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The Israeli canary in the West’s cultural coal mine

The attacks on Ben-Gvir’s Temple Mount excursion defy reason.

Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av, Aug. 7, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av, Aug. 7, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to:

Those scratching their heads over the way Western liberals have lost all connection with reason over issues of race, gender and Western “colonialism” might usefully look at the reaction to Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount this week.

Here was a Jew walking for 15 minutes on the site that is most sacred to Judaism. He did it without fanfare or media attention, early in the morning when the compound was almost empty, and didn’t pray there or say anything to stir up trouble.

Yet his visit provoked uproar with claims that it was an extremist act, that it was likely to spark a new terrorist war and even—this from a Ha’aretz columnist—that Ben-Gvir was leading Israel “on the road to hell.”

In any sane universe, this is simply unhinged. Ben-Gvir was fully entitled to be there. He did nothing out of the ordinary. Other Israeli Jews, including government ministers, regularly visit the site.

The people actually responsible for inciting violence over the Temple Mount are the Palestinian Arabs. Since the 1920s, they have been provoking fanatical religious hysteria and the murder of Israelis with the wickedly false claim that the Jews were either storming or planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Similar claims were made in 2022 when Palestinian Arabs turned Al-Aqsa into an ammunition store from where they hurled rocks down at Jews praying at the Western Wall and attacked Jews making their way there.

The reason is that, as the site of the Jewish Temple that was the focus of Jewish religious life in ancient Israel until it was destroyed in 70 CE, the Temple Mount stands at the very center of the Jews’ unique entitlement to Jerusalem and the land.

That’s why the Palestinians have tried to destroy the archeological evidence that has been dug up at the site over the years. They attempt to wipe the Jews out of their own history in the land—centuries before the first Arabs or Muslims invaded it—in order to support the laughably bogus claim that the Palestinian Arabs were its indigenous people.

Yet this use of the Temple Mount for incitement, violence and religious supersessionism draws no condemnation from the Western left. They do not acknowledge that this aggression, which strikes against Judaism itself, is the real cause of the Middle East conflict.

Instead, the Biden administration condemned the Ben-Gvir excursion as an “unacceptable” and “unilateral” action that “undercut the historic status quo.” Not only was this untrue, but the status quo, which Israel has upheld, is itself unacceptable.

The status quo prevents Jews and Christians from praying at their own holy site; it restricts non-Muslims to entry through only one of 12 gates while Muslims can use all the gates; it forbids Jews from drinking from the water fountain in the compound because of the claim that Jews are “unclean.”

While falsely asserting that Israel is attempting to drive Muslims out of their holy site, the Palestinian Arabs bellow that no Jew is to be allowed to set foot on the Temple Mount with what Palestinian Authority chieftain Mahmoud Abbas described as “their filthy feet.”

This odious racial discrimination and violence draws no condemnation from the Biden administration or the Western left. Instead, it is Ben-Gvir who is accused of racism.

The Oslo Accords state: “The Palestinian side shall ensure free access to, respect the ways of worship in and not make any changes to, the Jewish holy sites.”

At both the Temple Mount and the sacred Jewish site of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly broken this pledge.

For years, Jews visiting Joseph’s Tomb have been attacked by Arab rioters and gunmen, most recently on Dec. 21, 2022, when Jewish worshippers and the soldiers guarding them came under heavy gunfire.

Yet this draws no condemnation from the Biden administration or the Western left. Instead, there are veiled threats that the U.S. will punish Israel for having Ben-Gvir in its government.

In the same way, successive Democratic administrations and other Western liberals have held Israel responsible for the Arab war against it on the grounds that Israel is “illegally occupying” Palestinian land.

This is geopolitically illiterate. Only the Jews have a legal, historical and moral entitlement to this land. The Jews are its only extant indigenous people and the Palestinian Arabs are its would-be colonial occupiers, declaring that “not one Jew” will be allowed to live in a state of Palestine.

Yet this attempt to erase the Jews from their own country and even from their own history is ignored by the “anti-racist” Western left, who instead accuse Ben-Gvir of promoting ethnic cleansing.

In a savage tweet this week, Sen. Ted Cruz said that the Biden administration’s “pathological obsession” with undermining Israel was endangering the national security of America and its allies.

The administration’s attacks following the Ben-Gvir visit, Cruz said, will convince Palestinian officials that compromise is unnecessary because Democratic administrations “will coerce our Israeli allies into making dangerous concessions.” The administration, he added, consistently seeks to undermine Israel’s security and sovereignty while pouring more than $1 billion into Palestinian areas and “bringing officials from the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization to Washington D.C.”

This perverse behavior by Western liberals, aided by Israeli leftists who fan the flames by even more hysterically promoting these lies and appeasement, hugely incentivizes further Palestinian rejectionism and violence. It also actively emboldens Israel’s existential foes among the world’s tyrannies and kleptocracies who use United Nations resolutions and “lawfare” to try to bring Israel down.

Just imagine if America said that these Palestinian lies and incitement have to stop, that Israel has law and history on its side and that the only aggressors in this war are the Palestinian Arabs who want to destroy the Jews’ right to their country and historic identity.

The Palestinians’ strategy of extermination would collapse overnight because the main reason this war never ends is the West’s support for their cause.

The result is the unique and insane situation in which Israel is forced to fund people who continue to build an infrastructure of genocidal warfare that they periodically unleash against Israeli civilians; in which so-called allies prevent Israel from taking measures essential to defend its people against mass murder; and in which the same so-called allies now have the gall to tell Israel that the composition of its government doesn’t meet with their approval.

Israel, however, is not the only example of a looking-glass world in which aggressor and victim, right and wrong, truth and lies have been turned on their heads.

Many are observing similar denials of reality and character assassination in the West’s culture wars and are concluding that the world has simply gone mad.

Israel’s new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may turn out to behave badly or unwisely. Ben-Gvir and the other two “extremists” in Israel’s government may promote the fanaticism or recklessness with which they are associated. If they do so, they will deserve to be criticized.

But just as happened with former U.S. President Donald Trump, such a rational, evidence-led approach is vanishingly unlikely. To liberals, there are simply no facts or evidence that can reframe the way they view the Netanyahu government: That it has crossed over to the dark side from which there can be no return.

Antisemitism repudiates reason. Anti-Israelism repudiates reason. It’s well known that the Jews are always the canary in the cultural coal mine.

Today, anti-Jewish bigotry is both symptomatic of and fueled by a far broader and deeper phenomenon. We can see this in the madness of identity politics. The West, having produced the age of reason, is now intent on destroying it.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir Guardian Angel has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy. Go to to access her work.

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