The History of the Temple Mount Status Quo, Which Prohibits Jews from Praying at Their Holiest Site

Aug. 11 2022

In 1967, shortly after the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan ordered the Israeli flag removed from the Dome of the Rock, and worked out the current arrangement for the Temple Mount, whereby the Western Wall and the plaza in front of it is reserved for Jewish prayer, and the mount itself is exclusively designated for Muslim prayer. This has led to the bizarre situation where Israeli security officers closely monitor the lips of Jewish visitors to make sure that they aren’t reciting surreptitious prayers. Alan Baker examines how this came to be:

The current issues beleaguering any hope of achieving tranquility in Jerusalem are based on an age-old Ottoman “status quo” governing custodianship, worship, and visits to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This status quo was first established in 1757 and formalized by Ottoman imperial decrees (firmans) issued by Sultan Abdul Mejid in 1852 and 1856, freezing claims by religious communities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem to Christian holy places and forbidding any construction or alterations to their existing status.

The prohibition on Jews’ ascending to the Temple Mount area had existed . . . during Mameluke rule (1250–1516) and was maintained under the Ottomans (1516–1917). It received international acknowledgment at the end of the Crimean War at the 1856 Paris Conference, and following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin (between European powers and the Ottomans), Article 62 of which determined that: “it is well understood that no alterations can be made to the status quo in the Holy Places.”

The same Article 62 extended that arrangement to include all—not only Christian—holy places, freezing claims by religious communities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem to Christian sacred sites and forbidding any construction or alterations to their existing status.

As Baker notes, the current situation flies in the face of all the principles of religious toleration and non-discrimination on which modern international law is built. Yet the numerous diplomats and institutions who see it as their duty to hold Israel to the demands of international law have never complained about its enforcement of the Temple Mount status quo.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: International Law, Ottoman Empire, Temple Mount

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy