The “Al-Aksa is in danger” libel essentially resembles the anti-Jewish blood libels originating in the Middle Ages. It is a baseless fabrication that emerged in a religious context, but also has clear-cut political and national components. Many Muslims throughout the world wholeheartedly believe that “Al-Aksa is in danger,” that Israel is actually working to destroy the mosques and build the Third Temple in their stead. That, of course, does not attest to the libel’s veracity but to the phenomenal success of its agents and disseminators.
Many of these have been aware for years, and are just as aware today, that there is no substance to the libel. But it has served their personal agendas on both the religious and national levels, and so they continue to spread it. And the disseminators of the libel, from the time of Grand Mufti Husseini to the time of Sheikh Salah, do not hesitate to augment it with anti-Semitic motifs and incitement to violence.
This reality requires a complex response to the libel and its disseminators. The fact that the libel has already sparked riots and violent clashes obligates Israeli decision-makers to treat it as a tangible security threat. They should regard it precisely as they regard threats of suicide bombings, rocket launches, or actions against the mosques by Jewish radicals, because the libel is tantamount to a ticking bomb.
This response should not merely involve guidelines for the security forces. It must be translated into practice, both in the legal-criminal and the deterrent realms. Muslim clerics who engage in disseminating the libel must understand that they are liable to pay a severe personal price, including a prolonged prison sentence.
This is not a restriction on freedom of religion, an infringement of democracy, or even a violation of freedom of speech. A democracy has the right to defend itself against hate speech and incitement, against threats of the sort of lethal violence that has already occurred in the past. If Western countries such as the United States and Britain, and Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, adopt similar measures against threats by clerics and incitement issuing from mosques, then Israel should too.
At the same time, since the libel is already regarded in wide circles as the pure truth, the burden of proof is on Israel as the Jewish state to demonstrate that it is doing everything to prevent harm to the Temple Mount mosques and to allow the continuation of Muslim worship in them.
The information work that is needed is not so complicated. This book provides numerous talking points: from the almost unimaginable concession by one religion of its most sacred site, the Temple Mount, to another religion, Islam, for which the mount is only the third holiest site, through an array of interdictions, arrests, trials, and imprisonments that Israel has exercised against Jewish and Christian radicals who have sought to harm the mosques. This can be compared with the degree of public order, and of freedom of access and worship, provided for sacred sites in the Muslim world, whether in Mecca or Medina in Saudi Arabia, Mashhad or Qom in Iran, or Najaf or Karbala in Iraq.
The agents of the libel are also disseminating factual lies about the excavations at various sites surrounding the Temple Mount and the threats they ostensibly pose. These are for the most part transparent lies that need to be addressed and exposed. The incitement, libel, and violence, the political exploitation of the Temple Mount mosques, their use as staging grounds for terror, the recent Muslim attempt to evade responsibility for the genuine danger created to the Temple Mount compound’s stability by work conducted by Muslims (not Jews) in the southeastern part of the mount, in the area of Solomon’s Stables – all these are important elements in grasping the overall picture and the motives of the libel’s agents and disseminators.
The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus authored one of the oldest known blood libels. He claimed that once every seven years the Jews would seize a non-Jew and sacrifice him at the Temple in Jerusalem, tearing his flesh bit by bit. Democritus’ libel was targeted at the Jewish people, their religion, and their Temple.1 The “Al-Aksa is in danger” libel is also directed against the Jewish people, their religion, and the former site of the Temple – the mount. It is simplistic in that it does not distinguish between the thoughts and plans of Jewish and Christian extremists regarding the Temple Mount mosques, and the historical, religious, and emotional bond of the Jewish people and the State of Israel to the most holy site in Judaism. The libel is also despicable in that it deliberately ignores Israel’s and the Jewish religion’s tremendous de facto concession to Islam on the mount. Finally, the “Al-Aksa is in danger” libel is dangerous because multitudes of incited Muslims throughout the world blindly accept it. It is hoped that this study will illuminate the reality for them and open their eyes.