim.)

Update: Times of London responded to our complaint and corrected the sentence claiming Jews entered and prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The revised language notes that they were in the larger Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – not, as we suspected, in the mosque itself.

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