A deadly terrorist attack took place early last Friday morning, 14th July, on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (considered to be Judaism’s holiest and Islam’s third holiest site) when three Israeli Arab terrorists took guns onto the holy site and stormed an Israeli police outpost killing two Israeli Druze policemen on the spot. Ironically, the terrorists, two of whom were subsequently shot dead by the Israeli police, enjoyed full citizenship rights within the only democracy in the Middle East, which exposes once again the lie that Arab terrorists are simply oppressed Palestinians fighting for equal rights and statehood.
We need to go back in history to understand what’s going on at the Temple Mount, often described as the most contentious piece of real estate on the planet. Although Israel took control of Jerusalem in 1967 they didn’t declare it a Jewish site once again, rather they respected the Muslim’s claim of right to worship there. Israel agreed for the Muslims to remain on the Mount with their religious jurisdiction, which means that the Muslim religious authority, the Jordanian Waqf, still controls the Mount.
It is worth noting that the Temple Mount, which from the late 7th century CE has housed the Islamic Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, is the site of the two former Jewish Temples, with archaeological excavations testifying to this fact, but for the sake of maintaining a fragile peace, Jews are not allowed to pray there and their visiting times are restricted. The Israeli police enforce these restrictions.
A crucial factor the terrorists took full advantage of was the fact that there were no metal detectors and nobody to check bags on the site, as Israel respects it as a Muslim place of worship and it is part of the status quo that Muslims can pray there without interference.
However, as a result of the deadly shootings, Israeli police closed the holy site for two days and carried out a search. Jerusalem’s Police Chief is quoted as saying, “We found dozens of knives, slingshots, cudgels, spikes, inciting materials, unexploded munitions, stun grenades, binoculars…”, which begs the question: What are items such as these doing on a holy site that’s supposed to be devoted to Muslim prayer and worship?
For reasons of safety, Israel decided to place magnetometers (advanced metal detectors which are selective in which metals they react to) around the entrances to the site. The security measures prompted an uproar from the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian Waqf, who demanded a return to the “status quo.”
However, no violation of the status quo was committed, and the Israeli government issued a statement which read “Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and the freedom of access to the holy sites. Israel is committed to protecting the safety of all worshippers and visitors to the Temple Mount.”
In truth, it’s astounding that prior to this week, no metal detectors were present on the site, even though Judaism’s holy site at the Western Wall includes metal detectors, CCTV and armed guards. Pilgrimage sites around the world have upgraded their security in recent years including the Buddhist site Bodh Gaya, the Sikh Golden Temple and the Mecca Masjid in India. In 2015 the International Business Times reported that Saudi Arabia was “issuing pilgrims with electronic bracelets” in addition to 5,000 CCTV cameras and over 100,000 people employed to provide security during the annual Hajj. The Vatican has also recently deployed metal detectors at St Peter’s Square.
It is important to note that it was never the intention of the terrorists to kill Druze necessarily – a peaceful sect who number about 100,000 and come from the northern Israel regions of Galilee, Mount Carmel and the Golan Heights. The goal of the terrorists, first and foremost, was to kill Jews. This is borne out by the fact that a week later, on Friday 22nd July, a young Palestinian, in response to Palestinian Authority incitement, entered the house of an innocent Israeli family who were sitting down to their Friday evening Shabbat meal and slaughtered three Israelis – a grandfather, his son and daughter, with a knife.
Hamas subsequently issued a statement of support for the attack, calling it a “necessary reaction” to new Israeli security procedures at the Temple Mount. In a tweet, they called it “heroic.”
It is hardly surprising, given the facts, that Israel has now installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount to prevent further terrorist attacks. For 50 years Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, allowed Muslim worshippers to walk freely into the Temple Mount. In fact all religions are allowed to worship freely at their respective worship sites. Christians feel safer in Israel than they do anywhere else in the Middle East, as indeed do Muslims. Israelis do not attack Muslims who worship freely in their worship sites. If anything it’s the opposite. You will never see Jews throwing rocks from the Western Wall (where they are allowed to pray) onto the Temple Mount.
Israel, as a response to lines that were crossed and the advantage that people took of their religious liberties, had no option but to install metal detectors. When the surrounding twenty-two Arab States put metal detectors at the entrance to their mosques, not an eyebrow is raised, but when Israel does likewise, to defend from terrorist attacks, all hell breaks loose.
It is high time Ireland stands with Israel, unequivocally. Whether we realise it or not, or whether we shy away from it for reasons of political correctness, Israel’s values of freedom and democracy are our own values. The jihad which inspires young Arabs within Israel and the Palestinian territories to commit acts of barbarism is the same jihad that incites radicalised Muslims to commit acts of terror within Europe and the wider world.