PROTECT THE TEMPLE MOUNT

Friends of Israel are being urged to support a campaign that aims to stop the desecration of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Among the groups campaigning to end the vandalism are the British Israel Coalition, British Muslims for Israel and Anglican Friends of Israel.

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the trust that controls and manages the Temple Mount, is accused of desecrating Judaism’s holiest site. Illegal digging has destroyed historical remnants of Jerusalem’s Jewish history. Since the mid-1990s, the Waqf has carried out excavation work, drilled into ancient stones and painted over rare Jewish works at the site.

The Waqf has allowed illegal digging through the use of tractors, and thrown away valuable artifacts from the two Jewish Temples. Archaeologists have sifted through Waqf-sanctioned rubbish heaps and found decorated utensils from the King Solomon era, as well as coins and clay dating back to the second Temple.

Other Jewish religious sites under attack include Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) and the 3,000 year-old Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The Waqf also denies Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors to visit and worship freely on the Temple Mount. Jewish worshipers are discriminated against and harassed on a regular basis by the Waqf. The threat of anti-Jewish violence has left the Israeli authorities with little choice but to prevent Jewish worship on the Temple Mount.

Earlier this year, a young British Jewish student was accosted by Waqf officials, who demanded that he remove his yarmulke, which they said they found to be “offensive.” The student later told reporters that while he has experienced anti-Semitism in England, he “never thought that in Judaism’s holiest site I would be subjugated to such discrimination.”

It is clear that the Waqf is attempting to disconnect the people of Israel from its inheritance by either denying the presence of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem or destroying evidence of its existence. This attempt to de-Judaize the Temple Mount cannot be allowed to continue.

Meanwhile UNESCO has done nothing to prevent such blatant cultural and historical vandalism. Not only is this shameful, it is a violation of its promise to “create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.”

Historical treasures such as the Temple Mount must be protected regardless of politics and religious identification. The inaction of UNESCO in the face of this concerted vandalism of Jewish holy sites is utterly unjustifiable.

THE RIGHTS OF SETTLERS

The Palestinian Liberation Organization has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The PLO wants to UN member states to table a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. In a statement, the PLO said the rise in settlement activities is “proof of a dangerous Israeli government plan to undermine the two-states solution.”

The majority of UN member states will no doubt relish the opportunity to help the PLO condemn the Jewish state. But it is a common misperception that the building of settlements is an impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In truth, the primary obstacle to peace is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and the unwillingness to allow a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state.

The legality of the West Bank

In 1920, the San Remo Conference assigned to Britain a mandate to establish a Jewish national home on territory covering what would become Israel, Jordan and part of the Golan Heights. In early 1921, Britain made a distinction between Palestine as a  national home for the Jewish people, and Transjordan as a home for the Arabs.

The Mandate of Palestine, which was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, formalized the creation of a Jewish national homeland, as well as Transjordan. The Mandate incorporated the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which endorsed the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Mandate legalized the immigration of Jews to Palestine and encouraged close settlement of the land.

Two years after the Second World War, the British handed the Mandate to the UN, whichrecommended (rather than enforced) the partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs. The Jews accepted the partition but the Arab states rejected it and declared war on the Jewish homeland, which resulted in the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan. At the insistence of the Arabs, the 1949 armistice line was “not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary.”

In 1967, Israel won control of the West Bank after a war of self-defence. UN Security Council Resolution 242 recommended Israeli withdrawal from territories in return for the right “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Unfortunately, the Arab states once again rejected the UN’s proposal. Moreover, the second article of the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable to the West Bank because it pertains only to cases of occupation of a sovereign entity. Jordan was never a recognized sovereign of the West Bank, which means Israel is not an occupier.

The legality of the settlements

Legally, the West Bank is unclaimed Mandate land and should be referred to as “disputed” territory. As such, the settlements are entirely legal as long as they are in the parameters of the 1922 Mandate, which has never been superseded in law, not even by the 1947 partition plan. Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967 merely restored the territory to its legal status under the Mandate of 1922. The settlers are simply enacting this mandate.

Even if it could be proved that Israel is an occupant, many of the Jewish settlements are still permitted under international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Protocol does not prohibit Israeli civilians from acting on their own initiative by settling among the Palestinian Arabs. Other settlements are there for security reasons. Building up the areas around east Jerusalem reduces the risk of the capital falling to an Arab army invading from the east.  Again, this is permissible under the Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Protocol.

The fact that the Palestinians and the Arab states collaborated with Hitler, and then proceeded to invade Israel on three occasions between 1948 and 1973, seriously undermines any moral claim to establish a state on the West Bank. Besides, the West Bank, traditionally known as Judea and Samaria, is historically and religiously Jewish. It is home to several sacred sites and two of Judaism’s holiest cities (east Jerusalem and Hebron). Jerusalem was under Islamic control for centuries, but on no occasion did any Muslim entity declare it as their capital.

