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What's behind two weeks of Temple Mount violence?

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Update from AIJAC


Update 08/17 #01


Two weeks of unrest over Jerusalem's Temple Mount - which left six Palestinians and three Jews dead - seems to have quietened down, with Jews able to visit Jerusalem's Old city and Temple Mount yesterday for the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av. However, this follows considerable violence on Thursday and Friday even after Israel agreed to remove all the security measures from around the site which had been the claimed justification for the unrest.

This Update looks at some of the actors and history that lie behind the more than two weeks of violence that has ostensiblyoccured concerning Jerusalem's Temple Mount since a terror attack launched from the site killed two Israeli policemen on July 14, and Israel responded by placing metal detectors around the site.  For an excellent general summary of the whole sad story on a day by day basis, see this report from BICOM.

We lead with a relatively brief comment from Israeli-born academic Shany Mor, looking at the important role claims about danger to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount has played in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict. He notes that such claims go back at least to 1928 - and that such claims seem to reappear whenever interest in the Palestinian cause appears to be waning in the Arab world. He also argues that the violence and conspiracy theories that have accompanied the issue should be seen as proof of how pathological the claims about the Temple Mount are - but are instead often taken as proof of how serious the grievance is. For his argument in full, CLICK HERE. More on the history of conspiracy theories about the Temple Mount and what can be done about them comes from Israeli columnist Nadav Shragai.

Next up is veteran Israeli security reporter Ron Ben Yishai, who argues that three actors have been effectively trying to turn the Temple Mount issue into a new Intifada against Israel - Turkish President Erdogan, Hamas, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He notes that Al-Jazeera, the Qatari network associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, is playing a role in the current crisis by spreading conspiracy theories - such as that Israeli security cameras can see through the clothes of worshippers -  that are widely believed. To confront the forces wanting ongoing violence, Ben Yishai calls for Israeli forces to maintain maximum restraint, allow the Islamists to blow off steam and for Israel to work with the Trump Administration, Jordan and the Islamic Waqf to calm things in the longer term. For his full diagnosis of what is happening and how it can be treated, CLICK HERE

A different view on Israel's best response comes from Lior Akerman, a former Brigadier who previously served as a division head in Israel's Shin Bet internal security service. He agrees with Ben Yishai that several different actors are seeking to ignite an Intifada - the PA, Hamas, the Waqf religious trust in charge of the Mount, the Islamic Movement - northern branch inside Israel, and some Israeli Arab MKs. He argues Israel cannot afford to concede to their demands, which will only increase if it does, and Israel can only succeed by demonstrating, without adding fuel to the fire by harming innocents, that it is in complete control of all of the country. For Akerman's point of view, CLICK HERE.

 

Readers may also be interested in...
  • Amotz Asa-El offers a history of metal detectors and their use as a security device, given the key part they apparently played in the events of recent weeks in Jerusalem.
  • Israeli academic Oded Eran proposes Israel suggest an international summit, chaired by the US and Jordan, and including the Saudis, Moroccans and the PA, to discuss security arrangements and freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.
  • In contrast, former senior military officer Brigadier-General (Res.) Amir Avivi says the message of the Temple Mount outcome was "violence pays."
  • Palestinian politics expert Gaith Al-Omari says the result of the Temple Mount clash may look like a win for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but may give rise to possibly severe future costs.
  • Allegations Iran may have been involved in funding Temple Mount violence - here and here.
  • Liel Leibowitz points out that, under the murderous math of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian youth who stabbed to death three members of a Jewish family in their home on July 21 will get a high monthly salary amounting to more than a million dollars over his likely 30 year sentence. More on this overall Palestinian "pay for slay" policy comes from columnist Julie Lenarz.
  • Also, official Palestinian Authority TV presented the youth who carried out that attack murdering innocent civilians in their home as a "hero" who was compassionate because he supposedly did not kill the children who were also in the home (in fact, they were locked in a separate room and he was shot by a neighbour before he could attack them).
  • Examples - here, here, here and here, of the incitement spread by the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah party during the current unrest, assembled by Palestinian Media Watch. Moreover, that incitement still continued over the weekend, despite the removal of all Israeli security measures around the Mount.
  • American columnist Cliff May takes on the refusal by many in the West to see the destructive nature of Al-Jazeera.  Plus, an Al-Jazeera reporter claims to have been abused by Israel soldiers - video shows he's exaggerating a bit.
  • Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC's daily "Fresh AIR" blog:

Article1

The Al-Aqsa Conspiracy Theory Redux

 

By Shany Mor

BICOM, June 26


Every decades or so, the myth of the “Jewish plot to destroy al-Aqsa” (the Mosque whose dome is in the foreground) reappears and aparks violence.

