NOTE: I published a new piece for Al Jazeera on the campaign by Detroit-area pro-Israel Jewish leaders to defeat Rep. Rashid Tlaib in the next election. I also did a video interview with The Real News Network on the demise of one of America’s strongest Israel Lobby group, The Israel Project. Please give them a read or a viewing and promote on social media.
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reports that Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will arrive in Palestine on Friday. The account Ravid paints of the “preparations” for their visit is both pathetic and ludicrous. You’d think Israel was preparing for the Second Coming or for Return of all of the Nakba refugees en masse:
Among the scenarios Israeli officials are now preparing for is a visit to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif.
Because of course, they’ll demand to visit the Haram. It is the third-holiest site in Islam and they are both Muslim (one is also Palestinian-American). Can you imagine a Catholic House member visiting Rome and not visiting the Vatican? An Irish-American visiting Ireland and not paying homage to St. Patrick? A Franco-American House member visiting Paris and skipping Notre Dame? Only for Israel does such a visit represent an existential threat to the nation:
…Last week, Israel’s deputy national security adviser, Reuven Azar, held a classified interagency meeting to prepare for the congresswomen’s visit.
The meeting was designated as highly sensitive due to the fact it took place while 41 House Democrats visited Israel. Israeli officials briefed on the meeting said Azar asked the participants to keep the fact that the meeting had even taken place a secret.
When he concluded the meeting, Azar said “there is high probability” that Omar and Tlaib would want to visit the Temple Mount due to the fact both congresswomen are Muslim. Azar instructed the Israeli police, who control access to the holy site, to ensure no Palestinian officials joined Omar and Tlaib on the visit. According to Israeli officials, Azar stressed that “the preferred goal is that the congresswomen won’t come to Israel at all” — and cancel the visit for their own reasons.
The goal here, of course, is to deny any validity to a Palestinian sovereign claim on Jerusalem. Meaning that this Israeli government is in the full throes of Palestinian denialism. Palestinians are not a nation, not a people. They are a rabble of some sort, which can be “pawned off” on some other country like Jordan, as Kushner’s idiotic deal of the century is rumored to propose.
As an example of such an Israeli attitude: on Eid al Adha, a Muslim holy day and the last day of Ramadan, Israel permitted settlers to enter what it calls the Temple Mount. Such provocation is important to radical Jews who seek to rebuild the Temple, because Tishah B’Av, the Jewish holiday on which they entered the sacred sanctum, mourns the destruction of the ancient Temple. Though the fast day is a day of mourning, it also looks forward to the future day when the TEmple will be rebuilt. Given that the two mosques there were built on the ruins of the Temple, there is only one way to rebuild it: by destroying the Haram. That, of course, would start a religious war the likes of which the region hasn’t seen since the First Crusade. This prospect not only doesn’t phase the settlers, they long for the day so that the Forces of Light can finally eradicate the Muslim Forces of Darkness. As it is, Muslim worshipers rioted in the face of this incitement, and Israeli Border Police were summoned and fired tear gas and beat the worshipers with nightsticks. All before one of the holiest shrines in all Islam. So much for the vaunted freedom of religion of which Israeli boasts to the world.
But in reports published after the Axios story above, both the Washington Post and Haaretz cast doubt, declaring that Netanyahu was leaning toward reneging on a pledge he supposedly made to Congressional Democrats, who bartered their delegation visit to Israel in return for permitting entry to Tlaib and Omar:
Democrats in Congress are quietly bracing for a new public fight with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his government informed congressional leaders on Wednesday that it would formally announce that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) would be denied entry into Israel because of their support of a boycott movement against Israel, said several congressional aides familiar with the discussions.
But it is now unclear if Netanyahu will follow through on that decision after a private backlash from the Democratic leadership and some U.S.-based pro-Israel groups, who warned against barring sitting members of Congress from entering Israel because of their political beliefs
This should teach Steny Hoyer that a pledge from Netanyahu isn’t worth the paper it isn’t written on. Now Hoyer can claim there was a deal and Netanyahu can deny it. A perfect he-said, he-said.
