[News] Al-Aqsa vs. Israel - The Lurking Danger Beneath
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 13 12:16:01 EDT 2014
March 13, 2014
*The Lurking Danger Beneath*
Al-Aqsa vs. Israel
by RAMZY BAROUD
Something sinister is brewing around and below al-Aqsa Mosque in
occupied East Jerusalem, and it has the hallmark of a familiar Israeli
campaign to strip the Mosque of its Muslim Arab identity. This time
around, however, the stakes are much higher.
The status of al-Aqsa mosque is unparalleled within the context of
Muslim heritage in Palestine itself. It is also the third holiest Muslim
shrine anywhere. But equally as important, it is a symbol of faith,
resistance and defiance. Its story of struggle and perseverance goes
hand in hand with the very modern Palestinian struggle for rights,
freedom and identity. Praying at al-Aqsa at times seems like an
impossible feat. Many Palestinians lost life or limbs simply trying to
gain access to the mosque.
In a statement released on March 7, the Palestinian Ministry of Awqaf
and Religious Affairs said Israeli forces carried out 30 attacks against
Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites during the month of February alone.
Most of the attacks targeted Al-Aqsa itself. While the recurring
violations at Al-Aqsa were led by Jewish settlers, according to the
statement, they have done so under the watchful eye, protection and
support of the Israeli police and army.
Most alarming about these attacks is their political context, which
indicates that a great degree of coordination is underway between
politicians, security forces and Jewish settlers.
In anticipation of a Palestinian backlash, on March 04, an Israeli court
sentenced Islamic leader Sheikh Rade Saleh to eight months in prison for
'incitement'. The Sheikh is the most outspoken Palestinian leader
regarding the danger facing Al-Aqsa. Why silence Sheik Saleh now when
the attacks against al-Aqsa are at an all times high?
It was on February 25, 1994, that US-born Jewish extremist Baruch
Goldstein stormed into the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Palestinian city of
al-Khalil (Hebron) and opened fire. The aim was to kill as many Arabs as
At that moment, nearly 800 Muslim worshipers were kneeling down during
the dawn prayer in the holiest month of the Muslim Calendar; Ramadan. He
killed up to 30 people and wounded over 120. Exactly 20 years later, the
Israeli army stormed al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest Muslim site, and
opened fire. The timing was no accident.
Like the rest of the West Bank, Al-Khalil is facing the dual challenge
of armed Jewish settlers and Israeli occupation soldiers; the latter
enforcing the military occupation, while providing further protection to
the settlers. The settlers, extremists from the illegal settlement of
Kiryat Arba, often attack Palestinian residents of the town with
complete impunity. Interestingly, many of Kiryat Arba settlers are
Americans, as was Baruch Goldstein.
It was not enough that Israeli soldiers within the vicinity of the
Ibrahimi Mosque allowed Goldstein -- armed with a Galil rifle and other
weapons -- access to the mosque, but they opened fire on worshipers as
they tried to flee the scene. Israeli soldiers killed 24 more and
injured others. Goldstein, now a hero in the eyes of many in Israel, is
often blamed solely for the massacre in al-Khalil. But in fact, it was a
mutual effort between Goldstein and the Israeli army.
This symbiotic relationship between the army and settlers, which dates
back to the early days of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, the West
Bank and Gaza in 1967, continues.
While Israeli bulldozers dig into Palestinian land during the day,
leveling mounds of ground and destroying olive groves for settlement
expansion, heavy machinery burrows beneath the Old City of al-Quds,
Jerusalem, at night. The Israelis are looking for evidence of what they
believe to be ancient Jewish temples, presumably destroyed in 586BC and
AD70. To fulfil "prophecy", Jewish extremists believe that a third
temple must be built. But of course, there is the inconvenient fact that
on that particular spot exists one of Islam's holiest sites: The Noble
Sanctuary, or al-Haram al-Sharif. It has been an exclusively Muslim
prayer site for the last 1,300 years.
The Noble Sanctuary, located in Jerusalem's Old City, is the home of
Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The site has been under
constant threat, attacks, acts of arson and military violence for nearly
five decades. The few Muslim clergy -- belonging to the Islamic Trust
which manages the area, along with the custodianship of Jordan -- are
mindful of the ever-lurking Israeli threat that oftentimes turns deadly.
It was no surprise that late Israeli leader Ariel Sharon chose that
exact place to carry out his proactive 'tour' of al-Aqsa compound in
2000. Many unarmed Palestinians, mostly worshipers, died on that day.
Thousands more were lost in the following months and years as the
entirety of the occupied territories and Palestinian towns inside Israel
exploded with unprecedented fury. Sharon was later elected Prime
Minister of Israel.
That same dangerous combination -- rightwing politicians allied with
religious zealots -- is at work once more. They are eyeing Al-Aqsa for
annexation, the same way the Israeli government is laboring to
permanently annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank, to preclude
any future settlement with the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israeli Knesset (Parliament) chose the 20th anniversary of the
Goldstein massacre of Palestinians in al-Khalil to begin a debate
concerning the status of Al-Aqsa compound. Right-wingers -- which
constitute the bulk in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu -- want the Israeli government to enforce its 'sovereignty'
over the Muslim site, which is administered by Jordan per the
Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty of 1994. Israeli MP Moshe Feiglin, is the
man behind the move, but he is not alone. Feiglin is a member of
Netanyahu's Likud party, and has strong backing within the party, the
government and the Knesset.
A major backer of Feiglin's initiative is Miri Regev, also a far-right
Likud member. Regev is demanding that the government establish separate
prayer times for both Jews and Muslims in Al-Aqsa Compound. The model
she wishes to duplicate is no other than the Ibrahimi Mosque. "We will
reach a situation where the Temple Mount will be like the Cave of the
Patriarchs, days for Jews and days for Muslims," she said.
Of course, Regev omitted the fact that 20 years ago to the day, a Jewish
extremist and Israeli troops killed and wounded hundreds of Palestinians
kneeling for prayer.
On the next day following the Israeli government debate, a thundering
sound was heard around 3 AM in the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan,
located south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Residents heard the "sounds
of heavy duty machines digging under their houses throughout the night,"
Ma'an reported. Then, a large wall suddenly collapsed, while a few
houses sustained damage. The Israeli underground network of tunnels is
growing, as some of these tunnels connect Wadi Hilweh to the Western
Wall to Al-Aqsa.
While the danger of Al-Aqsa Mosque collapsing is very real, it is a
representation of the mentality that rules Israel: one of annexation and
military occupation, with no regard whatsoever to Palestine's holiest
site, also revered by over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
/*Ramzy Baroud* is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media
consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com
<http://www.PalestineChronicle.com>. His latest book is "My Father Was a
Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London)./
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