Media Microscope: Out of Waqf
May 3, 2023 | Allon Lee
Most media outlets diligently included both Palestinian and Israeli police claims when reporting on the latter’s efforts to evict worshippers who had barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque and stockpiled rocks and fireworks, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with the start of the Jewish Passover festival.
Unfortunately, they all neglected to point out a specific key trigger that led to the Israeli response.
On ABC TV “The World” (April 5), host Bev O’Connor prefaced an interview with ABC Middle East correspondent Allyson Horn by saying, “Israeli police have clashed with worshippers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque… Israeli authorities say armed worshippers were holed up at the compound.”
Horn said, “What we understand is that a number of worshippers had been holed up, had barricaded themselves inside a mosque… From their side, they say they were staying there, including holding fireworks with them because they feared that Jews would come to this site and perform a ritual sacrifice.”
Over on Channel Seven’s “The Latest” (April 5), Israel-born academic Eyal Mayroz said, “I don’t think there was a Jewish provocation that we know of… I think with Passover celebrated by the Jews, many Palestinians are worried that religious nationalist activists will attempt to ascend… the Temple Mount, to make what we call Passover sacrifices. Jewish activists have been trying to do that for many years… but this year, given the dominance of extreme right-wing radicals in the Israeli Government, I think the Palestinian fear is likely much more intense.”
Whilst it is true that radical but tiny Jewish groups do proclaim their intentions every year to try to smuggle in a goat for sacrifice during Passover, their efforts are always confounded by a combination of very strict visiting hours for non-Muslims and the fact that Israeli police vigilantly monitor visitors to prevent this.
On ABC TV “Mornings” (April 7), Horn said, “For two consecutive nights, Israeli police… using stun grenades and rubber bullets… cleared Muslim worshippers from the site after they barricaded themselves in.” On ABC TV “News 24” 7pm bulletin that night, she noted that “the raids came after Palestinians barricaded themselves inside.”
Horn’s two reports were marked by an apparent strange reluctance to inform viewers that the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. On ABC TV “News at noon” (April 6), Horn referred to “the al-Aqsa compound, one of the most holy sites in Islam, also a significant site for Jews.”
Other media professionals seemed to be less inhibited.
On April 5, SBS TV “World News” reporter Claudia Farhart used footage of the raid released by Israeli police and noted that “this site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, who know the hill it’s built on as the Temple Mount.”
On SBS Radio (April 7), Hannah Kwon’s report noted the “site is of religious significance to Judaism and Islam.”
On SBS TV “World News” (April 7), Australian-Israeli journalist Irris Makler said, “There were young Palestinians throwing rocks at the gate through which Jewish Israelis pass to visit. They are not allowed to pray. Let’s not forget that the al-Aqsa Mosque is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is holy to them too.”
The previous night on SBS TV “World News”, reporter Ben Terry had said, “Israeli police in full riot gear shield themselves from projectiles at the green gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque… The mosque is revered by Muslims, but the location is also the most sacred site in Judaism known as the Temple Mount.”
On April 10, SBS TV “World News” included Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai saying, “The ones who desecrated the place were not the policemen who entered there.”
What no media outlet noted was the critical point that a key precursor of the Israeli incursion into the mosque was the failure of the Islamic Trust (Waqf), which administers the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, to implement a signed agreement that had been reached between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in mid-March. This said the Jordanian-dominated Waqf would prevent people staying in the mosque overnight until the final days of Ramadan as a way to reduce tensions.
Yet not only did the Waqf allow Hamas-affiliated activists to take over the mosque and barricade themselves in overnight, but issued an incendiary statement that said the “protection of al-Aqsa Mosque is the duty of every Muslim.”