Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan has enraged many in the Arab and Muslim world for his remarks on Jerusalem not being a Holy city to Muslims, and condemning it being exploited as a battleground.
But according to Arab media outlets, the real story here is how Israel is practically gloating over his comments.
This is how Al Jizz reports it:
The Israeli embassy in Cairo has expressed gratitude for an Egyptian writer’s controversial remarks about the status of Jerusalem.
The embassy was referring to an interview that was broadcast on Sunday, in which Youssef Ziedan, an Egyptian novelist and scholar, said that the al-Aqsa mosque is not located in Jerusalem’s al-Haram al-Sharif compound and that Jerusalem is not a holy city.
In a local televised appearance, Ziedan also laid blame on Arab and Israeli leaders, accusing them of repeatedly exploiting Jerusalem as a battleground that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
In response, the embassy said on Tuesday in a statement posted on its Facebook page: “We are pleased to hear the words of writer and historian Youssef Ziedan and his description of the deep-rooted relationship between Jews and Muslims that existed even before Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.”
“And at how he pointed out that the origins of the ongoing conflict between the two sides stem from extremists,” the statement added.
“There is no doubt that Ziedan’s interpretation entails the need to abandon the culture of hate between the two sides, and this in our view is an important message. Cooperation between Jews and Muslims would benefit Egyptians and Israelis and would be beneficial to the two sides’ rising generations.”
Note how the headline and first paragraph imply that Israel thanked him for his remarks undermining the holiness of Jerusalem to Muslims, something that would no doubt provoke anger (and violence) from the Arab and Muslim worlds. Yet if you continue reading, you will see the Israeli statement does not relate at all to that aspect of his remarks, preferring instead to focus on his message of peace and understanding – even though he criticized both sides in the process. I would say this is a non-provocative, reasonable response.
Fellow Arab media outlet Al Arabiya does the same thing, with an even more provocative headline and lead-in paragraph.
Israel pleased with Egyptian writer’s al-Aqsa statement on TV
The Israeli embassy in Cairo has expressed happiness over statements made by Egyptian writer, Youssef Ziedan, who said that the mosque located in Jerusalem is in fact not the al-Aqsa mosque and that “Jerusalem is not a holy place.”
On their Facebook page the embassy said: “We were very happy with the statements of established writer Youssef Ziedan on Sunday evening in his interview with Amr Adib on ONTV. Ziedan described the good relationship between the Jews and Muslims that existed even before Prophet Mohammad PBUH, and until this day.”
“There is no doubt that the message of Ziedan, which is the need to stop this culture of hatred between the two sides, is a very important one in our view. The cooperation between Jews and Muslims will benefit both Egyptians and Israelis, and will be a great service to coming generations of both peoples,” the post read.
The Facebook post attracted a lot of negative responses. One such response said, “We Muslims have always been peaceful, but you stab us behind our backs, kill our children, our elderly and our young ones, and you are still not satisfied.”
A number of Egyptian members of parliament criticized Ziedan for his mockery and questioning of the existence of the Aqsa mosque. Ziedan had previously condemned the Palestinians ‘victimizing’ themselves, saying that “launching slogans like ‘al-Aqsa is wounded’ and ‘Jerusalem is captured’ will not benefit anyone.”
The Arab and Muslim worlds have shown they do not need much to get angry and violent. But this irresponsible and lethal reporting can only serve to make things worse.