Controversy as US Envoy Handed Photo of al-Aqsa Mosque Replaced by Jerusalem Temple

This is a short piece from RT reporting the outrage that erupted last week after David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador in Jerusalem, posed with a photograph he’d been handed of the city. However, the photo had been altered so that the al-Aqsa mosque – the Dome of the Rock – had been removed and replaced with the Third Temple. This was condemned by the secretary-general of the PLO and Ahmad Tibi of the Palestinian joint list, who said ‘This madman wants to bring peace. Good job you didn’t put your embassy there!’

The Americans have apologised, and said that Friedman didn’t know what was on the photo when he posed with it. They have also stated that they support the status quo about the Haram al-Sharif/ the Dome of the Rock. Achiya, the organisation to which the man belonged, who gave the photograph to Friedman, have also distanced themselves from the stunt. They’ve said that the photograph was the man’s own action, and nothing to do with them.

However, Paula Slier, the reporter on this issue for RT, also says that this is particularly controversial as the ambassador, Friedman, is a supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and has gone on record as saying that the Palestinian territories seized by Israel should not be known as the Occupied Territories. She also points out that Friedman’s acceptance of the photo was also going to be extremely controversial as it came at the same time there was both regional and international criticism of the Americans’ decision to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This might look like a simple, minor stunt – a straightforward case of somebody photoshopping a picture to suit their nationalistic fantasies, rather than reality, but it’s actually extremely dangerous. Jewish extremists and the Christian Zionist right in America are both looking forward to the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, and the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. For the Christian Zionists, this will be a step towards an apocalyptic war with Islam, which they equate with the Battle of Armageddon at the End Times, which will culminate in Christ’s return to Earth. There were several attempts in the 1980s by the Israeli extremist organisation, Gush Emunim, to bomb the al-Aqsa mosque in preparation to what they hoped would be the rebuilding of the Temple. As the mosque is this third holiest in Islam, this would almost certainly have set off a global war.

In fact, as I understand it from reading Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades, the mosque isn’t quite on the precise site of the Temple. When the Caliph Uthman conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century, he was aware that his followers would want to build a mosque wherever he prayed. So he decided to respect the site of the former Temple itself, and prayed instead in its rubbish dump. And this is the site the mosque actually occupies.

Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem has done nothing but inflame Palestinian and Muslim opinion, and seemingly encourage the dangerous fantasies of Israeli nationalists and Christian Zionists hoping for the imminent end of the world. It’s a threat to world peace that should never have been taken, no matter what support Trump, or his predecessors thought they should give to Netanyahu and his wretched regime.

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