If the prime minister denies them entry, it will be a major victory for Pres. Trump who, last week weighed in on the matter, declaring his disappointment that Israel would permit them to enter. Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump is so slavish and obsequious, this undoubtedly caused him to reconsider an agreement his own ambassador to the U.S. had brokered.
It remains possible that Israel will decide to permit them entry, but only on condition that they agree not to visit Al Aqsa. This sort of restriction would be anathema. But it might allow Israel to claim it hadn’t barred them, but that they, in effect had barred themselves by rejecting a ‘reasonable compromise.’
Returning to the Axios account and security preparations for the Congressional visit:
He added that if they do arrive in Israel, the goal is to “minimize as much as possible the damage to Israel in the U.S. political system and public opinion.”
All representatives of all government agencies present at the meeting agreed that Omar and Tlaib should be allowed in the country in order to avoid harm to the U.S.-Israel relationship, the sources said.
I’d say that given that Israel’s top security officials are running around like Henny-Penny warning that the sky is falling, the chances are that Israel itself will do damage to its own reputation in the U.S. Here’s a perfect example: while Israel will permit the two members of Congress, it will deport any Congressional staff member accompanying her who has voiced support for BDS. This is the sort of guerilla harrying action that Israel contemplates in order to frustrate the plans of Tlaib and Omar for their visit:
Azar said Israel would assess the members of the delegation and decide whether to allow them in on a case-by-case basis, depending on their support of the BDS movement.
Azar instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to seek from the U.S. Embassy an advance list of delegation members in order to vet them in advance and notify those who would not be allowed to enter Israel.
Of course, they want such a list so that the Shin Bet and Strategic Affairs ministries can compile dossiers on all delegation members and research every word they’ve ever said or published on social media. They do this not just for the purpose of this trip, but so they can build a database of U.S. political undesirables which can be monitored and updated over time. This is the work of a police state, not a democracy.
As I wrote in a recent piece for Middle East Eye, this top-secret meeting was designed to keep the Congressional delegation guessing about what tricks Israel might have up its sleeve. While it cannot blatantly insult or physically intimidate Tlaib and Omar, it can offer petty insults designed to provoke them into an overreaction. I doubt they will take the bait. They are tough. And the taunts of petty officialdom will not deter them. The motto for this trip will likely mirror Michelle Obama: when Israel goes low, we go high.
Joshua Tartekovsky says
“Can you imagine a Catholic …? An Irish-American …? A Franco-American …?”
But you can easily imagine a Jew coming to Israel and not visiting the temple mount. Not only imagine, you oppose it! What is the difference?
No one put you in charge of giving away Jewish dreams of 2000 years. Last week, millions of Jews all over the world mourned the destruction of the temples. It is inherited in the culture and religion. If you choose to abandon that aspect of Judaism, that is your choice but time and again to give up on Jewish principles in the name of all Jews.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Joshua Tartekovsky: No one appointed you the Chief Rabbi or King of the Jews. “Millions of Jews” mourned the destruction of the TEmple? Hardly. YOu vastly overestimate how many observant Jews there are in the world. And “millions of Jews” certainly have not inherited a taste for animal sacrifices, High Priests, or rebuilding the Temple in the “culture and religion.” Once again your ego is bloated and you overestimate yourself and the Orthodox sect of which you are a member.
I have not abandoned Judaism. It is you the Judean pagan worshipers of stones and bones who have abandoned millenia of Diaspora Judaism based on ethics rather than power.
Well, this is a miserable decision.
We live in an upside down world when the leader of the free world coerces another country into banning its own elected officials from entering, as a form of political punishment of his opponents.
Israel has thrown in the towel with the Democrats, and cast their lot with Trump and the evangelicals.
M. Louis Offen says
Because of course, they’ll demand to visit the Haram. It is the third-holiest site in Islam and they are both Muslim
(one is also Palestinian-American). Can you imagine a Catholic House member visiting Rome and not visiting the
Vatican? An Irish-American visiting Ireland and not paying homage to St. Patrick? A Franco-American House
member visiting Paris and skipping Notre Dame?
