August 28, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Accountability? Not in Israel

Posted in Media at 9:18 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Accountability? Not in Israel

by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 27/08/2014

Personal foibles, ideological, economic policies are regularly attacked, yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable.

Almost three decades ago, one of us (YM) was involved in initiating legislation that would make the publication of a party’s platform a mandatory part of the election process for representation in the Knesset. The justification for such a law has now been echoed in a July 22 Vancouver Sun op-ed (“Can we hold politicians accountable?”) by Brian Fixter.

Fixter, a professor of law at Douglas College in British Columbia, was asked in his contract law class: “Can we ever successfully sue a politician for a broken promise?” and realized that the electorate really has not “enough measures in place to hold politicians accountable for election promises.”

Fixter opined that the promises of politicians should be considered contractual.

Unilaterally changing the terms should be considered a breach of contract with commensurate results.

In England some two years ago, the TheyMadeaPromise.com website was launched, designed to document and monitor promises made by elected officials worldwide.

The mission of the website is “to make politics and politicians more accountable.”

Election promise details are checked for accuracy against publicly available data and then published. Upon the deadline by which the promise was to have been kept, readers will be invited to vote on whether the promise has been kept, broken, or whether a compromise has been reached (due to objective circumstances and obstacles) and then it is “flagged” accordingly.

If a particularly important promise is broken, they will either launch a petition or assure that the data receives the attention it should in an upcoming election campaign.

Here in Israel, we know that our media can be ferocious in its criticism of government.

Personal foibles as well as ideological and economic policies are regularly attacked, held up to ridicule or worse. Yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable for their election promises.

Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised in his 1992 election campaign that, “Whoever even contemplates withdrawal from the Golan Heights would be abandoning Israel’s security.” A couple of years later, he promised the Clinton administration that he would be willing to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement.

The opposition at that time, led by present Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, repeatedly reminded Rabin that he had promised the opposite – but the media did not do so. The attitude was, as was later also repeated by prime minister Ariel Sharon, that “what you see from there you don’t see from here [the prime minister’s seat].” The media swallowed this poor excuse and did not consider that part of its duty was, and is, to serve the public, the media consumers, by constantly questioning all elected officials, from the government as well as the opposition, when they backtrack on commitments they make.

One of course should be careful in making sweeping generalizations; there are a few journalists who have actually done the job of looking up past statements and comparing them with actions. One of them is Channel 2 news reporter and commentator Amit Segal. On July 17 he summarized the Likud’s promises.

Ehud Olmert was prime minister during Operation Cast Lead six years ago. At that time, Netanyahu, during a visit to the communities neighboring the Gaza Strip, proclaimed: “What should be done? In the long run there is no alternative but to eradicate the Hamas rule.” This is quite different from Netanyahu’s approach with Operation Protective Edge, which was at the outset that “quiet will be answered with quiet.”

During the 2009 election campaign, candidate Netanyahu claimed that if in power he would bring about the collapse of Hamas rule. (A video of these election campaign statements may be found on the Globes website.) Today, the most that Netanyahu will state is that following a cease-fire Israel will demand that Hamas disarm.

Segal also calls Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to task. He, too, used strong words during the 2009 campaign: “When we will govern we will discuss annihilating terror and overthrowing Hamas. If you sum up the Cast Lead operation you may say that the soldiers won and the politicians lost.”

Former president Shimon Peres also does not win too many points. A week before the withdrawal from the Gaza strip, Netanyahu warned that the disengagement could lead to having rockets hit Ashkelon. Peres’ public response was: “Stop the warmongering, stop talking nonsense.”

The call for journalists to straighten out the record is not limited to right-of-center politicians. Take Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, presently heading the Hatnua party, for example.

As noted in the ALMonitor website, in the spring of 2011, when the first attempt was made for a joint Hamas-PLO government in Gaza, it was Livni who headed the opposition.

Netanyahu was prime minister. Livni attacked Netanyahu for not “making progress” in the peace process.

“To get support in the world is not only to go from country to country and tell them off that they are hypocrites and that we suffer from terror. The question is how does one create the hope that Israel is a real partner for a negotiating process which will end the conflict in the Middle East.”

As a member of the government and the cabinet, however, Livni meekly voted for the decision to impose sanctions on the Abbas regime in response to its decision to from a joint government with Hamas.

