DeSantis kicks off panel where Jewish extremist calls for building a synagogue on Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif

Israeli Jewish men and women at the steps leding to the Dome of the Rock, on the Haram al-Sharif (Mahmoud Illean - AP)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  February 23, 2022

Senator Rick Scott and Governor Ron DeSantis recently appeared at a Boca Raton event where speaker Ben Shapiro called for building a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in occupied Jerusalem.

Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, spoke at the Boca Raton synagogue last month on a “Night to Celebrate Israel,” and shared the dais with Ben Shapiro, a rightwing commentator.

Two Florida Republicans kicked off the night with video speeches: Senator Rick Scott and Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who is considered a likely presidential candidate in 2024, called it an “incredible event,” and said, “It is great to see two patriotic Florida residents, Ambassador David Friedman and Ben Shapiro, sharing the stage for a night to celebrate the Jewish state.”

Shapiro, a religious Jew, then endorsed an extremist plan: building a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in occupied Jerusalem. Asked about his favorite place to visit in Israel, Shapiro said:

The place that is still controversial for anyone to mention is going up on Har HaBayit [Temple Mount]. So I did, I went to mikvah [ritual bath], I went up on Har HaBayit, I think Jews should go up on Har HaBayit. It’s controversial territory but I believe frankly we should build a shul on Har HaBayit. If they [Muslims] have a dome and a mosque, having a shul on Har HaBayit is not a bad idea. To say that anything except for the holiest site in Judaism– which in fact is not the kotel [Western Wall]– it’s Har HaBayit, would be a mistake.

Friedman then seemed to echo Shapiro and make a joke about the idea.

So I said that once and I started a riot when I was ambassador, so I’m not going to say it again. It didn’t work out well the first time.

Googling the history here– Friedman in 2018 visited an orthodox community and was greeted by a Temple Mount activist who showed off a picture of the Muslim holy sites replaced by a Jewish temple, and Friedman seemed to enjoy the moment, but later apologized. He claimed then he was more “mortified” than any Palestinian by the image.

Haram al-Sharif is very sacred in the Muslim tradition. The Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the plateau, which is administered by authorities in Jordan.

Efforts by Jewish extremists to pray at the site, or promote Jewish sovereignty of that land, have triggered demonstrations and clashes.

At that January event in Boca Raton, Friedman, a bankruptcy attorney who is the son of a rabbi, explained that Zionism IS Judaism, and “if you do not support Israel… you are antisemitic.”

Everyone agrees. Judaism, no matter where you live– Judaism is in large part about the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. So if you do not support the state of Israel you do not support Judaism, therefore you are antisemitic.

He said the Bible gives Jews a title to the land. He explained how he sells Israel to Jews who are “lost” and to Christians too, as a “miracle” that is not just another country.

My views are not uniformly accepted, but –and I was comfortable saying this even when I was a public servant– but I start with the notion that Israel’s a miraculous place. It is derived from an ordained biblical promise that the Jewish people would be restored to their ancient homeland. And it happened, it happened against all odds. The first thing that at least Jewish people should do and Christian people should do is they should see the miracle. They should understand the 3000-year history. There is no other people– the Phoenicians are gone, the Nabateans are gone, you know, and we’re the only ones left. I think that once you understand that, you understand that you’re on a multi-thousand year continuum, we don’t want to break the chain. That I think is the starting place, because without that, it’s just another country, and it’s the same political nonsense we talk about all day long.

You would think such ideas should be openly derided as a religious interference in politics. But Hillary Clinton spoke of Israel as a “miracle” when she was running for president. Nancy Pelosi describes Israel as a “historical miracle, the greatest political accomplishment of the [20th] century.” And when FL Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz prayed at the Western Wall in occupied Jerusalem two days ago, she linked that prayer with U.S. foreign policy in support of Israel– it “reaffirms how vital this ally is to America.”

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006