Claims that basic human rights do not apply to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount are simply wrong. They confuse political ideologies, which are individual and often change, with inalienable rights guaranteed by the basic nature of the state. In the case of Jewish rights on the Mount, this basis is Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which stipulates explicitly that all citizens enjoy religious freedom and freedom of speech.
However, it is worth exploring some of the arguments used against Jewish prayer on the Mount and why they are deeply flawed.
1. It is claimed that, while Jews feel discriminated against on the Temple Mount, Palestinians are discriminated against throughout Israel.
This imposes a Palestinian identity upon the Arab citizens of Israel and further asserts that all Jews should be punished because of alleged discrimination against others. This is a classic case of asserting that “two wrongs make a right.”
Connected to this is the claim that the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount is the “last thing” the Palestinians have left, and they fear that the third holiest site in Islam will be “stolen” from them. But the mere fact of Jews praying on the Mount takes nothing away from Muslims—whether they are Palestinians or Israeli Arabs—and certainly not Al-Aqsa itself.
2. Some say that a nation that conquered a piece of land isn’t allowed to harm the conquered nation’s holy sites. Yet no harm is being done to any holy site, unless one considers the very presence of Jews on the Mount to be harmful. Nor can the liberation of what has been Jewish land for thousands of years be considered a “conquest.”
3. It is asserted that if Jews argue “we were here first” regarding the Mount, we will open the door to all manner of claims by various nations who once practiced their religion in the Land of Israel. This is not the case because the Jewish nation draws its sources from the Bible and believes, to this day, in the quote from the book of Isaiah, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations.” Unlike Jordanians and Palestinians, we will welcome prayer by other nations on the Temple Mount, something that this impossible today because of Israel’s surrender to the demands of the anti-Jewish Jordanian Waqf.
4. It has been said that those asking to pray on the Temple Mount are a minority in Israel and therefore their demands shouldn’t be granted. But the essence of democracy is the preservation of the basic rights of the entire population, not just the majority. Indeed, how can one claim that the Palestinians are discriminated against in Israel, and then advocate discrimination against Jews on the Mount because they are a minority? In any case, more than half of today’s Knesset members ascend or support ascendence to and prayer on the Mount, meaning they do not qualify as a minority.
5. It is very common to oppose Jewish prayer on the Mount with the security argument. Israel’s Supreme Court, however, has ruled on dozens of occasions that Jewish prayer cannot be prevented on the Mount unless there is a clear and immediate danger to public order.
6. Muslims, opponents say, cannot and will not accommodate Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, and the issue can be discussed only after the conflict with the Palestinians has been resolved.
In this context, it is worth pointing out that a great many Muslims around the world have opined that there is no reason to prevent Jews from praying on the Mount. Moreover, should violations of fundamental civil or human rights go unaddressed because circumstances are unfavorable?
The State of Israel is an independent, sovereign nation committed first and foremost to the rights of its citizens. The claim that one should only wait for an all but impossible “agreement” in order to safeguard these rights is not only dangerous, but clearly anti-democratic.
Tom Nisani is the CEO of the Beyadenu Temple Mount movement.