As stated a long time ago by our sages, exceptions reflect the rule, which in this case is that the media does not demand accountability from our politicians. Prime Minister Netanyahu has appeared (finally) at a few press conferences and allowed some questioning. Not one of our reporters dared challenge him, or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, by reminding them of their previous statements. Ya’alon repeatedly stated that Hamas was defeated, when in fact it continues to shoot rockets at Israel, kill and maim Israelis and force thousands of residents to flee from their homes.

The IBA’s Carmela Menashe faithfully parrots all the info she is supplied by the defense minister and his aides. Menashe, a recipient of too many prizes for her “journalistic excellence,” is not capable of presenting her audience with an objective check of the reliability of the statements coming out of the ministry.

Representatives of the government are interviewed on radio and TV. The normal procedure in Israel is to ask their opinion, impolitely argue with them, even shut them up when needed – but hardly ever to confront them with their previous positions and demand an explanation for their broken promises.

Why? There are two options. The first is that looking up past remarks and making sure the citations are correct requires effort, and who wants to do homework? The second has to do with the media themselves. Whoever demands accountability from others should be accountable themselves, and as documented repeatedly in this column our media does not want to be accountable to anyone.

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August 21, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The Public Broadcasting Corporation

Posted in Media tagged , at 10:07 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The Public Broadcasting Corporation

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 20/08/2014

Here in Israel, the IBA will stop existing in April, 2015, it will be replaced by a new entity, the Public Broadcasting Corporation.

A public broadcasting corporation came under attack at the end of June. A minister termed its coverage on an economic issue “relentless[ly] negative,” accused the network of being a “bigger opponent” to the government than the opposition and claimed that the news it was broadcasting “appears to consistently rely on a narrow band of commentators who are overwhelmingly negative.”

No, not the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), but rather England’s BBC.

The criticism was from Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith.

In attempting to fend off a funding reform regarding license fees in the UK, the BBC director general Lord Hall has said, “What you get back from that [fee] is a broadcasting ecology that is the envy of the world.”

Here in Israel, the IBA will stop existing on April Fool’s Day, 2015. It will be replaced by a new entity, the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC).

Communication Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) steamrolled the new legislation through the Knesset. The law with its 146 paragraphs was voted on in the midst of Operation Protective Edge. It passed by a large margin, supported both by the coalition and many members of the opposition.

The law stipulates an interim period during which the IBA will continue its operations under the direction of a receiver, Professor David Hahn from the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University. Hahn is the administrator-general and official receiver of the State of Israel. His academic expertise is in bankruptcy law.

His first step, on August 11, was to fire both the present chair of the IBA, Dr. Amir Gilat, and the director-general, Yoni Ben-Menachem, in one fell swoop. To assure that he would be able to oversee all the legal aspects of the receivership, he is employing the legal office of Yigal Arnon, one of the leading firms in Israel, employing over 100 lawyers. Their fees are not cheap (close to NIS 600 per hour including VAT). In this context, it is of interest to note that after finishing his law degree, Professor Hahn was a law clerk in… the Arnon firm.

Hahn’s job is big and expensive, not even counting legal fees. The PBC legislation stipulates that any lack of funds will be covered by the Finance Ministry. In other words, although beginning in 2016 we all will no longer have to pay the TV tax, the missing funds will still come from our tax money. The notion that the TV tax was abolished sells well, but in reality, there is good reason to believe that the cost to the taxpayer during the coming two years will be much higher.

The need to close down the IBA was urgent. During the past two years it had reached new depths of dysfunctional bureaucratic behavior. The public feud between IBA chair Gilat and director-general Ben-Menachem completely paralyzed the IBA. Instead of using their mandate to thoroughly reform the IBA, to stop its one-sided post-Zionist broadcasting, to introduce pluralism and to streamline its operations, the two battled each other to keep their turf. The end was well deserved as both lost their positions.

But the true loser is the public. The new PBC has some good points to it. The line of responsibility is clarified as now the PBC’s board appoints the director-general. The legal adviser can serve for only one term of seven years. The educational television station will terminate its independent operations and will be absorbed within the PBC. The PBC’s income will be from two main sources, namely the car tax and the other from advertisements. We take credit for this for already on April 13, 2003, we advocated in this paper that the TV tax be abolished and replaced by the car radio fee. For the past 10 years, we at Israel’s Media Watch have repeatedly pushed for this legislation, in meetings with ministers, MKs, high-level public servants, and in numerous articles in the papers, on radio and TV interviews, in position papers, Knesset debates and any other possible avenue. It is gratifying to see that our point of view has been accepted.

