Op-Ed: Poor Policing Policies Fuel Temple Mount Violence
Pesach (Passover) 2014 was a hit in Israel, with millions of people travelling with their family and friends to various parts of the country. National parks especially trails and sites in Judea and Samari, were abuzz.
Unfortunately, there was one place in Israel where Jewish families—as well as tourists (who are breaking tourism records in sheer numbers) —were unable to visit during Pesach, and that is the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount is the single holiest site in Judaism. It is the location of the two Temples and will be the location for the third. In general, access to the Temple Mount continues to be very limiting for Jews and they are most definitely denied any sort of religious freedom or freedom of movement when access is allowed at all. Such policies are unjust, discriminatory and anti-democratic. Additionally, such policies empower our enemies.
This was proven true when on the first day of Pesach a violent Arab riot broke out. This riot led to the closing of the Temple Mount and a limited and standardized crowd dispersal operation by police.
Unfortunately, what resulted was the effective takeover of the Temple Mount by Hamas members and supporters. Barricaded inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, those inside have released pictures showing stockpiles of rocks used as weapons.
As a result, the Temple Mount remained closed throughout the holiday of Pesach when the Jewish people commemorated their exodus from slavery into freedom and sovereignty.
This week a video was released which showed small school children being harassed, threatened and intimidated by a mob of abusive Arabs on the Temple Mount. The video also showcases the police response in the given situation.
In September 2013, I wrote an op-ed about police tactics at the Temple Mount that I referred to as the low hanging fruit. The current government and police policy towards the Temple Mount is causing great damage to security as well as politically.
In fact, it is “a loss of sovereignty in the heart of hearts of the capital of Israel, in the holiest place for the Jewish people, and the handing over [of sovereignty] to a terrorist movement which inscribes [calls for] the destruction of the State of Israel on its flag” as MK Moshe Feiglin stated.
MK Feiglin also called for the dismissal of Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich over the policy being followed by Israeli police at the Mount.
The police will not be changing their policies towards the Temple Mount unless the orders are given to do so by the government. It is clear that even orders by the High Court can be ignored by the police on the grounds of “security assessments” (these result in blanket bans on prayer, allowing soccer to be played by Arabs youth on the Mount).
It must be pointed out that the Police do have the ability to facilitate freedom, equality and security on the Temple Mount.
In 1999, a violent riot broke out in Seattle, Washington at the WTO conference. Anarchists attacked the public and the police in a way very similar to the way which Arabs are acting on the Temple Mount. The ratio there of actual violent individuals, together with the number of non-violent but aggressively protesting individuals, is also similar.
The initial police response of tear gas combined with stick and shield approaches resulted in the Seattle police being flanked, and hit with stones from the crowd; they had to retreat. As the riot continued and the number of violent individuals was estimated as being as high as 200, the police did almost nothing.
The government’s response? The following day, on December 1, 1999, the National Guard and police reinforcements arrived. Fighting continued and the police are documented as having used rubber bullets, wooden bullets, various paintball launched ammunition, and other more heavy-handed tactics in order to put down the riot. As many as 500 protestors and violent rioters were arrested.
Whilst the Seattle Police’s response was denounced by many as having been too violent, the response was very much more in line with the US Army’s Civil Disturbance Operations manual.
When describing violent riots, it sounds as though the manual speaks specifically about the situation on the Temple Mount. However, when discussing the responses and treatments for such types of rioting, the manual describes the response of the Seattle Police.
The current policy on the Temple Mount has allowed Hamas to take control, and literally fly its flag over the holiest site in Judaism, during a period in which negotiations with the PA have reached their expiry date, where rockets are fired from Gaza, and machine guns are being fired in Judea.
This is not acceptable and excuses will not suffice. The government must facilitate freedom of movement, access, religion, and prevent the threat of violence against its citizens, in their Capital.
Long-time Temple Mount activists are trying to raise funds and support for the organizing of a wide scale demonstration. Their Facebook page and information can be found here.
If the Seattle Police wouldn’t allow anarchists to take over a Seattle city block, why should the Israeli police allow the ongoing riot and closure of the Temple Mount by Arab terrorists?
The potential for wider scale protests to erupt on Independence Day (Nakba day for the Arabs) will be reduced if a show of force, capability, determination and sovereignty (including a monopoly on the use of violence) is used now. The riots will only provide fuel to the fire that is to come if not handled effectively and immediately.