The myth of a “Jewish plot to destroy al-Aqsa” reappears every decade or so to mobilise violence. Its purpose since as far back as 1928 has been to turn a local disadvantage (Palestine Arabs vs Zionist Jews) into a global advantage (Arabs/Muslims vs Jews).

At any sign that the Palestinian cause might be losing its death grip on Arab politics (for example, a possible regional opening to Israel by moderate Arab states), Palestinian leaders will always seek to weaponise the al-Aqsa conspiracy theory.  And it is a testament to the power of this conspiracy theory that it works every time.

The reaction that this conspiracy theory elicits (entering a house and stabbing its residents, for example) should be proof of how pathological it is, but it is currently being processed as proof of how serious the grievance is.

Westerners and liberals will continue to struggle with these issues as long as we fail to distinguish between the two.

The idea that Israel is up to something devilish with al-Aqsa has always stretched the bounds of irony to breaking point, and for at least four reasons, as I wrote in 2016:

First, immediately after conquering the Old City, Israel handed control of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Trust, or Waqf, and forbade any Jewish religious rite on the entire Mount, not just in the mosques, a status quo it has maintained to this day. Read that carefully: The world’s only Jewish state had just scored an astonishing victory over enemies who only days earlier were promising a war of extermination against it and, in the process, liberated the Jewish people’s holiest site — and then promptly handed it over.

Second, conspiracy theories aside, Israel has not conducted any excavations, archaeological or otherwise, under the Mount or the mosques on the Mount. The only large-scale excavation in recent times was carried out by the Islamic Waqf on the site formerly known as Solomon’s Stables, now the El-Marwani Mosque.  The construction of the El-Marwani Mosque on the southeast corner of the Mount, directly adjacent to al-Aqsa, entailed a wanton and unrecoverable destruction of archaeological treasures ranging across three millennia of human patrimony. Unlike the imagined archaeological damage fantasists and fanatics accuse Israel of committing, this was never condemned by UNESCO or any other international body.

Third, Israel does actively restrict the religious rights of worshipers on the Temple Mount—but these are Jews, not Muslims. It forbids any Jewish prayer or religious activity of any kind anywhere on the Mount and limits visits of non-Muslims to a few hours a week. During a particularly tense period from 2000 to 2003, Israel forbade the entry of Jews altogether. No international human rights group has ever protested this entirely prudent denial of religious freedom. It is the visits of Jews in 2014 and 2015 — to the Mount, but never inside the mosques — that is preposterously described in the UNESCO resolution as “storming Al Aqsa”. I guess when you deny that Jews have any reason to want to visit a place, their presence must be described as some kind of invasion. In fact, the only worshipers regularly harassed on the Temple Mount are the few Jews have the temerity to silently visit their faith’s holiest site. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has repeatedly affirmed that it will uphold this status quo, including in Arabic.

Fourth, Israeli control of the Old City of Jerusalem in the last half century has meant that Al Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is the rare Islamic holy site not to be a stage for some kind of massacre of Muslim worshipers by one or another rival branch of radical Islam.

Here is one way to summarise the last 12 days. Two Arabs murder Israeli policemen, because they believe in a secret Jewish plot to destroy their holy site.  Violent clashes erupt because of the belief that metal detectors are part of a secret Jewish plot to destroy an Islamic holy site, resulting in three deaths (none by the holy site itself).  A Jewish family is hacked to death during Shabbat dinner by someone who believed that there was a secret Jewish plot to destroy an Islamic holy site and that the family he was murdering were somehow implicated in it by virtue of being Jewish. One thing connects all these events, but I’m not sure anyone could make that connection reading what has passed for intelligent commentary these last two weeks.

Yes, some of us Israelis have criticised our government’s actions as imprudent, but only because they did not properly take into account the potency of this conspiracy theory and its power to mobilise violence.  In other words, it was foolish to place metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount because of the power of the conspiracy theory that Jews are out to destroy a holy site.  And it was prudent to remove them for the same reason.

Shany Mor is an Associate Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard University and an Advisory Editor of FathomThe views represented in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of BICOM.

