Israel needs only to tell the truth about Temple Mount, about who has been doing the inciting, and the rioting, and the attacks on worshippers, and who, on the other hand, has merely been trying to stop the rioting, and end the attacks. Which side has tried to protect its own worshippers, praying inoffensively at the Western Wall, and at the same time, to protect from disruption the prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque of peaceful Muslims, people who have been disturbed by rioters, who have stockpiled weapons in the mosque and chosen to launch their barrages of rocks and Molotov cocktails from inside the mosque at Israeli police outside? A report on what Israel should continue to clarify is here: “Israel’s Best PR Strategy on the Temple Mount: Tell the Truth,” by Jeremiah Rozman, Algemeiner, April 27, 2022:

In a fully rational world, it should be obvious to any observer who honestly seeks moral clarity, that when it comes to the Temple Mount, the side that seeks to visit and pray in peace and also allows full religious freedom to the other is in the right, while the side that reacts with violence and seeks to bar the other from prayer is in the wrong.

In hurling rocks large enough to kill a man, and Molotov cocktails, from the Temple Mount at the Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall far below, the Arab rioters have been trying to stop Jews from exercising their religious freedom by trying to physically harm – or even kill — them. The Israeli police, on the other hand, have been trying to restore conditions on the Temple Mount so that Muslims can peacefully pray at Al-Aqsa, without the rioters who disrupt those prayers by storing rocks and explosives in the mosque, and by using it as a base from which to attack the police. It is the Muslim rioters, not the Israeli police, who are “desecrating” the mosque with their actions. The Israeli government is attempting to preserve the religious freedom of both Muslims and Jews. Indeed, Israel long ago bent over backwards to accommodate Muslim worshippers, even at the cost of limiting the religious freedom of Jews. For the past 55 years, ever since Israel took possession of the Temple Mount in the Six-Day War, it has prohibited Jews from praying, either aloud or silently, on  the Temple Mount, so as not to offend the sensibilities of Muslims nearby. Israel has of course received no credit for this astonishing act of self-abnegation. 

But in the real world’s cacophony of nonsense and ethical confusion, it is clear that Israel needs to forcefully, clearly, and, most importantly, publicly articulate its position to the world.

Failure to do so allows bigots and those seeking to harness bigotry to demonize Israel, arouse violence, inflame antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, and work to derail Israel’s budding diplomacy with its Arab neighbors.

To prevail, Israel’s message must be clear: the Jewish people’s ties to the Temple Mount are an undeniable historical fact. Israel wants peace, tolerance, and religious freedom, while those who stash rocks, pipes, bottles, and weapons and engage in violent rioting are the ones who are truly desecrating the site.

It is undeniable that since Islam’s conquest of Jerusalem in the seventh century CE, the mosque that they built on the site of the Jewish Holy of Holies has become a Muslim holy site. No one is seeking to undermine this. However, it is also equally undeniable that the site has been holy to the Jewish people for centuries before Islam ever existed. Therefore, every discussion to follow must be based upon the solid understanding that the site is indeed holy to both Muslims and Jews.

Here is what Israel ought to state firmly to the world:

The Jews have lived continuously in Jerusalem since at least 1500 B.C., that is more than 2000 years before the first Muslims arrived.

What Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims Haram al-Sharif was the place where the First Temple of the Jews was located, and then destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians. The Second Temple of the Jews was built on the site of the first, and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. That site, where the First and Second Temples both stood, is the holiest site in Judaism, and the third holiest site in Islam.

The calumny that Israel wants to seize the Al-Aqsa Mosque has cynically been used for political purposes, with Hamas, Palestinian Authority (PA), and Arab leaders inciting violence and hatred over peaceful Jewish worship. Their rhetoric utilizes blatant religious bigotry, clearly aimed at incitement.

Both Hamas and the PA have both been vilifying Israel over the Temple Mount, accusing it of non-existent plans to seize Al-Aqsa Mosque, presumably to turn it into a synagogue. They have been rivals in inciting violence among the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, in the hope that this will cause attacks both on peaceful Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall, and on the Israeli police who are stationed on the Temple Mount. That incitement, and Arab violence, have greatly increased during this Ramadan, but the accusations about supposed Israeli plans to take over Al-Aqsa have been going on for years.

For instance, in a 2015 speech, the ostensibly moderate PA leader Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed: “The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours … and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem. … We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing.”

It is those rioters who turned part of Al-Aqsa into their hideout and weapons storehouse, who have “defiled” the mosque, and not the Israeli police, who entered only briefly, in order to arrest the rioters and to seize their stockpiled weapons, and quickly exited.

