(January 10, 2023 / JNS) Most wars throughout history have begun and ended symbolically.
Before the State of Israel and a Palestinian Arab identity were established, the first violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the 1920 Jerusalem riots that saw the murder of five Jews and 216 injured. It was the result of a symbol.
The carnage was set off by Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who saw the Temple Mount as the symbol of pan-Arab, pan-Muslim nationalism, with himself as its guardian. The Mufti’s incendiary rhetoric ensured that much Jewish and Arab blood would be shed during his lifetime and in the decades since.
For over 100 years, the Arabs have coopted the Temple Mount, a site that was largely ignored for centuries by Muslims, as their rallying call and symbolic “ground zero” for the Israeli-Arab conflict.
For Israel, however, the Temple Mount was where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.
In 1967, Israel recorded one of the most stunning victories of modern history by beating back several Arab armies, increasing its size many times and liberating its historic, indigenous and ancestral heartland in Judea and Samaria. However, it was in Jerusalem that victory could have been symbolically assured.
By putting enormous resources into redeeming the ancient Jewish capital city, Israel demonstrated a firm commitment to the symbolic over the strategic. This came to a head when a young Israeli officer, Ezra Orni, placed an Israeli flag on top of the Dome of the Rock.
As in most wars throughout history, the placing of a flag signifies victory and shows the vanquished that they have been defeated. The territory underneath the flag is now under the control of the victors.
Nevertheless, when then-Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan saw the flag through his binoculars, he immediately ordered it taken down because, he claimed, it would set the whole Middle East on fire.
Israel’s decision to take down the flag and turn over administration of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf was arguably the moment when the defeated gained a glimmer of hope that all was not lost. They saw that despite the Jews’ heroic victory and the absolute decimation of the Arab armies, the Jews still feared their enemies.
This glimmer of hope has only increased over the years as Israeli acquiescence to Arab and Muslim demands on the Temple Mount has grown.
The Arabs see Israeli policemen drag Jews off the Temple Mount for saying a few quiet words of prayer, the Waqf decide that Jews cannot drink from public water fountains, non-Muslims forced to wear a yellow mark on their clothing symbolic of dhimmi humiliation and that any type of rioting brings Israeli decision-makers to heel.
In short, the so-called status quo on the Temple Mount has been weaponized to gain Palestinian victories and Israeli concessions.
When new Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ascended the Mount for 12 minutes shortly after assuming office, as some of his predecessors had done, the appropriation of this non-event for symbolic purposes by Palestinian leaders and the apologetics of Israeli decision-makers and opinion-shapers were sadly predictable.
Once again, we heard from numerous Israeli talking heads that such actions would inflame the Middle East. Ben-Gvir’s visit was condemned by hypocrites in the international community who call for the continuation of the status quo and then attack Israel and Jews for adhering to it.
However, Ben-Gvir’s ascension was a powerful moment that might allow Israel to regain momentum in its century-long war against Palestinian violence and rejectionism.
To the Arabs, the Temple Mount is where this war began. For a senior Israeli minister to defy their threats is an important symbolic victory.
For too long, Israeli politicians have followed Dayan’s lead. They have compromised and conceded in the face of threats real or imaginary.
We will never know if the conflict could have ended with the symbolic and permanent raising of the Israeli flag on the Temple Mount in 1967. We do know that, despite the overwhelming military victory, the conflict was not conceded by Israel’s enemies.
Perhaps Israel can start pushing back against what the Palestinian rejectionists see as growing Jewish humiliation and Israeli capitulation. It can do so by reasserting its sovereignty over the Temple Mount, a site won but not fully liberated.
I hope that more Israeli leaders, religious and secular, left and right, will understand the symbolism of the Temple Mount and ascend. They can adhere to the status quo, but not to threats of violence.
These simple yet important acts could send a strong and determined message to those who seek a future without Jewish sovereignty that we will not be removed.
Tom Nisani is the CEO of the Beyadenu Temple Mount movement and a member of the Israel Victory Project.
Jewish News Syndicate
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