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Islamist Supremacy at Temple Mount: US Congressmen detained after falsely accused of praying

Islamist Supremacy at Temple Mount: US Congressmen detained after falsely accused of praying

Muslim Waqf officials reported them for allegedly violating ban on non-Muslim prayer after they bent down to pick up olive branch

United States lawmakers Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo) and David B. McKinley (R-W.Va) were stopped and questioned by Israeli police on the morning of February 22nd while they were visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

According to media reports of the incident (see, for example, here and here), Tipton and McKinley were detained by Israeli officers guarding the site after the Waqf—the Jordanian-funded Islamic Trust that administers day-to-day activities there—brought to their attention that one of the congressmen had apparently taken an olive branch that he had found lying on the ground while touring the place.

It’s pretty sad—and truly ironic—that picking up a fallen olive branch, the symbol of peace, is viewed by Waqf officials as such an abhorrent infraction that they would see it as appropriate and necessary to raise such a fuss about it.

But, as we’ve noted in many prior posts, this is the disgraceful and absurd reality on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where only Muslims are allowed the freedom to worship and everyone else who goes is harassed, made to feel unwelcome, and denied the opportunity to visit the place in a dignified fashion.

Rep. McKinley Dares to Pick Up a Fallen Olive Branch While Touring the Temple Mount

Reps. Tipton and McKinley are visiting Israel as part of a week long fact-finding mission hosted by the not-for-profit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations and a pro-Israel organization Jaffe Strategies. The purpose of the trip is to facilitate a discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations involving security, energy and other issues, including the pros and cons of various locations for the new U.S Embassy in Jerusalem (for an overview of the itinerary, see here).

In addition to meetings with senior Israeli officials and politicians, the lawmakers have also been able to tour various historic and religious sites, such as Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Tipton and McKinley participated in the tour with a small group of Jewish pilgrims led by Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute.

While walking through the holy place, Rep. McKinley at one point bent over to pick up a fallen olive branch on the path (McKinley later claimed in an interview that it was actually a leaf and not a branch).

It was a totally inoffensive move—something that anyone might do while walking along a path. You can judge for yourself in this video which shows the exact moment when McKinley spotted the olive branch/leaf and bent down to pick it up:

The guard from the Islamic Waqf, which accompanies every touring group and monitors it with an eagle eye, reportedly complained to the group’s Israeli police escort about what McKinley had done.

That’s when the two congressmen were required by the police to leave the site. Media reports maintain that they were “frisked and detained” for questioning for more than ten minutes at the Temple Mount police station.

You can’t see that in the above video, although it’s clear that Tipton and McKinley had their tour disrupted and that they were led away by the police.

How Did Reps. Tipton and McKinley Break the Waqf’s Bizarre Rules for Non-Muslims Who Visit the Temple Mount? 

It’s hard to know what exactly set off the Waqf guard and why he complained to the police escort.

Some media reports suggested that the guard misconstrued McKinley’s bending down as an “illegal form of prayer”.

This isn’t as far-fetched as it seems because Jews have been detained, arrested or thrown off the site in the past, and even attacked by Muslim worshipers, for bowing in prayer.

Other media reports, however, claim that the guard might have surmised that McKinley had picked up the leaf or branch in order to take it as a souvenir.

It’s ridiculous to think that any visitor would be aware that picking leaves or branches from the ground is prohibited. But the strict injunction against removing anything from the grounds of the compound is just one of the many wacky rules and regulations that the Islamic Trust has seen fit to enforce on non-Muslims.

The Temple Mount: No-Go Zone for Jewish & Christian Prayer

In a statement, the police claimed that Reps. Tipton and McKinley “were not detained and arrested” and that the matter was “quickly clarified”, enabling the congressmen to continue on their scheduled itinerary for the day which included a meeting with PM Netanyahu. A spokeswoman for Tipton also noted that following some brief questioning, “the situation was resolved quickly”.

Still, it’s obvious that both Tipton and McKinley felt that they were badly treated and that their visit to the Temple Mount was pretty much ruined.