Indeed, the final form of the PBC legislation reflects many additional suggestions we made. The Landes commission which formulated the original version of the law did not consider it necessary to include in it any reference to the Jewish and Zionist character of the State of Israel as did the original Broadcasting Law. Our efforts led to deep changes of paragraph seven of the law, which delineates the PBC’s goals. These now stipulate that “the content of the PBC will reflect the fact that the State of Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state, its values and the Jewish Heritage.” It also stipulates that the PBC will foster and promote the Hebrew language.

Yet there is so much missing. For example, in contrast to the IBA, the PBC must no longer foster contact with the Jewish Diaspora. Its governing body is composed mainly of bureaucrats and there is no real representation of the public. There is very little in the way of foresight in the legislation.

Anyone familiar with the development of modern technology realizes that it will take no more than five years before the PBC and the army radio station lose their monopoly on national broadcasting.

Today, most consumers listen to FM radio. However, the cellular phone already provides almost limitless access to the Internet. This means that within a short time, we all, even in our cars, will no longer need the expensive analog FM broadcasts but instead get everything through the Internet. This implies, in turn, that not only virtually anyone will be able to broadcast, it will all be in the same location on our receivers. There will be no need to switch from one wavelength to the other. In such a market the PBC will have to compete, and it won’t be easy.

The PBC legislation does not provide any answer, although we raised this issue during the Knesset deliberations.

Perhaps though, the most damning and worrisome aspect of the PBC is its very name: “Israel” has disappeared from it. We no longer have an Israel Broadcasting Authority, but a Public Broadcasting Corporation. The Knesset committee, with Minister Erdan’s support, voted against inclusion of the word Israel in the new entity’s name. This more than anything else symbolizes the new spirit.

In essence, Israel’s public has lost its public broadcast corporation, which has in turn lost its Israeli identity. The new PBC does not bring with it an inspiring message. At this point, chances are that it will not contribute positively to Israel’s cultural and national environment. Israel’s public broadcasting has lost its Zionist soul.

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August 15, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The vacuum of critique

Posted in Media tagged , , , at 1:17 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The vacuum of critique

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 14/08/2014

In 2005, Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation”

Nine years ago Israel “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip. Most of Israel was mesmerized and many applauded the act. The pundits who appeared in the media repeatedly explained that leaving Gaza would lead to significant gains for Israel on the international front as well as on the security front, and their words seemed to influence public opinion.

Amnon Abramovitch, the irresponsible commentator and evangelist of Channel 2 news, coined the term “etrog” in reference to prime minister Ariel Sharon. In using it, he sought to instruct his fellow media personalities to safeguard Sharon from criticism, so that he could carry out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation” and an end to responsibility for over a million residents in that stretch of territory.

Today, we all know that the withdrawal was disastrous. Sharon, who promised then-chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee that he would not leave the Philadelphi corridor separating Rafah from Egypt for a period of nine months after the act, was too weak to even keep this promise. He could not withstand the pressure of president George Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Shortly afterwards Hamas came to power in Gaza, and the rest is history.

Is this important? Are there lessons to be learned from this sad chapter in Israel’s history? Is there a thread leading from the withdrawal to our present precarious and dangerous situation? Listening to and observing the Israeli media today, one might even conclude that there never was a disengagement. The same “experts” whose predictions were so wrong nine years ago continue to try and brainwash us today. The media largely does not ask the tough questions. Dov Weissglass, arguably the brain behind Sharon’s actions as his bureau chief, and the one who disparagingly referred to the Kassam rockets fired at us as “flying objects” does not, even today, admit any error. Worse, he has the audacity to continue and try to tell us what we should be doing.

Weissglass, in an article in Yediot Aharonot on July 29, called for the resumption of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, this being his way to improve the situation in Gaza. As rightly noted by General (res.) Ya’akov Amidror in an article in Israel Hayom this Sunday, Weissglass did not even have the decency to admit his mistakes in the past. The word “humility” is not part of Weissglass’ vocabulary.

But the real question is not about Weissglass.

Rare is the politician who will admit errors. No, the real question is where is Yediot Aharonot? Sure, freedom of speech allows Weissglass to pontificate, but would Yediot give space in its business pages to an executive who drove his company into bankruptcy? Would it consider it wise to allow such a person to provide the public with his sagacious advice? And it isn’t only Yediot. Weissglass also appeared on Channel 10’s London and Kirschenbaum show on July 22 in a debate on whether the disengagement was responsible for Operation Protective Edge, where he followed the same script.

