The Israeli hard Right, desperate to regain ground it’s lost in its failed bid to galvanize Israel opposition to Gaza withdrawal has turned to an idea that indicates how desperate and out of touch it is from the mainstream.
Israeli demonstrator removed by police
during Temple Mount demonstration
(credit: Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters)
The New York Times covers a story of a new Israeli Rightist group, R’vava, which mounted a pathetic attempt at a demonstration at Al Aksa mosque whose purpose was to lay Jewish claim to the Temple Mount: Police Force Bars Israeli Rightist Rally at Jerusalem Holy Site. The Times reports that about 50 demonstrators appeared while a massive swarm of 3,000 Israeli police mobilized to put the kibosh on the rally.
The thinking behind this new "initiative" is akin to Tom DeLay’s attempt to distract the American public from his own ethical imbroglio by turning attention to the Terri Schiavo case and alleged "judicial usurpation" of the political process. The Israeli Right fears it cannot beat back Sharon’s political momentum in the Gaza withdrawal so it tries to open a new "front" with the Israeli public. But the problem is that for only a very small minority of Israelis will such a an agenda resonate. In fact, I’d say that the majority of Israelis will not only be disgusted with such political/religious shenanigans, they will feel even more strongly than they already do how toxic religion can be when it is mixed with politics and ideology.
Buried deep in the Times story is the most delicious irony of all about the Temple Mount campaign. Revava seeks to reclaim Jewish control of the Temple Mount–which was precisely the motive behind Ariel Sharon’s infamous "walk on the Mount" which ignited the first Intifada. At the time, Sharon mouthed precisely the same justifications that the Israeli Right now musters to defend its position: the Temple Mount belongs to Jews as much as to any other religion; we are exercising our right as Israelis to walk on our own ground–such an inalienable right cannot be taken from us by anyone, etc.
Chickens coming home to roost, eh, Mr. Sharon?! Now Sharon tries to make out as if he’s a man of peace. But let no one ever forget the way he hijacked this issue using the blood of Palestinians murdered by Israeli police at the Temple Mount and subsequent violence during the ensuing Intifada to fuel his march to the Prime Minister’s office. This is a man steeped in blood.
That being said, we Jews believe that t’shuva is always possible and make allowances that individuals can learn the errors of their ways and turn aside from them. Let us hope that Sharon makes good on the promise he has shown over the past few months. This will require constant pressure and admonition from the Bush Administration (and I’m not certain they’re up to the task). But it is possible.