Freedom to live

The events at the Temple Mount were instigated by Muslim extremists, supporters of the Hamas terrorist organization and Islamic Jihad.

Muslims wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers during Ramadan, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, April 22, 2022. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Muslims wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers during Ramadan, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, April 22, 2022. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Hillel Newman
Hillel Newman
Hillel Newman is the former Israeli ambassador to Uzbekistan and Israeli consul-general to the Pacific southwest.

Last Thursday, April 21, 2022, the eve of the second festival of Passover, the eve of “Good Friday” for Christians and during the Ramadan period for Muslims, a few demonstrators gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. Watching, I asked myself how ignorant, misled or self-deluded people can be, even here in the United States.

The demonstrators in Los Angeles may have looked innocent and well-meaning, but their chants were far from that. They chanted “Long Live the Intifada,” which is a call for violence. They chanted “We don’t want Two States! We Want all ’48!” and “From the River to the Sea Palestine Will Be Free”—calls for the elimination of Israel. Period.

If their demonstration was in support of the rioters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, then at the least they should understand what they are supporting.

The recent unrest on the Temple Mount was instigated by Muslim extremists, supporters of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations. They executed a hostile takeover of the Al Aqsa mosque, and then proceeded to block the freedom of worship of well-meaning Muslims during the Ramadan. The rioters abused the sanctity of the mosque by using it as a base to incite violent riots. They desecrated the mosque by hoarding rocks, cinder blocks and weapons inside and then throwing rocks, fireworks and fire bombs within the mosque and from the mosque to the courtyard of the Temple Mount.

They endangered the safety of Muslims in the mosque and Jews at the Western Wall who wished to worship peacefully. The intention of the extremists was to inspire the spread of violence across the country.

Israeli law enforcement authorities were deployed. They waited with restraint until the end of the time of prayers, and only then entered the Temple Mount to disperse the violent outbreak and safeguard freedom of worship at the mosque and at the Western Wall. They acted with the intention of restoring the sanctity of the mosque and reinstating law and order.

Imagine if a violent extremist group were to raid a church or a synagogue anywhere in the United States, and then use it as a base for this type of violence. In any such scenario, it would be regarded as the responsibility of local law enforcement to act immediately. It is even anchored in international law. Yet, that basic commitment to restore law and order, accepted globally, is questioned when it comes to Israel.

Israel does not request any special favors, only that it be judged by the same standard as any other country.

In such a confrontation there is a physical front and a public relations front, which are intrinsically linked and fuel each other. The blind support extended by Israel haters, intentionally or unintentionally, guarantees a win-win situation for the extremists.

Even if rioters desecrate a mosque, riot and rampage, intimidate and prevent fellow Muslims from praying peacefully, throw fire bombs, light fires on the Temple Mount, hoard rocks to pelt at Jews praying at the Western Wall—all of these actions will be disregarded and ignored. After all, there is a greater cause: defaming Israel. In serving that cause, the tables will be turned on the factual sequence of events and truth will be distorted.

The Muslim extremists know in advance—even before they throw the first fire bomb or smoke grenade—that they will receive the sympathy and solidarity of the likes of the demonstrators in Los Angeles, as well as many in the media.

Al Jazeera reported the events with the title, “New Israeli raid at Al Aqsa mosque leaves Palestinians injured.” The Democracy Now site carries the title, “Colonial Violence is the norm: Israel raids Al Aqsa Mosque.” The lack of context in such misleading headlines guarantees a win-win situation for extremists.

If Israel refrains from responding, the extremists enjoy a perception of victory. If Israel responds with force, to preserve peace and order, then it will be immediately vilified and wrongly accused of instigating the events.

Wild, unfounded accusations will be spread regarding Israel’s intention to desecrate the mosque, curb religious worship or change the status quo on the Temple Mount—none of which is true.

Israel has stated time and time again that it has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. Any information contrary to that is disinformation. Many of the videos spread on social networks, depicting sinister Israeli intentions on the Mount, or Israel attacking innocent Palestinians, are fake, and do nothing more than feed anti-Israel sentiment.

Despite the violence of Hamas supporters, hundreds of thousands of Muslims prayed at Al-Aqsa mosque over the first two weeks of Ramadan, and more than 90,000 Muslim worshippers entered the Temple Mount for prayer, even on the day of the riots, fully exercising their right of freedom of worship. This was guaranteed by Israel. Israel will always ensure the freedom of worship of all religions.

In leading up to these events, in a period of one week, Palestinian terrorists and rioters attacked Jews in prayer shawls walking to prayer, stoned buses carrying young Israeli children near the Western Wall and twice vandalized the Jewish site called Joseph’s Tomb. In the week before, they carried out four terrorist attacks that murdered 14 Israelis.

We should understand that this is an ideological battle in the Middle East. Those who support Israel support co-existence, freedom of worship, freedom of the individual. The freedom to live. Those who support the Hamas activists, support chaos, death and devastation. Every individual should decide wisely which side they support.

Hillel Newman is the Consul General of The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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