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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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March 27, 2015 1

Arab Media Cartoons Relating to the Israeli Elections and Tensions with the US

Fol­low­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu’s elec­tion vic­tory ear­lier this month, and the increas­ing ten­sions in the rela­tion­ship between PM Netanyahu and Pres­i­dent Obama, news­pa­pers across the Arab world pub­lished a num­ber of related anti-Israel and anti-Semitic car­toons. Some rep­re­sent unhap­pi­ness within the Arab world over PM Netanyahu’s vic­tory, por­tray­ing him and the Israeli vot­ers as inher­ently vio­lent and racist, while oth­ers resort to the anti-Semitic stereo­type of Jews and Israel con­trol­ling Pres­i­dent Obama and the US government.

The car­toons reflect a wide­spread view within the Arab world that Israeli elec­tion results rep­re­sent a shift towards a more extreme right-wing stance on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which will ulti­mately result in dam­age to the Pales­tin­ian cause. They also high­light a belief that the rift in US-Israel rela­tions will ulti­mately fail to alter over­all US sup­port of and per­ceived bias towards Israel and its policies.

The fol­low­ing are some exam­ples of the car­toons published:

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January 13, 2015 1

Israelis Gather to Bury Victims of Terror in France, Killed Because They Were Jews

(ADL Israel Staff attended the funer­als of the four French Jews ear­lier today in Jerusalem. Below is a per­sonal account from Phyl­lis Ger­ably and Car­ole Nuriel of ADL’s Israel Office)

Today, mak­ing the way to the Har HaMenu­chot (Mount of the Rest­ing) ceme­tery, there were flags and signs put up by the Jerusalem Munic­i­pal­ity embrac­ing the French. The Israel National Police and secu­rity were in place in prepa­ra­tion of the expected large crowds, and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin, Oppo­si­tion head Isaac Her­zog, rab­bis, min­is­ters, ambas­sadors and the French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­ment Ségolène Royal, rep­re­sent­ing the French government.

An impres­sive crowd of thou­sands came out on a cold sunny day to pay final respects to four peo­ple they never met, who were trag­i­cally killed sim­ply because they were Jew­ish. The crowd brought together, in a feel­ing of com­mon des­tiny, fam­ily, friends, mem­bers of the French com­mu­nity in Israel and native Israelis. At the entrance to the ceme­tery a small crowd of French Jews held signs say­ing, “I am Char­lie; I am a Jew; I am an Israeli; I am French; We’ve had Enough.”  ADL Condolence France

In his mov­ing eulogy for the four vic­tims, Pres­i­dent Rivlin put it elo­quently: “This is not how we wanted to wel­come you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its cap­i­tal. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.”

Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu spoke about Israel being the safe haven for the Jew­ish peo­ple, and that the threat against the Jew­ish peo­ple is, in fact, a threat against all of human­ity. Oppo­si­tion Head Yitzhak Her­zog spoke of his great-grandfather who was the rabbi of Paris one hun­dred years ago, and rec­og­nized the roots and strength of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in France.

The vic­tims’ fam­i­lies each spoke about their loved ones and how they yearned to be in Israel. Their dig­nity and love for Israel was very mov­ing. Look­ing out at the crowd of mourn­ers — Ashke­nazi and Sephardic Jews joined in sor­row by this hor­rific act — was a quiet reminder to all of us that we are respon­si­ble for one another, no mat­ter where we are.

French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­men­tRoyal spoke about threats to Jews being a threat to all the French peo­ple, and that France with­out its Jew­ish com­mu­nity just isn’t France.  Min­is­ter Royal also said that com­bat­ing anti-Semitism and racism is going to be the num­ber one pri­or­ity for France in 2015. When she announced that the four mur­dered Jews were going to receive the French Legion of Hon­our medal, a few in the crowd broke out in applause.

It was very hard to avoid the feel­ing that this mes­sage was too lit­tle, too late.

The funeral ended with the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, of which the words “We did not lose our hope” (“Od lo avda Tik­vateinu”) had, this time, the addi­tional mean­ing that while a tragic event had occurred, Israelis have hope for a bet­ter future for all.

 

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