The timing and specifics of the event warning have led some to claim that ideological opposition to the Beck event-- not just concerns for American safety-- could have influenced the decision.
The "Emergency Message" addressed to U.S. Government Employees and visiting citizens in Jerusalem is available on the Consulate's website. The message posted to the site on August 24th stated the following:
"The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem notes that, according to local security sources, Jerusalem is under a heightened Security Alert. The police have established roadblocks in various sections of the city and increased their personnel on the streets. Vehicle inspections are being conducted, and suspicious individuals and bags are receiving further scrutiny.
U.S. citizens in Jerusalem are advised to exercise extra vigilance and avoid large crowds during upcoming rallies and religious holidays, particularly in and around Jerusalem's Old City.
On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, there will be a rally held near the south east corner of the Old City. The areas between Dung Gate and Lions Gate are off-limits to official U.S. Government personnel from 4:00pm until 10:00pm on that day due to recent clashes in that area."
So Restoring Courage was off limits on August 24th. Before jumping to any conclusions, though, there are a variety of plausible explanations which should be explored to determine whether any possible bias against the Beck event existed.
As has already been reported on the Blaze, there was indeed an elevated terrorist threat to Jerusalem in the wake of the Eilat attacks that killed 8 Israelis. The U.S. consulate would have had to take this information into account when advising Americans for their safety.
However, The Blaze also reported two days before the Restoring Courage event that Israeli officials had modified the security alert. The entire country was held steady at a general Level 3 security watch with an "emphasis on Jerusalem and Southern Israel." But the "specific alert" for the city of Jerusalem had been lifted.
It is also worth noting that American casualties are rare in Israel, but have occurred. The U.S. Consulate has a grave responsibility to help ensure the safety of Americans in Israel. Emergency safety messages are a necessity, given the history of the region.
In another scenario, however, some are alleging a degree of ideological bias in the decision to ban U.S. government employees and warn off U.S. citizens from attending Beck's Restoring Courage. They claim it is part of a broader pattern of bias on the part of the Consulate.
In one example, the Jerusalem Post opined earlier this year that the U.S. Consulate has 'gone native,' meaning its public activities show a pro-Palestinian bias. The Post argued that because the Consulate is in closer proximity to the Palestinian territories and deals with them more directly than the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, there is an inclination to favor Palestinian events and causes at the Consulate.
Restoring Courage did not fall into that category.
The Post and others have noted a multitude of Consulate-sponsored Palestinian outreach and cultural events over the past year that appear to outpace any similar offerings for the Jewish community in Jerusalem (or the Christian one, for that matter).
Perhaps it is a division of resources issue, as would be the case in many other countries where the U.S. has both an Embassy and Consulate.
Regardless of that, the August 24th Consulate warning message clearly singled out the Restoring Courage rally for exclusion from other events and gatherings. The reason given was "recent clashes in the area."
That is a term vague enough that it could be stretched to include verbal sparring between protestors or maybe a few rocks thrown by youths looking to start trouble. But the Blaze has already reported that there were threats made against the event, and there could certainly have been others not publicly disclosed.
So the Consulate, it would seem, can at a minimum claim that security was the only consideration for warning Americans away from Restoring Courage.
Given this background, and allegations of bias, why do you think the Consulate discouraged Americans from attending Beck's Restoring Courage event?