Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Temple Mount

What came first, the chicken or the egg?  What came first, Palestinian violence against Israeli occupation or Israeli reaction against Palestinian violence?   I suppose the answer to this question depends on the bias of the observer.  If you are reflexively pro-Palestinian then you will answer that it's Israel's fault.  But, if you can see the Israeli pov, then you would argue that the Palestinians are naturally violent, and that their leadership exploits them and incites them. 

What are the facts: the Temple Mount was Jewish long before it became Muslim.  David and Solomon built their Temples there thousands of years ago, before the Romans destroyed the Temple of Solomon in 70 ce.  The Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 637 ce, five years after the death of Mohammed.  It is important to emphasize that Mohammed never visited Jerusalem and that the name 'Jerusalem' does not appear in the Koran.  The identification of Jerusalem with "the northern-most mosque" mentioned in the Koran from which Mohammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven was invented by the second Caliph Omar, who wanted to make it a place of pilgrimage.  Omar knew of the significance of Jerusalem to the Jews because he came from a tribe that had included converts to Judaism.

The status quo on the Temple Mount (the Haram al-Sharif in Arabic) was essentially established by Moshe Dayan after the 1967 Six-day War, when Israel reconquered the territories of Judea and Samaria from the Jordanian Arab League.  Dayan in a gesture of reconciliation gave control over the Mount to the Muslim waqf, the Muslim religious authorities, and allowed the Jordanians to retain control of it.  But, in response the waqf forbade Jews to visit the Mount.  But, also the Orthodox Jewish authorities, faced with a new situation, also forbade Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, because in their view it was too holy.  Eventually Jews were allowed to visit the Mount, but not to pray there.  In fact Jews have been arrested by the Israeli police for moving their lips in apparent prayer while visiting the Temple Mount.  The Muslims to this day deny any Jewish connection to the Mount and the visit by any Jews, particularly Israeli Ministers, can cause riots.  This is clear intimidation.  There are always rumors being circulated among the Muslims that the Jews are either undermining or attacking the Haram al Sharif.  [This was the excuse used for a major riot in 1929 in which Arabs murdered Jews in Jerusalem and carried out a massacre in Hebron that caused the British to evacuate all Jews from that CIty; there were no Jews there between 1929 and 1967 when it was recaptured by the IDF from the Jordanians.]

This status quo on the Mount has been kept by successive Israeli Governments since 1967, even though Israel remains in sovereign control of the site.  Naturally a movement has sprung up among so-called right-wing Jews that not only ascribes Jewish rights to the Mount, but also would act to take it over and declare it a protected Jewish site.  The Government of Israel understands that even though Jews have the right to ascend the Mount and even pray there, to do so will alienate a large portion of the world's Muslims and that would change the conflict with the Palestinians from a national into a religious war.  That is why PM Netanyahu has reiterated several times, including in a meeting with King Abdallah of Jordan a few days ago, that the Govt. of Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.  In the face of Palestinian rioting and provocation, such as throwing stones and firebombs onto Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall (the Kotel) below the Mount, Netanyahu has nevertheless called for calm.

The rioting around the Temple Mount can be traced to the war in Gaza a few months ago and the killing of the three Israeli youths on the West Bank that preceded it, followed by the killing of a Palestinian youth by Israelis.  This started the rioting in earnest, but it has continued gaining strength. At first the Israeli police had a "hands-off" policy and allowed the riots to continue with minimum interference, but that clearly did not work.  The recent killings in Jerusalem of Jewish pedestrians by two Arab drivers and the subsequent shooting of the drivers has exacerbated the situation.  Also, the shooting of Rabbi Glick by a Palestinian terrorist and his subsequent killing by Israeli police led to further riots.

One can only assume that the PA under the leadership of Pres Abbas wants this violence, for several reasons.  First, they want to apply to the UN for unilateral recognition of statehood, and how better to appeal to their fellow Muslim voters than to stir up their religious emotions against Israel.  Second, the leaders of Fatah seek to outflank Hamas, there is a continuous rivalry between them for the support of the Palestinian street.   Only yesterday there were 10 explosions at the houses of Fatah leaders in Gaza that did not kill anyone, but were clearly strong warnings.  Third, the Palestinian cause around the world is being harmed by the western focus on the Islamic State, which tends to paint a negative picture of Muslim extremism.  The PA wants to take back some of the media attention it has lost.  How better than to show Israeli soldiers beating and shooting tear gas at poor Palestinian youths demonstrating for Muslim rights.  On the other hand, it is actually Israeli police trying to restore order as a result of organized and persistent rioting by gangs of Arabs at a holy site.

There is no doubt that these riots are incited by the Palestinian leadership at the highest level.  Pres. Abbas issued a call to Muslims to prevent Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount and taking it over, then when the terrorists who murdered Jews were killed he issued a letter calling them martyrs.   He described the shooting of the killer of Rabbi Glick an “assassination which was perpetrated by the murderous, terrorist gangs of the despicable Israeli occupying army…”   Finally he has called the Israeli police action attempting to restore order on the Temple Mount a case of "genocide".  So in the final analysis it is the Palestinians who are deliberately fomenting this violence and the Israelis who are trying to bring it under control.  Whether or not this will become the beginning of the third intifada (uprising) remains to be seen.  How the Obama Administration can still consider Abbas a "peace partner" is beyond reason.


Post a Comment

<< Home