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April 20, 2016 Off

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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October 13, 2015 Off

Caricatures and Images Incite Violence Against Israelis

As Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues in Israel, media out­lets from across the Arab and Mus­lim world are pub­lish­ing car­toons which glo­rify the killing of Israelis and Jews. These vio­lent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic car­i­ca­tures are being reposted on social media, and are being used to incite fur­ther ter­ror attacks against Israelis.

A promi­nent theme of these car­toons and social media posts relate to the daily spate of Pales­tin­ian stab­bing attacks of Israelis. Among the car­toons are depic­tions of a Pales­tin­ian with a large knife being used to stab Israeli sol­diers, Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu and other Jews, and some glo­rify spe­cific ter­ror attacks includ­ing the Octo­ber 3rd killing of Nehemia Lavi in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some of these car­toons are cir­cu­lat­ing on social media with mes­sages advo­cat­ing vio­lence against Jews and Israelis. Oth­ers, which do not appear to have orig­i­nated from media sources, are tagged with state­ments like “Happy Inter­na­tional Stab a Jew Day” and “stab a Jew today.”  Also cir­cu­lat­ing widely are pho­tos and videos of Gaza Imam Sheikh Muham­mad Sal­lah who, in his ser­mon this past Fri­day, held a knife in a stab­bing motion, and expressed sup­port for stab­bing Israelis.

Another ongo­ing theme is the con­spir­acy the­ory that Israel and Jews are seek­ing to take over the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary and “Judaize” Jerusalem by remov­ing the Mus­lim con­nec­tion to the city. A num­ber of Pales­tin­ian lead­ers have in recent weeks fueled this con­spir­acy with false and out­landish state­ments, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas who last month accused Jews of “des­e­crat­ing” the Tem­ple Mount/Noble Sanc­tu­ary area “with their filthy feet.” This theme, which has been preva­lent for years across the region, is often rep­re­sented by an Israeli or Jew­ish car­i­ca­ture — often in the form of an ani­mal or insect — steal­ing, uproot­ing or destroy­ing the Dome of the Rock mosque.

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September 18, 2015 Off

Violence on the Temple Mount in the Arab Media

For the past cou­ple of months, the Tem­ple Mount has been the focus of con­fronta­tions between Mus­lim wor­shipers and Jew­ish vis­i­tors. Encour­aged by anti-Semitic invec­tive in pub­lic state­ments by Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, in recent days this has esca­lated to vio­lence by Mus­lim wor­shipers who have hurled stones, fire­works and metal bars at Israeli secu­rity forces. The Mount is the holi­est site for Jews, and the third holi­est Mus­lim site (after Mecca and Med­ina) known as Al-Haram Ash-Sharif. The respon­si­bil­ity for the Tem­ple Mount 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 ongo­ing tur­moil on the Tem­ple Mount has esca­lated partly in reac­tion to an increase in Jew­ish vis­i­ta­tion to the site and to highly politi­cized efforts by some Israeli politi­cians agi­tat­ing to change the sta­tus quo and allow Jews to pray on the Mount (which is for­bid­den by the agree­ment with Jor­dan). In spite of these devel­op­ments, noth­ing jus­ti­fies the extreme reac­tion and vio­lence on the part of the Palestinians.

In recent years, events on the Tem­ple Mount have caused ten­sions between Jerusalem and Amman, which resulted in the recall­ing of the Jor­dan­ian ambas­sador to Israel and  pop­ulist calls within Jor­dan to expel the Israeli ambas­sador to Amman. The Jor­da­ni­ans claim Israel is attempt­ing to change the status-quo on the Tem­ple Mount by “Judaiz­ing” the site. In response, an ini­tia­tive was launched by the North­ern Branch of the Islamic Move­ment (Israel) called the Murabitat/Murabitun — a civil protest group whose goal is to pro­voke Jew­ish vis­i­tors to the Tem­ple Mount. Their sig­nif­i­cance is mainly sym­bolic in that they peace­fully demon­strate Mus­lim pres­ence on the Tem­ple Mount. Their name, derived from the Ara­bic root Rabata mean­ing “to sta­tion and stay in place”, tes­ti­fies to their defi­ance against the Israeli sovereignty.

The charge that Israel is con­spir­ing to take over the site has been a con­stant in Arab media for years, par­tic­u­larly in car­toons pub­lished in Arab news­pa­pers and web­site.   Pales­tin­ian Author­ity lead­ers often issue incen­di­ary state­ments alleg­ing nefar­i­ous Israeli action, while also dimin­ish­ing or even refut­ing the Jew­ish con­nec­tion to Jerusalem. Yet the imagery and lan­guage used in recent weeks rep­re­sents an esca­la­tion of ten­sions over the Tem­ple Mount. In an inter­view ear­lier this week with Pales­tin­ian TV and Sky News in Ara­bic, Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas accused Jews of defil­ing the Tem­ple Mount: “Al-Aqsa is ours, the Church of the Holy Sep­ul­cher is ours, it is all ours. They have no right to defile them with their filthy feet, and we will not allow them,” he said.

There have also been a num­ber of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel car­toons pub­lished which depict Israel as ani­mals attempt­ing to devour Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the invo­ca­tion of clas­sic anti-Semitic stereo­types of Jews as thieves and using money to Judaize Jerusalem.

Here are some examples:

A car­toon pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 14th in the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s Al-Quds news­pa­per depicts Israel as an alli­ga­tor attempt­ing to devour Jerusalem, rep­re­sented by a woman, while a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing the Arab World says “We express our concern”.

alligatorAnother pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 14th in Jordan’s Al-Ghad, shows Jerusalem being devoured by a giant bird rep­re­sent­ing Israel.

birdA car­toon pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 12th in Qatar’s Ar-Raya news­pa­per, implies that Jews use money to Judaize Jerusalem.

Writ­ten on the right: “Rich Zion­ists’ expen­di­tures.” Writ­ten on the left: “Rich Mus­lims’ expenditures.”

money in hatOn Twit­ter, under the hash­tag of #al-aqsaisindanger, a car­toon was pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 15th depict­ing a Jew steal­ing the Mosque behind the back of the Arab World. The cartoon’s head­line: “The Israeli Mil­i­tary Rab­binate Pub­lished Pic­tures of Al-Aqsa Mosque with­out the Dome of the Rock”. And as the Jew is steal­ing the Mosque, the Arab fig­ure is say­ing: “Don’t be afraid, we have the orig­i­nal picture!”

stealing temple mountUnder the same hash­tag, another car­toon was pub­lished show­ing Israel steal­ing Al-Aqsa Mosque under a US umbrella.

stealing temple mount2Other hash­tags include #alaq­sais­burn­ing and #shall­notbe­di­vided (refer­ring to an ini­tia­tive to divide the time and place of the Tem­ple Mount between Jew­ish and Mus­lim worshipers).

Some car­toons described ways in which Al-Aqsa is vic­tim­ized by Israel, includ­ing one car­toon pub­lished (Sep. 16) in Jordan’s Ammon news site, which shows the bleed­ing Mosque sawed in two by Israeli sol­diers, under the title “Storm­ing the Tem­ple Mount.”

cutting up JM

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