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John Kerry and the Pope set to face off with Jewish Knight Templars on the Temple Mount

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Israeli Housing Minister and settler advocate Uri Ariel visiting the Temple Mount. (Photo: Michal Fattal via Haaretz)

Israeli Housing Minister and settler advocate Uri Ariel visiting the Temple Mount. (Photo: Michal Fattal via Haaretz)

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

This is the week that supposedly spells the end of the peace process or its end. My money is on a continuation that has no real substance or direction.

What’s the alternative?

With Passover and Easter over, Secretary Kerry can return to the Middle East crisis. This, after dealing so successfully with crisis in the Ukraine. With Pope Francis arriving in Israel-Palestine soon the (un)holy nature of the conflict can once again be emphasized. Will Kerry and the Pope work hand in hand?

Did you notice the increased activity by our very own Jewish Knight Templars on the Temple Mount during Passover? Amazing how Crusaders can wear (religious) coats of many colors. When you think of the Jewish Crusaders and then think of Israel and its great super power partner, America, you know the Crusader tradition is alive and well.

The ominous Palestinian threat, taking Israel to various international tribunals or, perhaps even more serious, allowing the Palestinian Authority to collapse, is on the table this week. But since some years ago, Joseph Massad, that intrepid take-no-prisoners Palestinian commentator, compared the Palestinian Authority to the Jewish Councils of Europe that presided over the Jewish ghettos during the Nazi era, would we really miss the grand old PA?

Collaboration is a tricky issue. Jewish commentators should take a deep breath before sharing their views. But Massad is always worth listening to. Would it be better if the Palestinian version of the Jewish Councils just packed their bags and fled?

Having been protected from its own people by American-trained Palestinian police in close contact with Israel’s security apparatus, withdrawing that protection would make it dangerous for Palestinian political elites. This may be why President Abbas has already agreed to an American-led NATO occupation of a Palestinian state if that state, however truncated and ghettoized, ever came into existence.

Palestinian prisoner release is another item Jewish commentators should think twice before offering an opinion. But what does swapping Palestinian prisoners for increased Israeli settlements do in the long run for the Palestinian national cause?

The possibility that the American Jewish spy, Jonathan Pollard, might be released is another interesting possibility being bandied about. Sad to say, Pollard, a slimy character if there ever was one, has become a hero of sorts in certain Israeli circles. The issue isn’t so much the question of dual loyalty – an American spying for Israel – as it is testimony to the devolution of Jewish life.

So is this week meaningful, portending a turning point? Or is does it promise to be more of the same charade?

How irresponsible of all parties – America, Israel and the Palestinian Authority – to pretend a turning point when they know it is a charade. So many lives hang in the balance. But, then, collapse, is heavy. Make no mistake – the casualties can come fast and furious.

Is this what our Jewish Knight Templars are about – shock troops for the coming apocalypse? Or is John Kerry enabling an apocalypse under the peace process rubric.

Apocalypse – disaster, catastrophe, destruction.

Call it want you want. Even call it a peace process. Palestine is already experiencing all of the above.

Is it about to get worse?

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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15 Responses

  1. Xpat on April 23, 2014, 10:59 am

    Since as long as I can remember Israelis have rallied around freeing Jewish prisoners. In the 70s it was Anatoly Sharansky was the face of the refuseniks, and by extension, all Soviet Jews. in the 80s and 90s it was Ron Arad, the Israeli airman shot down during Israel’s war on the PLO in Lebanon. Jonathan Pollard is another icon in the pantheon of Jewish prisoners whom we must set free.
    There is a venerable Jewish tradition of pidyon sh’vuyim, freeing Jewish prisoners from non-Jewish hands. The premise is that the Jew is innocent of anything but being Jewish so the Jewish community rallies to bring him home. The State of Israel fulfills its mission and finds its identity in living out this value.
    Problem is we’re talking about soldiers and spies, not innocent Jews.
    I don’t believe Netanyahu actually gives two hoots about Pollard. Ask not what we can do for the Jews of the world, ask what they can do for us.

  2. RudyM on April 23, 2014, 11:48 am

    I’m pretty sure it’s always “Knights Templar.”

  3. kalithea on April 23, 2014, 11:48 am

    What I see in that photo is: blatant provocation and disrespect tantamount to a hate crime on the surface and an ominous threat below the surface.

    The description of the PA here is right on the money and it has been the detriment of its own long-suffering people and their aspirations.

    Any Apartheid state should be forced to release resistors to modern-day colonialist-inspired, oppressive military and illegal occupation that are held in Apartheid state prisons in any Apartheid state.

  4. eljay on April 23, 2014, 11:58 am

    >> I’m pretty sure it’s always “Knights Templar.”

    And I’m pretty sure you’re correct.

    • puppies on April 23, 2014, 12:23 pm

      Let’s pick nits in Ellis’ objectionable pieces; this one was surprisingly (almost) perfect.

      • Ellen on April 23, 2014, 2:45 pm

        Yes, a good post.

        Ellis captures well something occupation forces have been doing since (or before) the Romans were able to keep control over tribes after their invasion of Britain:

        Create a small elite and protected class among the occupied; make sure their influence, comfort and power rests with preservation of the occupation forces. And in the case of Britain, what became the gradual Romanization.