Moreover, non-Jewish powers cannot be trusted to protect Jews or Jewish sites. Until 1948, Jews had lived in Judea and Samaria for hundreds of years. During the Jordanian occupation, the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated and synagogues destroyed. In addition, Jews were forbidden from praying at their holiest place – the Western Wall. And let’s not forget that Hebron was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Palestinian Arabs in 1929. Following the 1967 war, many Jews were eager to commemorate the massacre by settling in Hebron.

 An impediment to peace?

Between 1948 and 1967, there was not a single settlement in Gaza or the West Bank. But the Arab states refused to make peace with Israel. Nor did the Arab states attempt to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza between 1948 and 1967. Furthermore, the dismantling of Jewish homes and the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza in 2005 should have led to a cold peace. Instead, the Palestinians elected Hamas, which resulted in an upswing in terrorism. In short, a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been about the settlements.

Of course, it is a reasonable assumption that the settlements will play a part in final negotiations. And if a two-state solution is reached, it must be possible to allow a Jewish minority to remain in a Palestinian state, in the same way that one in five Israelis are Arabs. After all, many of the Jews in the West Bank were born there. As such, Palestinian demands for UN condemnation of the settlements is both racist and illegal.

THE PALESTINIANIZATION OF YEHUDA AND SHOMRON

The recent news that UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, has approved a Palestinian bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a World Heritage Site is a significant development in the ongoing project to Palestinianize Yehuda and Shomron. UNESCO’s approval effectively  endorses the absurd notion that there is a Palestinian heritage distinct from the history of Israel.

This has echoes of the October 2010 UNESCO declaration that the Tomb of the Hebrew Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”  Astonishingly, the UN body admonished Israel for registering the shrines as national heritage sites, citing that “any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law.”

UNESCO’s  decisions are either rooted in ignorance or malice. Either way, the cultural agency is doing a good job of disconnecting the people of Israel from its inheritance. As Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2010, “If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation are buried […] some 4,000 years ago are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is?”

The Palestinian Authority also wants UNESCO to list other religious sites, including Mount Gerizim near Shechem (Nablus), which is sacred to the Samaritans. So not only is Jewish culture being Palestinianized, but Israelite heritage in general is being (mis)appropriated for the political purpose of delegitimizing Israel’s claim to the land.

UNESCO’s decision regarding Bethlehem is hardly a surprise. It is yet another step in the Palestinian appropriation of the Judean town, which is famous for being the birthplace of King David and Jesus. When Arafat made his first Christmas appearance in Bethlehem in 1995, he invoked the Christian nativity by crying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” To which the crowd responded, “In spirit and blood we will redeem thee, O Palestine!”

Bethlehem obviously held a special place in Arafat’s heart. Not because he had any special love for Christianity but because it was a political rallying point. Bethlehem, according to Arafat, was the “birthplace of the first Palestinian Christian, Jesus Christ.” Arafat also proclaimed Jesus as “our Lord the Messiah.” While this is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make, it is evidence of an overwhelming desire to Arabize the history and legacy of Israel and Judea. This, of course, has precedent in the Quran, which not only appropriates Isaac, Moses, David and Elijah, among others, but rewrites them from an Arab point of view.

Perhaps taking their cue from the replacement theology of the Quran, the Palestinian Arabs are experts in the rewriting of Eretz Yisrael. Hence, Israel is Palestine; Jerusalem is al-Quds; Yehuda and Shomron are the West Bank; Bethlehem and Hebron are Palestinian heritage sites; and Jesus the Jew is resurrected as Jesus the Palestinian. Some Palestinian Arabs deny the presence of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Then there are absurd claims made by some Palestinian Arabs that they are the descendants of the biblical Jebusites or Canaanites, or even the true offspring of the ancient Israelites.

That Eretz Yisrael is Jewish should be beyond dispute. All archaeological and historical evidence points towards a sustained Jewish presence. In contrast, there is no evidence of a long-term Palestinian culture, which is hardly surprising since the Palestinian Arabs are late-comers to the land.

In short, the Palestinian Arabs are effectively de-Judaizing the heritage of Eretz Yisrael and substituting their own pseudo-history. UNESCO’s participation in such blatant cultural and historical vandalism is shameful and is a violation of its promise to “create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.”

BEWARE THOSE WHO WANT PEACE BUT CARRY A SWORD

You would think that after centuries of anti-Jewish harassment, which culminated in the Holocaust, Christians would think twice before admonishing the State of Israel.

But it seems that a coalition of believers in Jesus cannot resist the temptation to hound the Jewish state.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a glut of news stories about Christian groups considering – or actively calling for – a ban on Jewish settler produce. The most recent example is that of Christian Aid and the Quakers, which are calling on the UK government to implement a total ban of settlement goods.