There were some serious journalists that were responsible enough to relate to this sad chapter of our history in the context of the current operation in Gaza. Shai Levy, on Channel 2’s Mako website, recounted the history of Gaza during the past 10 years, noting clearly how the withdrawal led directly to the confrontations with the Gaza terrorists. Ran Baratz, on the Mida website, recalled another icon of our media, Haaretz’s Nechemia Strassler, who ridiculed Binyamin Netanyahu for his resignation from Sharon’s government prior to the withdrawal.

So wrote Strassler at the time: “On the very day [of his resignation] he provided the public with horror scenarios: ‘An Islamic terror base is being formed in Gaza; Hamas is growing strong.’ He [Netanyahu] became even more extreme: ‘rockets will be launched toward Israel from terror bases which we are allowing the Islamists to establish.’ Tomorrow there’ll be an apocalypse.”

Strassler, we should add, continues to be allowed to publish his worthless tripe in Haaretz. He is often invited by the Internet media to comment, and yet no one dares ask him why anyone should take his opinions seriously.

On August 5, Shlomo Angel rightly noted in an article in Ynet that, “The wind supporting the disengagement has turned into a deadly hurricane whose climax is the present Operation Protective Edge. So, why has this discussion been muted?” Back in May 2, 2004, Shaul Mofaz, then defense minister, asked by Yediot Aharonot about disengagement, replied, “I am convinced, as opposed to all those who see black, that in reality, there will be less terror from Gaza. The Gaza Strip will not be Lebanon.”

Yet Mofaz is still taken seriously by the media.

One of the few reporters who did make it their business to report on the connection of the withdrawal to the present is Amit Segal from Channel 2 news. He provided in-depth coverage during Operation Pillar of Defense two years ago, and repeated it during the present war. On August 3, he riddled with holes the “quiet for quiet” platitudes of our politicians, showing based on history that each period of “quiet” was preceded and followed by massive military aggression against Israel.

He also had a clip on Channel 2 reviewing the various promises of politicians of a brighter future, pronouncement which today sound ludicrous.

His father, Hagai Segal, the present editor of the Makor Rishon newspaper, used his weekly column to raise the disengagement issue. Both he and General Amidror showed that the claim that the withdrawal actually reduced the number of Israel casualties belongs at best to Israeli mythology.

These voices, however, were the exception.

When Amos Oz or A.B. Yehoshua write an op-ed article in Haaretz, it is considered to be so important that the various anchors, such as Arieh Golan of Kol Israel, Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 and Razi Barkai of Galei Zahal take pains to read the articles on their programs, interview people and discuss them. When Gideon Levy articulates his irrational world view, the media has a ball. He is invited to explain his views in greater detail, others to refute, and Levy and Haaretz have once again set the media’s agenda.

Yet articles written by noted and respected journalists attempting to raise the very serious issue of the present war in the context of the withdrawal from Gaza are largely ignored. If the events prior to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination are to be recalled annually to give that tragic event context, surely in discussions of the current reality in the Gaza Strip the disengagement should be recalled, too.

After so many military operations, including Summer Rains (2006), Hot Winter (2008), Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) the media should devote more attention and airtime to reviewing the trustworthiness of its celebrities.

The related question of whether the public can trust the media is a central element in current events. In fact, it’s big part of the story.

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August 7, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Whore, Not War Reporting

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:17 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: No war reporting in Gaza

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 06/08/2014

The truly dangerous press is the one which prostitutes itself.

The danger that lurks in the power of the press, we have previously noted, is probably less in what it publishes than in what it does not publish. A new aspect, however, has emerged from the recent military confrontation between the State of Israel and the Hamas terror group controlling the Gaza Strip: the truly dangerous press is the one which prostitutes itself.

While it is understandable that most Israeli journalists would not be able to freely ply their trade in downtown Gaza City, there are, after all, dozens of representatives of the world’s press packed into Gaza’s hotels and private homes. Do they see nothing of what is going on there? The former editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe, Daniel Schwammenthal, uploaded at Robin Shepherd’s The Commentator website on August 1 his article “Fear and trembling: Western media and Hamas.”

He noted the willful blindness in Western media reporting when the subject is Hamas in Gaza. It is a throwback to the PLO bullying three decades ago in Lebanon. He suggested that “many of the journalists are also terrified of telling the truth.” A more recent example is Italian Ricardo Cristiano, from the Italian state television station RAI, who in 2000 published a letter of abject apology to the Palestinian Authority for the pictures of the Ramallah lynching.

