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Tensions Mount on Temple Mount But Cameras Won't Be Mounted


While Palestinians initially agreed to have security cameras mounted at Temple Mount to help curb violence there, their newly-voiced opposition to doing so is most telling about their true intentions.

A general view taken from the Mount of Olives promenade overlooking the Temple Mount compound with The Dome of the Rock on October 31, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

On September 7, 1986, sports and video technology converged to make history.

The Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears were playing the Cleveland Browns. Three plays into the game, a bad snap by Chicago sent the ball bouncing towards the end zone. Crossing the back of the end zone would put the ball out of play, resulting in only a two-point safety for Cleveland. But, if Cleveland recovered the ball before it rolled out of bounds, it meant a six-point touchdown.

As the ball continued bouncing towards the out-of-bounds line, a Cleveland player pounced on it, sliding out of the end zone. But did he have control as he did so? A difficult call awaited referees.

A general view taken from the Mount of Olives promenade overlooking the Temple Mount compound with The Dome of the Rock on October 31, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images) A general view taken from the Mount of Olives promenade overlooking the Temple Mount compound with The Dome of the Rock on October 31, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Their ability to correctly make that call was enhanced as, earlier that year, NFL owners had voted to implement “instant replay” in conference games. Cleveland, winning the call, was awarded a touchdown, only to end up losing the game.

Since then, the instant replay has served sports well to ensure accuracy in calls and holding players accountable for their actions.

Interestingly, traffic enforcement video cameras evolved reversely - originating first in the sports arena. Initially used by car racers to improve lap times, speed cameras for traffic enforcement were first installed in 1965. Again, the focus was to hold one accountable for one’s actions.

With the introduction of camera phones in 2000, actions by anyone, anywhere, at any time can now be captured on video - actions one either initiates or to which one simply is responding. Thus, overnight, individuals can find themselves an unexpected celebrity on a not-so-candid camera video viewed by millions on the Internet.

Undoubtedly, the introduction of security cameras for businesses and residences have helped deter (in some cases) would-be criminals from acting criminally. It would be interesting to know to what extent the security camera revolution has impacted the criminal behavior evolution.

Clearly, some members of society, knowing of a camera’s presence, are deterred from acting badly. But there are those too who, despite this knowledge, remain undeterred from doing so.

That brings us to an interesting development in Jerusalem and the holy site of the Temple Mount. Confrontations between religious groups there have been heightening.

As fate would have it, the Temple Mount is important to three major religions. For Jews, it is their holiest site; for Muslims, their third holiest; and for Christians, a site of reverence.

First built by King Soloman in 960 BCE according to Torah specifications, the Temple Mount since that time has fallen under the control of each of these religions.

Destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the Jews returned from exile to build a Second Temple seventy years later.

In the first century BCE, the Romans built enormous walls there, most of which, along with the Second Temple, were destroyed in 70 CE. Exiled once more, the Jews eventually returned again.

The remnants of those Roman-built walls include the "Wailing Wall" where Jews today go to pray.

Declaring independence in 1948, Israel found itself attacked by Arab neighbors. A 1949 armistice stated that, although Temple Mount sat on Jordanian territory, Jordan was obligated to provide "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions." This, Jordan failed to do.

A 1967 war with the Arabs followed with Israel conquering territory, now called the West Bank, on which the Temple sits.

As the site is more a commemorative historical site for Jews but a “prayer mosque” for Muslims, Israel took a King Solomon-esque approach, dividing access to the site. Jews could visit, but not pray, at the Temple, leaving them to pray only at the Wailing Wall.

Israel maintained security over the site, opting to leave management to the Jordanian Wakf, or trust, under which it had operated before 1967.

By granting Muslims religious sovereignty - not national sovereignty - over the Temple Mount, Israel hoped to defuse Palestinian territorial claims.

Israel, in a 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, recognized Jordan's historic Temple Mount role, allowing it to monitor activities at the religious site. In part, it was agreed, "The Parties will act together 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."

While the status quo arrangement was accepted in 1967 by all parties, the Palestinians have chipped away at it using threats and, more recently, acts of violence. Today, the position they covet fails to mirror the 1967 status quo agreement - the Muslim position greatly strengthened at the Israelis’ expense. Meanwhile, the Jews faithfully adhere, while visiting the Temple as allowed, to the prohibition against praying there.

Tensions between Jews seeking to visit and Muslims seeking to pray at the site escalated in 2015. The Palestinians repeatedly claimed Israeli provocations were responsible for the violence - which, obviously, the Israelis denied.

What better reason and better place to install security cameras to ascertain who is at fault in triggering such confrontations - and holding them accountable?

In one of Secretary of State John Kerry’s few lucid moments dealing with Palestinians, he brokered an agreement last October with all three parties - Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians - for Jordan to install 55 cameras at the Temple Mount “to monitor and document the continued Israeli violations” there.

Strangely, with installation pending, Palestinian opposition to the project mounted with cries such as, “We don’t need any cameras here. Only Allah sees all.”

On April 18, Jordan’s prime minister announced the project was being cancelled, prompted by Palestinian threats to smash any cameras installed.

Israel, meanwhile, presses for installation to ensure “transparency.”

Palestinian objections to the cameras beg the obvious question: "Why?" If Israelis are the provocateurs, why would Palestinians not want videos proving it?

The Palestinians fear cameras for the exact reason for which they were to be installed - as truth-tellers. Palestinians intend to continue acting badly. They just don’t want to be held accountable by being observed doing so.

While Palestinians claim Allah sees all, they clearly don’t want anyone else to.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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