A bridge too far for 'outraged' of Hamas

By Tim Marshall, December 15, 2011
Israel is trying to repair the bridge between the Kotel and al-Aqsa mosque

Israel is trying to repair the bridge between the Kotel and al-Aqsa mosque

Hamas cannot see a top without verbally going over it.

Even by the standards of their usual outbursts, they've excelled over the closure of a wooden ramp leading from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.

Spokesman Fawzi Barhum said this was a "violent act… a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places… a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression".

Another spokesman said the closure was "a criminal act… a flagrant violation… a provocation to the feelings of millions of Muslims". The reaction is a mixture of the ranting of the People's Front Of Judea from Monty Python, and Dave Spart from Private Eye.

The rickety structure gives access to Islam's third holiest site. The city council considers it a fire hazard and in danger of collapse. It is used almost entirely by tourists. Muslims tend to enter the Haram al-Sharif from one of the other 10 entrances.

Despite this, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat believes "this shows their determination to Judaise Jerusalem and to take over the city's Muslim holy places".

Behind the synthetic outrage is the real reason for these childish outbursts - every stone, every grave, every gate and every cherished memory, is regarded as a battle worth fighting, even if it results in death. Therefore, the usual suspects on the Palestinian side (and they have their Israeli counterparts) feel the need to whip even minor incidents into a matter of life and death.

Would they rather the bridge collapse under the weight of 100 tourists? That it catches alight and the fire spread to the Haram al-Sharif?

Many Muslims around the world will view this "outrage" with a shrug. There are genuine issues to care about, but Hamas wants permanent outrage. Without that, what do they have?

Tim Marshall is Sky News Foreign Editor

Last updated: 1:57pm, December 15 2011