I was going to write a post advocating that Israel ignore the noise and threats by various Muslim leaders and groups and continue to conduct the necessary dig and reconstruction at the Temple Mount. However, I’ve just read today’s Jerusalem Post editorial and it effectively addresses many of the points I wanted to make:
Numerous smaller incidents of Western self-censorship with respect Muslim sensibilities abound, while Christian and Jewish societies continue to subject themselves and their religions to withering criticism, parody, and self-doubt.
Violence and bullying, in other words, has worked. The more violent the Muslim world becomes, the more likely the West is to see the side of the “offended” party and question its own actions.
…Muslim indignation is taken as self-justifying, and the more violent it is, the more the Western victims of it tend to question themselves.
The US State Department, instead of rejecting outright the claims that Israel was threatening a holy site and condemning Muslim extremists for incitement to violence, said it was seeking “clarification.” “As always, we urge all parties to exercise great care when deciding whether and how to engage in any activity near sensitive religious sites,” the spokesman said.
In other words, the State Department is at best agnostic on this “debate.” If anything, its statement is directed against Israel, since who else is engaged in “activity near sensitive religious sites”?
This is scandalous, but perhaps less so than our own defense minister, Amir Peretz, who has written to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking that work on the site be immediately stopped. Why? Because security officials complained that this construction is causing foment in the Arab world at a sensitive time.
What is going on now, of course, is a rerun of the violent riots of September 1996, over the opening of an additional exit to the then already existing Western Wall Tunnels, well outside the Temple Mount. Today this tunnel is a popular tourist attraction. It too had as much to do with the “foundations” of Al Aksa as does the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York.
Radical Islamist intimidation tactics will continue to multiply if the West, including Israel, does not show minimal respect for itself and the truth. Western condemnation of extremist threats should be swift, universal, and unequivocal. This time the victim happens to be Israel; next time it could be anywhere else.
In 2000, the Palestinians blamed their war – still ongoing – on Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, calling it a provocation, despite the fact that we have PA ministers on record admitting that their war was planned even before the Camp David meetings between Barak, Arafat and Clinton. In 1996, dozens of Israelis and Palestinians died because of a tunnel opening in violence instigated by the Palestinians. Over the past several days, the largest Islamic group in Israel has advocated taking “steps” to protest and end the dig and various Muslim groups in the Territories and outside of Israel have threatened that Israel’s work at the Temple Mount could bring about violence. In other words, this non-violent, non-threatening, necessary and helpful construction and dig by Israel are of such importance and so offensive to Muslims that they could result in violence.
This is nothing less than sheer and bold blackmail. As the Jerusalem Post points out, it is all too similar to what we have seen in the West in recent years. Think of the Mohammed cartoon riots; the ongoing blame placed by some Muslim leaders on violence such as the 7/7 bombings in England on Western actions; the numerous suggestions that when societies take steps that “offend” certain Muslim sensibilities, that some Muslims might decide to take “extreme” actions as a “consequence.” Apparently, threatening violence, after claiming offense, is an effective method of sowing fear and making those of us in the West take a serious step back to evaluate our actions – after all, is any action important enough to warrant the death or injury of others?
Israel’s Minister of Defense, Amir Perretz, who should never have been appointed to this role for which he has no qualifications and who should have resigned the day the Lebanon war ended, certainly buys into these immoral suggestions of cause and effect, as have a number of commentators like Yoel Marcus at Ha’aretz. Suddenly, Israel is perceived to be doing something wrong. Why? Because some Muslim leaders say so. If there is a reaction that ends in violence or harm, whose fault will it be? Israel’s, of course.
Wrong. It will be the fault of those people who encourage the violence, who perpetrate the violence AND no less the fault of those who justify the violence and blackmail by speaking out against the innocent actions that seem to be causing the “offense.” Just because somebody is unjustifiably offended, there is no reason to lie down as they steamroll over you and your values. There is also no excuse for the violence.
Oh, and by the way, where were all these justifiers throughout the past decades wherein the Waqf – the Muslim authority in charge of the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount complex – have been “renovating” their mosque while brutally destroying any underlying archaeological remains so as to erase the memory of Jewish links to the place?
Israel has been respectful of Muslim rights on the Temple Mount, to the detriment of its Jewish heritage and history and that of Jewish worshippers who deeply value this site – the holiest to Jews. Despite this respectful behavior, certain – many – Muslim leaders have seen fit to depict a very different picture to their followers and the world. Let them lie all they want and if their followers are stupid enough to believe them, so be it. It does not follow, however, that the rest of us need to buy into the lie.