Since US President Donald Trump illegally declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and opened the US embassy there more than a year ago, tensions have escalated in the city. During the month of Ramadan, Palestinian worshippers below the age of 55 have been prevented from entering the city to pray in al-Masjid al-Aqsa. The Zionists not only have military checkpoints but a separation wall is also being erected, à la the West Bank, to prevent Palestinians from outside Jerusalem to enter the city.
The entire Haram al-Sharif that comprises al-Masjid al-Aqsa, the Dome of the Rock, and several madrasahs and zawiyahs, is under threat. Aggressive Zionist settlers have made no secret of their desire to bring down the Haram al-Sharif to build their mythical “third temple” there. While Rabbanical law expressly forbids Jews from setting foot on the holy sanctuary lest they desecrate it — and there is a board outside the Maghribiyah gate declaring this prohibition — such religious/legal rulings are no bar to the fanatical Zionist squatters.
It is not just the squatters; the Zionist regime is also pushing furiously to empty Jerusalem of its Palestinians inhabitants. Several policies are being pursued. Since Israel’s colonial occupation in 1967 of East Jerusalem that houses the holy sanctuary, Palestinian residents have not been issued permits to build or even repair their houses. Palestinians applying for a permit to build have to pay a fee of US$40,000 — an astronomical figure for most Palestinians. Even if a family manages to raise such funds, there is no guarantee that a permit would be issued. Their money is gone; it is larceny on a grand scale! Palestinians who repair their houses without a permit face Israeli bulldozers tearing them down. Adding insult to injury, the municipality charges the family for bulldozer fees. Palestinians are turned into refugees and forced to live in tents, but must pay for it.
Turning to al-Haram al-Sharif, the Jordanian Waqf that manages the Aqsa compound, reopened Babal-Rahmah, one of the accesses to al-Haram al-Sharif on February 13, 2019. The colonial Zionist regime had shut it down in 2003, alleging that the Waqf had links with Hamas and the Islamic movement.
The Zionists responded to the Waqf’s move of opening the gate by chain-locking it. This sparked a furious reaction from Palestinian worshippers; hundreds have since been arrested, including head of the Waqf Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azim Salhab, and his deputy. Many others have been banned from accessing the Aqsa compound. The Magistrate’s Court of Jerusalem extended the closure of the masjid for another 60 days on March 17, fueling further escalation of tensions.
Zionist extremist groups that need little prompting were emboldened by the court’s decision and the government’s moves. One of these groups is the Temple Mount Faithful, which on its website proclaims as its goal “the liberation of the Temple Mount from Arabic [Islamic] occupation.” These extremist groups have been provoking Palestinians for many years, storming the Aqsa compound in groups under the protection of Israeli soldiers, openly violating the ban on Jewish prayer on the site and constantly harassing Palestinian worshippers. They are now calling to lift the ban on Jewish prayer and even the construction of a synagogue!
These developments should cause alarm bells to ring in the capitals of the Muslim world. The pathetic Arabian rulers, far from showing any concern for the first qiblah of Muslims, are busy falling over themselves to kiss the feet of the Zionist colonizers. They have openly declared that Palestine and al-Masjid al-Aqsa are not their priorities; and that Zionist Israel is not their enemy, rather Islamic Iran is.
Under the rubric of Trump’s “deal of the century” — essentially selling out the Palestinians to make Zionist Israel supreme, another sinister plot is underway. The management of al-Haram al-Sharif is being handed over to the Saudis. They are clearly seen as even more subservient than the Jordanians who still display some modicum of self-respect. Add to that the announcement by the head of the World Muslim League that Israeli rulers will be invited to visit Saudi Arabia in 2020, one can begin to see what is afoot.
With these developments in mind, it becomes clear why the worldwide Quds Day rallies are so important. These rallies draw attention to the criminal conspiracy underway to destroy al-Masjid al-Aqsa so that Zionist control of the holy sanctuary can be made permanent.
Committed Muslims of the world, beware. There will be little to gain by crying afterward. The time for solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people and standing up to save al-Masjid al-Aqsa is now!
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).