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August 23, 2016

Arab Media Outlets Falsely Label 1969 Al-Aqsa Mosque Arsonist as “Jewish”

August 21st marked the 47th anniversary of the arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Australian Christian fundamentalist Denis Michael Rohan. Rohan said that God had asked him to set fire to the site, saying he would be made a “king of Jerusalem.” The Mosque was seriously damaged by the fire, and Rohan was tried, found insane, and committed to a mental institution. Temple Mount

While it has been well-documented that Rohan was a Christian, some Arab media outlets have described him as Jewish and an Israeli settler, seemingly in an effort to blame Jews for being behind the arson attack.

Here are some examples:

Al-Quds, editorial, August 22, 2016 (Palestinian Authority)

“Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the crime of the arson of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by Australian Jew Denis Michael (Rohan). He had the audacity to carry out his loathsome act under the cover of the Israeli occupation authorities, in an attempt on their part to try to find out the Palestinian reaction, as well as that of the Arab and Islamic Worlds. This, as a step in a series of subsequent steps over the course of years – no, decades – leading to its destruction and the building of the alleged Temple in its place.”

Filastin, “Arson of Al-Aqsa No. 47”, by Yussuf Rizqa, August 22, 2016 (Gaza)

“Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of Denis Michael’s arson of the Al-Qibli (Chapel) part of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. Denis Michael was a fanatic Australian Jew, who had come from Australia to occupied Palestine with the objective of deliberately setting Al-Aqsa Mosque on fire.”

Al-Masriyun, August 21, 2016 “The Al-Aqsa Fire … the Fire is Still Burning” (Egypt)

“On the morning of August 21st 1969, two years of the occupation of Jerusalem, Australian Jew Michael Denis Rohan set fire to the Qibli Chapel on the Temple Mount…”.

Al-Jazeera, August 21, 2016 (Qatar)

On the section dedicated to The Arab Reality show on Al-Jazeera, it says the following:

“It should be noted that The Arab Reality episode coincided with the 47th anniversary of  the burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque at the hand of an Israeli settler who carried out his act, leaving the successive Israeli governments the task of completing the Judaization of the holy city.”

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December 22, 2015

Israel’s Choice: Incitement or Civility

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in the Times of Israel.

As we see in America these days, when people are feeling vulnerable and insecure, politicians and demagogues play on those fears to offer solutions that are often anti-democratic and that will ultimately weaken, rather than strengthen society.

 So it is in Israel. The country faces continual terrorist violence against its citizens — more frightening in some ways than intifadas because of the random and intimate nature of the attacks. And as hostile anti-Israel campaigns grow around the world, some Israelis turn to simplistic solutions. Those include blaming terror on those who disagree with them politically and engaging in behavior that verges into incitement. Such trends risk stifling the culture of free expression that Israel can be so proud of.

In recent days, this phenomenon has manifested itself in the continued attacks on President Reuven Rivlin for his insistence on speaking to all segments of Israel’s diverse society. It has shown up in an ugly video created by Im Tirtzu, a right-wing advocacy group, to name and delegitimize left-wing Israeli activists as “foreign agents” in what can only be considered an act of hateful incitement. It also appears in a broader Knesset bill that would bar nongovernmental organizations funded by foreign governments from any contact with government and military authorities.

All of these together represent a serious threat to Israel’s robust democratic tradition.

Let’s be clear: when a group like Breaking the Silence airs alleged atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers abroad — instead of through the established legal channels for dealing with such allegations — it understandably raises the ire of Israelis who are proud of the Israel Defense Forces, the force that stands in the way of Israel’s destruction at the hands of its enemies. And it is fair to raise questions about whether such groups play a constructive role or contribute to Israel’s isolation in the world.

There is, however, a line that should not be crossed. And of late, there are too many crossings of that line.

President Rivlin has been a particular target of these attacks. Already during last summer, when Rivlin harshly condemned the arson attack in Duma, he was widely condemned on social media for speaking out. This included the posting of pictures of him wearing a keffiyeh and a Nazi uniform. Incitement of this nature is reminiscent of the attacks against former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that preceded his assassination 20 years ago.

 More recently, when the Israeli president spoke before the Haaretz conference in New York, which also featured a panel discussion with Breaking the Silence, Israel’s Channel 20 harshly criticized him on their Facebook page saying the president “mustn’t spit in the face of the soldiers,” and that his participation in the same conference with Breaking the Silence is “contempt of the presidency.”

