The UN Security Council recently held an emergency meeting, its first of 2023. The meeting wasn’t called to condemn the missile that Gaza terrorists had fired. Aimed to kill and maim Israeli civilians, it instead fell short and landed in Gaza, putting Palestinian Arab lives at risk. That didn’t even get a mention. Instead, the UN once again debated its favourite topic, the world’s only Jewish state.
The ostensible reason this time, was that Israel’s newly minted National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, dared to walk on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
There was nothing particularly unusual about the visit. Jews are permitted to visit, although with an apartheid-like system of restrictions in place, including separate segregated times and a ban on prayer. It’s not uncommon for Knesset Members or Ministers to visit. Ben-Gvir himself is a frequent visitor.
The visit passed uneventfully. Even critics conceded it was done tactfully in the early morning. Without fanfare, Ben-Gvir walked calmly and respectfully and was gone in 13 minutes, before anyone realised he was there.
So why the manufactured outrage?
Some brief historical context is helpful. The Temple Mount is named such because it is the site of the two ancient Jewish temples. The first was built by King Solomon and the second is where Jesus preached. It’s not just religious faith, the archaeological evidence for the Jewish temple is conclusive.
Also undisputed, is that many centuries later, after the Arab Muslim conquest of the Holy Land, Islamic religious buildings were constructed atop this Jewish and Christian Holy Site.
Known as Har HaBayit in Hebrew, it was Judaism’s holiest site, hundreds of years before Islam existed. Wherever in the world a Jew is, be it Alaska or Fiji, he faces toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In contrast, Muslims on the Mount turn their backs towards it and face Mecca. The Western Wall became revered as an outer retaining wall of the Temple, and was the closest Jews were permitted to enter under Islamic rule.
When Jordan attacked in 1967, Israel captured the Temple Mount. Israel immediately handed control to an Islamic religious trust, which imposed restrictions on Jews. Jews may enter during brief visiting hours but must use a separate entrance and follow a designated path. Non-Muslims are banned from praying and are shadowed by mobs, eager to catch an unfortunate Jew, mumbling a silent prayer. These gangs are paid by the Islamic Trust to harass Jewish visitors and sometimes scatter broken glass where barefoot Jews walk.
In the 21st century, this discrimination can no longer be justified.
While the UN is notorious for dealing unfairly with the Jewish State, the United States has always been Israel’s closest friend. For decades, the US has acted as a shield against the jackals at the UN, and Jews across the world value America’s moral leadership.
But when it comes to the civil rights of Jews on the Temple Mount, recent statements from the Biden Administration are inconsistent with America’s values. None of the many attacks on Jews last year drew as much condemnation from the Biden Administration, as Itamar Ben-Gvir visiting the Temple Mount. Time and again, government spokespeople demanded that Israel ’avoid provocations’ and ‘maintain the status quo’.
According to State Department spokesman, Ned Price, “The United States stands firmly for preservation of the historic status quo.” U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, said the U.S, “has been very clear ….on the issue of preserving the status quo,”
Comments like these, legitimise discrimination against Jews. By constantly repeating the ’status quo’ mantra, the Biden Administration is entrenching intolerance, instead of challenging it. Supporting a ‘status quo’, no matter how racist, betrays America’s values. The desire to avoid provoking conflict is understandable, but surrendering to thugs who threaten violence is never the answer.
To some, a Jew walking on the Temple Mount is seen as ‘provocative’. To others, a black woman refusing to stand for a white man on a bus is.
Thankfully, Rosa Parks and many brave others in American history weren’t worried about how ‘provocative’ their actions might be, in shattering the discriminatory status quo. But overseas, intolerance persists, particularly in the Middle East.
The Muslim world is at a crossroads. Some nations are embracing tolerance. The United Arab Emirates is constructing the Abrahamic Family House, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews can pray. In contrast, Iran and the Palestinian Authority persecute religious minorities. This is the perfect opportunity for the Biden Administration to send a message that intolerance and discrimination are unacceptable.
Across the world, we look to the United States as a powerful force for freedom, and against oppression. America overcame troubles in its history, thanks to brave people who refused to stay silent in the face of a discriminatory status quo. The world can learn from them. President Biden must harness American values and speak out against the discrimination on the Temple Mount.