Yes, and can you imagine a religious Jew visiting not the third-holiest site in Judaism but the first-holiest site for him/her and being denied the right to pray there openly, though Israel recaptured the Temple Mount more than 50 years ago at great sacrifice and Arabs and other non-Jews are permitted to pray there openly?!
...on Eid al Adha, a Muslim holy day and the last day of Ramadan, Israel permitted settlers to enter what it calls
the Temple Mount...because Tishah B’Av, Jewish holiday on which they entered the sacred sanctum, mourns the
destruction of the ancient Temple. Though the fast day is a day of mourning, it also looks forward to the future day
when the TEmple will be rebuilt. Given that the two mosques there were built on the ruins of the Temple, there is
only one way to rebuild it: by destroying the Haram...Muslim worshipers rioted in the face of this incitement, and
Israeli Border Police were summoned and fired tear gas and beat the worshipers with nightsticks. All before one
of the holiest shrines in all Islam. So much for the vaunted freedom of religion of which Israeli boasts to the world.
Thanks for acknowledging that the mosque was built atop the ruins of Judaism most holy place, something that Muslims have done elsewhere (e.g., Turkey and India). Abbas on behalf of the Palestinians, like other of their leaders, denies that the Jewish Temple or precious archaelogic sites exist there.
As for “the vaunted freedom of religion of which Israeli boasts to the world,” you don’t think much of it or you think there is greater of freedom of religion throughout the Muslim world, including in those Islamic countries were “blasphemy” is punishable by death, and they mean it!
Finally, Palestinians start rioting and threatening the lives of religious Jews at prayer, do you really think it wrong of Israeli Border Police to employ tear gas and nightsticks against rioting Palestinian “worshipers?” Jewish blood isn’t a concern of yours?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Louis Offen: You apparently need a lesson in Jewish beliefs and history. For 2 millennia Jews would not set foot on the Temple Mount. Rabbis actually prohibited Jews from stepping foot there. Only since 1967 has a small Judean sect begun lobbying for destroying the Muslim holy sites and replacing them with a rebuilt Temple. To this day, almost no secular Israelis visit the TEmple Mount. Very few Diaspora Jews do either. So that leaves the Orthodox. Most Orthodox around the world do not visit the Mount. There are small sects of settlers and other Diaspora Orthodox who believe in this Temple cult. They visit the Mount. They pray for the rebuilding of the TEmple and by extension, for a holy war between Jews and Muslims. These Jews do not represent a consensus.
So No, a Jew visiting Israel doesn’t necessarily need or want to visit the TEmple Mount. Nor is visiting the Kotel the same as visiting the TEmple Mount. The Kotel is a wall of the TEmple Mount and is not the same as the TEmple site itself (which no longer exists as the Muslim mosques sit on that site).
Muslims are not the only religion that has built sacred sites atop former sites of other religions. Indeed, many Jewish sacred sites were built on or near former pagan temple sites. THe Roman forum has churches built atop what once were pagan shrines.
I wouldn’t worry about Abbas denying the TEmple’s existence. Israel’s government denies there is a Palestinian nation. That is far, far worse.
I thought Israel wanted to be compared to western democracies. In which case, it falls woefully short on the score of religious freedom. But if you are admitting Israel has no right to compare itself to a western democracy, and should instead be compared to Muslim nations, then that’s fine with me. But there are many Muslim nations (though not all, of course) in which there is relative religious freedom.
You bet they do. Because those Judean terrorists want to provoke a holy war with Islam. They want to destroy the Haram. If I were a Muslim I’d be equally pissed at such pagan provocation.
M. Louis Offen says
Let’s go with my own words rather than the ones you would put in my mouth. OK?
I didn’t say that many Diaspora or Israeli Jews seek to pray on the Temple Mount, but some do or would and are prevented from doing so, though Muslims are freely permitted to pray there. You think that is exactly how it should be, and that allowing the zealots the opportunity to pray there would be tantamount to endorsing destruction of the mosque there?
Before ’67 there was no possibility of Jews praying there, and since ’67 it has not been allowed by the Israeli government not because of rabbinical objections, though some rabbis may forbid it because we don’t know the exact location of the alter and other special holy places to avoid and because to do so riles Muslims. You think Muslim objections should be trump in this, though it is the most holy site for Jews, the one they have faced for millenia when praying for the Temple’s restoration? Would you deny any Muslim the right to pray there? I think not.
