Each society makes rules to govern its citizenry. It considers the tastes and preferences of its inhabitants and tries to balance enabling human rights and the maintaining of public order. Some countries opt to ban certain activities if they might lead to violence, while others believe that human expression cannot be stifled because of the reactions that might ensue.
The world has seen this play out in the recent past, with an interesting wave of defenses and condemnations.
Charlie Hebdo Drawings of Mohammed
France is a deeply secular society that prizes its freedoms, including freedom of the press. It was perfectly legal for a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to draw pictures of the Islamic prophet even though it was highly provocative and upsetting to devout Muslims. Indeed, several Islamic radicals shot up the magazine’s headquarters, killing many of its writers. As part of the jihadists’ derangement, they followed up on that violent vengeance with a visit to a local kosher store to slaughter Jews who had nothing to do with the cartoons.
The western world rallied to the defense of France, with global leaders marching arm-in-arm in defense of freedom of expression and against reactive violence. The provocative nature of the drawings was dismissed as irrelevant.
Gay Pride Parade and Israeli Pride Marches in Jerusalem
The city of Jerusalem is both holy and contentious. It is the holiest city for Jews, the third holiest city for Muslims, and holy for Christians who don’t rank cities as commonly as Jews and Muslims.
It is also a politically sensitive city. Recommended to be an international city (along with Bethlehem) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, it became divided between Israel and Jordan in the 1948-9 Arab-Israeli War. After Jordan attacked Israel again in 1967, the reunited city became completely Israeli, even while much of the world still considers it to be international or under negotiations for a final settlement.
The holiness of the city makes the annual gay pride parade offensive to many religious Jews, Muslims and Christians. While legal, the provocative nature of holding the event in Jerusalem has sparked violence, such as occurred in July 2015 when a Jewish man just released from a mental hospital, stabbed six people, killing one. The public condemned the violence and defended the right to parade.
For their part, proud Jewish nationalists flew Israeli flags through Jerusalem, including in predominantly Arab sections of eastern Jerusalem, to mark the reunification of the city. When Palestinian groups claimed the parade was “provocative” and threatened violence, the United States asked Israel to reroute the march away from Arab areas, an action it did not take for the gay parade.
Both legal marches went on as planned, with left-wing groups labeling the nationalist march as provocative, and right-wing groups stating the same about the gay parade.
Israeli Jews on the Temple Mount
In sharp contrast to the legal actions above which are defended, the fundamental human right to pray at a holy site is deemed illegal and condemned. At least, only for Jews in Jerusalem.
The central point of prayer and holiest place on earth for Jews is the Jewish Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews around the world pray facing it, and many around the world make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year, as commanded in the Jewish Bible.
It has historic significance as the place where two Jewish Temples stood, and deep relevance today, especially to Orthodox Jews.
Jews have a basic human right to pray at their holiest location, as detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even more, they have an accepted right to visit the Jewish Temple Mount according to rules laid out by the Islamic Waqf which has administrative rights on the compound.
But Arab extremists want to have none of it.
- Wafa, the official Palestinian news site said “Israeli Jewish supremacist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Tuesday stormed the compounds of al-Aqsa mosque in the occupied city of Jerusalem under heavy protection from the Israeli forces.“
- The political-terrorist group Hamas’s news site said “Ben Gvir’s incursion into the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyards on Tuesday morning constitutes a grave violation against the Palestinian people and their holy sites.” It condemned and mocked other Jews praying outside of the Temple Mount as “settlers [who] organized provocative dances and performed Talmudic rituals in the Old City and near Al-Aqsa Mosque.“
- Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sinan Al Majali said “The storming of the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque by one of the Israeli ministers and violating its sanctity is a provocative, condemned move.“
While not directly condemning Ben-Gvir’s visit or mocking Jews who pray in Jerusalem, the US Embassy in Jerusalem said that Ambassador Thomas Nides “has been very clear in conversations with the Israeli government on the issue of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites. Actions that prevent that are unacceptable.”
It is deeply disturbing that Israeli Jews visiting their sacred site is greeted by condemnation by not only radical Islamists, but by the western media and governments. Did those same people argue for the “status quo” of banning gay marriage? Segregation? Why do liberal values melt before jihadi zealots when it comes to the Jews?
Jews visiting and praying on the Temple Mount do so because the site is dear to them, not to antagonize Muslims. The people who condemn Jewish visitation and call it and act of “provocation” are not simply echoing radical Islamist propaganda, but denying Jewish history and Judaism itself, while simultaneously trampling on a basic human right.
Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount
The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land
Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount
The US State Department’s Selective Preference of “Status Quos”
Related music video:
If Justice, Justice is Not Pursued in Israel – San Diego Jewish World (sdjewishworld.com) https://www.sdjewishworld.com/2023/01/03/if-justice-justice-is-not-pursued-in-israel/
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