That’s not just because their visit was cut short by a run-in with the police either. In fact, for them the whole tour left a lot to be desired.

In a short interview (see above video) conducted after they left the Temple Mount, McKinley remarked that he “felt pressured, pushed along in a very hurried fashion.” Tipton also wanted people to be aware that “on a holy site for the Jewish religion” visitors were “being run through like cattle” and that they were denied the “freedom to stop, to be able to pray, to contemplate.”

[Reps. Tipton and McKinley interviewed after exiting the Temple Mount | credit: vimeo]

Basically, both congressmen were disgusted that Christians and Jews weren’t able to “experience more of the Temple Mount” because of the Waqf’s need to “show dominance and control.”

It’s important to understand that what Reps. Tipton and McKinley describe isn’t a one-off, down to the misunderstanding or over-reach of a single Waqf guard. As we’ve highlighted in numerous posts, what the 2 congressmen experienced yesterday is routine and standard operating procedure on the site revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples:

As we’ve discussed, non-Muslims are denied a fulfilling spiritual experience on the Temple Mount because of the inherently illiberal “status quo arrangement” that’s governed the place since 1967. Under this arrangement, Israel has sovereignty over the site, but in practice it’s under the control of Jordan’s religious custodians. So Jews and Christians can visit, but they’re barred from any kind of religious worship or prayer.

Over the years, Israel’s courts and successive governments have also worked to maintain this “status quo”. The courts have repeatedly upheld Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount. But they’ve also authorized the state and its agencies to forbid worship if they determine that such religious expression would disrupt public order (i.e., provoke Muslims to violence, or aggravate Muslim sensibilities).

The result has been a degrading and off-the-wall experience for non-Muslims who visits the place. Calling out the words of the “Shema”, the prayer declaring faith in God; drinking water; shedding a tear; or even saying the Hebrew name for the holy site out loud are all considered “violations of the rules” and horrible “provocations”.

Doing any of these things typically leads to immediate detainment by the Israeli police, who are basically following the dictates of the Waqf staff by catering to their every inane complaint.


Back in August 2015, members of a U.S. congressional delegation who were participating in a guided tour of the Temple Mount were stalked and hounded while there by a throng of Muslim men and women who followed the group for the entire time, doing a terrific job of making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Interviewed about their visit, the congressmen recounted how an “exhilarating and meaningful experience” was marred by this belligerent gang who harangued the group and subjected them to non-stop verbal taunts.

This week, Reps. Tipton and McKinley didn’t have to deal with these “Temple Mount Troublemakers”, abusive hecklers who have since been shut down. But they still had to cope with the Waqf’s disdain. It managed to treat them like dangerous criminals just for walking around a holy site and stooping down to pick up some foliage.

Bottom line: What two U.S. Congressmen experienced on the Temple Mount this week highlights a pernicious problem: the flagrant disregard for religious pluralism and tolerance exhibited by the site’s Muslim authorities. Peace will come when the extreme anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hostility at the Temple Mount ends, and when its “normal and accepted” for Jews and Christians to pray freely while there.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman


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While the olive branch is typically associated with peace, I believe there was a Syrian king who would have his enemies beaten with olive branches. I believe the irony lies more in that.

Remember that this is entirely the fault of successive Israeli governments, who have deliberately empowered the Waqf to behave in this way. Starting with Moshe Dayan, who for no legitimate reason whatsoever, when the Moslems were convinced they’d been defeated and had lost the Mount, summoned the Waqf and stunned them by handing control back to them, free and for nothing. The next biggest offender was Bibi Netanyahu, who in 1996 allowed the Moslems to excavate the **** out of the site and dump everything in the Kidron Valley, in complete violation of the archaeological preservation law that applies everywhere else in Israel, and that would land anyone else in prison. And Netanyahu, again, was the one who banned members of Knesset from visiting the Mount; it’s the only place under Israeli control they’re not allowed to visit. None of this is the Moslems’ doing; they don’t have the power.

    Arminius in reply to Milhouse. | February 27, 2018 at 2:26 am

    I think we had something to do with it. Find me Konigsberg on a map.

