Jihadi websites have pounced on a publication in leftist newspaper Haaretz as proof that Israel has designs upon the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.
The newspaper published a photo of the Kotel in which the Dome is seemingly covered by fog, and appears to have been "photoshopped" out of the picture. The picture appeared in an educational document released by the IDF Rabbinate ahead of Hanukkah.
Haaretz said that "The photo was featured in a packet prepared by the Military Rabbinate issued to Israel Defense Forces bases ahead of Hanukkah, under the section titled 'The Festival of Jewish Heroism,' which included an article and a quiz on the Jewish struggle against Hellenistic rule."
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in its response that the photo was meant to illustrate Jerusalem during the period of the Second Temple. “As was explained to the reporter, the Dome of the Rock did not exist at that time, so there was no need for it to appear in the picture,” the IDF said.
The Elder of Zion blog reported that "the original photographer/artist is Mikhail Levit," and noted that the photo has been on websites as far back as 2008: "So obviously the IDF rabbinate did not edit the photo. It was a nice picture; the people behind the pamphlet found it somewhere online, and put it on the pamphlet."
A reserves officer who brought the photo to Haaretz's attention warned that “A world war could break out if someone tried to do something about that place," and opined that the Rabbinate "should be more cautious when approaching the subject.”
However, it was precisely the publication in Haaretz that drew jihadi and international attention to the story.
The story was picked up by the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah websites – and by numerous other websites, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Jihadi websites presented it as proof that Israel has serious designs on the Al Aqsa mosque. "Tens of millions of easily excited Muslims will see the story and potentially be incited to violence," notes Elder of Zion.