Times of London

Times of London columnist claims to have watched Jews pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque (Updated)


(See important update at the bottom of the article.)

Though a column at Times of London by Janice Turner (Let’s break free of this age of intransigence, April 28) included only two sentences about Israel, nearly every word is misleading or false.

First, it’s unclear what she’s referring to when she speaks of the “peaceful co-existence” of the Oslo Accords, as there were nearly 300 Israelis killed in Palestinian terror attacks between 1993 (when Oslo was signed) to 2000.  And, the Oslo Accords didn’t die as a result of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It died as the result of the 2nd Intifada and the Palestinian rejection of two Israeli peace offers after Rabin’s death.

But, this is the least of Turner’s deceit. 

The first sentence in the paragraph we highlighted, where she claims to have watched “ultra-orthodox settlers enter the Al-Aqsa mosque” to “pray”, would strike anyone familiar with regulations at the holy site as (at the very least) extraordinarily unlikely.  Jews are not allowed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and are not allowed to pray anywhere on the Temple Mount.  In fact, Jews even suspected of silently praying on the Temple Mount are often arrested.  Further, we confirmed with Israeli Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld in a phone call this morning that – as we suspected – no Jews have entered the mosque and there have been no ‘incidents’ of illegal Jewish prayer.

The only report we could find that’s similar to the claim made at Times of London was a story in a Turkish news agency quoting a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority (a Jordan-run agency) alleging that more than 300 “Jewish settlers” (a term often used by Palestinians to refer to all Jews visiting the Temple Mount) entered the “the Mosque compound” to perform Passover rituals.  First, note that this Palestinian official is only claiming Jews performed Passover rituals at the larger Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, not, as Turner claims, at the mosque itself.  But, even this allegation is clearly untrue, as the large priestly blessing during the Passover holiday took place – as it always does – at the Western Wall, not the Temple Mount.

It’s truly ironic that Turner, in decrying what she describes as the state of political “intransigence” throughout the world, complains that “fake news” has replaced “real news”, as her claim in the very next sentence that Jewish settlers entered and prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque appears to be a complete fabrication. 

(We’ve complained to editors about this inaccurate claim.)

Update: Times of London responded to our complaint and corrected the sentence claiming Jews entered and prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The revised language notes that they were in the larger Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – not, as we suspected, in the mosque itself.

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14 replies »

  1. IOW Janice Turner of The Times is guilty of inflammatory fabrication. She is the one fomenting hate.

  2. April 18

    I’m a human Switzerland in this war without end

    Janice Turner

    ‘What is your religion?” asked the Israeli soldier at the checkpoint in Hebron’s old city. Beside me my younger son muttered about atheism. But I replied, thinking I hadn’t answered this question since filling in an in-case-you-snuff-it form before surgery, that I was Christian. “Welcome,” said the soldier.

    It was odd being a neutral, a human Switzerland, in this perpetual ground war. We were visiting what Muslims call the Ibrahimi Mosque and Jews call the Cave of the Patriarchs, a religious site divided in two, site of a massacre of Palestinians by a far-right Israeli. What if we’d said atheist, I asked our guide. “You wouldn’t be allowed in.” Believers unite in one thing: distrust of those with no faith at all.

    Until Hebron, I hadn’t understood that illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank aren’t just ugly hilltop fortresses. They can be a single house. One by one, homes in Hebron’s ancient marketplace are being “appropriated”, Palestinian owners expelled and stall-holders driven out of this once bustling spot.

    The settlers get their land, but what a life. In an otherwise deserted street I watched an Orthodox Jewish boy play with the soldier assigned to guard his house. Across the road was a Palestinian school, so every day children must stream by. Yet his only playmate carries a gun.

    I was pleased to be in Tel Aviv for the Israeli election, but it seemed an oddly low-key affair. Polling day itself was a bank holiday, which I’ve long thought Britain should adopt to boost turnout. Yet a young campaigner for the opposition leader Benny Gantz told me it was a mixed blessing. “Everyone’s gone to the beach,” she shrugged. Sure enough, on this hot spring day, the seafront was packed.

    On a working day, you plan when to vote around your commute. But a day off is less structured. A lunch drifts into shopping, kids need feeding. The electorate may lose track of time, having too much fun to vote.

    Seeing both sides
    Hebron and Tel Aviv: I’m glad I saw both. If you only visited the latter you’d leave thinking this country has the best-looking people on earth: tall, military service-honed “hench” guys with lush hair, playing beach volleyball and rollerblading shirtless or scything through the seafront Gordon pool. You’d think this nation has the greatest food: not an undelicious mouthful all week. And such big portions!

    You might see Arab girls joyfully dancing, some without hijabs, on the Jaffa promenade and wonder in how many Muslim countries this is allowed. You might also visit the astounding Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and believe, of course, that the Jewish people — industrially slaughtered, betrayed, let down by allied forces who couldn’t even be bothered to bomb the Auschwitz railway — has absolute right to its own state.

    And all of these things, every one of them, without equivocation are true. Yet in Hebron you witness a hateful zealotry, which does not care about peace. But then what do I know, a mild C of E neutral in this holy war?

  3. Turner’s opinion piece shows her to be a disgusting antisemite who mindlessly propagates the antisemyth “Al Aqsa is being endangered by Jews.” That this canard follows a plea for mutual understanding in Northern Ireland is mind boggling.

    1. She has no evidence that the Jews she saw mouthing some prayers come from east of the green line, whether from Jerusalem itself or Judea and Samaria. She adds the word “settler” to “other” Jews negatively, so that the reader will be indoctrinated to assume that such Jews are automatically ill intentioned, not only here but elsewhere.

    2. The obvious error is that group was inside Al-Aqsa the mosque as opposed to the very large plaza area around it. Ironically this represents a land grab by Palestinian Muslims to extend the mosque itself to the whole of the Temple Mount. Religiously intolerant of Jews, local Muslims would likely have rioted if Jews had gone inside the mosque. Contrast this to the visiting rules of Christian sites in Jerusalem which Jews can freely visit (so can anyone else), as can Muslims and Christians and atheists visit Jewish holy sites.

    It’s also highly unlikely that Jews would pray inside a mosque or church, unless it were part of an ecumenical joint service. The optics would be that one was converting.

    3. The very idea that a simple prayer would “foment violence” glosses over that that the violence would not come from Jews but from Palestinian Muslims and their supporters. Turner would blame Jews not for what they do but for the Arab reaction. In Turner’s turnspeak world, the Arabs are not responsible for their own actions, rather they are helpless automatons who foam at the mouth and riot by the very presence of Jews within their now expanded sacred space.

    That the Times would publish such drek shows how such bigotry has become.

  4. If Turner was actually inside the mosque, why was she allowed to enter but Jews are not – surely one of the most flagrant examples of Muslim anti-Semitism you could find? In fact, it becomes clear from her follow up tweets that she was not IN the mosque, just somewhere in the vicinity of the mosque, so she is telling a lie worthy of Sarah Sanders – she could not possibly have SEEN Jews praying there, which of course would never have happened in the first place.

  5. For a start Jews will NEVER pray in a mosque or church. So the ignorance of this journalist is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Just as the other libel against Jews states that Jews murdered non Jewish children to use their blood in the making of Pesach Matza: IT US ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN BY HALACH TO EAT ANY KIND OF BLOOD ( this is referring to animal blood and was in this last Shabbat Torah portion Acharei Mot. AND ITS NOT EVEN A CONSIDERATION THAT ANY JEW WILL EVER EAT THE BLOOD IF A HUMAN. THIS JOURNALIST IS AN ANTISEMITE!!!