Last Monday, Jordan’s Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Marouf Bakhit called a hasty meeting with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials to declare his country’s outrage over the “provocative act” of a group of Jews who had the audacity to go up to the Temple Mount in commemoration of Jerusalem Day, the 38th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The official Jordanian news agency called the Jewish visit: “A provocative act that could stir up confrontation and evoke outrage of Muslims around the world.”
The very next day, the suave, urbane Ambassador Bakhit told a group of diplomats and journalists at a Jerusalem think tank that there is absolutely no proof that the Temple ever stood at the spot known to Moslems as al-Haram-ash Sharif, now occupied by the Dome of the Rock.
The entire episode may be viewed as part of the ongoing Arab strategy to delegitimize Jewish claims to holy sites and by extension to Jerusalem itself. None of this is new—Moslem clerics have regularly seized on perceived Israeli violations of the Temple Mount as pretexts to incite violent riots. But now the inflammatory statements are coming from a representative of the Jordanian government, who in the same speech to the diplomats and reporters claimed that his country is on its way to becoming “a moderate, tolerant, open society.”
Evidently that attitude does not extend to tolerating a dozen Jews visiting their holiest site. When several hundred Arabs started throwing rocks and chairs at the Jews and Israeli Border Police fired stun grenades to force the attackers to retreat, Jordan’s Minister of Religious Affairs Abdul-Salam al-Abadi said police actions and the visit of Jewish visitors “represent a flagrant and an unacceptable challenge. They are part of repeated attempts by Zionist settlers to break into and sabotage Al Aksa Mosque to implement their vicious and criminal plans.”
The official statement went on to urge all Arab countries and Islamic organizations to “interfere” to put an end to “attacks” against Al Aksa. Quizzed about whether he personally considers the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount to constitute “an attack” on the mosque, Ambassador Bakhit refuses to answer. All he asserts is that “4 or 5 extremists managed to sneak in with a group of tourists…”
Bakhit issues no condemnation of the Arab rock throwers who injured two Jews during the incident. He does mention, “I’m not good at religion, not mine or others..” But evidently good enough to promote his government’s view that Jewish visits “endanger the safety of the mosque and Moslem worshippers.”
A few hours before his Jerusalem appearance, terrorists in northern Gaza fired at least three Kassam rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot, hitting a house, but causing no injuries.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said came in retaliation for the Jewish visit to the Jerusalem holy site. (Sderot, a development town two hours south of Jerusalem, get it?) Bakhit’s job was done. The Jordanians predict “confrontation and outrage” and Hamas is happy to oblige.
Judy Lash Balint is a Jerusalem based writer and author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times. http://jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com