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baqqa mqarqra
A Frog's-eye view

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The leading story of the PNA's official newspaper Al-Ayyam today is the Temple Mount controversy. According to their version, the Israeli claims are incitement coming merely days after the commemoration of the burning of Al-Aqsa under the ears and eyes of the Israeli occupation. (It may be recalled that the mosque was set alight in 1969 by an Australian Protestant who suffered from mental illness. However, true to its character, Al-Ayyam links these things into the great conspiracy; see yesterday's summary.) The Muslim authorities responsible for the Temple Mount have declared that this is a new link in the Israeli occupiers' scheme to intervene in the affairs of Al-Aqsa under the guise of repairs and preservatin works which are carried out by the Islamic authorities, "the only body authorized to carry out repairs and preservation and all is connected with the Jerusalem holy compound from its foundations up to its walls on the four sides and all that goes with it, and its halls and its spaces", confirming that the rebuilding in 'al-Masla al-Marwani' ('Solomon's stables') has absolutely no connection with the cracking that has occurred in the Southern Wall.

The article contains the usual bold statements about how the only authority, representing all Muslims, is the Waqf. What is more interesting is the following: while, according to their claim, they are the sole authority and are the only ones empowered to carry out repairs, the article states "The [Muslim] Organizations placed on the occupying Israeli authorities full responsibility for any damage or harm or misfortune [Arabic 'mass' like Hebrew negi`a or pegi`a, means touching, but also misfortune, attack, or violation of the sacred] that befall the Blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and the holy sites.]"

The Waqf's engineer, Adnan al-Husseini, denies the Israeli claims that the Southern Wall, that adjoins the Western Wall, is in danger of falling. He says that the problem has been undergoing treatment since the 1970s, and that the Waqf supervises this as part of its duties, stating that they began the repairs work seven months ago. He is cited say "On no account will we allow any Israeli party to intervene in the affairs of the Holy Jerusalem compound". He states that the Israelis are entirely responsible for the dangers that threaten the mosque, particularly because of the excavation works that they are carrying out underneath it.

He also says in the article "We began repair the Western Wall, and there is a need to repair the Southern wall which is the subject investigation". He complains that for two years the Al-Aqsa mosque has been under siege, during which the Israeli forces have prevented the bringing in of building materials for the repairs and preservation works in the Mosque. He confirmed that the Muslim Authorities had completed about 20% of the repairs, but the Israeli police had stopped them claiming that the building was dangerous, and demanded the carrying out of expert studies and investigations to establish the dangers to the wall, indicating that the purpose was "no more and no less that to stop the work". He added "If things had been allowed to go on as they were, the work would almost be in its final stages".

He clarified that the wall is in need of repairs to maintain its role as the most important wall of the Blessed Al-Aqsa mosque, and expressed his hope that the prevention of bringing in building materials would be stopped. He confirmed that the Waqf was not carrying out any excavations, and that its activities are focused on the body of the wall that was built in a number of stages, indicating that part of the wall was in need of preservation and that he preferred that this would be carried out immediately so that no complications set in.

He said that there was bulging in the wall, and that the Waqf has been aware of it since the 1970s, but that it has not changed for a long time and that there is no danger.

The article ends by quoting Israeli figures, without comment. Interesting is the reference to Eli Yishai as a member of the “extremist religious party Shas”. The last word is of course given to a nameless Palestinian archeologist who confirms that the Waqf have undertaken the necessary steps to support the wall and that there is no danger that it will fall.

The article is typical in structure of an article in the Palestinian press. First, the "anonymous voice" of the journalist describes the story: The Islamic authorities condemn the Israeli incitement, that comes just days after ... etc. Then they state, using the voice of the journalist, the Palestinian position. That position is then repeated by direct citations from the interviewees. These interviewees here make various accusations: it's all Israel's fault. They will be held responsible if the wall does come tumbling down. They had better be careful not to defile the sanctuary. It's all a great conspiracy. Then we get citations from the Israeli side that are reasonably accurate. Finally, we get the confirmation from the un-named Palestinian expert that really the Waqf are 100% OK. The message is repeated again and again by both the journalistic voice and the interviewees.

It is articles like this that represent a large degree of the Palestinian incitement against Israel. Although the article does discuss a current issue and presents the Israeli claims, they are dismissed off-hand and the story is turned on its head: Israel is inciting and preventing the Waqf from carrying out its duties, thus endangering the Al-Aqsa mosque; the wicked Israelis want to close the Marwan prayer-hall. The Israeli claim (which incidentally is supported by aerial photographs and eye-witness accounts, including some by Israeli archaeologists who dressed up as Muslims to check out the place) that the excavations of the Marwan prayer hall (= Solomon's Stables) have exacerbated the structural weaknesses of the Southern Wall are dismissed by the counter-claim of "we didn't excavate". If I were a Muslim reading this article, I would say "Al-Aqsa is in danger".

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