srael’s recent actions at the Temple Mount are a microcosm of what ails the West, reflecting a profound lack of confidence about moral legitimacy, sovereignty, and the right to defend against aggression. After jihadists used weapons stashed in a mosque to ambush and kill two Israeli security guards, Israel, one of the most “hawkish” Western nations, took measures to improve mosque security. Palestinian and Israeli Arabs responded with fury, refusing to enter the mosque and threatening more violence if the security measures were not immediately reversed. When Gulf States including Jordan and Saudi Arabia pressured Israel to capitulate, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intimated that the Gulf States had a legitimate right to make these demands. Israel relented, removing metal detectors, and reportedly opting for installing a “less provocative” hi-tech security system.
Some will say that the site controversy means that Israel must walk on egg shells, lest security measures affecting the Temple Mount “status quo” incite Arab violence, similar to the second intifada after Ariel Sharon visited the site in September 2000. Yet the key to deterring Islamic supremacist violence is practical strength rooted in moral confidence. Israel’s conciliatory measures strengthen its opponents while weakening its viability. Israel’s land concessions have emboldened, not mollified, jihadists who call for “Palestine from the river to the sea,” i.e. Israel’s destruction.
The Temple Mount, which sits on Mount Moriah, is the holiest Jewish religious site. On it, Abraham offered to sacrifice Isaac, and the First and Second Temples were built. The al-Aqsa mosque was constructed only after Muslim conquest. Following Israel’s War of Independence, Transjordan (now Jordan) retained the Old City of Jerusalem and prevented Jews from entering the area.
All this changed in 1967’s Six Day War, in which Israel defeated the Arab aggressors who sought its destruction. This war saw Israel reclaim Temple Mount from Transjordan, as part and parcel of the liberation of Jerusalem, Israel’s historic and current capital.
As Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi recounted on the anniversary of the Israelis’ victory in the Six Day War:
[Colonel Motta] Gur and [Major Arik] Achmon rushed up a flight of stairs leading to a large plaza—the golden Dome of the Rock and the silver-domed al-Aqsa. Gur radioed headquarters: “The Temple Mount is in our hands.” He wasn’t just making a military report, but staking a historic claim. The focus of centuries of Jewish longing, the place toward which Jews prayed no matter where they lived, was now in Israeli hands.
The brigade’s chief communications officer, Ezra Orni, retrieved an Israeli flag from his pouch and asked Gur whether he should hang it over the Dome of the Rock. “Yalla,” said Gur, go up. Achmon accompanied him into the Dome of the Rock. They climbed to the top of the building and victoriously fastened the Israeli flag onto a pole topped with an Islamic crescent.
Except then the flag was quickly and unceremoniously lowered. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, watching the scene through binoculars from Mount Scopus, urgently radioed Gur and demanded: Do you want to set the Middle East on fire? Gur told Achmon to remove the flag.
An unplanned victory ended in a spontaneous concession…Dayan’s intention was to minimize bloodshed and prevent the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from becoming a holy war.
Despite its theological, historical, and legal claims to this site, Israel has consistently sought to placate the implacable. Israel finds itself in the absurd situation of willingly ceding sovereignty to hostile foreigners. Since Muslim authorities administer the site, Jews are discriminated against in their own land—they are not allowed to pray at the Temple Mount even though it is within Israeli control. As Klein notes:
[S]mall groups of religious Jews ascend the Mount, seeking to maintain a Jewish presence. As they walk about the stone plaza, they are accompanied by Wakf guards who watch their lips to ensure that no prayers are being recited. Jews attempting to pray on the Mount are escorted away.
In recent weeks, Israel compounded 1967’s folly by removing metal detectors from the Temple Mount. Appeasing Islamic supremacists by sacrificing holy religious sites to Islamic authorities signals to the Islamic world that Israel either believes itself illegitimate, or is petrified of Islamic antagonists. A third disturbing possibility among leftist and/or atheistic Israelis is that the religious significance of the Temple Mount is of secondary importance, so to sacrifice it is trivial.
Columnist Melanie Phillips describes the resulting situation:
Temple Mount is a symbol…of the enduring timidity of Israel and its consequent belief that it can only ever seek to manage, make deals with and calm down its mortal enemies rather than defeat them. It is also a symbol of Israel’s refusal to acknowledge that the violence against it is not the result of a land boundary dispute, nor a clash of rival nationalisms. It is, far more terrifyingly, the product of Islamic holy war.
But Israel does not err alone. The Temple Mount, which is core to the Judeo-Christian world generally, and to Israel—which is the first line of defense of Western civilization against Islamic supremacism—is symbolic of the West’s broader ideological maladies. Leftism sees the West as an evil, oppressive, occupying force. The hysterical reaction to President Trump’s Poland speech in defense of Western civilization—which was read by the Left with scare quotes as a defense of racism and colonialism—is the product of such “progressive” brainwashing.
The West has deemed itself morally illegitimate, the decadent and depraved creation of dead European white males. To make up for real and imagined historic injustices, the West has frequently repudiated its fundamental principles, and actively undermined its institutions. Its crisis of moral legitimacy is revealed in virulently anti-religious secularism, and in attacks on the natural rights to life, liberty, and property by an administrative state operating without the consent of the people.
The West’s lack of confidence in its sovereignty is revealed in open-borders policies that result in endless migrant floods, regardless of whether the migrants will or can enhance economic or social development. Progressive activists go so far as to imply that every migrant—legal or not—has an inherent right to citizenship, or at least to the rights guaranteed by citizenship. The multicultural credo that holds all cultures to be equal and inherently valuable is thought to obviate the need for borders.
The West’s unwillingness to defend itself against Islamic aggression reveals itself in Europe’s “no-go zones.” In America, it reveals itself through our see-no-Islam national security and foreign policy, and in the pervasive belief that we must appease our enemies with bribery (Iran Deal), sacrifice our rights (anti-free speech measures so as not to offend), or remove our defenses through politically correct policies chiefly oriented towards concession rather than victory (“Countering Violent Extremism”). At the heart of these policies is a belief that the West is the aggressor, and our enemies are the aggrieved.
The West’s lack of confidence ultimately extends to its right to survive. If one of the least abashed Western nations won’t assert itself at Temple Mount, it is hard to be sure where other nations will draw lines they are prepared to defend without yielding.