In an extensive radio interview, I confronted an Islamic leader about his false claim that Israel is attempting to limit Muslim worship on the Temple Mount. During the interview, Waleed Taha, the deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement, labeled the Western Wall an “occupied area” and rejected archaeological evidence and the historical record tying Jews to the site.
Taha’s Islamic Movement is an Islamist group headquartered in Israel and has been at the center of charges against Israel regarding the Temple Mount.
Israel installed metal detectors last week in direct response to a murderous Palestinian terrorist attack on the Mount two weeks ago in which three assailants somehow smuggled weapons onto the site and then killed two Israeli police officers.
During the interview, Taha spun a conspiracy theory claiming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was deliberately “inflaming the situation” at the al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Mount, in order to enact a “fascist agenda” and as part of a ruse to detract media attention from a graft probe related to his administration.
I responded, “I see the exact opposite. Aren’t the Muslim leaders and the Palestinian leaders inflaming the tensions at the al-Aqsa Mosque? Because a week and a half ago, last Friday, you had the terrorist attack of three Israeli Arabs who were coming off of the Temple Mount with weapons. They shot at Israeli security forces and killed two Israeli Druze police officers.
“So, the issue is that weapons were smuggled onto the Temple Mount. Weapons were then subsequently found in Israeli raids on the Temple Mount. So wouldn’t the most sensible response to this be to put metal detectors in, given that there was an attack by jihadists using weapons on the Temple Mount? And further, won’t the metal detectors now also protect the Muslims going up because they will make sure that no weapons are brought up there?”
The sheikh responded by claiming that Israel’s new measures “don’t give any security answer to any security challenge.” And he called reports about weapons being brought onto the Mount “lies” despite the fact that the attackers came off the Mount with weapons when they carried out their murderous assault.
Taha further claimed that “all of the Palestinians” were against the Mount terrorist attack. I retorted that “actually, numerous Palestinian organizations, including Fatah of Palestinian Authority President [Mahmoud] Abbas, praised the attack last Friday at the Mount entrance.”
I also disputed Taha’s claim that Israel is threatening Muslim worship at the Temple Mount by charging that it is the Waqf, the Mount’s Muslim custodians, who are restricting non-Muslim prayer on the site: “Isn’t it the Waqf, the Islamic custodians, who don’t allow Jews and Christians to pray up there?” I asked. “What is the problem with a Jew or a Christian praying up there?”
Taha claimed there “is no link of the Jews to this place. And you are talking about the visit of one hour a day. Even this should not happen. Even this should not take place. This place belongs only to the Muslims.”
Rejecting accepted fact and the archaeological record, Taha went on to claim that “none of the archaeological results prove that there is any linkage between the Mosque and between Judaism. I invite them to go and to dig elsewhere. Because this is a place for Muslims. They [the Jews] have nothing to do with this place. Al-Aqsa is only for Muslims and not for Jewish tourists.”
At this point, I confronted Taha with archaeological evidence and with the Waqf’s own complicity in attempting to dispose of Jewish Temple artifacts further solidifying Jewish ties to the site.
Taha retorted that “if there was any proof in the hands of any formal or informal Israeli association or government that there is any link between the Jews and the Mosque and between the Jews and the temples and the temples’ existence, they would have done a huge campaign in the world and they would have done a huge noise all over the world. There is no evidence, no proof that proves that there is any Jewish link there.”
I told Taha there was no point having a conversation about the topic of Jewish ties to the mosque if he will not recognize the reality of proven archeological evidence.
I then pointed out that the Koran mentions the term “al-Aqsa mosque” – meaning the “furthest mosque” – and that Jerusalem is never mentioned even once. The Koranic story has Muhammad riding his horse on a night journey from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to “al-Aqsa” – meaning the furthest mosque. From there, Muhammad was said to have ascended to heaven. I cited the historical record, though, which has Muhammad dying many years before the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
I asked: “Doesn’t it say the al-Aqsa mosque means the furthest mosque? Not a specific mosque. Because history is very clear. Muhammad was born in 570 AD in Mecca and he died in 632. So, there was no mosque when Muhammad was born. So how could Muhammad have visited the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] if it didn’t exist?”
Taha retorted: “We already know these interpretations of those who want to prove that the divine version and narrative is false. And those who want to prove that there is no link between the Muslims and the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is true that in the Arabic language, ‘al-aqsa’ means the ‘furthest mosque.’ But in this case, it is also the name of the mosque. And also it is the word to describe that it was very far from the al-Harem in Mecca. From this al-Aqsa Mosque, the Prophet went to the sky but before this he led a prayer.
“…Don’t go to this issue. It is clear. It is an evidence. We were here before Jews. There was no link to the Jews with this place and the Jews as occupiers should not look for false stuff in order to justify their occupation.”