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April 23, 2019 11:42 am

A Professor’s Sins and the Temple Mount

avatar by Yisrael Medad /


An aerial view of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – In an op-ed by Mick Dumper, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter and author of a book on Jerusalem, we read this prognosis:

“Flushed with his electoral victory, and politically tooled-up with US support for his annexationist dreams, Netanyahu has the Islamic sites of Jerusalem in his line of fire. He exhibits all the hallmarks of a politician about to go rogue.”

Palestinians, he suggests, believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be acting “with greater impunity with regard to the Christian and Islamic holy sites of the city.

He cannot ignore that since 1967 and throughout Netanyahu’s terms as prime minister, the Jordanian-appointed and funded Waqf administration continues to administer the Temple Mount compound. What does unnerve him, it appears, is “a resurgence of Israeli religious movements which have sought to force the Israeli government’s hand in eroding the authority of the Waqf administration and Palestinian access to the Haram al-Sharif.” How? He notes that “Israeli settler groups have redoubled their efforts to derail the arrangements at the site. These groups constitute a core part of Netanyahu’s base.”

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Here is where Dumper gets imaginary.

First, he claims that “Jews have been entering the site to pray more and more frequently.” But prayer is prohibited, and the very small number of Jews who attempt to do so are immediately removed; some are even slapped with a ban on entrance for several months. Does he note that? No.

Are these groups Netanyahu’s “base”? No. They overwhelmingly voted for parties other than Likud. Moshe Feiglin, a former Temple Mount activist for Jewish rights and a former Likud Knesset member, was forced out of the Likud years ago. In these past elections, Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who survived an attempted assassination by an Arab Islamist (the sole Muslim anti-Jewish violence noted by Dumper is described as “altercations with Waqf guards, demonstrations by Palestinian Muslim worshippers … spikes in violence”), was not returned to the parliament.

Unfazed by his thesis, he acknowledges that Netanyahu knuckled under in October 2015 to American pressure. Looking around, he brings to our attention “a new flashpoint around the Golden Gate.” Oddly, he terms it “a highly symbolic entrance to the Haram al-Sharif.” Obviously quite an ignorant professor, he seems not to know that the aforementioned “Gate of Mercy” is sealed, and has been for centuries, since 1541.

I will return to the situation at the Temple Mount, but at this point, it is necessary to alert the reader that Dumper leads a project called “Power, Piety and People: The Politics of Holy Cities in the 21st Century.” Despite an impressive review of the history of Jerusalem, I noticed this: “the trebling of the Jewish population between 1922 and 1946 to slightly less than half the total population of Jerusalem.

He misses and misleads us on this matter of population figures because, as we know, by the mid-1860s, the Jewish demographic passed 50 percent of the total residents of Jerusalem, then confined to the walled Old City. Even a peek at Wikipedia could have given Dumper some doubt. Indeed, even the official British census of 1931 shows that out of a total of 90,053, Jews then numbered 51,200. In 1944, Jews were 97,000 out of 157,000.

In other words, we have an unreliable professor. And if we add to this conclusion his apparent political bias, we realized we’re getting “dumped” on.

To return to his op-ed, to write that Netanyahu “has the Islamic sites of Jerusalem in his line of fire” is unproven and, worse, inflammatory rhetoric. Since his academic study project, which will be a book, includes Cordoba, he is aware that in Spain, some distance from the Middle East, Muslims are attempting to regain an original Christian site of worship as a mosque. Can Muslims do that in far-away Spain while Jews cannot campaign for rights of access and worship at a site even Dumper acknowledges was where the two Jewish Temples existed?

In addition, he doesn’t refer to Jordan’s responsibilities, as part of the 1994 peace treaty, to “provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance” and “to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace” (Article 9). That would perhaps be a key to the lessening of the tensions he so worries about. Ignoring any Muslim responsibility — most prominently the Waqf officials — would lead even an objective interested party to suspect Dumper of fitting his agenda to misrepresented facts.

I tried searching for Dumper’s comments on Hagia Sophia in Turkey, which is under threat from Muslims, but couldn’t find anything. His thoughts on that would be interesting, if only to observe if he is cognizant of an impunity, in rogue-style, that has Christian sites in Muslim lines of fire, to borrow his quite non-academic rhetoric.

I might venture that universities are no longer the “sacred” places they once were. Politically involved lecturers, biased research, and unsupportable political analyses are the rule.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and commentator.

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