JTA’s Uriel Heilman took on The New York Times, asking some very basic questions: why haven’t pictures of Hamas fighters inside Gaza been seen in the media? Isn’t it odd that rockets and mortars are fired off by unseen hands? We see both sides in the Ukraine, in Syria and even in Libya. Gaza is a unique battlefield, one that is one-sidedly sterile. Can it be that every Hamas combatant is underground and out of view? Eileen Murphy, the paper’s vice president for corporate communications, responded that out of several hundreds of photographs, only two “very distant poor quality images” of Hamas fighters were identified. After all, they are not uniformed nor do they wear any insignia, she admitted.

But that not one was snapped carrying a gun? Murphy then simply admitted that, “We are limited by what our photographers have access to.”

Access? On the one hand, the journalists feed us how small Gaza is and yet dozens of media crews cannot show us who is firing off deadly projectiles? The Tablet website was more specific in doubting Murphy’s excuse. In a “Staff notes” column, it published that “mainstream news outlets… hide from their readers… that their photographers and reporters… are working under terribly difficult conditions under the effective control of a terrorist organization which… doesn’t hesitate to maim, kidnap and kill people that it doesn’t like.”

France’s Liberation published on July 24 that Radjaa Abou Dagga, correspondent for Ouest France, had been intimidated by aggressive Hamas interrogation methods.

On his Facebook page of July 30, filmmaker Michael Grynszpan related meeting that day a Spanish journalist who had just come back from Gaza. He asked him, “How come we never see on television channels reporting from Gaza any Hamas people, no gunmen, no rocket launchers, no policemen?” The frank reply was, “It’s very simple, we did see Hamas people there launching rockets, they were close to our hotel, but if ever we dare pointing our camera at them they would simply shoot at us and kill us.”

This reminds us of the 2006 incident in which CNN’s Nic Robertson admitted – after leaving Lebanon – that Hezbollah has “slick media operations… had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”

One correspondent for Finnish TV, Aishi Zidan, inadvertently confirmed that Hamas fired rockets from the parking lot of Shifa Hospital. Gabriel Barbati, an Italian reporter, tweeted on July 29, “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children 2day in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.”

Later, on August 2, he uploaded that, “Both [Hamas and Israel] pressure press.”

Nick Casey tweeted, too, and admitted on August 3 that a witness to the attack at Rafah UN school “told me target may have been 2 men riding motorbike in front of school, both killed,” thus independently confirming the IDF spokesman’s claim that the army “targeted three PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] terrorists onboard a motorcycle in vicinity of an UNRWA school in Rafah.” Casey is a rare example of a brave and professional journalist; he also tweeted earlier on July 28 that a room at Shifa Hospital was being used as the Hamas press center.

Another example of extraordinary candid journalism is Indian Srinivasan Jain from NDTV who documented how Hamas sets up and fires a rocket from within a densely populated area, as has now France 24 reporter Gallagher Fenwick. The 5Pillarz site informed that Harry Fear, a reporter for Russia’s RT channel, was ordered to leave Gaza by Hamas after tweeting the location of rocket launchers.

These, though, were the exceptions. It would seem that any semblance of balanced news can be found only outside of the mainstream media outlets. The reporting of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly biased.

The willingness of the international press to prostitute itself emerges clearly from Saul O’s list of “40 questions for the international media in Gaza” at the British Harry’s Place on July 31 and republished at the Volokh blog which is hosted by The Washington Post. These are some of his questions: “Has Hamas pressured you to delete anything you have published? Are you scared to publish photos of Hamas operatives on your news channel? Have you put to Hamas spokespersons that firing rockets from civilian areas in a war situation will draw return fire and lead to the death of civilians? Have you seen or heard evidence of Hamas storing weapons inside schools, houses, flats, mosques or hospitals? Have you tried to interview any of the parents of the 160 Palestinian children who died building the terror tunnels?”

We could add more: have the journalists inquired into how many local Gazans were killed and injured as a result of Hamas rockets falling short or exploding upon launch? Are there no natural deaths in Gaza, from accidents, old age or health issues, or are all a result of Israel’s actions? Are there truly no open spaces and fields from which the rockets could be launched, rather than from school-yards, mosques and hospitals?

Blogger Elder of Ziyon wrote, “Every single report on TV from Gaza should have this disclaimer: ‘Our reporters have been threatened, implicitly and perhaps explicitly, by Hamas to report only one side of the story. Viewers must not trust anything they are saying.’”

