How Jewish prayer represents “an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide”

UK media coverage of “tensions” at the Temple Mount at times devolves into the absurd, mostly due to the way in which ‘professional’ journalists accept and normalize the logic of Islamist intolerance towards Jews and other religious groups.  

A report by Ben Lynfield at The Independent (‘Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’, Feb. 26) represents a classic example of this strange inversion in which those advocating for freedom of worship for all groups are labeled as provocateurs, while those seeking to curtail that religious freedom are cast as victims.

Lynfield begins:

The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there.

The Indy reporter later acknowledges that the legislation has no chance of becoming law – due to opposition from, among others, Binyamin Netanyahu – but still contextualizes the debate as feeding the “perception of an Israeli threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque” which could “ratchet up tensions in the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.”

Lynfield then gives some background about the Temple Mount:

Al-Aqsa is situated in an area revered as Judaism’s holiest site for housing the temples destroyed in 586BC and AD70 and is in the locale where religious Jews pray a third temple will be built. The Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for the last 1,300 years, with the exception of the crusader incursions to the Holy Land.

Indeed, this passage in indicative of the convoluted logic often at play in the debate: Because the site has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for over a thousand years, any attempt to abrogate such an exclusionary practice is itself a dangerous provocation.

Later, Lynfield deceptively weaves the following into the story.

On Tuesday morning, violence erupted at the Mount in advance of the debate. The police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that about 100 Palestinians, most of them masked, began throwing stones and fireworks at police, lightly wounding two officers. Police then entered the mount to ”disperse the rioters“, he said.

The suggestion here is as clear as it is erroneous: that Palestinians were rioting at the site due to a debate in the Knesset over a bill which will never become law.  However, as anyone who routinely reads news stories on such violence at the Temple Mount would know, such outbreaks occur, not due to any provocations by Israel – which arduously defends the rights of all faiths in the holy city – but by Palestinian extremists intent on provoking a conflict.  

As Israeli Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld continually tells journalists genuinely interested in understanding the cause of the violence, riots are usually coordinated by elements within Fatah and Hamas – as well as by local groups, such as Israel’s Islamist Movement.  (The northern branch of the Islamist Movement is led by a radical preacher fancied by the Guardian named Raed Salah.)

While the overwhelming majority of Israeli politicians are, as the Indy article suggests, not going to take any measures which will have the effect of inflaming the political situation, the surreal manner in which the issue is framed is best illustrated by a quote in the article by Hanan Ashrawi:

Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO spokeswoman, termed the holding of the Knesset debate an “extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide. Using religion as a pretext to impose sovereignty on historical places of worship threatens to plunge the entire region into great conflict and instability. It is reminiscent of the same regressive ideology that brought the crusades to Palestine in the Middle Ages’.’ 

So, let’s get this straight:

  1. Some Jews are asking for the right to quietly pray at the site in Jerusalem holiest to their faith.
  2. Millions of Muslims worldwide will, it is alleged, be provoked at the mere possibility that a faith other their own will have that right which they want exclusively for themselves.
  3. And, yet, it’s the Jews in this scenario who are portrayed as the “regressive” political force?

‘Orwellian’ doesn’t begin to fairly characterize the mental gymnastics employed by journalists in order to accept such bizarre logic.  

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19 replies »

  1. Your closing points say it all.

    The phoney argument, as put forward by the Indie here, is insulting to Jewish people. Yet it is more insulting to Muslims. It casts them collectively as beasts.

  2. In this debate seculer politician like Hanan Ashrawi should step aside and leave the actual dialogue to religious authorities from both sides.
    As it stands I believe Jewish rabbis are still clear about the ruling that prayers inside the mount should not be carried out.

    The only viable reason I see to get control, or at least inspection rights, to the mount from the Waqf is to stop the removal of tonnes of rubble from beneath the dome which contain centuries of old Jewish artifacts, some dating back to the first temple, so it is claimed.

    Any other reason without religious backing will have little value other than creating further unrest and endager lives.
    It appears that some parties like Mr. Bennett’s have exactly that in mind.

    I do not believe it’s for us to haste reforms within the Muslim faith but rather for the Muslims themselves.
    In the same way we find the slaughter laws proposals in Sweden and Germany an infrengment into our culture so do Muslims find the carving of an area they used for their faith for centuries. There was an understanding that the Jews would use the Kotel area and the Muslims use the mosque.
    This understanding was the reason behind the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the defeat of the Crusaders.
    Why change this delicate balance?

    • Ashrawi is right to point out how the Knesset debate is politically motivated – but is herself guilty of the very same with her OTT talk.

  3. The point isn’t that we should change the status quo, but that the MSM constantly casts Israelis who want to pray at the Mount as the villains, and yet the motives and morality of Palestinian extremists (or others outside the country) who would engage in violence over something as benign as Jewish prayer are never challenged.


      Provocation in a Shekel as we say in Hebrew.

      They find provocation in anything and everything such as being denied access to the mount at midnight when the access is clearly uptil 22:00 every day.

      So out of the blue they found an Israeli flag (as if they didn’t had it with them) and burnt it.

