The media script about rioting at the Temple Mount is as predictable as it is dishonest.
When religious Jews peacefully walk around the Temple Mount (the holiest site in Judaism), and even honor the prohibition against non-Muslim prayer on the site, they are still nonetheless often characterized in the UK media as ‘Jewish radicals’ engaged an inherently provocative act. Conversely, Muslims who riot and attack Jewish worshippers and Israeli Police – in order to “defend the mosque” – are typically framed by the media, at least implicitly, as pious worshippers incited to violence by the presence of Jewish extremists.
The latest example of this UK media narrative – informed by the refusal of British opinion leaders to take Palestinians seriously as agents of their own fate – comes to us courtesy of the Economist, in an article titled ‘A mount of troubles: Jewish radicals are upsetting the fragile religious balance in the holy city, Oct. 18th.
The Economist article – about riots on the Mount in general, and one in particular on Oct. 14th coinciding with the visit of MK Moshe Feiglin – tells us nothing about the fact that many riots (including the one in question on the 14th) are incited by Islamist extremist movements who tell Muslims that Israel intends to demolish the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The article also includes this remarkably misleading sentence:
On the day of Mr Feiglin’s visit [Monday, Oct. 14th] Israeli police padlocked Muslim protesters inside the al-Aqsa mosque to keep the peace, and fired stun-grenades and tear gas through its windows
Indeed, it wasn’t difficult to find reports (including even some in publications institutionally hostile to Israel) providing a much fuller picture of the incident – explaining why Israeli Police “padlocked Muslim protesters inside the al-Aqsa Mosque”.
Overnight Sunday, dozens of youths—among them members of Hamas and the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel—congregated for a riot, amassing rocks, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails inside the Al-Aqsa mosque in order to clash with police and disrupt the holiday routine for Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
Additionally, the youths also built improvised barricades to prevent police from locking them in the mosque, nailing shoe racks to the doors. They erected wooden obstacles inside of the mosque, planning to throw rocks and shoot fireworks at the police from behind the obstacles.
After learning of the riot plans, the Jerusalem District police department prepared to foil the riot. Immediately following early morning prayers, a police force entered the Temple Mount compound to surprise the youths, who barricaded themselves behind the improvised obstacles and hurled rocks and firecrackers at the officers.
The police officers repelled the attackers with anti-riot equipment, removed the barricades, and locked the mosque’s doors with the masked rioters inside. Later in the day, police arrested four Arab youths suspected of involvement in the Temple Mount violence.
Locking the rioters inside the mosque allowed the police to keep the Temple Mount open to more than 900 visitors to the site.
The Economist failed to tell readers that Israeli police “fired stun-grenades and tear gas” through the windows of the mosque only in response to Muslim youths who threw rocks and firecrackers at them from inside the mosque.
Here’s an amateur video of “worshippers” shooting small rockets from within the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is – let’s remember – “third holiest place in Islam”.
Further, it’s important to note that “Israeli police padlocked Muslim radicals inside the al-Aqsa mosque” only in order to prevent further rioting, thus allowing hundreds of worshippers to peacefully visit the site on that day.
The story that the Economist missed is that the Israeli police acted effectively – and with admirable restraint – to prevent violence by a group of Muslims which included Hamas and Islamic Movement extremists. Though the magazine fancies itself a uniquely sophisticated and erudite journal of news and opinion, when it comes to Israel-Palestine, the Economist continues to demonstrate a Guardian-like propensity to cast Israelis as villains and Palestinians as children who can never be held morally responsible for even the most destructive behavior.