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Article 2

Erdogan, Haniyeh and Abbas are praying for an intifada

 

Ron Ben-Yishai

Ynet.com,  27.07.17 , 13:26

Analysis: The violent energy on the Palestinian street, the Islamist aspiration to ignite an intifada and the Palestinian president's attempt to leverage the metal detectors crisis for diplomatic achievements require the Israeli government to use force, but to exercise restraint and avoid killing Palestinians. On the diplomatic level, Israel should enlist the US and EU to pressure Turkey, Hamas and Abbas, and launch a regular dialogue with the Waqf.

The Islamists who incited and ignited the metal detector crisis at the Temple Mount wanted an intifada. They haven’t given up their wish just yet. That’s the main reason the Waqf was preventing Muslim worshipers from returning to the Temple Mount until Thursday afternoon, although the Israeli government had already removed the metal detectors.


Muslim worshippers outside the Temple Mount (Photo: MCT)
 
One of these famous Islamists is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who—like in the Marmara crisis—is leading the anti-Israeli religious incitement. He’s doing it in his speeches, but also behind the scenes.
 
Erdogan wants to be the leader of political Islam in the Middle East—in other words, the leader of all the Muslim Brotherhood movements, which both Hamas and Sheikh Raed Salah’s Islamic Movement in Israel are affiliated with. Preserving the conflict at the Temple Mount serves the Islamist-radical camp in the intra-Arab conflict between the moderate Sunni Arab states and Qatar, Turkey and the different Muslim Brotherhood movements. Hamas is one of these movements, and its supporters—together with Raed Salah’s people—are trying to maintain and leverage the violent energy that has accumulated on the Jerusalem-Palestinian street and in the Muslim world in general. Their goal is to turn this energy into a long intifada, which will encompass not only Jerusalem but also the territories and Israel’s Arabs, and will echo and be imitated in the Muslim world in general.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was also trying to leverage the negative energies and the rage that accumulated during the metal detector crisis. While the prevailing opinion is that Abbas is influenced by the masses in this crisis, there are many signs indicating that he is using the crisis for his own needs. He is trying to take advantage of the Islamist wave to advance what he refers to as “a diplomatic intifada” in the international arena. The goal of this intifada is to delegitimize the State of Israel, isolate it in the international arena and impose an agreement agreement which the Israeli government finds unacceptable through international pressure and sanctions.
 
Abbas isn’t hiding it. He’s saying it openly and even shooting himself in the foot by reducing the security cooperation with Israel. He isn’t cancelling it altogether because he knows that Hamas will bring him down if he doesn’t have Israel to protect him, but he believes he can have it both ways.
 
These are the people who are interested in a continuation of the Temple Mount riots. They’re hoping for more deaths and injuries in the clashes with the Israel Police and the IDF in the coming days, and for a local event which will inflame the Palestinian and Islamist street again.
 
They’re also relying on the traditional tendency in the Arab and Muslim world to believe in mystic conspiracy theories. The facts at the Temple Mount at the moment are that the situation has returned to its original state before the murder of the Israeli police officers on July 14. The metal detectors have been removed, the cameras have been dismantled and the new smart cameras haven’t been installed and it will take a long time before they are installed.
 
Al-Jazeera, for example, which is inspired by the radical Islamist camp that Qatar is a member of, is promoting myths among the incited crowds in Jerusalem about hidden Israeli cameras allowing the Israeli security forces to see the naked body of the Muslim worshipper who innocently arrives to pray at the Temple Mount. The masses in Jerusalem and outside Jerusalem are enthusiastically buying into these theories, sticking to them and, most importantly, acting as if they were true.
 
All this—the violent energy that has accumulated on the Palestinian street, Hamas and Erdogan’s aspiration to ignite an intifada and Abbas’ attempt to leverage the metal detectors crisis for diplomatic achievements—require the Israeli government to use force, many police officers, but to exercise maximum restraint. Erdogan, Salah and Ismail Haniyeh want deaths to inflame the intifada. We must not give them that. So we must ensure that there is a massive presence of police forces in any place where riots break out in the coming days, but there must be clear orders to avoid opening fire.
 
The forces on Jerusalem’s streets, and the roadblocks preventing the arrival of incited crowds from outside Jerusalem, should be reinforced as early as Thursday rather than on Friday morning. A massive reinforcement of the forces in Jerusalem is like throwing a blanket on a fire that has just started burning.
 
