The Jerusalem Tinderbox

I recorded this latest bloggingheads episode with Jerusalem lawyer Daniel Seidemann before Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick was shot this week by a Palestinian gunman, so it turns out it’s extremely informative for anyone looking for background on what led up to this most recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem. I had interviewed Seidemann four months ago for a story for Al Jazeera America about American activists and politicians who are pressing for Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount:

Tensions at the site have been escalating as some Israeli lawmakers have stepped up provocations to reverse the long-standing ban on Jewish prayer there, once considered a fringe position but now a growing rallying cry on the Israeli right. No Israeli prime minister since the war of June 1967, when the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem began — including stalwarts Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has supported changing Israeli law to allow Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, based on security concerns.

As right-wing fervor in Israel for Jewish prayer intensifies, Christian Zionist advocacy groups are making efforts to shape U.S. lawmakers’ understanding of Jerusalem and its holy sites, particularly the Temple Mount, through visits aimed at convincing them that Jews (and Christians) face religious persecution there.

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“If current trends continue, there will be a significant eruption of violence on the Temple Mount,” Seidemann said, “within a matter of weeks and months and not years.”

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Seidemann said “the question of the Temple Mount is not a human rights issue. It is not a freedom of religion issue. It is a national, regional and global security issue.” Seidemann described the calls for Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount — an increasingly mainstream view within Likud, even though Netanyahu opposes it — “pyromania.”

This week, in discussing the latest escalations in violence and rising tensions in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular, Seidemann told me that current situation in the “home town for people dealing with the apocalypse” “augurs for a non-routine violent event,” in part because “we have seen a serious destabilization at the Temple Mount.” Later that day, Glick was shot.

If you want to understand the current situation in Jerusalem, you should really sit down and watch the whole thing. Seidemann is one the leading experts on Jerusalem and has long worked towards promoting agreement on the status of Jerusalem as part of a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. We also discussed the current situation in Silwan, which Seidemann calls a “stain on Israeli democracy,” and what happened when Seidemann gave leading Republicans a tour of the city. And, of course, chickenshit. For more on the Temple Mount, read Larry Derfner at 972.