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08 February 2007

Palestinian disinformation campaign - Israel attempting to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque.

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Israel Intelligence' Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)

February 08 , 2007

A Palestinian disinformation campaign led by Hamas claims
renovation work done at the Mugrabim ramp in Jerusalem is
an Israeli attempt to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque. The Palestinians
once again try to use a sensitive religious topic to channel the
growing internal Hamas-Fatah violence toward Israel and thus
calm internal turmoil.

Left: A poster from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades Website.
The inscription reads “No! to making Al-Aqsa mosque Jewish.”
Right: A poster from the Hamas Website. The inscription reads
“At your orders, Al-Aqsa.” On February 6 a posting appeared
on the Website accusing Israel of planning to destroy the
Al-Aqsa mosque and to rebuild the Temple on its site.

Main points

1. On February 4 renovations began on the Mugrabim ramp
in Jerusalem , which leads from the paved area in front of
the Western Wall to the Temple Mount 's Mugrabim Gate.
The Mugrabim ramp is part of an earthen embankment and
was damaged by an earthquake and the winter storms of 2004,
and is currently in danger of collapse. 1 The Israeli Antiquities
Authority is undertaking rescue excavations before implementing
plans for constructing a new bridge to replace the old one. The
Mugrabim ramp is not part of the Temple Mount and is located
outside its boundaries

Israel Antiquities Authority
Left: The collapse of the Mugrabim ramp. Right: the Mugrabim ramp,
view from the Archaeological Park .

The anti-Israeli campaign and its objectives

2. During the past few weeks, with the worsening of the
violent confrontations between Hamas and Fatah, various
Palestinians have tried to put Jerusalem and the Temple
Mount on the media's agenda to divert attention from
internal Palestinian problems and focus it on “the Israeli
enemy.” Such a modus operandi is familiar from the past
and is used when there are no real grounds for complaint,
and despite the fact that Israel enabled the renovated
Al-Aqsa pulpit ( minbar ) 2 to be brought from Jordan
via the Allenby Bridge to Jerusalem on January 24.3

3. The Mugrabim ramp renovations began a few days ago
and have been exploited by Palestinians of every political
persuasion to castigate Israel , falsely claiming that the
construction work is an Israeli attempt to destroy Al-Aqsa
and “to make Jerusalem Jewish.” The propaganda
campaign against Israel is being led by Hamas and
orchestrated by Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, but the other
Palestinian terrorist organizations are participating, even
Abu Mazen's camp.

4. The objective is clearly to channel the growing internal
Hamas-Fatah violence toward Israel and to use the so-called
“threat” to Al-Aqsa as a means of defusing the Hamas-Fatah
conflict, at a time when there is a summit meeting in Mecca
attended by Abu Mazen, the Fatah heads and the leaders of
Hamas. Spokesmen for Hamas and the other terrorist
organizations even warned Israel that a new terrorist
campaign ( intifada ) would break out in the wake of
Israel 's “plots” against Al-Aqsa mosque.

5. Heads of the Muslim Waqf (religious endowment) and other
Palestinian clerics condemned the construction work and called
for the masses to defend the mosque. Prominent among them
was a senior Palestinian Authority (PA) cleric named
Taysir al-Tamimi , 4 who called upon Palestinians to go to
Al-Aqsa immediately “to protect it from the bulldozers of the
Israeli occupation…which are working to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque.
” Al-Tamimi appealed to the Islamic nation and the Mecca
summit participants to close ranks because, he claimed,
the mosque was “in danger” and “might collapse”
(Al-Jazeera TV, February 6).

False claim : “Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger,” Taysir al-Tamimi
(Al-Arabiya TV, February 6)

6. Radical elements among Israeli Arabs, headed by sheikh
Ra'ed Salah (the leader of the northern faction of the Islamic
Movement, whose ideology is close to that of Hamas), forcefully
joined the anti-Israeli incitement. They did so knowing the extreme
sensitivity of the subject of Al-Aqsa mosque among Palestinians and
the Arab-Muslim world. For years Ra'ed Salah has orchestrated a hate
campaign under the slogan “Al-Aqsa is in danger,” and he and his
followers are very active on the Temple Mount . As part of the
current campaign, the Islamic Movement's Website has accused
Israel of taking action which would damage Al-Aqsa mosque and
called for Israeli Arabs and the Arab-Muslim world to identify
with the mosque and protest.5

7. On the ground, the response of the Palestinian people and
Israeli Arabs to the call to march en masse on Jerusalem and
defend Al-Aqsa has been relatively mild. So far there have been
a small number of protest demonstrations, but the number may
grow. One such demonstration took place on February 6 when
200 Bethlehem University students marched to protest “the Zionist
aggression against Al-Aqsa mosque.”

8. The media of the Arab-Muslim world gave wide coverage to
the issue, especially Al-Jazeera TV, which broadcast live from
the reconstruction work. The program included threats and
aggressive statements against Israel . Among reactions from
the Arab-Muslim world were the following: King Abdullah of
Jordan said he was “worried” about the Israeli activity, which
was liable to threaten the stability of the region; Syrian TV
accused Israel of destroying parts of the Temple Mount; the
Egyptian foreign minister warned Israel and called upon it to
stop the excavation work; Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, in a
meeting with Abdallah Ramadan Shalah, Palestinian Islamic
Jihad leader, condemned the excavations and called upon the
Islamic world to respond in a way that would “cause the Zionist
regime to regret its actions.”


