ISSN 2330-717X

Why Israel’s Provocations At Al-Aqsa Mosque Could Backfire – OpEd

By

Since April 15, the Israeli occupation army and police have raided Al-Haram Al-Sharif in East Jerusalem on a daily basis. Under the pretense of providing protection for provocative “visits” by thousands of illegal Israeli Jewish settlers and right-wing fanatics, the Israeli army has wounded hundreds of Palestinians, including journalists, and arrested hundreds more.

Advertisement

Palestinians understand that the ongoing attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound carry deeper political and strategic meanings for Israel than previous raids.

Al-Aqsa has experienced routine raids by Israeli forces under various guises in the past. However, the mosque has acquired additional meaning in recent years, especially following last May’s popular Palestinian rebellion, mass protests, clashes and Israel’s war on Gaza, which Palestinians tellingly refer to as Operation Saif Al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem).

Historically, Al-Haram Al-Sharif — the Noble Sanctuary — has been at the heart of the popular struggle in Palestine, as well as the center of Israeli policies. Located in the Old City, the sanctuary is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam, as it is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith — the sayings of Prophet Muhammad. The compound contains several historic mosques, including Al-Aqsa, and 17 gates, along with other important Islamic sites.

For Palestinians, the significance of Al-Aqsa has increased due to the Israeli occupation, which has, throughout the years, targeted Palestinian mosques, churches and other holy sites. For example, during the 2014 Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs reported that 203 mosques were damaged by Israeli bombs, with 73 completely destroyed.

Therefore, Palestinian Muslims, as well as Christians, consider Al-Aqsa, the sanctuary and other Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem a red line that must not be crossed by Israel. Generation after generation, they have mobilized to protect the sites, even though sometimes they could not, such as in 1969, when Australian Jewish extremist Denis Michael Rohan carried out an arson attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Advertisement

Even the recent raids on the mosque were not confined to the bodily harm and mass arrest of worshippers. On April 15, the second Friday of Ramadan, the mosque’s famous stained-glass windows were shattered and furniture inside was left broken.

Jewish extremists are feeling increasingly empowered by the protection they are receiving from the Israeli military and the blank check provided to them by influential Israeli politicians. Many of the raids on Al-Haram Al-Sharif are led by far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, Likud politician Yehuda Glick and former government minister Uri Ariel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is undoubtedly using the raids as a way to keep the often rebellious far right and religious constituency in line. The sudden resignation on April 6 of Idit Silman, a member of the right-wing Yamina party, left Bennett even more desperate in his attempts to breathe life into his fractious coalition. Once a leader of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization representing the interests of illegal West Bank settlements, Bennett rose to power on the back of religious zealots, whether in Israel or in the Occupied Territories. Losing the support of the settlers could cost him his post.

Bennett’s behavior is consistent with that of previous Israeli leaders, who have escalated violence in Al-Aqsa as a way to distract from their own political woes or to appeal to Israel’s powerful constituency of right wing and religious extremists. In September 2000, Ariel Sharon raided the compound along with thousands of Israeli soldiers, police and like-minded extremists. He did so to provoke a Palestinian response and to topple the government of his arch-enemy, Ehud Barak. Sharon succeeded, but at a high price, as his “visit” unleashed the five-year-long Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

In 2017, thousands of Palestinians protested an Israeli attempt to install security cameras at the entrances to the holy shrine. This measure was also an attempt by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appease his right-wing supporters. But the mass protests in Jerusalem and subsequent Palestinian unity forced Israel to cancel its plans.

This time around, however, the Palestinians fear that Israel wants more than mere provocations. It plans to “impose a temporal and spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinian Authority’s top representative in East Jerusalem. This particular phrase — “temporal and spatial division” — is used by many Palestinians, as they fear a repeat of the Ibrahimi Mosque scenario.

Following the 1994 killing of 29 worshippers by Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein and the subsequent fatalities at the hands of the Israeli army at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, Israel partitioned the mosque. It allocated the larger space to Jewish settlers while restricting access to Palestinians, who are only allowed to pray at certain times. This is precisely what Palestinians mean by temporal and spatial division, which has been at the heart of Israel’s strategy for many years.

Bennett, however, must tread carefully. Palestinians are today more united in their resistance and awareness of Israel’s designs than ever before. An important component of this unity is the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are now championing a similar political discourse to that of the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In fact, many of the defenders of Al-Aqsa come from these very communities. If Israel continues with its provocations, it risks another Palestinian revolt like that of last May, which tellingly started in East Jerusalem.

Appealing to right-wing voters by attacking, humiliating and provoking Palestinians is no longer an easy task, as was often the case. As Sword of Jerusalem has taught us, Palestinians are now capable of responding in a unified fashion and, despite their limited means, even putting pressure on Israel to reverse its policies. Bennett must remember this before carrying out any more violent provocations.

Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com

One thought on “Why Israel’s Provocations At Al-Aqsa Mosque Could Backfire – OpEd

  • April 27, 2022 at 6:35 pm
    Permalink

    Important notes to dismiss this propaganda.
    Visits by “right wing extremist” is a clever way of disguising what this is which is freedom to practice worship. -muslims,Christians and jews all have a right to visit the dome of the rock.
    The article ignores the Jewish connection to dome of the rock and to the cave of the patriarchs, which is pretty silly because Jews ascribed meaning to both locations over two thousand years before Islam became a religion!
    The most misleading part of the article is the poor demonstration of cause and effect for events on the dome of the rock. No Israeli soldier has any interest entering the dome or AL aqksa (because it pisses off everyone) but they have no choice when people start using it to store weapons (this has all been proven). The reason it’s such shocking news is because the Israeli army never enters these areas! Good day to anyone who had the chance to read this :)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.