[News] Al-Aqsa vs. Israel - The Lurking Danger Beneath

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 13 12:16:01 EDT 2014

March 13, 2014

*The Lurking Danger Beneath*

  Al-Aqsa vs. Israel


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 
he could.

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)./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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