The Palestinian main responses to the reconstruction

of the Mugrabim ramp


1. On February 4 Khaled Mashaal , head of Hamas's political
bureau, held a press conference in Damascus to deal with
two main issues: Israel 's “attack” on Al-Aqsa and the violent
Hamas-Fatah clashes. Regarding Al-Aqsa he said:

A. He claimed that “the Israeli enemy” was planning
“another crime”
against Al-Aqsa mosque by destroying
“the historic Islamic route” leading to Al-Aqsa mosque.
He claimed that “Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem are in danger
and are being plotted against.”

B. He called upon the Palestinians to awaken , to abandon
their internal quarrels, to close ranks and to turn the struggle
against Israel
. He asked Palestinians in Jerusalem , the West
Bank, the Gaza Strip and “the area of 1948” [i.e., the State
of Israel] to go to Jerusalem to defend Al-Aqsa mosque.

C. He threatened “the Israeli enemy” with an increase in
terrorism and violence. He said that the “desecration of Al-Aqsa
mosque by Ariel Sharon led to the intifada of 2000, and [Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and the military and defense leadership
should learn [a lesson] from it…”

2. Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya accused “the Israeli
occupation” of continued “aggression” against Al-Aqsa mosque.
He called upon the Mecca summit meeting participants and the
entire Palestinian people to join one another to preserve Al-Aqsa
and the other holy places (Agence France-Presse, February 6).

3. For the past few days Hamas's satellite TV channel has devoted
most of its broadcasts to propaganda films about what it calls
“the danger hovering over Jerusalem .” On February 6 an open
studio was broadcast dealing with what it called “the Israeli plot
for Al-Aqsa mosque.” Photographs of the reconstruction work
being done on the Mugrabim ramp were shown.

4. For the past few days Palestine-info, one of Hamas's Websites,
has posted propaganda and calls for protest demonstrations and
marches to be held in Gaza and Jerusalem . Two of them were:

A. On February 6 a posting appeared claiming that “the government
of the Zionist occupation today [February 6] began committing the
crime of destroying two rooms of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Mugrabim
Gate route…[as part of] the Zionist plot for the total destruction of
Al-Aqsa mosque and the building of the Temple, which, they
claim, was on the same spot.

B. The Website also offered a permanent “survey” asking visitors to
the site what they thought was the correct action to take against
the dangers menacing Al-Aqsa mosque. The preferred course of
action (62.02%) was fomenting a new terrorist campaign ( intifada )
and employing “resistance” (i.e., terrorism and violence). The second
preference (35.47%) was a broad, popular Arab-Islamic [propaganda]

The results of the “survey”
The Palestinian Authority (Abu Mazen)

5. Abu Mazen, currently visiting Saudi Arabia , said that “what Israel
is doing at the Mugrabim gate proves its intentions and actions with
regard to the destruction of Islamic places are premeditated.” He
added that such actions were an obstacle to peace (Palestinian News
Agency, February 7).

6. Palestinian TV, which is controlled by Abu Mazen, joined the
anti-Israel campaign
and broadcast many programs and songs
dealing with the “danger” facing Al-Aqsa mosque as a result of the
Israeli reconstruction. The false claim was raised that Israeli settlers
and the “Zionist militia” had begun excavating beneath the mosque
and were threatening to collapse it
. In addition, many documentaries
about Jerusalem have been broadcast, as have anti-Israeli propaganda
and hate songs dealing with the “liberation” of Jerusalem .

Palestinians have their say. Left: “To the Arab nation I say:
Al-Aqsa is being destroyed and we sit by idly. For how long?”
Right: “The entire Islamic world should join hands until
Jerusalem is liberated, with the help of Allah.”

7. Rafiq al-Husseini , director of Abu Mazen's office, visited
Al-Aqsa mosque accompanied by the heads of the Waqf and
promised to provide all the necessary aid for the struggle against
what he called “the Jewish excavations under the Temple Mount”
(Al-Quds, February 6).

1 Muslim clerics have also agreed that the Mugrabim ramp must be
renovated because it is dangerous. They object, however, to Israel 's
carrying out the renovations.

2 The minbar is the pulpit where the imam stands to deliver sermons.

3 The Al-Aqsa pulpit was damaged by fire in 1969 when Michael
Dennis Rohan , an Australian Christian, apparently unbalanced,
set fire to the mosque.

4 Taysir al-Tamimi is a Hebron native and a judge in the Shari
' high Islamic court in the Pam is employed by the Hamas
government ministry of religious affairs and endowments.
He is known for his radical positions and as affiliated with
the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan . Al-Tamimi has a long
record of anti-Israeli incitement.

5 On February 7 sheikh Ra'ed Salah and some of his supporters
were detained for questioning in Jerusalem after they tried to
break into the excavation site at the Mugrabim Gate. He was
captured by television cameras as he spat at a policeman. The
Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem issued a restraining order
preventing him from coming closer than 150 meters to the walls
of the Old City for the next ten days.

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