Arab riots on the Temple Mount in opposition to any Jewish presence on the Jewish people’s most holy site have exposed what the Arab-Israeli conflict is all about. It’s not about the lack of a Palestinian state or Israeli concessions to the PLO, Hamas or other terrorist organizations. It’s about what makes the Temple Mount a holy place and who is the legitimate sovereign power over the entirety of the homeland of the Jewish people.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan—represented by the Waqf, the religious authority on the Temple Mount—supports riots and insists that the entire Mount belongs to Muslims. As part of a “status quo” agreement with Jordan, Israel permitted the Waqf to renovate, expand and excavate beneath the Al-Aqsa mosque and take over other parts of the Temple Mount, including the Dome of the Rock, which contains remnants of the Second Temple. Yet despite these concessions, the Waqf continues to oppose the right of Jews to visit the site and denies its Jewish history.
The Israeli government chose not to protect the site and defend the right of Jews to visit and pray there, but to capitulate to Waqf demands. As a result, the Mount has not become a place of tolerance, understanding and peaceful co-existence. Instead, the Waqf, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists have turned the mosque into a place of intolerance, bigotry and violence. Support for the “status quo” thus undermines Israel’s claims of sovereignty, not only over the mount but everywhere in the Land of Israel.
The riots have exposed the real agenda of those who seek Israel’s destruction and excuse terrorism. They include not only Muslims around the world, but all who call for “ending the occupation” and support Israel’s annihilation. This is expressed, for example, in the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-for-slay” policy, which rewards and glorifies terrorists and their families; as well as the P.A., Hamas and UNRWA school curricula that teach students to hate Jews and encourage them to commit acts of terror and violence.
Although many countries have laws against anti-Semitism, they also support anti-Israel NGOs and indirectly fund terrorist organizations. In them, Muslims who seek to destroy Israel and perpetrate another Holocaust have found a silent partner. The UN is not only complicit in this, it also targets Israel as a “racist, apartheid regime” while ignoring threats from Iran and its proxies Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others. Why is it acceptable to fund Islamist terrorist groups?
The war against Israel is also carried out by the BDS movement, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood and others who seek to isolate and destroy Israel. Why are such groups accepted on college campuses throughout North America and Europe? Why is it considered a legitimate expression of “free speech” to advocate Jew-hatred and Israel’s destruction? Why is this condoned by university administrators? Why do governments in North America and Europe refuse to investigate and condemn those who advocate violence and terrorism against Jews and Israel?
Arab riots on the Temple Mount challenge the fundamental principles and values of democracy and human rights. Although attempts were made to appease Arabs and Muslims via the Oslo Accords and Israeli withdrawal from heavily-populated Arab areas, the result was to empower the PLO, Hamas and others who seek Israel’s destruction. Israel did not solve or at least mitigate the conflict through these concessions. Instead, Israel contributed to it by its surrender of vital strategic interests and territory—in return, it got more terrorism. That is what the Temple Mount riots make clear. This issue is not about making compromises; it’s about surrendering to mob violence. In response, Israel must assert its sovereignty and the right of the Jewish people to their homeland in the Land of Israel.
The liberation of Jerusalem’s Old City, Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip in 1967 offered many opportunities, not only to Jews who built communities there but also to Arabs who lived there. Our freedom, which we celebrate on Independence Day, benefitted the entire region. As one Arab father who lives in eastern Jerusalem told me: “I am a successful businessman, happy to live in Israel and proud of my three sons who serve in the Israeli army.”
Independence means taking responsibility for one’s life and making choices that are creative and serve one’s best interests. To maintain a failed “status quo” imprisons us in the past. It is the opposite of what the Temple represented and the ideals and values it inspired. That’s what makes the Temple Mount “holy,” and that’s why it is so important to Jews.
As my father often told me: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Moshe Dann, Ph.D., is a historian, writer and journalist living in Israel.