As riots spread across Jerusalem Sept. 16, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on Al Jazeera’s "Inside Story." The title of the discussion was, “Can Netanyahu change Al Aqsa status quo?” There was no mention of the term "Temple Mount,” as the site is known to millions of Jewish believers and as it appears in Jewish ancient sacred sources. Also participating in the discussion was Ali Abunimah, founding partner and CEO of the Electronic Intifada website, which promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Born in the United States (his father, Hassan Abunimah, a refugee from the 1948 war, served as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations) and an outspoken opponent of a two-state solution, Abunimah was speaking from the Al Jazeera studio in Amman. He got very passionate as he claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hiding behind various far-right groups, which are attempting to violate the status quo at the holy sites, demolish the mosques of Haram al-Sharif (the Muslim term for the Temple Mount compound) and build the third Jerusalem Temple on their ruins.
Abunimah’s comments brought back bitter memories. About 46 years ago, Arab and Muslim agitators claimed that the Israeli government was behind Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian with a mental disability, who claimed that he was following God’s direct instructions by setting fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque.