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April 20, 2016 0

As Passover Approaches Temple Mount Tensions Remain

With Passover approach­ing, Israeli author­i­ties are gear­ing up for poten­tial ten­sions over the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanctuary.

The sacred space has long been the focal point of reli­gious and polit­i­cal ten­sions and con­flicts. The respon­si­bil­ity for the site is shared by Israel, which has sov­er­eignty over the site, and Jor­dan, whose Cus­to­dian Min­istry has man­aged the site since the 1994 peace treaty between Jor­dan and Israel. The agree­ment includes a clause restrict­ing Jews from pray­ing on the Mount, known infor­mally as the “status-quo.” The Waqf, an Islamic reli­gious trust, over­seas the day-to-day oper­a­tions at the site.

Credit: Andrew Shiva

Credit: Andrew Shiva

There have been many flash­points.  For years, there have been accu­sa­tions among Pales­tini­ans and across the region of a con­spir­acy by Israel to “Judaize” Jerusalem, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to this shared holy site. In 2000, then-Israeli oppo­si­tion leader Ariel Sharon vis­ited the site, which the Pales­tini­ans used as an excuse to launch the Sec­ond Intifada. Hamas, the Gaza-based ter­ror group, even praised the recent bus bomb­ing in Jerusalem as a “nat­ural reac­tion” to Israel’s “des­e­cra­tion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” located on the site.

In recent years ten­sions relat­ing to the site have inten­si­fied, with a notice­able increase in the num­ber of Jews vis­it­ing and secretly pray­ing on the Mount, a vio­la­tion of the status-quo. Among them, Israeli gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and politi­cians, some of whom have called for Jews to be allowed to pray on the Mount.

And over the past week, other inci­dents have focused atten­tion on the sacred space.  Last week, the Tem­ple Mount Insti­tute, a Jew­ish mes­sianic orga­ni­za­tion, con­ducted a secret Jew­ish wed­ding on the Mount, which was filmed and posted on social media. While it may sound strange to con­demn a Jew­ish wed­ding at a holy Jew­ish site, the inci­dent was part of the larger, poten­tially explo­sive effort by some on the reli­gious right, to change the sta­tus quo on the Tem­ple Mount.

And from the Pales­tin­ian side, there was the adop­tion by the UNESCO exec­u­tive board of a highly-biased, one-sided res­o­lu­tion on Jerusalem which ignored the Jew­ish con­nec­tion to holy sites like the Tem­ple Mount and West­ern Wall. The res­o­lu­tion described both sites only in their Muslim/Arabic names, alleged Israel was plant­ing fake Jew­ish graves, and crit­i­cized, on polit­i­cal grounds, a recent Israeli deci­sion to build an egal­i­tar­ian prayer area in the West­ern Wall Plaza. Shock­ingly, a num­ber of West­ern coun­tries voted to sup­port the res­o­lu­tion, includ­ing France, Spain and Sweden.

The Israeli gov­ern­ment, much to its credit, has taken steps to reduce ten­sions, includ­ing ban­ning all gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and Knes­set mem­bers from vis­it­ing the Mount. They have also worked closely with US and Jor­dan­ian gov­ern­ments on a plan to install sur­veil­lance cam­eras on the Tem­ple Mount, which would help refute claims that Israel is vio­lat­ing the sta­tus quo. In an unfor­tu­nate devel­op­ment how­ever, Jor­dan announced this week that it was drop­ping this plan due to objec­tions from the Pales­tini­ans who were “skep­ti­cal” about the ini­tia­tive. Pales­tini­ans had also placed notices on the Mount threat­en­ing to smash any secu­rity cam­eras which were installed. This is not an encour­ag­ing development.

In the ancient tra­di­tion of Passover, Jews were required to make a pil­grim­age to Jerusalem and bring a spe­cial Passover sac­ri­fice to the Jew­ish Tem­ple. While the sac­ri­fice is no longer prac­ticed, the next week will bring many tens of thou­sands of Jews to the Old City of Jerusalem and West­ern Wall area adja­cent to the Tem­ple Mount for prayers, bless­ings and celebrations.

While Israel must con­tinue efforts to ensure the status-quo remain unchanged, the Pales­tini­ans must refrain from fur­ther esca­lat­ing the ten­sions by using the Mount as a polit­i­cal issue to attack Israel. Any seri­ous esca­la­tion of ten­sions over the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary — over Passover and beyond — could turn into a poten­tially explo­sive and vio­lent situation.

 

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April 7, 2016 62

Alison Weir’s New Billboard Campaign Promotes USS Liberty Conspiracies

Ali­son Weir, the direc­tor of the anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tions If Amer­i­cans Knew and the Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, is behind a series of bill­boards that read “Help the USS Lib­erty Sur­vivors Attacked by Israel.”

Billboard in Pennsylvania

Bill­board in Pennsylvania

The bill­boards, which have appeared so far in Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Mass­a­chu­setts, North Car­olina and Penn­syl­va­nia, are “paid for by www.honorlibertyvets.org,” a web­site that pro­motes the anti-Israel con­spir­acy the­ory that Israel inten­tion­ally tar­geted a U.S. war­ship dur­ing the height of the 1967 Six-Day War. This web­site as well as the GoFundMe page rais­ing money for the bill­boards are linked to anti-Israel activist Ali­son Weir.

The tragic assault by Israeli forces dur­ing the Six Day War in 1967 on an Amer­i­can ves­sel, the USS Lib­erty, has been a source of con­tro­versy and con­spir­acy the­o­ries since it occurred. Sev­eral gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tions have con­cluded that the attack, in which 34 Amer­i­can ser­vice­men were killed and many more injured, was car­ried out in error. Fur­ther­more, every piece of infor­ma­tion declas­si­fied to date has sup­ported this conclusion.

Nev­er­the­less, the Honor Lib­erty Vets web­site claims Israel had a “motive” for attack­ing the Amer­i­can ship, stat­ing “One hypoth­e­sis is that Israel intended to sink the ship (with no sur­vivors) and blame Egypt because this might have brought the United States into the 1967 war.” The site also paints Israeli inter­ests as trump­ing America’s: “No nation or peo­ple should be above the law; nor should Amer­i­can inter­ests be sub­or­di­nated to the inter­ests of any for­eign nation. Those Israelis respon­si­ble for order­ing the attack and the result­ing mur­der of Amer­i­can sailors must be held account­able for their actions.”

For Weir, and oth­ers who sub­scribe to the belief that Israel inten­tion­ally tar­geted the ship with the goal of killing Amer­i­can ser­vice­men, the inci­dent and the alleged U.S. gov­ern­ment cover-up that fol­lowed pow­er­fully demon­strate the sup­posed treach­ery and power of the Jew­ish State and its Amer­i­can sup­port­ers. The story, told from this per­spec­tive, has become a pro­pa­ganda tool to under­mine the legit­i­macy of Israel.

These the­o­ries about the USS Lib­erty fit into Weir’s world­view, in which the Jew­ish State is a vio­lent aggres­sor that cor­rupts the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal sys­tem and pre­vents crit­i­cism of its con­duct from being voiced by the main­stream media. As a result, she con­tends, Amer­i­cans are kept in the dark about how their taxes fund Israeli mis­treat­ment of Palestinians.

In Weir’s dis­cus­sions of Israel’s influ­ence, she often employs anti-Semitic imagery and por­trays Israel as a ruth­less force that con­trols Amer­i­can pol­icy through bru­tal intim­i­da­tion and decep­tion. Weir views her­self and her orga­ni­za­tions as part of a grow­ing move­ment to pro­mote U.S. inter­ests by edu­cat­ing Amer­i­cans about the vast con­spir­acy to keep the truth about Israeli prac­tices hid­den from them.

Weir’s Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, pre­vi­ously employed bill­boards to dis­sem­i­nate its mes­sag­ing with a 2013 cam­paign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel.” At least ten such ads, which read, “$8 Mil­lion a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” were erected in Atlanta.

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March 11, 2016 5

In Iran, Holocaust Denial and Mockery are Alive and Well

Despite the inter­na­tional community’s reen­gage­ment with a more “open” and “mod­er­ate” Iran, some things in Iran­ian soci­ety haven’t changed, includ­ing the preva­lence of Holo­caust mock­ery and denial. While Pres­i­dent Rouhani hasn’t touted the issue like his pre­de­ces­sor Ahmadine­jad had, recent announce­ments indi­cate that the ques­tion­ing of the Holo­caust is very much alive and well within Iran­ian society.

In Decem­ber, the Tehran Inter­na­tional Car­toon Bien­nial announced an inter­na­tional Holo­caust car­toon con­test, with the win­ning entry get­ting a $50,000 reward. Now, the Islamic Asso­ci­a­tion of the Uni­ver­sity of Isfa­han has announced that it will hold its own Holo­caust car­toon con­test. The Islamic Asso­ci­a­tion held a sim­i­lar con­test in 2015. In announc­ing this year’s con­test, the Islamic Asso­ci­a­tion explained that its goal is to demon­strate sym­pa­thy with oppressed Pales­tini­ans and show hatred towards the Zion­ist regime and “the child killer Israel.” The orga­niz­ers claim the con­test is “not anti-Semitic,” but rather an effort to ques­tion such a dis­grace­ful and false phe­nom­e­non – the Holo­caust — some­thing which no one in the West­ern world dares to do.

Islamic Association of  Isfahan University Holocaust Cartoon Contest

Islamic Asso­ci­a­tion of Isfa­han Uni­ver­sity Holo­caust Car­toon Contest

They also claim their goal is to empower tal­ented indi­vid­u­als with skills they can use to edu­cate stu­dents and oth­ers about the fal­lacy of the Holocaust.

Addi­tion­ally, a recent con­fab for NGOs includ­ing social ser­vice agen­cies in an unnamed Iran­ian city titled “The Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Coop­er­a­tion and Human­i­tar­ian Aids”, which included a ses­sion pro­mot­ing Holo­caust denial. A report pub­lished fol­low­ing the ses­sion stated that there is “no proof for Zion­ist claims about the Holo­caust and Jews.” Moham­mad Javad Khos­rave, a Holo­caust “expert” and Emad Najar, Zion­ist and Media “expert”, were among the attendees.

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