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January 4, 2017 6:18 am

Unfree Speech on the Temple Mount

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

Having taught the history of freedom of speech in the United States for 45 years to college students at Brandeis and Wellesley I retain a residual fondness for it. Admittedly, the very idea seems abhorrent to the current student generation, preoccupied with politically correct “safe spaces,” where they need not see or hear, no less think about, words or names that displease them. Indeed, to confront a college building named after John C. Calhoun (Yale) or Woodrow Wilson (Princeton), or even a fashionably offensive nickname (Lord Jeff, Amherst), incites this politically correct generation to embrace censorship.

They might be comforted to learn that Islamic authorities on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem are their partners in repression. Several days ago a (multi-faith) group of UCLA students was enjoying a guided tour of the Mount, site of the ancient Jewish Temples and revered by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, crowned by the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Their guide was Dr. Gabriel Barkay, an Israeli archeologist renowned for his discovery of silver-scroll amulets containing the priestly blessing from the Book of Numbers, the oldest biblical inscription yet retrieved (dating from 600 BCE). A decade ago, he co-founded the Temple Mount Sifting Project to salvage archaeological artifacts from tons of earth illegally removed from the Mount by the Muslim Waqf, always eager to obliterate the very Jewish presence that Dr. Barkay’s expertise has documented and preserved.

Explaining Temple Mount history to the students, Dr. Barkay understandably referred, several times, to the “Temple Mount.” Whereupon he was interrupted by a Waqf guard, wearing a jacket patch identifying him as “Guard of the Alaqsa Mosque,” who bluntly instructed him not to again refer to the “Temple Mount.” Continuing his historical survey through the Byzantine period, predating the Muslim conquest, Dr. Barkay once again mentioned the Temple Mount.

Two Waqf guards interrupted his presentation and accompanied him to Israeli police officers nearby to demand his eviction from the Mount. The police declined, but suggested to Barkay that he refrain from further identification of the Temple Mount as the Temple Mount. He obliged by referring to it for the duration of his guided tour as “TM.” One of the UCLA group members, who understandably found the incident “unsettling,” grasped the deeper meaning of the censorship: the Waqf guard was saying, in effect, that “the Jewish people don’t have a connection to the land.” Indeed.

Compared to some of the issues I invited my own students to confront – hate speech, pornography and falsely shouting fire in a crowded theatre (to cite Justice Holmes’ memorable example of unprotected speech) – the Temple Mount encounter with censorship was – they might have said – “a no-brainer.” To say “Temple Mount” on the Temple Mount is equivalent to saying, “It’s raining” – when it is raining.

But once censorship becomes legitimate, there is no end to the ensuing folly — or consequent danger to freedom of thought, no less than speech. In addition to their history lesson from a superb archaeology teacher, the UCLA students learned another valuable – if unanticipated – lesson on the Temple Mount. Perhaps they will even find ways to enlighten their contemporaries on other American campuses about the true meaning of a liberal education: learning history, not learning to suppress it.

Jerold S. Auerbach is Professor Emeritus of History, Wellesley College.

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  • dawn

    I’m an American and I can tell you this.. God will see to it to protect and Israel… We pray for Israel and all of the Jewish people.. Amen

  • watsa46

    That is also what the anti-blasphemy laws are about. Limiting freedom of speech.

  • robert Davis

    And of course EMPTY these Jewish provinces of their arab populations by expelling them otherwise the move is not complete.

  • robert Davis

    Annex TM has no military no economic, no demographic value, Israel MUST annex J+S and gaza.

  • robert Davis

    When Israel’s “leaders” allow “palestinians” to…guard Temple Mount nothing will alter the fact they are COWARDS and no one supports cowards no matter how right they are : blabber cannot prevail over courage and in this matter the Israelis look like the cowards and the “palestinians” as courageous unfortunately. This is how you lose a polirtical war before losing the military since Israel will not be able even to defend itself from a smaller territory nor develop its population when arabs do it. this is why Israel is so pressured.

  • Efram Paul

    Maybe with President Trump backing them, Israel can do something about this egregious situation. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, meaning that, not surprisingly, the only people prohibited from praying at their holiest site are the Jews.

  • Efram Paul

    So true! From the moment the tyranny of politically-coerced censorship was first conceived, it seemed obvious to me where it was going to go. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you give people the power to censor, they will abuse it. This is what makes politically-coerced censorship such an invidious concept, so fascistic, and totally incompatible with the first amendment to the US constitution.

  • Joy Daniels Brower

    Israel needs to begin being far less tolerant toward the muzzie Waqf invaders and rope them off, if necessary, from the public going through the area on guided tours! Israel should NEVER tolerate this craziness and suppression of Truth!