Jonathan Kay on the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’: Hateful ignorance on parade (NATIONAL POST COMMENT) 03/29/12)
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When Israeli paratroopers entered Jerusalem’s Old City during the Six-
Day War of 1967, they had to rely on a passing bystander — an old
Arab Jerusalemite — to guide them to the Western Wall of Herod’s long-
destroyed Jewish Temple.
Why did these soldiers not know the way to the holiest place in all
Judaism? Because none had ever visited it. When the Jordanians ruled
Jerusalem, Jewish visitors were persona non grata, and many
synagogues were bulldozed.
I recite these facts in anticipation of March 30, the date picked by
activists for what they call the “Global March to Jerusalem.”
“The march will demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people and to
put an end to the Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaisation
policies affecting the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem,” the
web site informs us. “We aim to highlight the cause of Jerusalem (the
City of Peace) which is considered the key to peace and war in the
region and the world. The march will confirm that the policies and
practices of the racist Zionist state of Israel against Jerusalem and
its people are a crime not only against Palestinians but against all
With just a few sentences, the web site summarizes the dominant
strains of anti-Israeli propaganda that circulate in the Arab and
Muslim worlds (as well as at the United Nations Human Rights Council,
which just adopted five new resolutions against Israel, including one
written by Syria). In regard to Jerusalem, in particular, the Global
March organizers emphasize the image of the city as a sort of once-
peaceful, once-tolerant Eden, that recently has become corrupted and
desecrated by hateful Jews.
And so it is worth taking a moment to remember what Jerusalem and the
surroundings looked like before the Israelis took control of the area
45 years ago.
Far from the thriving centre of tourism and spiritual life that the
city has become under the Israelis, Hashemite Jerusalem was something
of a backwater. Even the Temple Mount — then, as now, controlled by
Muslims — attracted few Islamic visitors. Jewish prayer at the
Western Wall was practically non-existent: The faithful were confined
to a tiny, constrained pit the size of a bowling lane.
And what about now? From the manner by which Israel’s shrillest
enemies describe the Jewish state, one would think that the mosques
had all been destroyed or turned into pig stys. And yet al-Aqsa and
the holy Muslim buildings it contains have become an active place of
worship for Muslims from around the world. Indeed, Muslims are free
to pray at mosques all over Israel (and, unlike in many Muslim
nations, Shiite and Sunni worshipers do not have to worry bout being
blown up by their opposite number as they pray), just as Christians
gather and worship freely at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and
Bahá’ís congregate freely at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa.
Unless you count the oddballs over at “Jews for Jesus,” there is not
a single religious faith that does not enjoy full freedom of worship
in Israel. Only a tiny, militant, widely despised fringe of Jews seek
to remove the Temple Mount from Muslim religious custody.
Once the Jordanians were thrown out in 1967, archeologists from
around the world descended on Jerusalem to excavate the treasures
that Muslims had feared would weaken their claim to the city. In
recent decades, as Simon Sebag Montefiore recounts in his newest
book, “Canaanite fortifications, Judaean seals, Herodian foundations,
Maccabean and Byzantine walls, Roman streets, Umayyad palaces,
Ayyubid gates [and] Crusader churches” have all been uncovered.
Muslim leaders, on the other hand, when given the chance to excavate
an area under the Temple Mount in the mid-1990s, took the opportunity
to throw out tons of uninspected material, along with untold
historical treasures. To his dying day, Yasser Arafat trafficked in
the bizarre conspiracy theory that Jerusalem had never been a Jewish
holy city. Such ignorance permeates Palestinian propaganda to this
But that Israel’s tolerant attitude toward other faiths’ presence in
Jerusalem were mirrored by, say, Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims
aren’t allowed even to enter Muslim holy cities, let alone build
churches or synagogues.
And yet we never hear of a “Global March to Mecca.” Odd that, no?
Jews and Arabs likely will continue to fight over control of
Jerusalem for many years. But let us dispense with the idea that the
Israeli presence amounts to a “racist” desecration of an
otherwise “peaceful” city. If the moral battle between Jews and Arab
were fought on the basis of who governed Jerusalem in a more tolerant
and civilized fashion, the victor would not be hard to choose. (©
2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 03/29/12)
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