The recent controversy over Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount underscores the moral bankruptcy of Israel’s detractors, as they exploit the visit to denigrate and deny Jewish history in the Land of Israel.
The evidence of this bankruptcy is provided by history itself. Before the 1967 Six Day War, Jewish holy places lay in ruins, devoid of any Jewish presence, with nary a word of denunciation from the nations of the world.
The Jordanian government under King Hussein, the father of today’s monarch, notoriously destroyed every vestige of Jewish life in the Old City of Jerusalem, turned the largest Jewish cemetery in the world on the Mount of Olives into a garbage heap of rampant desecration and enforced a seven-centuries old ban on Jewish worshipers at places like the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and other holy places.
In other words, before 1967, the “historical status quo” constantly invoked by Jordan and other countries meant ensuring the holy places of Jerusalem were devoid of Jews. Under this “status quo,” it was accepted that these sites could be defiled and desecrated with impunity. This history has never been acknowledged.
It also did not end in 1967. In 2016, the Obama administration spearheaded the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution condemned any acts that included “altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements and transfer of Israeli settlers” as a “flagrant violation of international law.”
In plain English, the resolution deemed the return of Jews to a rebuilt Jewish Quarter in the Old City, the rededication of our desecrated holy places and the reclamation of much of our Jewish heritage illegal. That is the tragic legacy of the Obama administration, which President Joe Biden has never repudiated.
Indeed, the Biden administration does not hide its hostility towards the new Israeli government. Before the government was even sworn in, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. “will engage with and judge our partners in Israel on the basis of the policies they pursue, not the personalities that happen to form the government.” Seemingly looking for a fight from the outset, the Biden-Blinken foreign policy apparatus sought to delegitimize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s already despised “partners.” One wonders whether Blinken or Biden greeted French President Emmanuel Macron during his recent state dinner with promises to “judge” his every move.
This brings us back to Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount. Condemning him before he even went, the U.S. government and others deemed a peaceful walk on Judaism’s holiest site provocative and “deeply concerning.” In a press conference following the visit, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, on eight separate occasions, emphasized that Israel needs to “preserve the historical status quo.” When finally cornered by an inquisitive reporter from the Associated Press, Price sheepishly admitted that he could not define what the term “historical status quo” meant or whether Ben Gvir had violated it.
Clearly, the “status quo” does not concern Price in the least. The real assertion behind his statement was that Jews should be denied the right to peacefully assemble at their own holy sites.
Neither Price nor his handlers in the Biden administration would ever countenance the denial of such liberties to any other social, ethnic or religious group. They would rightfully consider it racist. Yet when it comes to Israel and Jewish sensibilities, this is not the case.
The Biden administration has never decried the presence of Muslims or Christians on the Western Wall Plaza. It has never condemned non-Jews for visiting other Jewish holy places in Israel. Israel has never denied free access to these sites, yet Arabs are permitted to deny such access to Jews. The double standard is nauseating.
Whether it’s on today’s college campuses, the streets of Brooklyn, in the halls of the U.N. or on the podiums of the Biden administration, gratuitous and contemptuous attacks on Jewish sovereignty, Jewish heritage and Jewish rights have become unhinged. It’s past time for our people to assert ourselves proudly and unapologetically.
The advent of Jewish sovereignty, after 2,000 years of exile and dispersion, enabled Jews to be captains of our own ship and stewards of our own fate. Despite overwhelming odds and endless criticism, the Jewish people have reclaimed our dignity and our historical place in the world. The march forward will undoubtedly be strewn with obstacles, but the destiny of our people is assured. Our faith in our values and the righteousness of our cause drives the Jewish people forward from strength to strength.
Charles Miller is a practicing criminal defense attorney and former U.S. naval officer who serves as a delegate to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.