Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday gave credence to an old libel to attack Israel, falsely accusing it of a 1969 arson attack against the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Rouhani referenced the libel at a meeting for International Mosques Day on Thursday, reports the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Speaking about the arson, he said, "that event meant that the aggressor and occupier Zionist regime does not respect any social and human principle, doesn’t show mercy to the people, children and women, continues massacre and aggression and even desecrates the Muslim world's first Qibla and a place which is also respected by other divine religions."

His talk of the "first Qibla" refers to a Muslim tradition not found in the Koran, which claims Mohammed originally prayed towards the Temple Mount copying Jewish prayers. After a few years he allegedly changed the practice and faced towards the Kaaba in Mecca, which Muslims tradition says houses the stone on which Abraham sacrificed Ishmael, in a distortion of the original Torah story.

Rouhani went on to say the 1969 arson is a "warning to Muslims to be vigilant against the Israeli plots," as paraphrased by Fars. He also called for Muslim unity against Israel.

There's just one problem with Rouhani's Al-Aqsa arson libel - an insane Australian Christian did it, not Israel.

Denis Michael Rohan of Australia lit a fire in the mosque on August 21, 1969, before Israeli firefighters quickly put out the flames, and the damage was then repaired.

Rohan soon confessed to the arson, and after being arrested by Israel he was found to be mentally insane and hospitalized in a mental institution before being deported back to Australia in 1974 for continued mental treatment.

He had set the fire to try and clear the Mount of the mosque so that the Third Temple could be built, given his evangelical Protestant Christian beliefs that Jesus would return after it was built.

And yet the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Arab world at large quickly invented the lie that Israel was responsible for the arson, alternately claiming that a Jew set the fire, or else that Israel paid Rohan to launch the arson.

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