Prominent right-wing activist and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir was detained and questioned by Jerusalem Police during a visit to the Temple Mount Wednesday, for responding to Muslim extremists' shouts of "Allahu Akbar" by calling out the popular Hebrew slogan "Am Yisrael chai!" (The nation of Israel lives!)
In footage taken by other Jewish visitors to the Mount, Ben-Gvir can be heard informing members of his group that police and Waqf guards had no legal right to follow them closely to check that they were not praying.
When Muslim extremists start screaming "Allahu Akbar," Ben-Gvir turned and responded with his chant. But while the Muslim group were ignored by police, Ben-Gvir was quickly arrested and led off the Mount.
Later in the video, other Jewish visitors confront a Muslim woman who moments before had been cursing them and tell police they wish to press a formal complaint – only to be repeatedly rebuffed by officers.
Ben-Gvir repeated his claims to police during questioning, insisting they had no right to follow the group – who were doing nothing illegal – in the first place, and criticizing the force for failing to uphold the civil rights of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
"We didn't return to our land to hear that the sentence 'the nation of Israel lives' is forbidden to say," Ben-Gvir said in a statement. "They didn't detain those (Muslims) who shouted at me – this is a racist policy by the police which harms democracy and freedom of expression."
Jerusalem District Court will hold a hearing tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss a police request to issue a distancing order from the Temple Mount against the activist.
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, Jews are forbidden from praying on the Mount in response to Muslim threats of violence should they be allowed to do so. The Mount also houses the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, built atop the ruins of two Jewish temples, and Muslim groups regularly deny historical evidence of any pre-Islamic history to the site.
In recent years, Islamist groups have organized gangs of men and women to heckle and intimidate Jewish visitors – occasionally physically assaulting them as well – in an attempt to deter Jews from visiting. Measures have been taken in recent weeks by the government to put an end to the phenomenon – including by banning two of the most prolific Islamist groups involved, and barring many of their members from ascending the Mount – even while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denies Palestinian claims that he aims to lift the ban on Jewish prayer.
As a result of those measures, assaults against Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount have rapidly declines.
Instead, however, the Muslim gangs appear to have positioned themselves along the streets of Jerusalem's Old City, harassing Jewish worshipers and residents alike.