As the Israel Antiquities Authority begins construction work at the Mugrabi Gate in Jerusalem in order to make the area structurally sound and safe for visitors, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called on Muslims "to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque." Hamas has also charged Israel with "demolishing parts of the Aqsa mosque" on its website.
Although the works are not taking place on the Temple Mount , the Hamas website accused "the Israeli occupation government of conspiring to finally destroy the Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest Muslim shrine world-wide, and to install the alleged Third Temple on its ruins."
"The Aqsa Mosque is in real danger and needs Muslim support to defend and spare it the rancorous Israeli conspiracies", Palestinian Chief Justice Tayseer al-Tamimi declared, calling on Muslim masses to assemble to "protect" the site.
And the Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, claims to have "documents and photos" proving that "the demolition of the pathway and the two rooms under the Buraq Mosque will expose both the Aqsa Mosque and Buraq Mosque inside Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to extreme danger as Israeli settlers will easily access both of them," the Hamas website added on Tuesday.
Calls have been issued for Palestinians to "unite their guns in defense of al-Aqsa," while the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have threatened terrorist attacks if the work continue.
Certainly, small, far-Right fringe groups exist within Israel that have set their sights on the mosque, and on rebuilding the Temple using physical force - but the State of Israel has devoted considerable resources of its security arms to keeping such extreme elements in check.
Why do Palestinian leaders continue to insist that the al-Aqsa mosque is "in danger?" The answer may lie in the shiny gold covering of the Dome of the Rock itself.
History of false charges
Since the 1920s, Palestinian leaders have used the site as a rallying cry to wage war against the Jewish presence in Israel, and to try and gain support from Muslims abroad. The Palestinian prime minister today is continuing a 90-year tradition of incitement, which began with the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Husseini, who is widely seen as the father of Palestinian nationalism, used the al-Nabi festival, which commemorates the defeat of the Crusaders, and conquest of Jerusalem by the Islamic general Sala'ah al-Din, to instigate anti-Jewish riots in April 1920, even before he became a mufti. His message was simple: Jews are the new Crusaders, and Islam must re-invade Jerusalem.
After being elected mufti (through dubious strong-arm tactics, according to some sources,) and becoming head of the Supreme Muslim Council, Haj Amin embarked on an ambitious project of restoring the al-Haram (Dome of the Rock) and the al-Sharif (al-Aqsa Mosque).
By doing so, Haj Amin hoped to draw the attention of millions of Muslims to the Palestinian cause, and to gain material and financial support so that he could fight the growing Zionist Jewish community in Israel.
Members of the Islamic Council traveled around Muslim countries in the 1920s to gain support, with one delegation to Mecca stating: "The Islamic Palestine Nation, which has been guarding al-Aqsa and (the) Holy Rock ever since 1300 years, declares to the Muslim world that the Holy Places are in great danger on account of the horrible Zionist aggressions."
These missions resulted in a successful fund-raising drive, which led to the gold covering of the Dome of the Rock.
One British official in Mandatory Palestine noted at the time a "remarkable psychological change..." and a "stirring of a new feeling in the Muslims of this country" following the restoration.
Haj Amin also had photos with the Star of David superimposed on the Dome of the Rock distributed widely, in order to convince Muslims of a "Jewish plot" against the site.
In April 1929, Haj Amin helped stoke riots by issuing a Friday afternoon sermon at the al-Aqsa Mosque, reemphasizing the charge of a Jewish bid to take over the Islamic holy sites.
The incitement continued right through into the 1990s, when in 1997, Yasser Arafat declared: "I am ringing the bell of danger to warn against the Jewish plan to build the Temple of Solomon in the place where today stands Al Aqsa Mosque, after removing the mosque."
Similar incitement flooded the airwaves of the Palestinian Authority following Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, launching what has now become known as the al-Aqsa Intifada.
Like clockwork, warnings of an Israeli plot to destroy the mosque are issued by the Hamas government every few days, ensuring that the flames of unfounded paranoia and incitement against Israel remain lit.
Reprinted with permission from Ynetnews.com , English news and content from Israel's most-read newspaper.