This position is not unique to extremist non-state militants. Just last week, the Arab League called to end Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, stating “Al-Aqsa and Haram al-Sharif in all its area is a sole place of worship for Muslims,” and the UAE, a member of the Abraham Accords coalition, canceled participation in a planned Israel Independence Day flyover due to the Temple Mount riots.

When the Arab League demanded that Israel end Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, it apparently did not know — or pretended not to know — that the Israelis have never allowed Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. That must be stated, clearly and repeatedly, by Israel: “We do not permit Jews to pray on the top of the Temple Mount, and have not done so in the past 55 years, ever since we took possession of the Old City.” It is particularly distressing that the UAE has, as a sign of displeasure over the riots on Temple Mount, cancelled its participation in the Israel Independence Day flyover. The UAE was the first Arab member of the Abraham Accords, and ever since, has been enthusiastically engaged in business deals with Israel, so far amounting to one billion dollars. The UAE has gone out of its way, too, to establish people-to-people ties between Emiratis and Israelis; a Jewish neighborhood, with a synagogue, a Jewish school, and a Jewish center, to service the 2,000 Jews now living in the Emirates, has been built in Dubai. The UAE needs to be better informed about the Arab rioters at the Temple Mount who have been deliberately trying to attack Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall and the steps the Israeli police were compelled to take to stop them. That should change the minds of many Emiratis about who is to blame for the violence at the Temple Mount.

The Jews have not, in fact, been asking for the right to pray on the Temple Mount. They have been ensuring, rather, only that they be allowed to continue praying at the Western Wall, without having the Arab rioters on the Temple Mount violently disrupting, and in some cases rendering impossible, the prayers they say at the Western Wall.

Unfortunately, many international leaders and the international media automatically blame Israel — and thus, peaceful Jewish worship — for tensions. Even the State Department called upon Israel to defuse tensions caused by Arab rioting on the Temple Mount. It is amazing that this centuries-old excuse for violence still bears weight.

Israel has to forthrightly reject this assumption that it is its responsibility to “defuse tensions” with the rioting Arabs who began the violence in the first place. How could Israel do that? Only by letting the rioters continue to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails on Jews at the Western wall? Or by prohibiting Jews from praying at the Western Wall for the duration of Ramadan, until Arab tempers settle down? Must Jews, who in 1967 surrendered their right to pray at the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, now also be expected to give up their right to pray at the Western Wall, whenever it seems that Muslims might be especially excitable, as during Ramadan? Should the Muslim Arabs be given such a veto on when Jews can pray? The government of Israel should ask its critics this: do Jews have a right to pray, if not on, then at least somewhere near, and linked to, the holiest site in Judaism? Do Jews have a right to expect that the Al-Aqsa mosque will not be used for purposes other than worship, and especially not as a base – with fighters and weapons – from which to launch attacks on inoffensive Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall?

Today, Israel cannot allow bigots to control the narrative around the Temple Mount, and it is high time that its leaders get out in front with a well-articulated explanation. While many Jews and Israeli officials have made this case, the audience cannot be either those who agree with Israel’s position, or those predetermined to oppose it.

Rather, the Israeli leadership must make an articulate, public, and unapologetic case to its Arab neighbors and the world that it respects religious freedom, demands that same respect, and that it is those perpetrating violence who are truly desecrating this holy site. This action is urgently needed, not just to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, but to save the hopeful promise of the Abraham Accords.

Israel needs to make that “articulate, public, and unapologetic case” as clearly as it can. Here are the four main points of that case:

First, Israel both respects the religious freedom of others and demands that same respect for the religious freedom of Jews, including their right to worship at the Western Wall.

Second, that Israel’s willingness to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount should be recognized, and praised, as a tremendous concession to Muslims who might be offended by such prayers.

Third, Jews have been living in Jerusalem since at least 1500 B.C., about 2000 years before the first Muslim arrived. On what became known as Temple Mount, Jews built their First Temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Jews then built their Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. 

Fourth, it is not the police on the Temple Mount, but those rioters who store weapons inside Al-Aqsa, and use the mosque as a base from which to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police, who are the true “desecrators” of Al-Aqsa. Israeli police have entered Al-Aqsa only to seize those deadly weapons and those rioters who tried to hide out in the mosque; the police then promptly depart. They have no interest in remaining inside Al-Aqsa for a minute more than necessary. 

Fifth, Israel has never had designs on Al-Aqsa in the past, and does not now. The fabrication, and repetition, of this blood libel, that is being used to whip up Muslim rioters to a state where they might indeed cause bodily harm to Jews – those rocks, those Molotov cocktails – must be condemned by the Western powers.

 Israel needs to keep its response to so much calumny dignified, short, lucid. Those five points above are enough. They are more than enough.



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