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Op-Ed: How political correctness is inflaming Temple Mount crisis

Stephen Hughes illustrates the double standard that Israel faced when thousands of Muslims protested against the metal detectors that were placed at the Temple Mount following the deadly shooting attack about three weeks ago. According to Hughes, the next time Israeli soldiers or police officers are murdered by terrorists, the harsh truth will be that they died at the hands of “politicians who wield the sword of Islamic appeasement and political correctness.”
Archive Photo Credit: EPA

While Israel has sovereignty over all of its capital of Jerusalem, the custodianship of the Temple Mount belongs to the Jordanian Waqf. The current Temple Mount crisis began with the shooting attack by three Israeli Arabs on July 14, 2017, which killed two Israeli Druze Border Policemen. The terrorists then fled back to the Temple Mount complex where they fought with more Border Policemen, costing them their lives. Following the attack, Israeli police closed off all access to the Temple Mount compound and searched the site for weapons and other possible terrorist cells. The site was reopened after two days- a simple terrorist assault prevention measure.

Because of the high threat level, Israel erected a new layer of defense around the site in the form of metal detectors and cameras. The Waqf, the PA and Jordan all rejected these new unilateral security measures. With brinkmanship laden hostility, they challenged that these security measures were an affront to Islam and that it was against their religion to go through metal detectors, etc. Iran and Turkey added their voices to the fury. Waves of international criticism battered Israel’s Knesset from Washington, the UN and the EU. In a grand act of appeasement, the cameras and metal detectors were removed by Israel.

However, the removal of these security measures only escalated the situation. For nearly two weeks, Muslims largely avoided the Temple Mount, praying instead near entrances to the holy site in protest of new security measures. Once these security measures were removed, riots broke out within minutes as thousands of Muslims flooded the Temple Mount, attacking police officers who responded with crowd-control measures including tear gas, shock grenades and rubber bullets. Rioters also hurled stones down from the Temple Mount on the Western Wall Plaza below. Over 100 were injured. 

Are Security Cameras and metal detectors forbidden in Islam? NO! 

The Custodian of Islam’s two Holy Mosques, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, personally tried to intervene in the Temple Mount crisis via the White House, stating that metal detectors are “routine” at holy places. The Saudi king expressed no reservations about Israel’s decision to upgrade security by installing metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the wake of the terror attack. The truth is such security practices are paramount at mosques in the unstable Islamic world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Now, consider security measures during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. This is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims. 

The General Authority for Statistics in Saudi Arabia records report the 2016 Hajj had a total of 1,862,909 pilgrims, of whom 1,325,372 pilgrims came from outside Saudi Arabia, while the total pilgrims inside totaled 537,537 pilgrims.

For the 2016 security, in addition to law enforcement (one policeman to every corner), some 100,000 military forces were deployed along with armored vehicles, helicopters and more. 2017 will even see more. In Mecca, there are more than 5,000 CCTV cameras alone with several thousand more through the area. Saudi authorities also deploy an unknown number of UAVs and drones. 

All pilgrims are being outfitted with GPS tracking water-resistant e-bracelets equipped with bar codes that link to personal information, including medical records, in an effort to facilitate treatment in case of illness or injury.

Saudi Authorities have limited the number of visas for each country in an effort to control crowds. All “guests of Allah” are required to carry permits, and police have set up security checkpoints to prevent unauthorized pilgrims from entering the holy sites. It has also vowed strict punishment for all offenders. Outside of all the Grand Mosque’s entrances, Saudi police control the movement of pilgrims between green plastic barriers. The Saudi Internal Security Forces employ several thousand metal detector screening devices, x-ray machines, etc. 

Now, let’s compare the Saudi Arabia Hajj facts to Jerusalem. The most visited city in Israel is its capital Jerusalem, which receives approximately 3.4 million tourists annually! Tens of thousands of tourists from Muslim and Arab countries visited the Israeli capital last year, with Indonesia and Turkey topping the list. The first half of 2017 recorded the best six months ever in the history of incoming tourism, according to an Israeli Tourism Ministry statement, with 1.74 million tourists, up 20% from 2016. While only 1,325,372 pilgrims went to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj!

Would have a metal detector have stopped the terrorist attack on July 14, 2017? YES!

Israel’s security forces arrested the accomplice who helped the terrorists smuggle in the weapons with which they used to murder the two Israeli Border police officers. The terrorists carried knives, the Carl Gustav- style submachine gun and handguns. The Israel Police released security footage that tracks the movements of the three terrorists in the minutes before the attack. If metal detectors were installed, police would have caught the man trying to smuggle the guns into the Temple Mount compound.

Israel’s capital has become blanketed with the insanity of Islamic appeasement contorting and obscuring the deadly ground of reality. These policies are the height of naivety and political correctness, a strategy for disaster.

Trump’s White House along with various international and Israeli officials have decided that a handful of IDF/Border Police forces will conduct only visual protection checks of people entering the Temple Mount and search anyone who they believe could pose a threat. 

However, just last month, Arabs were marching near the Temple Mount, chanting cheerful slogans like “We will sacrifice our lives for al-Aqsa,” “We will die as martyrs,” “There’s going to be another Intifada,” and “There’s nothing like killing a soldier.” 

Someone please tell me how are a handful of IDF/Border Police forces to safely conduct any meaningful security checks? What is even more of a catastrophe is to expect the forces to wade into the middle of a hostile crowd, disarm a terrorist with a knife, firearm or even a suicide bomb. 

The dark bitter paradox of the deaths of IDF/Border Police forces at the hands of radical Islamists is they were not killed by them. The harsh truth is that they died at the hands of politicians who wield the sword of Islamic appeasement and political correctness.  

JOL Blogger | Stephen Hughes

Stephen E Hughes spent 13 years with the U.S. Army. Half of Hughes’ time in the military was spent overseas. Hughes is currently the Association of Geo-Strategic Analysis CEO and the author of several books concerning Iran and the Middle East.

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