Iran, Palestinians, OIC Mark Anniversary of Mosque Attack by Blaming Israel

( – Arab and Islamic governments and organizations marked Sunday’s anniversary of a failed attempt to burn down Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque more than half a century ago with statements directly or implicitly blaming Israel, despite the fact that the lone arsonist was neither Israeli, Jewish, nor of sound mind.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani led the way in perpetuating the falsehood, tweeting, “53 years ago on this day, August 21, 1969, the Zionists set fire to the Aqsa Mosque.”

Declaring the torching to have been “not the first or last crime of the Palestine invaders,” Kanaani added, “Resistance is the only way to save Palestine, and al-Aqsa Mosque and all mosques in the world will remain the center of anti-Zionist resistance until the complete liberation of Palestine.”

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas marked the anniversary with a statement saying the mosque was “still being targeted by the Israeli occupation and settlers” today, in policies which he said were “a continuation of the crime of burning al-Aqsa and a continuation of the scheme to Judaize the city and prejudice its sanctities.”

The Iranian-backed U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad also weighed in with statements linking the arson attack with Israeli policies and actions.


The Hamas statement described the arsonist as a “Zionist” acting “with the clear complicity of the occupation.”

“The crime of burning the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque, and all the crimes of the occupation and the Zionist aggressor extremists against our land, our people and our holy sites will not succeed in quelling the flame of resistance in the hearts of all generations of our people, or breaking their will to confront the crimes of the occupation,” it said.

The Islamic Jihad statement marking the anniversary of “the burning of the Al-Aqsa mosque by Jewish terrorism” said the “liberation” of Jerusalem is the duty of every Muslim, and “resistance in all forms is the only way to achieve this.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the bloc of mostly Muslim-majority states that was established as a direct response to the 1969 incident, marked “the 53rd painful anniversary of the sinister attempt to burn the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The OIC did not directly accuse Israel of responsibility for the fire or describe the arsonist as a Jew or Zionist, but did say it was commemorating the anniversary “in light of the escalation in the frequency of violations by Israel.”

It used the opportunity to reassert the position that the hilltop platform in Jerusalem where the al-Aqsa mosque is situated “is a place of worship purely for Muslims.”

That stance is a clear refutation of Jewish heritage to the site, the holiest in Judaism – the location of the biblical Temple built by King Solomon about 1,500 years before Mohammed was born.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam (after the mosques in Mecca and Medina), based on the belief that Mohammed stopped there during his legendary “night journey” from Mecca to heaven, to pray with “prophets” including Adam and Noah.

Mohammed initially instructed Muslims to face Jerusalem when praying, but later changed the “qibla” (direction of prayer) to Mecca, formalizing the doctrine that Islam was the final divine revelation, subsuming Judaism and Christianity.

‘Execrable act of desecration’

The fire, which caused significant damage inside the mosque, was started by Denis Michael Rohan, a 28-year-old Australian member of a quasi-Christian sect who traveled to Israel as a tourist, and was arrested two days after fleeing the scene of the crime.

He was put on trial, determined to be insane, and held for five years in an Israeli psychiatric facility until deported to Australia, where he remained in psychiatric care.

According to media reports at the time, Rohan testified that he believed himself to be a descendant of the biblical King David, and that God, who instructed him to burn down the mosque and rebuild the Temple, would set him up as king over Jerusalem and Judea.

The incident sparked protests and riots in a number of countries, and stoked conspiracy theories about Israelis trying to destroy al-Aqsa and the adjacent Dome of the Rock, to enable the rebuilding of the Temple.

At the U.N., Pakistan’s delegation in a statement on behalf of Islamic states accused Israel of responsibility.

The Security Council passed a resolution declaring “that the execrable act of desecration and profanation of the Holy Al Aqsa Mosque emphasizes the immediate necessity of Israel’s desisting from acting in violation of the aforesaid resolutions …” (The U.S. was one of four abstentions; the council’s 11 other members all voted in favor.)

Last week the Anti-Defamation League drew attention to past years’ anniversary commemorations of the 1969 episode, and what it called “incendiary and false propaganda” in the Arab and Muslim world, seeking to “scapegoat Jews for the 1969 attack.”

“It is important to commemorate and condemn attacks targeting ancient holy sites perpetrated by the likes of Denis Michael Rohan, regardless of whether the would-be perpetrators happen to be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim extremists,” the ADL said.

“But commemorating Rohan’s despicable crime requires portraying that history accurately. And it requires ending the manipulation of media in ways that will only incite more violence in future decades if allowed to continue unchecked.”


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