When It Comes to Judaism’s Holiest Site, International Opinion Seems to Favor Religious Inequality

Jan. 23 2023

When asked his opinion of an Israeli minister’s visit to the Temple Mount last month, the American State Department spokesman Ned Price declared, “We oppose any unilateral actions that undercut the historic status quo.” Meir Soloveichik notes the problem with this response:

Strolling on the Temple Mount in no way violates the so-called status quo, dating back to the policies adopted by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan after the Six-Day War—according to which, Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not openly to pray there. That is exactly what the Israeli public-security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir did.

One reporter seems to have followed up, asking Price whether he knew what the terms of the “status quo” actually were. Price’s answer was a master class in doublespeak: “It’s a question for the parties themselves, including the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, whose role as the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites, again, we deeply appreciate.” We are thus in an Orwellian moment in which the “status quo” is whatever Jordan might consider it to be and in which the history of the Temple Mount can be redefined in the moment in order to disregard the rights of a Jewish state to the most important site in Jewish history. Following the visit to the site, Hamas immediately threatened repercussions, and the UN Security Council hurried to meet about the non-violation of a sacred status quo.

All this points to a profound irony. The return of Benjamin Netanyahu has been met with the journalistic gnashing of teeth and the rhetorical rending of garments by writers and public figures about the danger that the (democratically elected) government of Israel poses to democracy. And yet it is these very critics who are often so dismissive of the most elemental of democratic injustices: denying Jews in Israel the right to visit, and to pray at, Judaism’s holiest place. Perhaps, when it comes to the history of the democratic liberties of mankind in the eyes of those who piously intone on the subject, it is only the rights of religious Jews that do not matter.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Israeli democracy, Itamar Ben Gvir, State Department, Temple Mount, U.S.-Israel relationship

 

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