Friday saw the heartbreaking murder of two Druze Israeli policemen guarding the Temple Mount, at the hands of three Arab Israelis. This has set off a bewildering chain of events that seems to exemplify a mentality that, if it predominates and prevails, precludes the possibility of peace with Israel any time soon.
Here is the situation boiled down in 10 points:
- The Temple Mount is the holiest site of Judaism. According to the Bible and archeology the first and second Jewish temples stood there. Jews direct their prayers towards the site. As Shalom.Kiwi has reported, UNESCO is doing its best to eradicate this connection and significance to the Jewish people.
- When Muslims took over and occupied Jerusalem from the 600s, they built The Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the remnants of the temples. Quite literally, the Muslims sought to bury the evidence of a prior Jewish presence. The Muslims consider that this is where Mohammed ascended to heaven, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.
- For millennia Jews have prayed as close as they could to the site and for centuries it has been a place of Muslims prayer. When Jordan seized control of East Jerusalem after attacking the nascent Jewish state in the 1948 War of Independence, it expelled all Jews from the area and prohibited them from visiting it, including the Temple Mount. Jordan turned many holy Jewish sites into rubble.
- After the six day war in 1967 when Jews regained sovereignty over the Old City, the “status quo” was born. Under this agreement, the Temple Mount is not administered by a Jewish authority, but by the Waqf, the Jordanian Muslim religious authority. Jews may visit, but not pray, there. The only place where there is not freedom to worship in Jerusalem is therefore the Temple Mount, and that freedom is denied of Jews and other non-Muslims, just as non-Muslims are denied entry to Mecca and Medina.
- Violence flares up sporadically when Muslims are led to believe Israel is attempting to change the status quo, which is why it has not changed to allow Jews to pray there. In 2015 Palestinian Authority President Abbas incited rioters on the Temple Mount by saying
…we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem…The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.Mahmoud Abbas
- Three days ago at the site, Israeli Arabs murdered other Arabs, whose apparent crime was being Israeli police and keeping peace at the site. There is evidence to suggest that the terrorists believed that Israel was attempting to change the status quo.
- Following the attack, Muslim Arab protests broke out in Turkey, Jordan and Jerusalem, not at the desecration of the site and the murder of Arab brothers, but at the injustice of Israel temporarily closing the site for investigation and security measures. The Waqf claimed the closure “seriously harms the holy sites and freedom of religion”. The Arab league and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation both condemned the closure without condemning the attack – these groups make up 57 member countries of the United Nations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attack as ‘heroic’ and called for more; while Abbas’ Fatah party condemned the attack in English while labeling the terrorists ‘martyrs’ and calling for ‘rage’ in Arabic.
- The Israeli investigation resulted in Waqf officials being arrested over suspicion of helping the terrorists and a cache of weapons being found on the compound. Despite this, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the status quo will be preserved.
- Two gates to the site have now been reopened to allow Muslims through, with newly-installed metal detectors. Thanks to the second Intifada, when Israelis were regularly blown up in markets, cafes and buses, metal detectors are an everyday fact of life for Israelis. Everyone who visits the Western Wall, which in the absence of the Temple Mount is the most sacred site for Jews to pray at, must pass through metal detectors. And there have been metal detectors at entrances to the most holy site in Islam since at least 2011. But the Waqf and others have called on Muslims to protest over the injustice of having to walk through a metal detector and called for them to refuse to enter the site. With no apparent sense of irony, Muslims are therefore now boycotting the place of worship that, days before, it was vital for them to worship at and they had protested over Israel temporarily banning them from. The Waqf claims that the metal detectors are a violation of the status quo, although apparently the arms smuggled into the compound that the new measures are designed to prevent, are not. Arab Minister of Knesset (Parliament) Taleb Abu Arar claims that the Israeli government is “defiling the mosque” and causing more bloodshed and is the cause of the situation.
- Muslims have started assaulting others Muslims who ignore the calls for a boycott and walk through the metal detector. Violent clashes have broken out, spreading further afield in Jerusalem, resulting in injuries.
So to summarise, Muslims are rioting over the installation of metal detectors at the holiest place in Judaism, where Jews are banned from praying, and where Muslims have just murdered two Israeli Arabs.
Here on display in the microcosm of the Temple Mount we see an extremist ideology that does not respect or recognise compromise or difference, and encourages and glorifies attacks on other others, including Arabs and Muslims. It denies Jewish sovereignty and history in Israel. It perpetuates a victimhood mentality that accepts no agency or responsibility and permits no self-reflection. This culminates in a selective indignation that demands for itself what it will not tolerate for others.
Let us hope that Muslim voices of peace and reason will prevail, as exemplified so eloquently by the Israeli Arab Yahya Mahamid, who comes from the same hometown as the three terrorists. Among other civilised messages, he said, of the three terrorists “I am saddened to see they have chosen the path of violence and terrorism, instead of choosing peace.” We should also hope that leaders in liberal, democratic countries – that New Zealand claims to be – also speak up for peace.