“It is better to die than to live on one`s knees” – Stephane Charbonnier, Editor of Charlie Hebdo
“People that permit the most holy spot in their country and their most sacred feelings to be trampled underfoot, are slaves in spirit” – Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel
There has been an outpouring of emotion around the world after the Charlie Hebdo massacre yesterday. Beyond the expressions of empathy for the families, there is a sense that this is about much more than those poor, brave twelve men. This was an attack on our freedom of speech and expression, and the overwhelming reaction was that we are not going to allow extremism to cow us into giving that freedom up.
So let me now ask the world about Jewish rights to pray on the Temple Mount. Is it not an analogous case, just switch freedom of speech for freedom of religion? A people who are currently banned from praying at their holiest site, wish to express their freedom of religion, yet are met by extremism and violence when they do. So who is the villain?
In the Arab world, the issue about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount has been distorted by the lie that Israel is trying to destroy the Al Aqsa, a lie that is patently absurd. But for the West, Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is the same as cartoons in Charlie Hebdo. (If anything, the Temple Mount issue is even more clear cut. Charlie Hebdo draws cartoons with the purpose of poking fun and provoking. Jews pray on the Temple Mount simply because they wish to pray on the Temple Mount, without the intention to provoke.)
There is basically one question – who is the villain when expressions of freedoms upset extremists? Do you blame Charlie Hebdo for being provocative towards the extremists by exercising their freedom of expression, or do you blame the extremists for being extreme? Do you blame the Jews for being provocative towards the extremists by expressing their freedom of religion, or do you blame the extremists for being extreme?
Europe – we are in this together.