Two weirdly similar articles showed up in my email this morning. Both are by political activists who don’t particularly regard themselves as political activists but as voices of reason. Both ran into intrusive law enforcement, in the name of national security, that violated the freedoms each one values—freedom of inquiry in one case, freedom of worship in the other, freedom of movement for both.
The thing is, I’m sure that both the writers would hate to be compared to the other. But the narratives are so similar that the comparison seems to me inescapable. I leave it to you to decide whether the situations are comparable.
One of them is Glenn Greenwald, the expat American lawyer-journalist who broke the Edward Snowden leaks in his column in the British Guardian. His Brazilian life-partner David Miranda was detained incommunicado for nine hours today at Heathrow Airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.” There seems little doubt that the detention was part of the Obama administration’s embarrassing effort to get at Snowden. As Greenwald writes in the Guardian, he was outraged.
Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further.
The other is David Wilder, a longtime spokesman for the Jewish settler community in Hebron. He was detained by Israeli Border Police this morning after trying to bypass the security guards who maintain separation between Jews and Muslims in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, sacred to both religions. He was trying to usher in a group of Jewish tourists from America, but he was made to wait for a Muslim ritual to be completed. As he wrote in his weekly email blast, he was outraged:
We entered the first, outer room, and I continued, leading the way, into the original structure. However, to my surprise, a border policeman stood in the doorway and told me: Entrance Forbidden. You have to wait.For what? The Muezzin, the Arab Moslem who operates the loud speakers which blast out their prayers, five times a day, was being escorted to the room from which the audio is operated. Until he was safely tucked away in that room, we couldn’t go in.What, I asked, are we back in 1929? Because of an Arab, we can’t go inside?
Wilder’s post doesn’t seem to appear on the Web, so I’ll paste it in full after the jump.
The Cave, actually an elaborate complex built over ancient tombs, is the reputed burial site of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and three of their four wives. It’s sacred to both religions. Jews call it the Cave of Machpelah, Muslims call it the Ibrahimi Mosque. The two communities have been strictly separated by Israeli security forces, with separate spaces and worship times, ever since the massacre there of 29 Muslim worshipers by Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein in 1994. It’s been particularly tense over the past few days.
Here’s Wilder’s full report (bold emphases in original):
Disgrace ReduxDavid WilderAugust 19, 2013Actually, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been detained by the police.One of my favorite visitors to Hebron is Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. I’ve known her for just about as long as I’ve been working here, close to 20 years. A frequent visitor to Ma’arat HaMachpela, she brings diverse groups of people, always interested in what’s going on. Her groups are also invariably spiritual. The Rebbetzin and her groups invest much time worshiping at Machpela.Late this morning a small group, led by Rebbetzin Jungreis, left Jerusalem, stopping first at Rachel’s tomb and then continuing to Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron. We began with brief explanations outside the building. One significant point always made is the fact that for 700 years Jews and Christians were forbidden from entering this holy site. Only since our return in 1967 do we again have the right, and privilege to pray inside the huge, 2000 year old monument above the caves of Machpela.When I’m asked why Jews live in Hebron, one of the answers deals specifically with this issue. Our neighbors make it quite clear that should they ever control this holy site, it will again be off-limits to anyone not of the Islamic faith.Having related this information to the Jungreis group, we then proceeded to ascend the many stairs leading to the second floor of the building. We entered the first, outer room, and I continued, leading the way, into the original structure. However, to my surprise, a border policeman stood in the doorway and told me: Entrance Forbidden. You have to wait.For what? The Muezzin, the Arab Moslem who operates the loud speakers which blast out their prayers, five times a day, was being escorted to the room from which the audio is operated. Until he was safely tucked away in that room, we couldn’t go in.What, I asked, are be back in 1929? Because of an Arab, we can’t go inside?On the ‘Jewish side’ of the building? We have to wait? Where is our honor — the honor of Am Yisrael, the honor of Abraham? Let him wait for me. I have to wait for him?!?The border policeman refused to relent and put his arms up, blocking my way. That notwithstanding, I did my best to get around, or under his outstretched arms. This, of course, brought other security forces running, police and border police officers. I was accused of ‘pushing’ the border policeman and ‘disturbing the peace.’I finally convinced them to allow my group inside — their time was limited. But I was detained. An officer demanded that I ‘promise not to do it again.’ I refused. How can I describe to my group, that for 700 years, we had no access to this site, and now, in 2013, explain to them that we must wait for an Arab to walk the halls of this holy place before we can go in? It makes no sense.A policeman who I’m usually friendly with, started reading me the riot act, how I was totally off-center, and now, was being, not arrested, but detained, but if I didn’t follow orders and walk quietly, like a good boy, to the police station, for interrogation, I would be arrested and it would be much much worse.Ugh!Seeing that some of the police were upset with the entire incident, and trying to find a way to ‘climb down from the tree,’ I offered partial repentance: ‘Ok, I shouldn’t have started with the border policeman at the entrance. He’s just following orders. This issue should be taken up with higher-ranking officers.’ But this wasn’t enough for the officer in charge. So I abandoned my group, and was marched to the nearby police station.The border policeman who had been ‘attacked’ followed us down the stairs. He was visibly upset. Being religious and also realizing that I really hadn’t done anything wrong, he looked rather disgusted with the entire episode. But, he had been told by his superiors to relate his side of the story to the police, allowing them to then ‘deal with me’ — the bad guy.I sat there for a while, sent out a whatsapp to my colleagues, informing them of my incarceration, and made a few phone calls to choice friends who could help alleviate the situation. About a half hour later I was told I could leave.Phew!Thankfully my group hadn’t left yet. I had a chance to see them off. But I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to guide them at this so very special a site. Some of them didn’t realize what had transpired, and when I told them I’d been detained by the police, they couldn’t believe it. Well, some of them. Others, understanding a bit about what happens here, weren’t so surprised.On the one hand I find it difficult to comprehend how we act so contemptibly towards ourselves. Where is our self pride? On the other hand, this is what happens on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, daily.This is disgrace redux. A self-disdain, a conscious or unconscious unawareness of our most basic right to live freely in our land.Once it was the Turks and then the British. What excuse is their today?
J.J. Goldberg is editor emeritus of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).