Meanwhile,  United Church of Canada (UCC) is expected to finalize its official policy towards Israel. Following the publication of a one-sided report, UCC delegates may find themselves persuaded to vote in favour of a settlement boycott when they meet in August.

Next month, Anglican leaders will meet in the English city of York to decide whether the Church of England should adopt the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

The EAPPI, which also has the backing of Christian Aid and the Quakers, is extremely biased against Israel and clings to the belief that Israel should be held to a higher standard than the Palestinians.

The number of Christian organisations interfering in the Israel-Palestinian issue and censuring the Jewish state is increasing. It is common practice for left-wing Christians to exonerate the Palestinians of accountability and hold Israel solely responsible for ending the crisis.

All of the above Christian groups would undoubtedly deny they are anti-Semitic and are simply advocating a humanitarian and non-violent approach to ending the “occupation.”

Except there is nothing humanitarian about turning a blind eye to Palestinian anti-Semitism and the glorification of terrorism. And there is nothing non-violent about calling for the economic (and physical) destruction of the settlements, which may be the beginning of a total boycott of allIsraeli goods and services.

I write this not as an Israeli or even as a Jew, but as a former Christian who is appalled by the blatant prejudice against Israel by those who preach the merits of justice and love.

But discriminating against the Jewish state and failing to hold the Palestinians to account is the opposite of justice.  Moreover, pro-Palestinian Christians refuse to accept the possibility that it is the Palestinians themselves who have squandered every opportunity for self-determination.

Israel is expected to “love thy neighbor” and withdraw from Judea and Samaria.  This is asking too much. Israel needs the settlements in order to give it strategic depth should there ever be another Arab-Israeli war.  Loving others should not involve destroying yourself in the process.

Of course, there are many Christians who are supportive of Israel. The Christian Zionists are incredibly supportive of the Jewish people’s right to live in Israel. There are also Anglican and Catholic organisations which advocate on Israel’s behalf.

But I fear that the growing phenomena of Christian Palestinianism (an ideology embraced by left-wing protestants, liberation theologians and Arab Orthodox priests),  is outpacing Christian Zionism, and is doing so at a time when mainstream opinion in the West is turning against Israel.

Meanwhile, both Christian and Muslim Palestinians have appropriated Christ as an icon of their self-declared victimhood, thereby resurrecting the myth that it was the Jews who killed Jesus. This a blatant and cynical attempt  to provoke anti-Semitism in those Christians who already have anti-Israel leanings.

Indeed, Yasser Arafat not only proclaimed that Jesus was a Palestinian but is “our Lord the Messiah,” which is an astonishing statement for a Muslim to make. More recently, Mustafa Barghouti, from the Palestinian Authority, claimed that Jesus was “the first Palestinian who was tortured in this land.”

The invention of the Palestinian Jesus and the misuse of the crucifixion as a political weapon is just one more lethal narrative aimed at demonizing Israel.

And there is a danger that the Muslim appropriation of Jesus will converge with Christian Palestinianism and form a kind of political Chrislamism.

Pro-Palestinian Christians need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask whether their actions are likely to lead to a fresh outburst of religiously-motivated anti-Semitism.  But I suspect that they will close their eyes to this possibility and continue to raise their fists against the descendants of Isaac and Jacob.

Perhaps this is to be expected. After all, it was Jesus himself who said, “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.”

ANIMAL HOLOCAUST?

Is it right for animal rights groups to use the Holocaust to highlight animal exploitation?

Among animal rights advocates, there is a growing tendency to refer to the Holocaust when describing the horrific plight of animals misused and abused for food, clothing and cosmetics. There is even a book entitled Eternal Treblinka: Our treatment of animals and the Holocaust. But is it right to harness the worst disaster ever to befall the Jews in order to highlight animal abuse?

Many Jews dislike the word ‘Holocaust’ because it has religious and sacrificial connotations. Instead, the word Shoah, meaning disaster, is preferred. But does this mean the word ‘Holocaust’ is now free to use by groups whose interests have nothing to do with the Jewish people?

There are some dangers here. First of all, drawing a parallel between the Final Solution and the abuse of animals runs the risk of downplaying the sheer scale and disaster faced by the Jews during the 1930s and 1940s. What happened to the Jewish people under the Nazis was an unprecedented disaster and one which wiped out two-thirds of European Jewry (or one-third of the world’s Jewish population). The Final Solution was a deliberate and systematic attempt to ‘ethnically cleanse’ the world of Jews. This was motivated by a very real hatred of a particular people and was rooted in a highly-toxic mix of racial and religious discrimination.

The abuse of animals is horrific but it is not rooted in hatred towards animals. Yes, animals are abused, tortured and killed on a massive scale on a daily basis, and there is no excuse for it. What humans do to animals is exploitation of the worst kind, but it is not a deliberate attempt to rid the world of animals. In this sense, the Holocaust and animal exploitation are qualitatively different.