Another measure the Israeli government should take is to enlist the American administration and the European Union countries to pressure Erdogan, Abbas and Haniyeh. Erdogan is a NATO member, and NATO member states can’t stand idly by while one of the alliance’s members incites against a democratic Western state in the Middle East.
 
Enlisting the Trump administration

Both Abbas and Haniyeh are receiving help and life thanks to the aid they get from the Americans and the Europeans. This aid is an influential leverage which could definitely restrain the Palestinian leaderships both in Ramallah and in Gaza. While Abbas is relaunching his diplomatic intifada because he is disappointed with the Trump administration, as he sees no progress in the efforts to advance peace negotiations according to his conditions, the Trump administration can still definitely make it clear to him that he must not bite the hand that feeds him.

As for the crisis with Jordan, the incident should be thoroughly investigated. Did the security guard have to shoot the Palestinian teen who attacked him with a screwdriver, or could the former Givati company commander have kicked and neutralized the youth? Not every incident requires shooting in order to kill. And in light of the international sensitivity, it would be advisable to look into the possibility of having Foreign Ministry’s security guards undergo intensive Krav Maga courses that will prevent the need to shoot. The way the prime minister solved the crisis with Jordan proves that insufficient efforts had been made beforehand to enlist Jordan and Egypt to calm the situation down in the metal detectors affair.

Had US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, telephoned Jordan’s King Abdullah last Thursday, we may have been in a different situation right now. Religious crises have a tendency of escalating quickly, and as time goes by without any significant change, they become chronic and are very difficult to settle, as we are witnessing now.

Most importantly, we must not be afraid. Israel must protect its right and its duty to keep Jerusalem safe and to use force for that purpose. It must, however, avoid killing Palestinians. Experience shows it’s the one thing that leads to lone-wolf terror attacks and inflames the situation more than anything else.

Equally important, the Israeli government and its security organizations must do everything in their power to neutralized the religious rage and the violent energies on the Muslim street:

First of all, they must avoid public statements, like the one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made, about “individual security checks.” While the statement was meant for the Israeli Right’s ears, it echoes in the Muslim world and affirms the claim that the status quo has not been restored at the Temple Mount.



Dialogue needed with religious leadership (Photo: AFP)

Second, they must avoid activities that could provoke the Muslim street and social media. They can, for example, wait a week or two before demolishing the home of the terrorist from the June 2016 shooting at Tel Aviv’s Sarona compound.

The Islamists should be allowed to blow off steam, but in a controlled manner which will be made clear to them in advance. A large force at the entrances to the east Jerusalem neighborhoods that are prone to violence will convey the messages to the incited Jerusalem residents as well.

Finally, there is a need for a continuous dialogue with the Waqf, and maybe even with Jerusalem’s mufti. Even it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt to try. The coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories, Major-General Yoav Mordechai, can be tasked with that mission.

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Article 3

The al-Aksa Intifada


The intifada has been in the making for years already

 

By Lior Akerman

Jerusalem Post, July 27, 2017 22:02
 
The Third Intifada, aka the al-Aksa Intifada as the Arabs prefer to call it, is not just another abstract concept dealing with a threat that might materialize at some point in the future. This intifada has been in the making for years already, like a barrel of explosives whose extremely long fuse was lit a long time ago. Although we’ve been able to detect its fumes for some time now, Israel’s merely been dribbling a few drops of water on them here and there. Unfortunately, this method hasn’t help put out the flame, or even slowed the countdown to the impending explosion.

But the progression of the flame toward the explosive is inevitable, since there are too many Islamist extremists and war-hungry fundamentalists who are fanning the flames.

They use slanderous slogans and lies to incite violence, money that’s channeled to them for defamatory campaigns, and media strategy that is so cleverly deceptive it should be taught in communications departments in universities worldwide.

On the one hand, we have the Palestinian Authority, which has been trying to achieve full authority over the Temple Mount as part of their campaign to establish Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Following the lead of Mahmoud Abbas, for years the Palestinian Authority has been spreading lies about Israeli intentions to take over the Temple Mount and alter the status quo.


A post on the official Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah party demanding a day or "rage" for Jerusalem. (Source: Palestinian Media Watch).

Then there is Hamas, whose operatives are working day and night in the West Bank to incite Palestinians to violence and ignite the area with two main goals in sight.

Their first goal is to gain power and status among the Palestinian public and be perceived as the savior of the people in anticipation of a regime change in the West Bank.

Their second goal is to lead the Muslim struggle for sovereignty over the Temple Mount in order to receive complete control over the site in the future.

