Last week I was speaking in our Efrat home to a mixed group of Christian and Jewish American tourists. The discussion got around to the recent attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick carried out in front of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. One of those present offered the following comment: “Well, I heard that he was a right-wing agitator... not that I wish him harm.”
“And from whom did you hear this?” I asked.
“I heard it from an Israeli,” was the answer.
Rabbi Glick lives in the community of Otniel, situated between Hebron and Beersheba, beyond the 1949 Armistice Line; for some this marks him a “settler” and a right-wing radical.
Because he dons a large kippa, wears his tzitzit in the open and sports a long beard, he is also viewed as a religious extremist. Since Israelis, mainly from the National-Religious camp, began returning to the Temple Mount in recent years, Glick, a professional tour guide, has been leading excursions through the area, filming some of these, uploading them to YouTube, and publicly challenging the denial of the right of Jews to pray there, the holiest site in Judaism.
In a recent edition of this paper, columnist Susan Hattis Rolef writes: “an attempt was made to kill... Yehudah Glick (to whom I wish a full recovery, despite his disruptive activities).”
Predictably, all mainstream Western news media covering this story have been portraying Glick as an extremist.
While not justifying the attempt on his life, all these characterizations of Glick as a right-wing “activist” or “extremist” imply that if you play with fire you are likely to get burned, and that therefore this heinous deed, if not acceptable is at least understandable and somewhat less disturbing.
“Agitator,” ‘disruptive,” “extremist?” I have personally known Rabbi Glick for many years, and am dumbfounded by the sheer irony and hypocrisy of this lexicon. Rather, he is the embodiment of tolerance and non-violence.
What if the person shot at close range last week had not been Rabbi Glick? What if the year wasn’t 2014 and the city wasn’t Jerusalem? What if the year was 1960 and the city was Greensboro, North Carolina? And what if the protester was African-American Joseph McNeil, or Franklin McCain, or David Richmond or Ezell Blair? And what if the issue wasn’t the fundamental right to pray but the right to sit and order a meal from a local, white-owned and operated F. W. Woolworth’s lunch counter in an all-white community? I gravely doubt that the same individuals and news organs who look askance at Glick’s activities and depict him first and foremost as an “agitator,” an “extremist” and “disruptive” would apply these terms to those four African-Americans, who were among the initiators of the now landmark American Civil Rights Movement, or to the many, many thousands of other Americans who took up their cause.
While admitting the controversial nature of his brother’s activities, Dr. Yitzchak Glick said to the press, “Contrary to what’s being reported in the international media, Yehudahh is an outspoken peace and human rights activist, and a very strong supporter of interfaith dialogue” (Jerusalem Post, November 2).
A short video clip on YouTube shows Rabbi Glick sitting and praying with Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount.
The time, place and cause may differ, but Glick is no more of an “agitator” or “extremist” than the Greensboro Four, and his cause is no less one of civil rights and, according to Western, democratic values, no less just. Unfortunately, the political Left in Israel and elsewhere, as well as most news sources, refuse to acknowledge this.
Why is Glick invariably described as a right-wing political agitator and not as a civil rights activist? The reason is that within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the Jewish state is recognized as the stronger of the two parties.
The news media covering this story traditionally depict the State of Israel as the aggressor, if not the oppressor, vis-a-vis the weaker Palestinians.
It is this perspective that frames the typical portrayal of Israeli-Palestinian relations. How a topic is framed is vitally important since framing determines how individuals, groups and societies organize, perceive and communicate their understanding of reality.
In the “Yehudah Glick and the Temple Mount” story, no objective observer would deny that Jews, as well as Christians, are being denied the right of freedom of worship when ascending this venerated platform, even if this just involves innocuously standing alone and muttering a quiet prayer. This is the intolerant, xenophobic and discriminatory policy imposed by the Muslim Wakf on all “non-believers,” a position with which the State of Israel is complicit.
The state’s support for this prejudicial policy originates in a written agreement following the June 1967 Six Day War relating to the custodial rights and responsibilities over the captured Temple Mount. The government under prime minister Levi Eshkol, strongly influenced by the opinions of defense minister and war hero Moshe Dayan, an arch-secularlist, was less interested in the religious sensitivities and yearnings of the country’s National-Religious camp than it was in avoiding further conflict with local Arabs, Israel’s neighbor Jordan, and the Muslim world.
Thus, daily oversight and supervision of the Temple Mount was placed in the hands of the Muslim Wakf, an agent of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. From that point until today no one other than a Muslim has been allowed to exhibit any form of prayer while visiting the Temple Mount.
Muslim authorities have enforced this indisputably discriminatory policy for decades. This fact is purposely and shamefully ignored by people who otherwise look upon themselves as political liberals and as such support the national aspirations of Palestinian Arabs who they consider to be the underdog. Perhaps liberals see some measure of justice in this blatant show of prejudice since it is being meted out by the weaker party at the expense of the stronger.
The story of “Yehudah Glick and the Temple Mount” must be reframed. According to any fair, honest and liberal assessment, Rabbi Glick is no right-wing, religious agitator. He is in fact a civil-rights advocate in the best sense of that tradition.
Glick is a victim of the intolerance and bias of people who have never met him. He is to be commended, not condemned, by all those throughout the world who support freedom of worship. May Rabbi Glick be granted a full and speedy recovery from his wounds.The author lives in Efrat and is the founder of iTalkIsrael.com.