Another danger is drawing a direct parallel between animals and the Jewish people. While most people reading this article are animal lovers and view animals and humans as equals, anti-Semites have historically used animal imagery to demean and insult the Jewish people. Even today, Jews are called pigs and monkeys by Muslim anti-Semites. Also note that Jews have been repeatedly described as sub-human, i.e. as brutish, less than human.

Then there is the platitude about the Jews being led like lambs to the slaughter, which is apt (given its Biblical origins), but also robs the victims of their individuality and erases the many example of heroic Jewish resistance.

In short, the direct comparison between the suffering of the Jewish people and the suffering of animals is likely to be considered offensive. Organisations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have expressed concern over the (mis)use of Holocaust terminology. In fact, the ADL has described the trend as “disturbing”.

When Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, stated that “six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses”, many people – Jews and non-Jews – were understandably upset. She then went on to blame her Jewish members of staff for the campaign. This is no way to win sympathy for the plight of animals. Quite the reverse, it makes animal rights campaigners seem either anti-human or just plain crazy.

Hijacking the special nature of the Holocaust is also troubling at a time when there is a frightening upswing in both Holocaust denial and Holocaust revisionism in the West and among Muslim populations. Indeed, the Holocaust is an incredibly sensitive issue in Israel and among the Jewish diaspora. It is the single most traumatic event to happen to the Jews since the Romans ethnically cleansed Israel and changed the name to Palestine in 135 CE.

Another problem with the Holocaust comparison is that it fails to take into account the type of suffering involved. Yes, animals suffer pain and are physically abused every day. But when a person – or in the case of the Jews, an entire people – are incarcerated and brutalised, there is the overwhelming sense of loss and hopelessness, of fear of what has happened to loved ones, the prospect or experience of rape, and the knowledge that someday soon he or she will be gassed and incinerated, along with their families. Animals, on the other hand, do not (as far as we know) experience reality in such a heightened fashion. They do not experience the passing of time or fear the imminence of death in the same way humans do. Of course, this is not to detract from the very real psychological suffering of animals. We all know that a mother cow suffers separation anxiety when her calf is taken away, and there is plenty of evidence to show that pigs and sheep panic when they see or sense their companions being slaughtered. Animals in labs show signs of anxiety and distress. This is to be expected and should not be explained away. But I am arguing that there is a difference in the quality of emotional suffering. The Nazi assault on the individual Jew was not only an attack on his or her identity, race and religion, but a deliberate attempt to degrade theirexperience of what it means to be human. As I stated earlier, the Nazis actively pursued a policy of altering the status of the individual Jew from that of a human being to that of a sub-human. Animals are indeed robbed of the opportunity to live a life free from oppression and pain, but they are not made to undergo the existential humiliation of being rendered sub-animal.

Conclusion

Having laid out the numerous arguments as to why holocaust references should be avoided, there may well be a case for returning to the original meaning of the word to highlight the plight of animals. The meaning of the word comes from the Greekholocaustos, used to describe a religious animal sacrifice that is completely consumed by fire. So, the word ‘holocaust’ originally referred to the death of an animal for human purposes. Strip out the religious connotations, and we are left with the possibility for re-adopting the word for a new purpose.

So even if we agree that holocaust with a lower ‘h’ is acceptable, I am still not convinced that it is acceptable to use the ‘Holocaust’ (with a capital ‘H’). Of course, it is tempting to draw parallels between animals and people being herded together and transported to godforsaken places, or experimented on for useless medical research, or their skin used to make sofas or lampshades. But there is a point where such comparisons become gratuitous.

However, I think it is reasonable to use the Jewish catastrophe as an example of mankind’s depravity. Ironically, this view was set out by Matt Prescott, who was behind one of the PETA campaigns. He stated: “The very same mindset that made the Holocaust possible – that we can do anything we want to those we decide are ‘different or inferior’ – is what allows us to commit atrocities against animals every single day […] The fact is, all animals feel pain, fear and loneliness. We’re asking people to recognise that what Jews and others went through in the Holocaust is what animals go through every day in factory farms.”

I think a couple of good points are made here. First, the decision by certain humans to exploit whomever they consider to be inferior should not be tolerated. Secondly, there is the rather moving comparison between the pain, fear and loneliness of the concentration camp prisoner and the animal in the lab or slaughterhouse, notwithstanding my attempt to differentiate between the quality of suffering involved.

If we are to use the word’ holocaust’, then it must be made clear that it does not detract from the suffering of the Jewish people, nor must the word ever be used carelessly. Used respectfully, the holocaust is an evocative expression of our horror at the scale of animal abuse. It is also an effective way of demonstrating that when it comes to animals, some human beings are indeed brutal, controlling, exploitative and uncaring – a bit like the Nazis.