In addition to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, there is a third puzzle piece: the Jordanian Wakf Islamic trust, which is of course backed by the Jordanian government, which has no real need or demand to have sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Its real aspiration is to preserve its power and its international status in the Muslim world as protector of holy places. To that end, Abdullah King of Jordan occasionally claims that the State of Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Key player Sheik Raed Salah of the illegal Islamic Movement - northern faction, funded by Turkey and Qatar

A fourth contender is the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is led by its Northern Branch.

This organization has been declared illegal by the government, but continues to operate under a bogus name under the leadership of Sheikh Raed Salah. For years, this faction has been leading the incitement against the State of Israel’s alleged intentions to take control of the Temple Mount compound, and its official slogan is “al-Aksa is in Danger.” The Islamic Movement receives funding from Turkey and Qatar to incite and call upon Israeli Arabs to fight against the Zionist occupier that is threatening to conquer the Temple Mount.

The fifth contender is extremist Arab MKs who are calling upon Israeli Arabs to come and fight to “defend” the Temple Mount compound. In their incredible insolence, and after incessant incitement, they claimed that they’d warned us many times that such an outbreak was likely to occur, as MK Osama Sa’adi reiterated.

There are also a number of organizations that operate both in and outside of the Temple Mount according to a similar principle. All of the extremist Muslim organizations have been following a clear anti-Israel line for years.

Their main goal is the complete liberation of the Temple Mount from Israeli control and its return to full Arab Muslim sovereignty. It’s clear that this scenario is unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future, but even if it were theoretically possible, then an all-out Muslim world war over control of the Temple Mount would break out between Palestinians and Israelis; between Jordanians and Palestinians; and among all of the people who yearn to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East on the ruins of Israel and the other countries in the region.

It’s clear to everyone that the installation of metal detectors is not the real issue, but merely an excuse they’ve been seeking for years to start another intifada. The world has already forgotten – or didn’t know in the first place – that three Israeli Muslim Arabs murdered two Israeli policemen who were securing the compound entrance.

No one understands that Israel made the decision to bolster the security at the entrances to the Temple Mount after the murderous terrorist attack took place, in an effort to prevent additional attacks from occurring at sensitive, holy sites. It’s clear to everyone – including Muslims – that securing the compound and preventing attacks is in everyone’s interest, especially of the Muslims who actually enter the site.

The truth is that all the Muslim leaders know very well that the State of Israel has not had in the past and has no plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. The mosque is still intact, all the Muslims are still allowed to pray freely everywhere on top of the Temple Mount, and not one thing has changed except for the fact that the Israeli authorities would like to prevent another murderous attack from taking place in this sensitive location.

It is fundamental that Israel not concede on this matter. Conceding on this matter will not end with the removal of all the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount.

A concession will only lead to their demand that we also remove all the cameras so as not to invade the privacy of worshipers. And what would the next demand be? To refrain from placing any policemen at the entrances to the Temple Mount? Removing policemen from the entire compound and putting a halt to all inspections? A demand to remove all Israeli security forces from the entire city of Jerusalem and having the Wakf and Palestinian intelligence agents take control of security? Retreating all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and evacuating the entire country for the sanctity of an Islamic caliphate? Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic Movement, the Arab MKs, and all the other radical operatives have no intention of halting their struggle to liberate the Temple Mount from Israeli occupation until the entire compound is completely under Muslim control.

It is common in these types of situations for one attack to trigger another. The ongoing incitement encourages young, frustrated Arabs to go out into the streets and carry out unplanned attacks, such as the one last week in Halamish. And in the end, everyone ends up pointing their fingers at Israel. Something is defective in our public diplomacy and our approach to the various media if we are perceived as the illegitimate occupier of Muslim holy places.

Unfortunately, isolated attacks will continue to take place here, and Muslim extremists will continue to sell their wares and encourage all Muslims to join an all-out war against Israel. We have a long struggle ahead of us, and we must not falter or blink even for a moment.

Israel must do what it needs to in order to protect itself, including providing hermetic protection of the Temple Mount by any means necessary. Israel must demonstrate that is has complete control over every part of the country, including by taking a tough stand against all acts of incitement, which are not currently being suitably handled. And we must accomplish all of this without adding fuel to the fire and harming innocent civilians.

If we are determined and courageous in our struggle, we have a chance to come out victorious.

But we can settle for just not losing.

The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security agency).

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