      • puppies on April 23, 2014, 3:05 pm

        @Ellen – Romanization? Thank you for the insight: I used to think there isn’t much in that to fit our days. In fact, the Roman model as you say (not so much in Britain, though) is probably a good explanation for the role of the US in Palestine: subcontracting Roman Peace to the local power (take Pergamon or Bithynia) that bribed the most powerful Senators and got provided with limitless military assistance.
        At the level of the enforcing power, though, today’s control mechanism is much coarser, more conforming to the model of WW2 German occupation and its appointed puppet administration.

      • Ellen on April 24, 2014, 12:04 am

        @puppies… well, I am no historian, but yes, Romanisation (the s instead of the American English Z).

        The windy island filled with warring Celtic tribes was invaded by the Romans and gradually became a unified Britannia, under Roman control. With Roman streets, towns, civic institutions and many thousands of Roman soldiers (actually inscriptions from all over) who settled the island.

        Rome kept control by bribing the tribal elites — giving them wealth, status and protection. This worked for a long time. And the model is still working for USrael as well.

        Aside from the brutal Boudiccan revolution, which almost broke Rome’s hold, the occupation and gradual conquest was complete — up to Hadrian’s wall, that is. (Even the Romans built their walls to keep the pests out.)

        But then it all fell apart when Britannia appealed to Rome for protection from the invading Saxons, Emperor Honorius told the citizens of Britanna to look after their own defenses, deal with it themselves. And with that the bell of death rang for the Roman Empire.

        So the citizens of Britannia , like Israelis of today who feel to be citizens of the west (USA) — even with passports that look just like US passports on first glance — felt to be Romans.

        And today Israelis depend upon the US (like Britannia of yore dependence on Rome) for it’s identity and defenses. After all, it was a Roman island of civility in a sea of tribal barbarity, complete with a surrounding wall. Not too different from today’s Israel.

        And Rome held onto far away Britannia with a fierce and irrational tenacity. (Sound familiar?) Until sentiments and priorities changed and Rome told Britannia to take care of themselves. Rome was dying. And Britannia gradually became independent and prosperous Britain.

      • Feathers on April 24, 2014, 8:21 am

        I couldn’t disagree more, Ellen.

        The analogy with Crusaders & Knights Templar distorts the reality.

        Framing Israel’s problems, dysfunction and crimes with earlier Christian historical events only serves to further muddy the history and permit Israel to say, as it does regarding its “original sin” of taking the land of another, that “the USA did it to Native Americans so it’s ok for us.”

        Israel must be assessed sui generis, on its own terms.
        And by the way, those terms ought to be gleaned from the documents and evidence of history, not hasbara central or ADL or AIPAC.

      • Donald on April 24, 2014, 9:43 am

        “Framing Israel’s problems, dysfunction and crimes with earlier Christian historical events only serves to further muddy the history and permit Israel to say, as it does regarding its “original sin” of taking the land of another, that “the USA did it to Native Americans so it’s ok for us.”

        Israel must be assessed sui generis, on its own terms.”

        I think this is completely wrong. Israel’s crimes are similar to those of others, including those of 19th Century America, and it is useful to point this out. The fact that Israelis are so morally obtuse as to claim justification because others have done similar things just shows their moral bankruptcy. If they bring up the Native Americans, the proper response is to acknowledge America’s guilt and that one doesn’t make up for past crimes by pointing to crimes committed by others.

    • MHughes976 on April 23, 2014, 5:49 pm

      The medieval knights were Templars. There was, I believe, a small German religious sect called the ‘Templers’ which had beliefs about Temples and Palestine and had a presence in Palestine before and during Mandate days. They were eventually regarded as close to the Nazis and expelled, but still have some organised existence.

      • Citizen on April 24, 2014, 9:13 am

        @ Ellen (no reply button)

        RE: “Rome kept control by bribing the tribal elites — giving them wealth, status and protection. This worked for a long time. And the model is still working for USrael as well.”

        Another example of this basic principle: See Braveheart.

  5. Walid on April 23, 2014, 12:18 pm

    “… Ron Arad, the Israeli airman shot down during Israel’s war on the PLO in Lebanon.”

    Small clarification needed here, Elliot. Navigator Arad was not on a mission against the PLO, he was on one to carpet-bomb Shia villages in Lebanon’s south. Another is about the sanctity of Jewish lives or bodies that must be set free; in 2006 the IDF was in such hurry to get the hell out of Lebanon, it took the time to snatch a few cadavres of fallen Hizbullah fighters and dragged them across the border to be used as bargaining chips on future negotiations. They also yanked a schizophrenic former fighter from his front porch where he was sitting to watch the ongoing fighting in front of his house. But in their dragging of these bodies back to Israel, they left behind the bodies and parts of bodies of fallen fellow Israeli soldiers. So this sanctity bit is somewhat of a myth along the same lines as the “purity of arms” one.

  6. W.Jones on April 24, 2014, 1:54 am

    I wonder if Ellis thinks that there are left over elements of the Templars, as per The DaVinci Code?

    If you wish to discuss this essay in more detail, you may do so here:
    http://friendfeed.com/mondoweiss-on-friendfeed/cb026696/john-kerry-and-pope-set-to-face-off-with-jewish

    Peace.

  7. Accentitude on April 24, 2014, 8:12 am

    To answer Marc Ellis’ question, yes it’s definitely getting worse in Palestine. All of the things that he mentions in his article are signs of some impending catastrophe and yet daily life in Palestine (for the most part) has been ominously quiet despite the political maneuvers, skirmishes and scattered flashes of violence here and there. But its that sort of quietness that makes one uneasy because there is prevailing gut feeling that something is coming. You can see and feel it everywhere.

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