Did you know that
In Saudi Arabia, the public practice of any religion other than Islam is prohibited, and the government enforced restrictions on religious freedom. The government reportedly deported foreigners for worshipping privately…In Iran, the arrest and harassment of members of religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, increased significantly. There continued to be reports that the government imprisoned, harassed, intimidated, and discriminated against people because of their religious beliefs.
That’s from the new US Religious Freedom report. There''s more bad news there. Not good to be a non-Muslim in an Arab country.
And there''s this there about Israel and religious freedom:
The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law protects the holy sites of all religious groups…A government policy since 1967, repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court and routinely enforced by the police, who cite security concerns, denies non-Muslim worship and prayer at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. While the government ensures limited access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to everyone regardless of religious belief, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the site, although their access is occasionally restricted due to security concerns. The Israel National Police regulates traffic in and out of the compound and removes non-Muslim visitors if they appear to be praying. The Jordanian-controlled Jerusalem Islamic Waqf that manages the site generally restricts non-Muslims from entering the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa Mosque, a practice it started in the year 2000. The Waqf does not allow non-Muslim religious symbols to be worn on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
That seems all clear and straightforward. And a bit disappointing.
But let us back up a bit.
Two weeks ago, I expressed reservations over Israel''s government''s decision to agree to having UNESCO involved in Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount. I thought a more forthright reaction could have been expressed - rather than the none at all I didn''t find anywhere.
And now we have learned from the Palestine News Network:
On Monday 20th May, Hebrew-language sources reported that Israel decided to cancel a planned visit by a delegation from UNESCO, the United Nation''s cultural organization, to the occupied Jerusalem...
The Arab-language version is a bit more explicit and colorful:
the Israeli occupation forces today prevented a delegation from "UNESCO" of the United Nations from entering the occupied city of Jerusalem to prove changes in the sightseeing of ancient Palestine, which is incumbent on the international community to work to ensure the protection of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. UNESCO has sent a delegation to visit the city of Jerusalem to make sure there''ll be no change Islamic landmarks in the city, and claimed that the Israeli occupation forces prevented the delegation came under the pretext that the Palestinian side contradicted promise not to "politicize" the visit and gave it a picture as if they form an international investigation committee…the actions of the occupation forces to prevent the mission from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque is an attempt to hide their Judaization activities of the holy city, and this constitutes an obstacle important and essential against the requirements of justice advocated by human rights principles and norms of international law relevant.
Israel on Monday called off a planned visit by a delegation from UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural organization, to inspect preservation work in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying that the Palestinians had "politicized" the delegation. "The delegation as a delegation has been postponed," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said."The Palestinians violated all the agreements we had with UNESCO: that this was to be a purely professional, not a political visit," he said. The official said the Palestinians asked to introduce a "slew" of political elements into the visit, with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki characterizing it as a fact-finding commission to investigate Israeli steps in Jerusalem. The spokesman said that contrary to an agreement brokered in April at UNESCO''s headquarters in Paris, the PA was now insisting on taking the delegation to the Temple Mount, and meeting with Palestinian political personalities, not just "engineers, architects and professional people"."We have said this was unacceptable" the spokesman said. "Hopefully the delegation is postponed, and not cancelled."
Has this fovernment decision saved Jerusalem?
While this sounds encouraging, last week almost 100 schoolchildren could not enter the Temple Mount compound not because they were going to pray but because their visit was a learning tour to become acquainted with the Shavuot Festival Temple Service.
Members of Knesset virtually have to sneak up to the Mount and one is a target for discrimination. The Knesset’s Interior Committee, headed by Miri Regev, after being forced to cancel a fact-finding tour, discussed the issue of freedom of religion and, most unfortunately, was supplied with misleading information when told by a Foreign Ministry lawyer that Jordan possesses “international authority” to administer the site.
Freida Yuval, deputy head of the Jordan desk in the Foreign Ministry, went on to say that allowing Jews free worship on the Mount would “awaken the entire world,” and bring about another intifada. She did admit that 30 MFA staffers visited the Mount that week – unidentified – and managed to enter with no problems.
Of course, that is the problem: you cannot be in any way Jewish there.
And even, as we read above, the US State Department knows that.