Unfounded claims circulating on social media allege that the media intentionally use a photo of the Dome of the Rock when reporting on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This supposed tactic aims to divert attention, suggesting that if Israel were to demolish the mosque, it would go unnoticed. The Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated in the same complex in Jerusalem, commonly referred to as Al-Aqsa, and both structures are built on a site that is holy to Muslims.
Social networks and the media are flooded with information about the biggest escalation of the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine in the past several dozen years. On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out surprise attacks on Israeli territory in which several hundred soldiers and civilians were killed and over 200 civilians were taken hostage. Israel then declared war on Hamas, imposed a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the supply of water, electricity, fuel, food and medicine, and began air and ground attacks on Gaza. According to data published by the administration in Gaza, more than 13,000 people, including about 5,600 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks so far. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7.
International human rights organizations have reported documented cases of indiscriminate bombing, targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the use of white phosphorus bombs by Israeli forces in Gaza (1, 2). UN experts, lawyers and journalists around the world warn of crimes against humanity and potential genocide in Gaza (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
In the wake of the attacks on the Gaza Strip, longstanding but unsubstantiated claims about a conspiracy to suppress images of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, possibly to divert attention from its potential demolition, are resurfacing on social media in Southeast Europe.
On October 16, a video was published on Facebook showing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. As of this writing, the video has been viewed 141,000 times and states the following:
This is the Dome of the Rock, NOT AL-AQSA MOSQUE! This is the real Al-Aqsa Mosque! Why is it that every time the media talks about Al-Aqsa, they show this picture?! Do you know why they show you this? Because Israel wants to silently destroy the real Al-Aqsa Mosque and will show you a picture of the Dome of the Rock saying that Al-Aqsa is safe as if nothing happened. And after these activities, they will build the Third Temple. Jews believe that the Third Temple should be built to establish the state of the Messianic age.
Where do these claims come from?
The oldest publication of claims about this conspiracy we found is a now-deleted article published on June 7, 2010, on the web portal Put vjernika. This web portal was once the subject of reports by numerous domestic and regional media, including other Islamic web portals, which warned of radical and dangerous people behind it.
In an article by the Radio Free Europe from 2019, it is stated that Put vjernika was associated with the terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front, which is known today as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former branch of Al-Qaeda. The web portal was also associated with the extremist Nusret Imamovic, who left Bosnia and Herzegovina for Syria in 2013 and was put on the list of global terrorists by the US government in 2014. The web portal was one of the websites monitored by the Agency for Investigation and Protection and the Federal Police Administration of BiH for supporting militant and terrorist groups. In 2014, the Islamic web portal Saff also wrote about Put vjernika, describing it as a “media service of the congregation whose emir is Nusret Imamović” and a means through which young Muslims from BiH are radicalized and through which adherence to the idea of Al-Qaeda is carried out (1, 2).
Where is the Al-Aqsa Mosque located and what does it symbolize?
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in the Old City of Jerusalem and is regarded as a holy site in Islam. According to Muslim belief, the Prophet Muhammad was transported one night from Mecca to this location, where he led the prayer with Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and other prophets, and from the place where the Dome of the Rock is, he was raised to heaven to speak with God. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are part of the same complex called al-Haram al-Sharif, which means the Noble Sanctuary. The term Al-Aqsa is often colloquially used for the entire complex. Al-Aqsa Mosque was built in 637 and since then it has been destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times. Today’s building mostly dates from the 11th century.
The Dome of the Rock was built at the end of the seventh century and is the oldest surviving Islamic monument. The dome is also of great importance for Muslims and prayers are often held in front of it.
This location is also sacred in Judaism. Jews call the elevation on which the complex is located the Temple Mount. It once housed two ancient Jewish temples, one of which was built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and the other was built in the 6th century BC and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. According to Jewish belief, it was at this location that Abraham demonstrated his dedication to God by agreeing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Traditionally, Jewish laws forbid Jews from entering this place so as not to “walk on holy ground”. The Western Wall was the closest the Jews came to the Temple Mount. Today, however, Jews occasionally visit this place.
Jerusalem’s Old City is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the Al-Aqsa complex is managed by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Israeli security forces carry out regular checks and searches in the complex. Certain radical groups of Jews are advocating taking control of the complex to demolish the mosque and the Dome of the Rock and rebuild the temple there. This intention, however, is not supported by all Jews or all Israelis.
The Al-Aqsa compound is often the scene of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, mainly due to raids by the Israeli army and violent incursions of Jewish extremists into the compound. Hamas cited these attacks as one of the motivations for the October 7 attack on Israel.
However, the claim that the media deliberately portrays the Dome of the Rock as the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that no one would “notice” that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was demolished is senseless. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are part of the same complex and are only a few hundred meters apart. Photos of Al-Aqsa are available on the Internet, and the mosque is regularly visited by thousands of Muslims from Palestine and the world. The claim that no one would notice that the mosque is demolished because the media often publish a picture of the Dome of the Rock when talking about Al-Aqsa is completely unfounded. Destruction of one of the most important mosques in secret would be simply impossible to do, especially if you take into account the fact that the complex is managed by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf and is under the protection of UNESCO.
It is true that the media, both domestic and Western, as well as those from the Arab world, including the Palestinian ones, often use photographs of the Dome of the Rock to illustrate articles about Al-Aqsa, but the more likely reason for this is that the entire complex in which there are also a mosque and the Dome of the Rock is often called Al-Aqsa.
BBC in Serbian
Accusing the media – including the Palestinian media – of being part of a conspiracy to cover up the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not based on any facts.
Therefore, we consider the claim suggesting that the media publishes a picture of the Dome of the Rock when they write about Al-Aqsa so that Israel can demolish the mosque in secret as a conspiracy theory.
(Author: Nerma Šehović, Raskrinkavanje.ba)