      They also burnt the old deserted police station’s door next to the Lion’s gate.

      What I agree with you on, Adam, is that the Palestinian Arabs’ standing point is hardly ever challanged with a straight face like the Israeli standing point.
      It’s almost as if the challanger believes that the Arabs are children which are expected to behave in a certain way, like drunk do or football hooligans do.

      This must stop.

  4. There are some more progressive countries and religions much loved by the Guardinistas where these problems can be solved more easily according to Golden Age traditions.
    Threatened by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists, community in northern city of Raqqa chooses ‘dhimmitude’ over conversion or death

  5. Islam is the religion of permanent outrage. Any suggestion that Mulsims might be asked share something is met with violent tantrums, gnashing of teeth, and wails of victimhood.

    What is very disturbing is the extent to which our mainstream media pander to this infantile behaviour. I think it’s because they are intimidated. If they sided with the Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount, they would face a violent reaction.

  6. The hypocrisy here is that only one religion, of the three Abrahamic faiths who “operate” in Jerusalem, operates an exclusivity clause. People of any faith or none are welcome to visit the Kotel (as long as they behave and dress appropriately), people of any faith or none are welcome to visit the Church of the Sepulchre and yet it seems people of only one faith are permitted to enter the Temple Mount.

    If Muslims in London tried to stop any non-Muslims from entering the Regents Park Mosque or Jews said “only Jews may enter St Johns Wood synagogue” or Christians declared Westminster Abbey an exclusive site for Christians, there would rightly be outrage. Why is it OK for Muslims in Jerusalem to forbid any group (within the bounds of respectful dress and behaviour of course) from visiting and praying at the Temple Mount?

    • Labenal, I think you were not aware of the problem caused by imposing the right of the “women of the Kotel” right to pray in a portion of the Kotel.

      Now imagine for a minute that any other group would like to claim a stake in that area.

      Oh dear.

      What about Christians in Jerusalem in their respected sites?

      Well, I hate to say it but focusing on Muslims all the time tends to make you forget how petty all religions are at times.

      • Hey, I know all religions can be petty. I’m not talking about pettiness. I (and the article above) am talking about justifying violence and “worldwide outrage” on the idea that someone of a different religion can pray in your holy place. This is the opposite of petty.

        And there is a big difference between some Jews objecting to women wearing prayer shawls and kippot and Muslims violently reacting even to the idea that Jewish right to visit and pray on the Temple Mount should even be discussed.

        Personally, as I have said before, if I visit a place of significance to someone else, I dress and behave appropriately (e.g. I would take my shoes off in a mosque/I would not swear in a cathedral). That’s just respectful. I think all should reach for the highest common denominator in such places. I know it’s unfashionable, but by those principles, I don’t think women should be permitted to wear kippot/tallitim/tefillin at the Kotel any more than I think they should be allowed to wear a bikini there, or men should be allowed there without covering their heads.

        • “I know it’s unfashionable, but by those principles, I don’t think women should be permitted to wear kippot/tallitim/tefillin at the Kotel any more than I think they should be allowed to wear a bikini there, or men should be allowed there without covering their heads.”

          I wouldn’t compare wearing a talit to a bikini.
          Denying women the right to pray in full manner is denying reform Judaism all together.
          Where does it stop? Who’s a Jew?
          I’d much rather see a woman that observe Shabbat every week, wearing a kippah and Talit than a seculer Jew wearing it once a year in Yom Kippur before going to eat Pepperoni Pizza to end the fast.

          The only instruction to wear a kippa is during a prayer (in Judaism).
          “According to the Rambam, Jewish law dictates that a man is required to cover his head during prayer.”
          The Western wall, like Al Aqsa or any Cathedral is a heritege of all man kind. It is an historic artifact.
          It is by far the most Jewish place standing every Jew can identify with and relate to.
          As such, I agree with you that visitors should respect the sanctuary and visit only a certain part unless wearing traditional garments.

          What is the point of a non Jew wearing a kippah, symbolising his fear of god (when he doesn’t fear our god).

          Regardless of what I wrote here I respect your opinion and agree to disagree on some matters.
          Good Shabbos.

          • Hey Itsik. I have nothing against reform/liberal or any other form of Judaism – I don’t give a damn how any individual chooses to practice religion (or not). If a woman wants to wear a tallit and a kippah (or a bikini for that matter), gezundeheit – but NOT at the holiest site in the World for Jews. As I say, I think at such places, the HIGHEST common denominator should be observed.

            For example, I do not cover my head on a daily basis, but if I go to the Kotel, you can be sure I will make sure my head is covered. If I were a woman, I would probably wear sleeveless tops and shorts, but if I went to the Kotel, I would ensure I was “properly” covered up. I would happily walk around topless on a beach, but not on a trip to a church, a parliament, or the theatre. As I say, it’s a simple matter of respect and decorum.

            It looks like we are going to have to disagree.

    • “I would demand that all Muslims be require to pray at al Aqsa only if they wear pig costumes.”

      Why? So they will resemble you?