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January 15, 2010

Will CMEP Rise to Object? (Are You Serious?)

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CMEP Executive Director Warren Clark

In 2007, when the Israeli government initiated badly needed repairs the ramp leading up to the Temple Mount near the Dung Gate, a so-called peacemaking group, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) sent a letter to the U.S. State Department calling on the agency to protest Israeli actions for fear of inciting Muslim violence. (Snapshots covered this statement here.)

Instead of holding Palestinian and Arab leaders to account for using the excavation as a pre-text for violence, CMEP rewarded these actions by irresponsibly affirming the notion that the construction “violate[d] the sanctity” of the “Temple Mount/Harem al-Sharif.” In fact, the Israeli excavation and construction took place hundreds of feet away from Muslim holy sites on the mount. Nevertheless, the damage was done. As noted by Snapshots, this letter was subsequently invoked by a Turkish journalist to incite hostility toward Jews and Israel.

Now the CMEP, led by former State Department service officer Warren Clark, has an opportunity to set things right by condemning the destruction (and not the maintenance) of a holy site. This time it is a Jewish holy site, not in Israel, but in Iraq. And this time the site is being destroyed, not maintained.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Ezekiel’s grave, located in a town South of Bagdad is under threat. The article, dated Jan. 15, 2010 reads in part:

Recently "Ur," a local Iraqi news agency, reported that a huge mosque will be built on top of [Ezekiel’s] grave by Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, while Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments are being removed from the site, all as part of renovations.

Prof. Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, winner of the 1999 Israel Prize in Middle Eastern studies and chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, confirmed the report.

"I first heard the news of tomb desecration from a friend of mine who is a German scholar. After visiting the site he called me and said that some Hebrew inscriptions on the grave were covered by plaster and that a mosque is planned to be built on top of the tomb. He told me that he found the changes at the tomb disturbing and warned me that I'd better act quickly, before any irreversible damage will be inflicted," Moreh said.

If CMEP is truly interested in living up to its mission statement, which includes promoting recognition of “the religious importance of the [Middle East] to Jews, Christians, and Muslims and protect the religious freedom of all” this is an issue it cannot ignore. The destruction of a holy site is a clear violation of religious freedom.

The destruction of Ezekiel’s tomb is only one many outrages are worthy of CMEP’s attention. Writing for The American Thinker, Joel Spraregan has compiled a list of acts of violence against Christians in Muslim majority countries, three of which are located in the Middle East:

On December 23, a bomb was detonated near the Syrian Orthodox church of St. Thomas in Mosul, Iraq. On the same day, a bomb exploded in the same city outside the Chaldean church of St. George, killing three people.

In Nag Hamadi, Egypt, near Luxor, gunfire from a speeding car directed at worshipers leaving midnight mass on Coptic Christian Christmas (January 7) killed seven. The assailants escaped; Copts claimed that police sided with the Muslims who attacked them. A Coptic priest called it "a terrorist attack at a sensitive time." The head of the interfaith committee at al-Azhar University, Egypt's foremost Islamic institution (where President Obama spoke last June), said the attack "wasn't motivated by religious differences," but out of the region's strong "concept of revenge" over an alleged sexual crime by a Copt last year.

Snapshot drew attention to this last act of murder (and the persistent failure of groups such as the National Council of Churches to draw attention to the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt) in a previous post. The suggestion that the killings were not motivated by religion is one often trotted out, sometimes by Muslims and other times by Christians in the U.S. who are intent on downplaying the role Islamist ideology plays in fomenting violence against religious minorities in the region, including Jews.

CMEP was quick to raise the alarm about excavations near the Dung Gate in 2007. How long will it take for the CMEP to address the outrages listed above?

Again, don’t hold your breath. The CMEP can be counted on to condemn Israel when Muslim extremists riot, or threaten to riot.

But when there are clear and obvious misdeeds by Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East, CMEP remains silent.

Don’t believe it? Go the organization’s website yourself and tabulate the number of demands and criticisms leveled at Israel and its adversaries in its materials. The difference is obvious.

Posted by dvz at January 15, 2010 12:08 PM

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