The press debacle in Gaza implies that although truth-in-advertising is an important media issue, the really disconcerting issue is truth-in-reporting. The international media is making money from lies and distortions presented as news – this is nothing but prostitution.

Correction: in last week’s column, we misspelled Liat Regev’s name, for which we apologize.

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August 6, 2014

The fire that burned on the Temple Mount

Posted in Israel/Zionism, Temple Mount tagged , , at 9:49 am by yisraelmedad

The fire that burned on the Temple Mount

By YISRAEL MEDAD. 05/08/2014

Israel Police spokesman’s office noted that over the month of Ramadan, more than 400 Muslims had been arrested on the Temple Mount for disturbing the peace and some 135 charge sheets had been presented to the courts.

Josephus witnessed the moment, over 1,900 years ago, when the Temple first began to be engulfed in flames.

He writes in his The Jewish Wars, “…one of the soldiers… snatched something of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamor… .”

And he adds to his description that, “While the Holy House was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand.”

On Thursday night, July 24, which marked Laylat al-Kadr, the anniversary of the revelation of the first verses of the Koran, when Muslims believe that God blesses everyone, and forgive all sins, a sacking of a building and the burning of its contents on the Temple Mount was repeated.

This time that structure was an Israeli police station located on the raised platform section, north of the Dome of the Rock. An ecstatic crowd of Muslims were the perpetrators.

Despite the great embarrassment, we can be thankful that no policeman was killed or wounded. That is not because back-up forces raced to the rescue, the heroic defense put up by the police barricaded inside the small building or because they managed to escape, some would say flee, through the back windows.

The simple fact is, as Jerusalem Commander Yossi Parienti announced on Channel 10 television, that the police left the building, locking it and walking away earlier on in an orderly fashion.

They did not desert it, he insisted.

Whether the police prematurely fled before the attackers or beat a strategic retreat in expectation of a worse development, the result was one police station looted, ransacked and burned. To top this activity, literally, two masked Arab youth climbed up the roof and planted a Palestinian flag atop the “Islamic-conquered” police station. The expensive security cameras affixed to the station were destroyed.

But there was more damage. Confidential documents dealing with security issues, including identities of suspected Arabs instigators of violence, as well as Jews, were found dispersed at the site, uncollected.

Have the police learned from their errors of planning and judgment? Monday morning this week, once again specially-equipped police officers were required to enter the courtyard following the throwing of rocks as well as the shooting off of Roman candles.

A surprise awaited them: blockades had been set up that halted their advance temporarily. At least five were wounded.

But why are the police, time after time, still surprised? Why is entrance permitted during the evening hours and if so, why is the Temple Mount not cleared toward morning? Why can the rioters gain the benefit of hours to prepare, to bring in dangerous materials? Why do the police to fail, repeatedly, to deal with what one would presume is a simple matter of security? Several members of the force admitted to Channel 2 TV reporter Shimon Ifergan that they were ashamed at the decision that was made and that they were ordered to withdraw from the Mount for their own protection with the full knowledge that the station was the target.

But how is it that given the dangers faced by police, the policy of our law enforcement is to allow such riots to develop, to be the norm? In a response from the Israel Police spokesman’s office, it was noted that over the month of Ramadan, more than 400 Muslims had been arrested on the Temple Mount for disturbing the peace and some 135 charge sheets had been presented to the courts. Nevertheless, the taking of preventive measures seems to be the police’s weak point.

One could argue that the police are caught in the middle. On the one hand, they are responsible for maintaining peace and order but on the other, the political echelon, ever since 1967, seeks to placate Jordan as the holy site’s patron, hoping to offset any real local Arab control, as via the Palestinian Authority, for example. But this paradigm of false coexistence ignores Jewish rights and involves willful blindness to the inroads of the Islamic Movement.

Israel’s government is not obligated to begin the construction of the Third Temple.

However, the government is obligated to not allow the destruction of state property, the trampling of basic human rights of non-Muslims, the provocative, violent behavior of male and female Islamists, the holding of pro-Hamas assemblies and the flying of terrorist flags and planting of banners on the mosque buildings in support of anti-Jewish propaganda.

Exerting Israel’s sovereignty on the Temple Mount, applying the law of the land, promoting religious freedom, protecting the site’s legacy above and below ground are all things the state must do, in the interest of the Jewish character of the state, for the commitment to human rights for all and even for the Waqf authorities who have proven less than capable of administering the site.

__________
The author serves as the secretary of the El Har Hashem NGO which promotes Jewish rights on the Temple Mount.

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