July 19, 2017
“The Firestorm and the Lesson”
We’re on the Temple Mount issue, still.
The days go by, and the situation gets more and more unreal. Yet at its core, what’s happening tells us a great deal.
As you likely recall, the Temple Mount was closed by Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday, and remained closed on Saturday. This was after terrorists had killed two Border Police, utilizing guns that had been hidden on the Temple Mount. Closure was done to permit time to search for additional weapons and to investigate possible complicity by Waqf personnel. (Some weapons were found, but not guns. A small number of Waqf officials are being held on suspicion of providing the terrorists with support or encouragement.)
The closure elicited a furor in the Muslim Arab world. From a rational perspective, the hypocrisy was breathtaking, because the focus was on Israel’s security actions and not on the terrorist crime.
True to his word, Netanyahu opened the Temple Mount again on Sunday, slowly. Sunday, only Muslims were permitted up, and on Monday the Mount was opened to others as well.
The prime minister had assured everyone the “status quo” would hold in terms of rules for visiting the Mount. But, as he had also said, there were now going to be new security measures, including metal detectors at all gates.
Well! The furor over this has been greater than the furor over the closing. This is the firestorm:
Waqf officials refused to walk through the detectors in order to go on the Mount, and advised all Muslims to also refuse to go up. Some went anyway, but a large percentage did not. The Waqf held prayer services outside the Mount.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem told Muslim worshippers that if they go through the detectors to pray on the Mount, Allah will not hear their prayers.
The situation has morphed from one of refusal to go through the detectors to one of violence over those detectors.
Fatah – which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas and is the party of the Palestinian Authority – yesterday called for “a day of rage” for today, Wednesday.
Fatah officials denounced the installation of the detectors as “terrorist procedures,” and a “fierce and organized attack.” (This is so typical: turning the situation on its head so that Israel, in working against terrorists, is accused of “terrorism.”
And here we have it:
The violence began Tuesday night and has grown in eastern Jerusalem. Firebombs are being thrown at Israeli police. This is in advance of large scale demonstrations being planned.
The rhetoric has escalated along with the violence.
The Jerusalem Post today cited various residents of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City:
“If the metal detectors are not removed, we will see an explosion here. People will tear them down with their bare hands….”
“Millions of Muslims…are watching every day and supporting our struggle.
“In this battle, the Israeli government will learn who the Palestinian people are, and how persistent we are. We will never give up.”
Warnings are directed towards Friday, the Muslim sabbath, when many thousands come to pray at the Mount. Israel is said to have until then to reconsider before all hell breaks loose.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah yesterday called on the international community to force Israel to remove the metal detectors. Israel’s use of them, he said, is “in contravention [of] all laws, agreements and international charters.”
What we are witnessing, charged Hamdallah, “is gross aggression and a dangerous Israeli plan…that will increase tensions in Jerusalem specifically and the region generally, explode the situation and ignite a religious war.” (Emphasis added)
The Arabs have a special knack for exaggeration. He wouldn’t be threatening us, by any chance?
I want to stop here for a moment, my friends, and ask you to send two messages.
First, to President Trump:
Make it very brief and certainly polite. Say it is time to face reality: Abbas’s Fatah is fomenting violence with its call for “a day of rage,” and the PA prime minister is making threats as well.
Tell him: Here is the evidence of what the Palestinian Authority truly is.
It’s time to stop imaging that Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace. It’s time to face the fact that working towards negotiations is a futile effort that does Israel an injustice and can come to no good.
Include these URLs:
Then to Prime Minister Netanyahu:
I believe he understands that he cannot and must not cave on the issue of these metal detectors. To do so would be to give the Palestinian Arabs a huge victory and make us weaker.
But it does not hurt to encourage him and let him know that you are with him and hope he will stay resolute in the face of horrendous threats. “We are with you,” tell him. “Be strong.” That is all. No speeches.
Now as to what is going on here and why this situation has become critical.
This is not primarily about Israel preventing terrorists from slipping weapons onto the Mount, although this may be a peripheral concern.
This is about POWER and CONTROL. Make no mistake about it. It is an absolutist concern. Logic and reasonableness and readiness to cooperate to prevent terrorism play no part in this scenario.
