As Jews and Israelis, we have gotten used to the fact that there are religious extremists, large and powerful masses of people, who passionately hate us just because of the circumstances of our existence. Somehow, and sadly, we are not even shocked at the messaging anymore. We've come to expect it from them. The greater problem is the support they seem to have successfully enlisted from some of those who are considered Western liberals.
These liberals, including many in the mainstream media, academia, and government, accept without question the claim that the mere presence of a Jew on the Temple Mount is in and of itself a potential problem. The de facto acceptance of this claim is fueling antisemitism around the globe.
Not only is it accepted that the presence of a Jew on the Temple Mount is a defilement, but it is also accepted that a Jew, just by being there, is causing a provocation. When more Jews decide to visit this site, they are said to aggravate the situation, provoking Muslim worshipers to commit violent acts. The violence, it is said, is completely understandable; the Jews brought it upon themselves. Should the Jews respond to the violence, they are told that they are just adding insult to injury. The Jews are expected to bow their heads and accept this treatment. They are told it's their fault, their responsibility, and that they deserve it.
Simply because we are Jewish, our presence and our desire for life and liberty can be problematic. We shouldn't make ourselves too visible or heard too loudly. We can be Jewish if we insist, but we had better be quiet about it.
The Temple Mount is one of the most ancient sites in the world. The site is beautiful and filled with history. It has incredible educational, architectural, spiritual, and religious value. There is so much to see and so much to learn, for everyone.
Walking up there, I couldn't stop thinking of my unquestionable freedom to visit churches, pagodas, ancient temples, and even the Vatican in my global travels. However, somehow my presence there, in the city of Jerusalem, the capital of my country, is considered a problem, one that can apparently justify violence.
We ourselves have fallen victim to this outrageous claim rooted in hatred and prejudice. In our desperation to avoid violence, we are willing to limit non-Muslims' rights and make concessions. However, I believe there is a deep misunderstanding of the underlying message this is sending to the world and a lack of awareness as to how it is being used against us, not just with regard to the Temple Mount and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also how it is inflaming antisemitism globally.
The underlying message here is that the presence of Jews can be provocative, problematic, and deserving of a violent response. The message here is that it's alright, under certain circumstances, to limit Jews' rights. The fundamental human rights that we supposedly believe in aren't always relevant to Jews. Access can be restricted to Jews on certain occasions, the right to pray can't exist everywhere, and discrimination is unavoidable at times. Jews are a different "animal." We need to be wary of them; they can bring about riots and violence. They don't always know their place.
This is the message that is heard by many in the West, and it's no wonder there is such a rise in antisemitism as a result. If it's legitimate to view Jews this way in one context, it's legitimate in others as well.
Enough is enough! It's time to change our mindset. If human beings are allowed to access a certain site, it should be totally unacceptable to restrict access to some based on their religion. That this is happening in 2022 in a democratic country is unprecedented. That a guard would be allowed to inquire about one's religion upon entering a site? That certain religions are allowed to pray at this religious site, but others are prohibited?
For example, imagine security guards standing at the entrance to the Western Wall, inquiring about a person's faith and denying entry to any non-Jew, and then denying them the right to pray. If this happened, it would be considered outrageous!
By allowing this claim to be perceived as legitimate and accepting it as the status quo, we're adding fuel to the antisemitic fire, and it must stop!
Yifa Segal, Esq. is an International Director at UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI). Ms. Segal served as the Chief of Staff of Israel's Ambassador to the US and the Founder and CEO of the International Legal Forum (ILF).
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Yifa Segal.