You say many Jewish religious sites are built atop former pagan temples. Would you name some of those many Jewish religious sites, if you can. Have Jews been denying those others the right to pray at their holy sites by this or other means? Or is it just Jews who have been denied in this way?
Abbas and other Palestinian leaders denying the historical presence of Judaism in what is now Israel long before there was an Islam should not be seen as “bad faith” (no pun intended) when compromises are sought, and Jews should simply accede when the Palestinians object? If they don’t, riots by the Palestinians are to be expected and the Israeli authorities should let them express themselves in this way, though real and immediate physical harm may threaten Jews? Richard, you are so understanding of, if not supportive of, violent expression by the Palestinians.
Finally, would you name the predominantly Muslim countries in which non-Muslims can feel as free and safe to pray in their own places of worship as Muslims and others are in Israel? (BTW, do you account a woman’s right to an abortion as a religious freedom, since the Catholic Church in particular has done as much as it can around the world to deny woman abortions?)
Richard Silverstein says
@ Louis Offen:
Yes, you did:
If they went there simply as tourists there would be no problem. The problem is what they are praying for. They are praying for the destruction of the third holiest site in Islam. That is impermissible.
An ignorant lie. Israel restricts Muslim worship regularly.
Again, NO it is not the ‘most holy site for Jews.’ It is the holiest site for a minority of Jews in the world. It has no very little or no significance for most Jews. The vast majority of Jews have not visited the Kotel, let alone the Temple Mount.
If a Muslim advocated destroying a Jewish holy site I would support denying them the right to pray there. But no Muslims have done so while Judean zealots like you advocate doing so regularly.
You know as well as I that Israel was filled with pagan religions before the Israelites conquered the land. The Bible is full of warnings not to adopt the practices of the pagan religions.
This is an article arguing that Christian holy places in Israel were built atop former pagan temples: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/history-hiding-pagan-places-david-keys-reports-on-research-which-casts-doubt-on-the-authenticity-of-1468786.html
This Haaretz report suggests the possibility of the Temple Mount itself once having been a pagan site:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a “Jewish” conflict. The issue does not concern Jews per se. It concerns Israelis. Not all Israelis are Jews, and certainly not all Jews are Israelis. Do NOT make this a religious holy war. If you do, most Jews will not fight it with you. In fact, we will renounce you and label you pagan idolators who worship a false god of stones and bones.
Yes as long as Israel oppresses Palestinians, denies them their religious and political rights, there will be resistance. And that resistance is totally legitimate. To end it, all Israel has to do is recognize these rights and compromise. As long as it does not, the violence will continue.
Six Palestinians die for every Israeli killed by a Palestinian. So don’t talk to me of understanding or supporting Palestinian violence. You support far, far more lethal Israeli violence.
In Turkey, Christianity and Judaism have been practiced for millenia. IN a number of Asian Mulism countries there is relative religious freedom.
Are you daft? Desecration of mosques, burning of Qurans, restrictions on worship at the Haram al Sharif, Israeli refusal to recognize Muslim religious leaders, arrest of Muslim clerics. That is not “free” or “safe.”
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Joshua Tartekovsky says
Many reform and conservative synagogues hold services on that day not to mention all orthodox ones. Does that mean they are looking to renew sacrifices? No! It is your way of changing the discussion.
Jerusalem and Israel are have been inherited part of Judaism since its inception and your Chutzpah of denying is shocking.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Joshua Tartekovsky: Actually, the most radical of Judean settlers and their many elected MKs and ministers DO “look to renew sacrifices.” You’ve apprarently missed the hundreds of articles quoting them. And missed the prayers the Judeans recite which call for rebuilding the Temple and renewing animal sacrifices. Not to mention the necessity of destroying the Muslim holy places to do so.
I have not denied Jerusalem and Israel have been an inherited part of Judaism since its inception. But unlike you, I have not denied the validity of Diaspora. I have not denied that the vast majority of Jews in the world no longer see Israel the way you do and reject your insular perspective on these matters. I have not denied that the farther racialist and fascist Israel goes the less of a bond there is between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.
