Media outlets across the Arab world on Wednesday falsely referred to a Christian mental patient who tried to burn down the Al-Aqsa Mosque, atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, in 1969, as a Jew, trying to link the lone madman’s attack on its 44th anniversary to political claims against Israel.
On August 21, 1969, Denis Michael Rohan, a 28-year old Australian citizen and zealous Christian attempted to set fire to Al-Aqsa. At the time he claimed his reason for doing so was to hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ by enabling the Jews of Israel to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in accordance with the Bible’s book of Zechariah.
Two days later he was arrested for the arson attempt, tried, found to be insane, and hospitalized in a mental institution. Five years later, he was deported from Israel on humanitarian grounds and lived out his days at Callan Park Hospital, in Australia, where he died in 1995.
Anonymous pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon first reported on the uptick in frequency of the mistake in Arab news outlets, which he said showed a marked increase compared to his 2007 report on the same occasion six years ago.
“At the time, while some said he was Jewish, many only implied it, while others claimed Israel itself was behind the bombing,” Elder of Ziyon wrote.
Reviewing today’s press on the issue, Elder of Ziyon paints a disturbing picture of misinformation that pervades nearly all Arab media outlets.
“Of course sites that are filled with overt antisemitism, like Al Watan Voice, claim Rohan was Jewish. But Ma’an News – which pretends to hold to Western journalistic standards – says Rohan was a ‘Jewish extremist.’ Ma’an separately reports that the head of the Muslim-Christian Association in Jerusalem commemorated the anniversary and also said Rohan was Jewish. Jordan’s Al Ghad says he was Jewish. The official Palestinian Arab news agency Wafa also claims Rohan was Jewish. As does, naturally, Hamas’s Felesteen newspaper. Respected pan-Arab Al Arabiya claims Rohan was a ‘Jewish extremist’ as well. Hezbollah’s Al Manar is slightly more careful, calling Rohan ‘Zionist.’ And Islamic Jihad’s Palestine Today– one of the better Arabic sources of news, believe it or not – calls him an ‘Israeli extremist,’” the popular blogger reported.
“There are literally hundreds of articles in the Arabic media today making the claim that Rohan was Jewish (or Israeli.) This is only a small indication that Arab media has no compunction about lying. This is something Westerners find hard to believe, but it is true, and it is something they need to understand. There are no consequences for the Arab media lying; no shame in it, no watchdog organizations in the Arab world that tries to correct errors and lies. The falsehoods are endemic,” Elder concluded.