A Palestinian youth is silhouetted as he holds a toy gun and a Koran during a protest after Friday prayers on Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday wrote a potentially historic recommendation urging Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to outlaw two groups of Muslim radicals who go to the Temple Mount on a daily basis to violently harass and intimidate Jewish visitors.
The groups in question, called “Morabiton” and “Morabitat,” are respectively comprised of hundreds of male and female Islamic fundamentalists who are compensated by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement to harangue Jews who enter the contested compound.
“These organizations keep track of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, and shout at, incite and block the visitors to the mountain,” Erdan wrote in the letter, which included support from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police.
“Their aim is to limit Jews wishing to visit the Temple Mount through violence and intimidation, and I will do everything I can to stop the activities of these dangerous organizations that violate the balance on the Temple Mount.”
Erdan emphasized that the violence on the Temple Mount is routinely propagated by impressionable youths, some of whom have gone on to carry out deadly terrorist attacks in the capital.
In recent weeks, the newly appointed public security minister said he has worked closely with senior officials from the Shin Bet, police, State Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Office, all of whom he said support his initiative.
In response to Erdan’s letter, the Palestinian Authority issued a statement condemning the proposal as “racist.”
Meanwhile, Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick – who was nearly killed in an assassination attempt last year for demanding equal Jewish prayer rights on the contested compound – said he was delighted by the news.
“Mazel tov! We’ve been waiting for this,” he said by phone on Monday afternoon. “The groups he is urging to be outlawed refer to themselves as ‘protectors of al-Aqsa Mosque,’ and they harass Jews every day and cause violence.”
Following his recovery after being shot four times by a Palestinian terrorist for his advocacy, Glick said he met with Erdan on multiple occasions over the last several months to discuss the politically fraught issue.
“Erdan promised me that he would study the issue when he took over and take care of it immediately, and we’re happy he did,” said Glick.
“We’re happy he proved that he is a serious person. Now, we hope we’ll see the effects of this on the Temple Mount.”
While Glick conceded that Erdan’s letter is only a recommendation, he said he has been assured by the government’s leading officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that action will be taken soon.
“Yes, it’s a recommendation, but I spoke last week with Netanyahu about this and he told me he supports it, and I know that [Justice Minister] Ayelet Shaked and the Shin Bet are supporting this recommendation as well,” he said.
The subject of chronic Muslim harassment on the holy site made international headlines earlier this month after a group of Muslim men accosted a delegation of US Congressmen visiting the compound, and rioted during Tisha B’Av in July to block Jewish visitors.
The matter was further exacerbated over the past several weeks when police did not arrest or detain numerous members of Morabiton and Morabitat who were videotaped violently attacking and hurling anti-Semitic epitaphs at Jewish visitors.
Conversely, several Jews have recently either been detained or arrested on the Temple Mount for making inflammatory anti-Muslim comments after being accosted, or for simply praying or singing a Jewish song.
Although the High Court of Justice has upheld Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount – which is overseen by the Wakf Islamic trust – the court also allows police severely restrict non-Muslim visitation hours and prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a “disturbance to the public order.”
In an attempt to maintain a precarious “status quo,” police have long been reluctant to arrest or detain violent Muslims on the Temple Mount for fear of a contagion effect that could lead to mass rioting throughout the country.
Erdan’s letter now helps set into play further action by the government to legally ban members of Morabiton and Morabitat, which prior to Monday’s recommendation, was impossible.
In the meantime, Netanyahu has vowed not to otherwise disrupt the site’s combustible status quo.