I’m afraid it is your moral blindness that is shocking…but not at all surprising. Next thing you know you’ll be trying to restore the Davidic royal line and declaring the so-called secular state is an abomination before the Judean God.
Joshua Tartekovsky says
״You know as well as I that Israel was filled with pagan religions before the Israelites conquered the land״.
This must be a joke. You treat the Bible as a historically accurate source. Do you believe in the exudes from Egypt? If you do, how can you deny Jewish ‘choseness’? If you don’t, why bring it up?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Joshua Tartekovsky: Have you ever read a book? Ever read the scores of accounts by Biblical scholars, including Israeli Jewish ones, confirming my claims that there were pagan temples throughout ancient Israel, which even persisted after the Israelites conquered the land. And that there were Jews who worshiped these rites and were condemned for it? Where did I learn this? Not just from scholarly books, but from one of the leading Israeli Bible scholars of his time, Moshe Greenberg.
So no, I’m not treating the Bible as historically accurate unless scientific evidence can confirm Biblical accounts. Those scholarly accounts, which you haven’t read, show you to be an ignorant fool.
This is part of (modern) Israel’s war, using the security excuse, for Jerusalem and all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea based on a patchwork of history starting thousands of years ago… an irredentist movement that denies Palestinians, their identity, their land, their history, rights.This is what our congresswoman are standing against, not Israel’s right to exist at all. It is, and has been, an Israeli occupation, a war, 52 plus years, and successful… sort of. Except Israel is losing support, not only Jewish support, over it’s long and obvious injustice while claiming to be doing this for the Jewish people. Do we have a movement yet “Not In My Name”?
Tlaib and Omar are the latest with the twist that our Congresswomen are being denied with our disastrous president Trump’s push because they are are HIS political enemies. It’s Tin Foil Hat stuff, against Muslims and boogeyman BDS Movement.
The BDS Movement is the very big boogeyman.I guess that makes BDS sort of successful. People should want to know what they are about. Do they really want the destruction of Israel or is that how the Israeli propaganda would have it? That Netanyahu etc. fear. them so shows Israel’s position is morally weak and wrong ultimately in this present-day world. What will destroy Israel is from within, what is already at work: Israel’s creeping anti-democratic, anti Muslim,anti-Palestinian dominance and theft of the land… against international law, but apparently okay with fearful or complacent Israelis.
“As an example of such an Israeli attitude: on Eid al Adha, a Muslim holy day and the last day of Ramadan, Israel permitted settlers to enter what it calls the Temple Mount. Such provocation is important to radical Jews who seek to rebuild the Temple, because Tishah B’Av, the Jewish holiday on which they entered the sacred sanctum, mourns the destruction of the ancient Temple.”
May I suggest corrections?:
Eid al adha is not the last day of Ramadan – that was two months ago and is called Eid al fitr, and immediately follows the end of Ramadan (not the last day of).
Eid al adha falls on the 10th of the 2nd month after Ramadan and commemorates the “sacrificing of Ishmael”.
The Jews who felt the need to enter the Temple Mount do not actually enter the “sacred sanctum” but rather keep to the sides of the mount which they claim avoids the actual temple area and thus agreeing with the orthodox rabbinate that it is forbidden to actually tread on the temple area.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Shai: Thank you for the correction. I should have done that bit of fact-checking myself and not made that error.
Your claim about where the settlers go on the Temple Mount is false. I know the Mount. I have been there (not to pray, but as a tourist seeking to learn more about the Haram al Sharif). They are standing on the grounds where the Temple stood. And they are violating centuries worth of rabbinic prohibitions in doing so. Those rabbis never said: you can enter the Temple Mount, just stay to the side of it and you’ll be OK. The rabbinic prohibition forbade them from entering the area period.
And you know that, because you know that until 1948, when Jews theoretically could visit the Temple Mount, they didn’t. They were satisfied with praying at the Kotel. These settlers are not normative Jews, but rather Judean idolators who have turned the Temple into a cultic obsession. One that most Jews utterly reject.
M. Louis Offen says
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