    Resolution 242:

    “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.”

    Find me Konigsberg on a map. UN resolution 242 is based on a lie. That by the 1920s you couldn’t seize territory in a defensive war. When did it become Kaliningrad, again?

    Different rules for the Jews, like always.

    Tell me again when Konigsberg became Kaliningrad.

      Milhouse in reply to Arminius. | February 27, 2018 at 10:36 am

      1. Resolution 242 had nothing to do with it.

      a. Dayan gave away the Temple Mount and the Double Cave in Hevron to the Waqf before the resolution.

      b. Israel has never had any qualms about exercising its sovereignty in the rest of Jerusalem, and doesn’t regard 242 as applying there. 242 deliberately only calls for the return of some territories, not all. The special status given the Waqf on the Mount is therefore purely about the policies of successive Israeli governments, not about 242.

      2. Kaliningrad is irrelevant because this alleged change in the law of nations is supposed to have occurred on the adoption of the UN Charter, which was after the European border changes in the aftermath of WW2.

      Canto28 in reply to Arminius. | March 1, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Right, Arminius, it’s now Kaliningrad, Russia, and no one calls it “occupied territory” like they do militarily essential Israeli locations won after wars to annihilate Israel.

    Canto28 in reply to Milhouse. | March 1, 2018 at 11:23 am

    IMHO Israel should seriously consider admitting its mistake and end the Waqf. The Temple Mount belongs to Israel for many reasons – surviving wars of annihilation over it for example. One very absurd & even vague verse in the Koran doesn’t make it Muslim.

“strict injunction against removing anything from the grounds of the compound” is apparently unenforced against the Paleos throwing “Holy” stones and bricks from the site?

The Religion of Peace & Tolerance strikes again. Thankfully, no one was beheaded for this ‘transgression.’

Rick the Curmudgeon | February 25, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Peace will come when the extreme anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hostility at the Temple Mount ends, and when its “normal and accepted” for Jews and Christians to pray freely while there.

Which will occur about the same time as a Heavenly Ham store opens there.

Israel – Take your city of Jerusalem & build your Temple.

Apparently they’ve not aware that even these seeming low level VIPS carry larger than it might seem power to be heard in a place that can easily make their rules and actions moot.

They forget who actually stands behind Israel and maintains the status quo.

Muslims have a very poor record of preserving Chritianity’s Holy Sites and we are entering a political atmosphere here in the States that is not Muslim Friendly.

They should be advised and those who can’t learn the lesson be removed or more than just the PLO will be in our sights for “adjustments” of the status quo.

You don’t build a “tolerant” and “inclusive” society by giving muslims control of anything.

You’d think a few of our so-called “leaders” would have figured this out by now.

Once again, the so-called “religion of peace” becomes the guardian of hate…

    JusticeDelivered in reply to jmt9455. | February 28, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    The embassy announce shook things up a bit, now control of Temple Mount should be taken by Israel, and only people they chose to pray should be allowed to do so.

    The world need to stop kowtowing to the dredges of humanity.

buckeyeminuteman | February 25, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Why in God’s Promised Land are the Israeli police doing the bidding of the Jordanians and Muslims? The entire place is Israel, they should act like it.

This sorry state of affairs should be stopped immediately. The Muslims will make a fuss but they’ll get over it.

    Arminius in reply to Elric. | February 27, 2018 at 2:39 am

    Hate to tell you this, but Muslims never get over anything. It’s why in his 1996 and 1998 fatwas Bin Laden blamed his enmity toward the West on the loss of Al Andalus and Crusades.

    Right. They invaded and stole Spain in 711a.d. and tried to invade France until Charles the Hammer kicked their sorry tails back across the Pyrenees in 732 because they knew we’d launch a crusade in 1095. They’re the original crybullies.

    Is there anyone else who wants to destroy Islam, besides me and a few million Hindus?

    “Sanatan Shastarvidiya – Tulwar Part 1 of 3 (swordmanship)”

Note, I said Islam. Not Muslims. Muslims are just as much the victims of Islam as anyone else.