Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Israel’s Left, Democracy and the Temple Mount

By Tuvia Brodie

Jews pray every day for a return to the Temple Mount. That Temple is embedded in our blood. The longing for its return is built into our DNA.

But in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, Jews in Israel could not ascend to the Temple Mount.  They were restricted. They were forbidden. They were even restricted in their use of the Kotel, the Western Wall which is just outside and below the Mount area.

A t that time, before the State of Israel was born, there was little freedom of religion in Israel for Jews. There was no democracy in Israel. There was only the coercive rule of the British Mandate.

In the early 1920’s, the British had been given a Mandate—a responsibility—by the League of Nations. That responsibility was to create a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine. By the 1940’s—more than twenty years later—Britain still hadn’t fulfilled its Mandated responsibility.

Jews suffered. They were policed and beaten by British Gentiles who were often openly anti-Jewish.

Those days were dangerous for Jews. They were especially dangerous for those who wished to blow the shofar (ram’s horn) at the Kotel at the end of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Judaism’s holiest day.  

Today, Israel no longer bends under the weight of British coercion. Israel is a democracy. It believes in the rule of law, not the law of the strong.

Today, Jews at the Kotel do not fear being beaten by British police on Yom Kippur. Today, the Kotel is Jewish.

In June, 1967, in a war of miracles called, the six-day war, the Temple Mount once again came under Jewish control. There was jubilation. The sound of the shofar filled the air.

For the first time in almost 2,000 years, the Temple Mount was Jewish. In that fateful June 46 years ago, Jews danced with joy on the Temple Mount.

That was June, 1967. Today, Jews are restricted from and often forbidden from ascending the Temple Mount—not because of religious considerations (to honour the sanctity of the site), but because of Arab demands and Jewish police enforcement.

Jewish police protect the Temple Mount. But they do not protect it for the Jewish people. They protect it for the Muslim Waqf, who, the Jewish police say, is the true and only administrator of the Mount.

The Jewish police follow the orders of the Waqf. That’s why they restrict and often forbid Jews from ascending the Mount.

Two weeks ago, Member of Knesset (MK) Moshe Feiglin sent a letter to Israeli police. He protested police behaviour on the Mount. He questioned the legal authority of the Waqf.

Police official Paul Gordon replied to MK Feiglin saying that, in 1967, the Israeli government handed over management of the Mount to the Waqf (Arutz Sheva, ‘Feiglin—not for police to give Temple Mount to Waqf’, NewsBrief, September 15, 2013).

But according to both Arutz Sheva and blogger Israel Matzav (‘Israel’s right starts to fight back’, September 15, 2013), Feiglin wasn’t satisfied with that response. He believes the police are wrong.  

In a letter sent to Police Inspector-General, Yohanan Danino, MK Feiglin stated that, to the best of his recollection, there was no such decision made by the Israeli government in 1967.  In fact, he goes on to say, from a reading of notes from a 1968 Ministerial committee meeting, it appears clear that, by 1968, it was not the government’s understanding that the Waqf controlled anything on the Temple Mount. 

MK Feiglin quoted then-Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapira saying (in June, 1968) that, “We never announced that the entirety of the Temple Mount belongs to the Arabs. We never announced that it is forbidden for Jews to pray there, we never announced that it is forbidden for Jews to establish a synagogue there.”

MK Feiglin’s position is clear. He argues that, in the absence of any explicit government decision to hand over the Temple Mount to the Waqf, “all directives which discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims regarding entrance to the Mount should be immediately rescinded.”

He also questions the Waqf’s status as a legal institution in the State of Israel. He says that the Waqf’s office is not registered by the State. It does not pay its required taxes. It does not pay its required share of National Insurance contributions.

These are serious allegations. Israel is a democracy. Israel’s Left constantly reminds us that, in our democracy, religious institutions are not exempt from the law.

Yet it appears that the Waqf does not obey the law. It appears that the Waqf may have no legal authority over the Temple Mount. It appears that the Waqf’s discrimination against Jews is undemocratic.

Once, there was no democracy in Israel. Jews were discriminated against.

Today, Israel is a democracy. As the Left knows, in a democracy, discrimination is illegal.  

Will the Left support MK Feiglin? Or will it be more of "democracy for me but not for thee"?

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