Morton A. Klein
(JNS) It is a fundamental American principle that religious and racial discrimination is impermissible, unacceptable and unjust. We Americans do not let threats of violence stop us from changing a discriminatory “status quo.”
Thus, threats from the Ku Klux Klan and other bigots did not stop the U.S. government from ending the longstanding “status quo” of segregated schools, “whites only” drinking fountains and practices that prevented Jews and blacks from living in many neighborhoods.
Instead, we stood up to the racist black-hating terrorists. For example, when nine black children were prevented from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, then-President Dwight Eisenhower sent 1,000 U.S. Army paratroopers to ensure that the students could attend school.
But today, the Biden administration is arrogantly demanding that Israel maintain an antisemitic, racist, discriminatory and unjust “Muslims only” status quo on the Jewish people’s holiest site—the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Mount is the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, which stood for approximately 1,000 years, long before Islam was invented and long before Muslims built mosques on the site.
King Solomon built the First Temple as a place where all people were welcome to pray. Israel’s 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law followed in his footsteps, ensuring free access to all holy sites. But now, Jews and other non-Muslims are denied the right to openly pray on the Temple Mount or even bring prayer books with them. Visiting hours for non-Muslims are severely restricted. Non-Muslims can only enter the site through one of 12 gates, while Muslims can use all the gates. Jews are not permitted to drink from the water fountain on the Mount because some Jew-hating Muslims consider Jews “unclean.” Sound familiar? Jews are not even permitted to silently mouth a prayer.
Meanwhile, Muslims have shown their “respect” for the site and the “status quo” by playing soccer games on the Mount; storing rocks, firebombs and weapons in the Al-Aqsa mosque; destroying literally tons of priceless Jewish antiquities and archeological materials from the Mount; harassing and attacking Jews who visit the site; converting a Second Temple-period structure into a new mosque; hurling rocks at Jews praying at the Western Wall below; and inciting anti-Jewish violence by broadcasting blood libels that Jews are “storming” and “destroying the sanctity” of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Instead of opposing this unacceptable antisemitic discrimination, the Biden administration is wrongly condemning Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir for briefly touring the periphery of the Jewish people’s holiest site.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides arrogantly stated, “To be very clear—we want to preserve the status quo and actions that prevent that are unacceptable. We have been very clear in our conversations with the Israeli government on this issue.” Nides said this even though Ben-Gvir’s visit did nothing to change the Mount’s so-called “status quo.”
Similarly, during the U.S. State Department’s Jan. 3 briefing, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said, “We oppose any unilateral actions that undercut the historic status quo. They are unacceptable. …. This visit has the potential to exacerbate tensions and to provoke violence.” This assertion that a mere visit by a Jew to the Jewish people’s holiest site can “provoke violence” is akin to accusing Rosa Parks of “provoking violence” by not sitting in the back of a bus.
Price’s statement also took the same line as the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority, which falsely claimed that Ben-Gvir’s visit was a “provocation” and “an attack on Al-Aqsa.” To Arab terrorists, of course, the very existence of Israel is a “provocation.” The U.S. State Department should not endorse this kind of hate.
Moreover, during the same briefing, Price adopted the false claim that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s brief visit to the periphery of the Temple Mount on Sept. 28, 2000 provoked the second intifada.
In fact, as P.A. Communications Minister Imad Faluji admitted, then-P.A. chieftain Yasser Arafat planned the second intifada months before Sharon’s visit. The intifada began with Palestinian Arab terrorists murdering Jews before Sharon set foot on the Mount. The P.A. security chief Jabril Rajoub had also assured Israel that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. Sharon did not enter the mosques, but the P.A. still used Sharon’s visit as a pretext for calling on Muslims to “defend Al-Aqsa” by attacking Jews praying at the Western Wall on Rosh Hashanah, murdering Jewish children in suicide bombings and numerous other atrocities.
The world dare not succumb to threats of violence by Islamist terrorists or we will simply get more terrorism by showing that such threats are effective.
The Biden State Department needs to be reminded that the Palestinian Arabs are the ones doing the “provoking.” They have repeatedly used false claims about Al-Aqsa to stir up anti-Jewish violence. In 1929, Arabs led by Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini circulated false rumors that Jews were marching on Al-Aqsa. He used these lies to incite Arabs to murder Jews throughout Israel, including the Hebron massacre of 67 innocent people.
In 2015 and afterward, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, who pays Arabs to murder Jews, incited a years-long wave of terror by repeatedly broadcasting a speech urging Arabs to spill blood and become “martyrs” to prevent Jews and Christians from “defiling Al-Aqsa” with their “filthy feet.”
Recent statements by the P.A., Hamas and various other Arab entities reveal that they are the ones provoking violence. For example, after Ben-Gvir’s visit, P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Palestinian Arabs to “confront the raids into Al-Aqsa Mosque”—a clear call for anti-Jewish violence. There were, of course, no “raids,” and Ben-Gvir never entered the mosque.
Hamas also falsely accused Ben-Gvir of “invading” Al-Aqsa and reiterated their perpetual calls to expel and “cleanse” the “filth”—i.e. Jews—from Israel. Various Arab governments, including Jordan, the UAE and Saudia Arabia joined in, libeling Israel as “storming” Al-Aqsa. These falsehoods are the real provocation.
Ironically, however, Shtayyeh inadvertently admitted to something the Palestinian Arabs have long sought to deny. In an attempt to incite anti-Jewish hatred, Shtayyeh falsely accused Israel of trying to turn the Al-Aqsa Mosque into the site of a “new” Jewish temple. By using the term “new,” he at last admitted that there were two Jewish Temples on the Mount, one of the many historical facts about the Jewish people’s longstanding presence in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel that the P.A. has attempted to erase.
In sum, it is dangerous that, instead of standing up to Palestinian Arab terrorists and opposing anti-Jewish discrimination, the Biden administration is standing with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s antisemitic incitement. Shame.
Morton A. Klein is president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).