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The Obama intifada?

Melanie Phillips


Are we seeing the beginning (heaven forbid) of the Obama intifada?

The escalating Arab rioting today in Jerusalem and the West Bank is undoubtedly being stoked up by the fact that the Obama administration has turned so viciously against Israel. Doubtless as a result the Arabs now smell victory within their grasp and may now unleash another wave of violence against Israelis.

Every single one of their recent ‘grievances’ is not just fabricated but stands history and justice on their heads. The ostensible cause of today's rioting, the re-opening yesterday of the ancient Hurva synagogue in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, is a typical example of this fanatical moral and historical inversion. The Hurva has been under reconstruction for years. The Palestinian campaign of incitement over it carries the message that Jews cannot build places of worship in their own city. And before anyone says any of Jerusalem is ‘occupied Palestinian territory’, it is not and never was 'Palestinian'. In every single attempt to resolve the Middle East impasse, Jerusalem was always regarded as a special case on its own; and from the mid 19th century onwards it has had uninterruptedly a Jewish majority.

The Hurva synagogue has been rebuilt, moreover, because it was twice destroyed by Muslims. Its history, as recounted by Leo Rennert, is testimony both to the uninterrupted presence of Jews in Jerusalem and to the uninterrupted attempts by Muslims to remove that presence:

The Hurva was the the Jewish landmark in Jerusalem in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a magnet for early Zionists, religious and non-religious. Theodore Herzl was a visitor, and so were many other Jewish notables from far and wide. The first synagogue on the site was built in 1701. Jews had obtained a loan for its construction from Muslims. But Jerusalem's Jewish community, mired in poverty, couldn't repay the debt, so Muslim creditors destroyed the synagogue.

But Jewish residents, with some outside help, rebuilt the Hurva and turned it into a magnificent landmark...that is, until 1948, when less than two weeks after Israel declared independence, Jordanian forces moved into the Old City and destroyed the Hurva -- with only the great arch left as a reminder of its former glory. And so it remained for six decades. From 1948 until 1967, Jews were barred by Jordan from even approaching the Hurva ruins, just as they were barred from praying at the Western Wall. After Israel captured the Old City in 1967, the Hurva Arch stood for many years as a stark reminder of a sad chapter in Jewish history.

Then a meticulous rebuilding and renovation effort was begun several years ago. It culminated on March 15, 2010 in the official reopening of the Hurva as an exact replica of the 19th-century synagogue, including the surviving Arch, which is now a permanent part of the new Hurva. Henceforth, it won't just be a dramatic reminder of the past; it will resume its age-old function as a place of worship.

And once again it is the target of Muslim attempts to exterminate the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Yet Obama, who accuses Israel of frustrating the ‘peace process’ by building in east Jerusalem by agreement with his own administration, is silent over this inflammatory and disgusting Palestinian attack on a Jewish place of worship. It would seem that for Obama ‘peace’ means the surrender of Israel to Arab violence.

As former New York mayor Ed Koch has said, the pressure the US is now bringing to bear upon Israel is unforgiveable. It is an astonishing demonstration of cynicism and malicious intent. Noah Pollak says that Obama is trying to get rid of Netanyahu by pushing him into a corner. But much worse still, Obama’s deliberate decision to escalate what was at most a tactless but minor diplomatic blunder by Israel makes America an accessory to the violence that is now taking place and may get worse. Even this Ha’aretz writer thinks so:

But perhaps what is most important is this: Palestinians see the Obama administration’s decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line. A previous settlement slowdown led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to exploit the opportunity and make any new negotiations conditional on a total freeze in construction, including in east Jerusalem.

Now signals from Washington have led his political faction, Fatah, to start picking its own fight. A few days ago Prime Minister Salam Fayad called on Palestinians to rally to the Temple Mount to ‘defend Al-Aqsa’ after Israel announced the dedication of a synagogue ‘next door to the Al-Aqsa mosque’. Even the most secular of Palestinian politicians, PLO executive committee chairman Yasser Abed Rabo, joined in the condemnations and warned of an escalation.

The need to defend Al-Aqsa is more than a little exaggerated. The synagogue in question is not on the doorstep of the mosque. It is in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City on a site it has occupied for more than 300 years. But the PA has smelled blood. It understands that the international community will not concern itself with secondary details, such as the fact that the synagogue in question would no doubt remain in Israeli territory under even the most generous future peace agreement. So why not start a riot and blame the Israelis, especially when the U.S. government is doing the same.

Precisely.  Middle America, those millions of mainly Christian souls who are Israel’s staunchest supporters in the world, should be made aware of what their President is doing – turning the United States into a betrayer of democracy, human rights and the Jewish people to become no less than an accessory to terror.

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author.
She is best known for her columns on political and social issues.