Monday, November 17, 2014

The Temple Mount: an American betrayal

On July 28, 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a US State Department briefing in Washington, DC. His subject was the release of the State Department’s newest Report (dated for year 2013) on International Religious Freedom (“Remarks at the Rollout of the 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom”, US State Department Homepage, July 28, 2014).

Secretary Kerry said that Freedom of Religion isn’t just for Americans. It’s a ‘universal value’. It’s for everyone. It is, he said, ingrained in every human heart.

Secretary Kerry went beyond the ‘human heart’. He declared that the freedom to profess and practice one’s faith is the birth-right of every human being. It is, he stated, a right that’s part of International law. He then added, “The promotion of international religious freedom is a priority for President Obama.”

That seems to be true. Obama has himself said that Religious Freedom is important to America. For example, in August, 2010, he said, “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable” (“America's True History of Religious Tolerance”, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2010). 

The point of these remarks is to demonstrate that Religious Freedom isn’t an after-thought at the US State Department.  It’s a core objective of U.S. foreign policy (“Religious Freedom”, US State Department Homepage).

The US claims it actively promotes religious freedom as part of its Foreign policy strategy (ibid). That’s why the State Department of the United States publishes this annual report: to monitor the status of Religious Freedom across the world. It does this because America believes that no ruling authority can “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” (“How America defines religious freedom”, The Economist Explains, March 24, 2014).  The US dedicates this report to that proposition.

The US is so serious about Freedom of Religion that it uses this monitoring Report in order to identify and then denounce any regime that persecutes on the basis of religious belief (ibid). It claims that if it finds such persecution, it reserves for itself the right to take diplomatic action against those violators.

For the United States, Freedom of Religion is a serious business. The State Department’s website says so.

But when it comes to Jews in Israel, that US commitment to religious freedom simply isn’t there. When Jews are forbidden the freedom to practice their religion upon Judaism’s holiest site—the Temple Mount--the US has not  denounced (see above) the anti-Jewish Muslim authorities who violate Jews’ rights. When a Muslim politician recently declared that Jews have no right to pray on the Temple Mount (“MK Tibi: 'Jews Have No Right To Pray on Temple Mount'”, Arutz Sheva, October 31, 2014),  America didn’t stand up for those Jews. It didn’t seek to protect the Jews’ ‘birth-right’ (see Kerry’s comments, above) to practice their own religion.

Instead, the US demanded the opposite--that the Temple Mount be open to Muslims, not Jews (“US Told Israel Temple Mount ’Must Be Opened to Muslims’”, Jewish Express, October 31, 2014). It remained silent about protecting Jewish freedom of worship. That silence meant that, so far as the US was concerned, Jews had no freedom of worship on their own Temple Mount.

Contrary to its stated mission to promote Religious Freedom and to denounce those who deny it to others, the US has completely ignored those who deny Jews in Israel that freedom. It denounces no one—except Jews who ask for the right to exercise their religious beliefs.

The US pressured Israel to ban Jews from the Temple Mount (ibid).

Go to the US Statement Department Homepage for ‘Religious Freedom’. It’s all there (at least, as of November 16, 2014): the US is committed to freedom of religion; it is committed to “international covenants that guarantee it [freedom of religion] as the inalienable right of every human being [emphasis mine]”; it holds international religious freedom as a core objective of US foreign policy.

Why won’t the US stand up to defend the inalienable rights of Jews to worship at their own Temple Mount? Where is the US commitment to Jews’ freedom of religion?

The US fails to defend Jews’ religious rights at the Temple Mount. It fails to protect the sanctity of Religious Freedom. It fails to stand up for those ‘International covenants’ that guarantee religious freedom to everyone. It fails to denounce those Muslims who demand that the Jewish right to freedom of worship be denied.

The US undercuts its mission. It betrays that mission. It betrays the Jews of Israel.

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