…Assure freedom of access

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I was a little girl during the Six Day War, and can never forget the collective euphoria of worldwide Jewry over the fact that, after 2,000 years, the Temple Mount was finally in our hands. Like the stones of the Kotel, however, which have weathered with time, the collective psyche of the Jewish people has weathered much. We Jews wanted to be different; we wanted to be sensitive to the needs of religious minorities. Therefore, the very first thing we did after the liberation of the Tempe Mount was to hand the keys over to the Waqf, the Islamic imam of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

This, like so many other big-hearted gestures of successive Israeli governments, was soon to be forgotten. Although Israel was victorious in 1967, the Muslim and Arab world soon believed that Jews are not to be allowed on the Temple Mount to pray. It was framed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence that there would be freedom of worship for followers of all religions, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, with unrestricted access to their holy sites for prayer. However, in what can only be referred to as the world’s collective amnesia, the rights of Jews to pray at their holiest site eventually became subordinate to the rights of the Muslims to pray on what they call the “Haram al-Sharif,” or the Temple Mount.


Unfortunately, the Arab world has a long history of inciting hysteria about the alleged Judaization of Jerusalem. In 1929, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whipped up violent riots by spreading conspiracy theories that the al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim holy sites were being threatened by Jews, resulting in numerous attacks and the slaughter of Jews in Jerusalem and throughout British-controlled Palestine. As recently as last month, Palestinian Authority (P.A.) President Mahmoud Abbas repeated the very same libel several times, saying that a “herd of settlers” plan to desecrate the al-Aqsa Mosque. P.A.-controlled television repeated a broadcast of a film 19 times in three days, in which Mahmoud Abbas declared that “we have to prevent” Jews “in any way whatsoever,” from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque (which is code for using violence).

Nearly 100 percent of Palestinians consider themselves to be religious Muslims, and these sorts of libels are intended to whip up hysteria. Last August, Hatem Abu-al Qader, who holds the Jerusalem portfolio for the P.A., stated that “the next round [of confrontations] would be between the Israeli settlers and the [Arab] residents of Jerusalem,” adding that the Palestinians are facing Jewish racism and a new Nazism. He also stated that the al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and that “We are warning Israel not to play with fire, because it will be the one to be burned by it if it harms the al-Aqsa Mosque, for it belongs to Arabs, and to all Muslims of the world.”

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Because Rabbi Yehuda Glick had worked for freedom of access to the Temple Mount for all religions, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, he was known as “an extremist Zionist,” and was shot four times last week by Palestinian terrorist Mu’taz Hijazi in the chest. The assassin, an Islamic Jihad member released from Israeli prison two years ago, was killed the next day by Israel security forces.

Unfortunately, today the terrorist is being glorified as a hero and a martyr on official Palestinian websites, and posters of him have gone up throughout the Palestinian territories celebrating him as a shahid (martyr), with pictures of Jerusalem in the background. The moment the Palestinians learned of the attack on Rabbi Glick they were celebrating in the street and passing out candy.


It sometimes seems like Israel lives in the 21st century, while her Arab neighbors are still occupying the primordial and primitive world of the seventh century. In the meantime, the generous act of 1967 should be cataloged under the very long chapter heading of “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) in Washington, D.C.

1 COMMENT

  1. This op-ed contains an egregious error- one which, in fact, calls into question the integrity of Stern’s overall argument.
    She insists that “Nearly 100 percent of Palestinians consider themselves to be religious Muslims” – not just “Muslims,” mind you, but RELIGIOUS Muslims.
    Somebody can’t count: the 100% figure is the fuzziest of math. According to Wikipedia, “93% of Palestinians are Muslim, the vast majority of whom are followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, with a small minority of Ahmadiyya. Palestinian Christians represent a significant minority of 6%.” Indeed, Christians have been quite prominent in the PLO, from spokesperson and legislator Hanan Ashrawi, an Anglican (and a UVA Ph.D, btw), to factional heads Nayef Hawatima and George Habbash, both Greek Orthodox Christians.
    An American equivalent to the Stern comment would be the assertion that “nearly 100 percent of Americans consider themselves to be religious Christians.” An obvious absurdity. And Jews comprise a much smaller percentage of the U.S. population that Christians do among the Palestinians.

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