Let’s take a deep exhale. In the past couple of hours, the Wakf – a Jordanian backed body that oversees the Muslim religious site on the Temple Mount – as well as Jerusalem Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein and other Muslim elders encouraged worshipers to return to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
This after two weeks of protests and “days of rage” that culminated in the horrendous and bloody fatal stabbing of a family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish last Friday night (a terrorist broke into their home and began stabbing the family as they ate their Shabbat dinner). The attack, which the murderer said was for what was going on at Al Aqsa, left a mother without her husband, son and daughter.
There have been acres of news coverage on the issue here in the EU, and a lot of misinformation (no, we adamantly refuse to use the term fake news). So let’s get back to basics and start at the beginning.
It is here that we give some space to Mr Gilad Segal, who has worked in Brussels and now lives back in Israel. Mr Segal, an advocacy expert neatly summarized the situation as follows.
“There’s one basic fact needed in order to understand the whole story in the past two weeks around Jerusalem and the Temple Mount: Three young Muslim men, Israeli citizens from Umm al-Fahm, opened fire from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound using fire arms that were hidden there, and killed two policemen. In order to respond to this security failure and growing violence, Israel decided to place metal detectors at the entrance to the compound. Since then, incitement in some communities in Israel and in the wider Muslim world went wild.
And it took a horrible cost in lives already.
Yesterday the three terrorists were buried.
Thousands of participants came to pay their respects, cheering and glorifying the acts of the murderers, who they called heroes and Shahids, chanting “with fire and blood we will sacrifice ourselves for al-Aqsa.” In the mosque in which the terrorists were praying, the Imam held a special ceremony and said that they were “serving Allah with loyalty.”
The head of the Waqf added his voice to this awful chorus: “The technical report (from Waqf) showed that all obstacles the occupation (Israel) put outside Al-Aqsa mosque were removed,” Abdel-Azeem Salhab, said.
“We praise this stand in the past two weeks outside Al-Aqsa and we want this stand to continue outside Al-Aqsa and now inside Al-Aqsa,” he said, urging worshippers to return to the site.
With the new decision, which should cool down tensions between Israel and the Arab world, the Waqf called on worshipers to make their way to the Al-Aqsa mosque at 4pm on Thursday.
So that’s that. How does one even begin to deal with such irrationality? With the kind of blood curdling rhetoric and incitement that Jews and Muslims would have last heard regarding a holy site during the Crusades? I’m not sure there is even an answer.
Just a profound sadness at the senseless reaction and the senseless loss of life.
Israel has no interest in usurping the Temple Mount. If it did, it would have by now.
Going back into recent(ish) history it has had ample opportunities to do so, Moshe Dayan in 1967 could have for instance.
This whole sorry and tragic state of affairs was never about security cameras or metal detectors – after all name us a single major religious site worldwide, from the Sistine chapel, to the Western Wall and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini (which was recently attacked by a gunman) that doesn’t have some kind of security, metal detectors or security cameras? It is very unlikely that you will find one. What would the reaction be in Rome? Or Mecca for that matter? We believe that Israel acted with remarkable restraint given the circumstances.
No. This whole business is much simpler.
It started out as a terror attack, then became a story of simple sectarianism, the physical outworking of “no filthy Jewish feet” on the temple mount.
The Palestinian political and religious ‘leadership’ (the brackets are quite intentional) deem security from gunmen and other terrorists unnecessary. The Druze Israeli guards that were murdered, the act that precipitated this sorry blood-soaked stain of a story were not guarding against the worshippers, they were there to protect their holy site. They were shot in the back, facing outwards from the compound.
Less than a week ago, I was in London.
I noticed that metal detectors were now placed at Parliament square. It didn’t provoke ignominy or violent and murderous retribution. When Jews go to pray at the Kotel (the Western wall) we pass through airport style security without breaking a sweat. In these perilous times, we accept the necessity.
That Al Aqsa Muslim worshippers do not, and that their political leadership actively encourages them not to, tells you everything you need to know. In their world physical violence, murder and frankly rabble rousing are all perfectly legitimate tools.
Is it any wonder that peace feels so far off? And talking? Well excuse the ironic pun, it feels like Jews are talking to a wall.
The author is the Director of EIPA: Europe Israel Public Affairs, a multi-disciplined pro-Israel advocacy Group based in Brussels, with offices in Paris and Berlin.