This is not about Israel having a rule for Muslims that does not apply for Jews. As many of you are well aware, anyone approaching the Kotel goes through a metal detector.
And it not about something that should never apply to Muslims.
There are reports that on Saturday King Salman of Saudi Arabia sent a message via the US to Israel, asking that the Mount be opened again promptly and the status quo be maintained. But he expressed no reservations about the use of metal detectors.
According to the source of this information (emphasis added):
“The issue of metal detection machines is a matter that has become routine in the holy places because of terrorism, which strikes without discrimination and in most places regardless of the sanctity of the different religions.”
Now, King Salman is custodian of the two holiest mosques in Islam – at Mecca and Medina – and so he ought to know. But in his case, it is Muslims who have installed the detectors, while here it is Jews who have done it. It becomes an entirely different issue.
I would like to end with reference to a lengthy and significant article by historian Richard Landes on the “emotional nakba of the Arab world.” It is greatly relevant to what is going on right now with the Temple Mount.
Professor Landes speaks of “hard zero-sum, honor-shame concerns in the attitude of Arabs toward Israel” and the failure of many analysts to pay sufficient attention to this factor in considering Arab political dynamics.
It is “hard zero-sum” because there is no half way, no compromise. Either you win, or you have lost.
In “certain tribal cultures” there is “a specific set of honor codes whose violation brings debilitating shame…” Says Landes, “Arab political culture…tends to favor ascendancy through aggression…”
Put simply, when there has been shame, honor – which is the ultimate value – is best restored via violence. Thus, for example, are there “honor killings”: a female relative brings shame to the family by losing her virginity; killing her restores family honor. Finding someone to marry her does not suffice. If someone in your clan is murdered by a member of another clan, you suffer enormous shame if you fail to take revenge by killing someone in that clan. Seeking prosecution in a court of law does not mitigate shame. (These, of course, are generalizations reflecting the traditional approach.)
In the instance of the predominant (not universal) Arab attitude towards Israel, it is essential, explains Landes, to review the situation in an historical context (emphasis added):
“For the 13 centuries before Zionism, Jews had been subject to a political status in Muslim lands specifically designed around issues of honor (to Muslims) and shame (to Jews). Jews were dhimmi, “protected” from Muslim violence by their acceptance of daily public degradation and legal inferiority…
“For more than a millennium, Arab and Muslim honor resided, among other places, in their domination and humiliation of their dhimmi…”
Thus, “…to the honor-driven Arab and Muslim political player…the very prospect of an autonomous Jewish political entity is a blasphemy against Islam, and an insult to Arab virility…
“The loss in 1948, therefore, constituted the most catastrophic possible outcome for this honor-group: Seven Arab armies, representing [huge numbers of] of Arabs (and Muslims), were defeated by less than a million Jews, the surviving remnant of the most devastating and efficient genocide in history. To fall to people so low on the scale that it is dishonorable even to fight them—nothing could be more devastating…”
“…in a state of intense humiliation and impotence on the world stage, the Arab leadership chose denial—the Jews did not, could not, have not won. The war was not—could never—be over until victory…
“The Arab leadership’s interpretation of honor had them responding…by adopting a negative-sum strategy. Damaging the Israeli “other” became paramount, no matter how much that effort might hurt Arabs, especially Palestinians…Sooner die than live humiliated. Sooner commit suicide to kill Jews than make peace with them…
“In the Middle East, honor is identity. Appeasement and concessions are signs of weakness: When practiced by…one’s enemy, they produce renewed aggression.
“When we indulge Arab (and jihadi Muslims’) concerns for honor by backing off anything that they claim offends them, we think that our generosity and restraint will somehow move extremists to more rational behavior. Instead, we end up muzzling ourselves and thereby participating in, honoring, and confirming their most belligerent attitudes toward the ‘other.’”
This analysis provides us with a perspective for understanding and handling the current “metal detector crisis.”
We can see how the Palestinian Arabs, honor-shame driven, would not tolerate the insult of detectors set up and manned by Jews. And why their response is violence and threats of violence, rather than a rational discussion about how the situation should be handled.
It also tells us that under no circumstances should we back off when they threaten. I have no idea what will happen in the next few days. But if the Arabs make good their threats to escalate their violence on Friday, I hope fervently that our government will call out the troops.
That would be essential.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.