Lord Ahmad. the UK’s Middle East minister, visited the Al Aqsa mosque at the Temple Mount this week during an official visit to the region. But his half-hour wait at a security checkpoint triggered complaints from the Islamic authorities leading the BBC to publish the woeful headline attributing blame to Israel: “UK minister’s visit to Jerusalem holy site hampered by Israeli police,” stated the headline.

Despite hysteria from Islamic authorities and the BBC about the delay, Lord Ahmad denied that access was “prevented” and said the important thing was he was able to visit the holy places. Speaking to the BBC afterwards, Lord Ahmad played down the wait, describing it as “security checks, whatever they needed to do”.

Even though the BBC included Lord Ahmad’s version of events in their article, they chose to reflect the Islamic authorities’ complaint in their headline and began the article with pointing the finger at Israel: “Israeli forces blocked the UK’s Middle East minister from visiting the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem for 30 minutes before allowing him to enter,” the article begins.

The UK government does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, so official visits are not co-ordinated through the Israeli authorities.

Whilst Muslims are allowed to enter the compound through multiple entrances without security checks, under normal circumstances all non-Muslims, including Jews, are required to go through a designated gate at specific times, but are not permitted to pray. Lord Ahmad, who is a Muslim, was asked to wait along with a small delegation of UK officials beside an Israeli police checkpoint at a gate to the compound until security checks could be carried out.

The Temple Mount compound has been the site of numerous terror attacks and Palestinian riots, so Israeli authorities take security checks seriously.

The Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the site, called the confusion”unacceptable”, saying, “Whether he came as a minister or as a Muslim he shouldn’t have been blocked.”

The Waqf told the BBC it had taken the visitors’ names and permit details on Wednesday night and given them to them to the Israeli police who check visitors at the gates.

“This is the policy… Whether this was an intentional delay or for other reasons, the Israeli authorities only want people to co-ordinate with them, through the Israeli government, only through the Israeli side,” said Wafq director Sheikh Mohammed Azam al-Khatib.

“This was unacceptable… I talked to the police and I came down from my office with my staff to apologise to the minister for the actions of the Israeli police.”

Wafq officials then escorted the minister inside the compound, where he toured the site and prayed in the mosque building.

Lord Ahmad’s visit came after a two-day trip to the region, including meetings with Israeli officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition


We call upon the UK Government to officially recognise Jerusalem is Israel's capital and move its embassy to Jerusalem.

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