The president used his podium to highlight the importance of speaking with groups with whom he strenuously disagreed, a principled example of the type of pluralism that define open societies. Indeed, he specifically called out his complaints against groups such as Breaking the Silence, as did former Minister of Justice and Knesset lawmaker Tzipi Livni.

 A troubling incident in the effort to delegitimize and stifle left-wing criticism of Israel was the egregious video produced by Im Tirtzu painting left wing activists as complicit in Palestinian stabbings.

 An organization has every right to be critical of political activities it deems harmful to the nation. But this kind of fear tactic — of blaming left-wing groups for the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism in order to delegitimize them — is a form of incitement that crosses over into hate speech. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the work of the nongovernmental organizations mentioned — and ADL strongly disagrees with groups like Breaking the Silence, which refuse to contextualize Israeli military actions and to consider the hostile climate to which they contribute — accusing them of supporting Palestinian terror is potentially libelous, and certainly undemocratic and dangerous.

This kind of incitement against President Rivlin or against left-wing organizations and activists should be rejected and condemned. Israel has tragically experienced what such incitement can lead to. Luckily, many have spoken up.

At the same time, responsibility for how one deals with delicate issues, particularly at a time of great vulnerability in society, falls on all sectors of society. Those on the left who are critical of Israeli policies have a right to offer those criticisms. But they also should be mindful of the impact of those criticisms on the average Israeli and on emboldening forces around the world who are hostile to Israel.

For civil society to work in a democratic country, civil liberties must be protected. The right to voice one’s views must be guaranteed, and one’s security in doing so must be reassured.

If civil liberties are diminished in Israel, Israel will be diminished.

But outside of Israel, it is essential to recognize that, in any society, if a citizenry’s sense of vulnerability and insecurity reaches a breaking point, public support for civil liberties diminishes accordingly, while calls for security increase. In fact, it is worth reflecting on the remarkable resilience of Israeli democracy in the face of the unrelenting external threats that it has faced since its establishment.

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January 13, 2015

Israelis Gather to Bury Victims of Terror in France, Killed Because They Were Jews

(ADL Israel Staff attended the funerals of the four French Jews earlier today in Jerusalem. Below is a personal account from Phyllis Gerably and Carole Nuriel of ADL’s Israel Office)

Today, making the way to the Har HaMenuchot (Mount of the Resting) cemetery, there were flags and signs put up by the Jerusalem Municipality embracing the French. The Israel National Police and security were in place in preparation of the expected large crowds, and the participation of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Opposition head Isaac Herzog, rabbis, ministers, ambassadors and the French Minister of Environment Ségolène Royal, representing the French government.

An impressive crowd of thousands came out on a cold sunny day to pay final respects to four people they never met, who were tragically killed simply because they were Jewish. The crowd brought together, in a feeling of common destiny, family, friends, members of the French community in Israel and native Israelis. At the entrance to the cemetery a small crowd of French Jews held signs saying, “I am Charlie; I am a Jew; I am an Israeli; I am French; We’ve had Enough.”  ADL Condolence France

In his moving eulogy for the four victims, President Rivlin put it eloquently: “This is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about Israel being the safe haven for the Jewish people, and that the threat against the Jewish people is, in fact, a threat against all of humanity. Opposition Head Yitzhak Herzog spoke of his great-grandfather who was the rabbi of Paris one hundred years ago, and recognized the roots and strength of the Jewish community in France.

The victims’ families each spoke about their loved ones and how they yearned to be in Israel. Their dignity and love for Israel was very moving. Looking out at the crowd of mourners – Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews joined in sorrow by this horrific act – was a quiet reminder to all of us that we are responsible for one another, no matter where we are.

French Minister of EnvironmentRoyal spoke about threats to Jews being a threat to all the French people, and that France without its Jewish community just isn’t France.  Minister Royal also said that combating anti-Semitism and racism is going to be the number one priority for France in 2015. When she announced that the four murdered Jews were going to receive the French Legion of Honour medal, a few in the crowd broke out in applause.

It was very hard to avoid the feeling that this message was too little, too late.

The funeral ended with the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, of which the words “We did not lose our hope” (“Od lo avda Tikvateinu”) had, this time, the additional meaning that while a tragic event had occurred, Israelis have hope for a better future for all.


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