by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 6, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1438)
Zionist occupiers have again blocked Muslim access to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, since July 14. This provocative act came in the wake of an alleged attack by three Palestinians on Israeli guards outside al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem. Israeli media reports claimed that two policemen were killed while the three alleged assailants were also shot dead. The Zionist occupation forces immediately imposed a clampdown and shut all access to the holy sanctuary.
The Palestinian reaction was swift. They saw this as another attempt by the Zionists to take control of al-Masjid al-Aqsa. Despite military and police crackdown, Palestinians in their thousands have been holding prayers outside the compound. The pushy Zionists have attacked and beaten up peaceful worshippers in a clear attempt to intimidate them. Since July 14, two or three Palestinian worshippers have been shot and killed almost daily. Hundreds have been injured.
After massive Palestinian protests, two days later, the Zionists opened access to the compound but turnstiles and metal detectors were installed before anyone could enter to pray. This was a clear escalation of provocations. Jordan is tasked with administering the holy sanctuary in Jerusalem. Under the July 1994 treaty whereby Jordan recognized Israel and established full diplomatic relations with the pariah state, Jordan was given control of the administration of al-Haram al-Sharif. Thus, Jordan is responsible for its maintenance and also pays the salaries of the imams there.
Israel’s installation of metal detectors outside the holy compound is a violation of this agreement and a clear attempt at usurpation. While not much is expected from the puppet rulers of Jordan — they remain in power at the pleasure of the imperialists and Zionists — the Jordanian people have reacted angrily to the latest escalation. Massive rallies were held in Amman and other Jordanian cities on July 15 and 16 denouncing Israeli actions.
On July 20, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Husayn, called on the imams of all the masjids in Jerusalem to shut down on Friday, July 21. He said Palestinian Muslims should instead gather outside the gates of al-Masjid al-Aqsa for Jumu‘ah prayers. Thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children heeded his call despite clear risk to their lives at the hands of trigger-happy Zionist soldiers. As Palestinians rushed to the Noble Sanctuary, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 22 Palestinians the same day (July 20).
Palestinian fears — and indeed those of Muslims worldwide — about the Zionists’ nefarious designs are not without foundation. They have been involved in the creeping annexation of Jerusalem by changing its demography. Al-Haram al-Sharif is their specific target. The Zionists have made no secret of their plans to destroy al-Masjid al-Aqsa to make way for building their third temple. They allege that al-Haram al-Sharif is built on the site where the Jews’ Second Temple once stood. Despite decades of excavations under the foundations of al-Masjid al-Aqsa under the pretext of archaelogical explorations, they have found no traces of their so-called Second Temple. None exist.
Truth, however, is not what the Zionists are looking for. Their aim is to weaken the foundations of al-Masjid al-Aqsa so that it collapses on its own weight. If they succeed in this criminal act, this would pave the way for them to build their third temple.
The Zionists are pursuing a two-pronged strategy. Underneath the structure, they are weakening its foundations and above the ground, they are extending their control over the Noble Sanctuary. The latest crisis is part of this strategy. Under Judaic law, Jews are forbidden to enter the holy sanctuary. There is even a board at the entrance to the holy compound stating that Jews are prohibited from setting foot there. If they trespass, this, according to Judaic law, would pollute the holy sanctuary.
For the Zionists, however, such religious rulings are inconvenient irritants that can be easily dismissed. And they have.
Since the Zionists occupied the whole of Jerusalem in June 1967, they have encroached on the Noble Sanctuary as part of a systematic plan to annex it completely. The first assault on al-Masjid al-Aqsa occurred on August 21, 1969 when an allegedly mad Australian Jew, one Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the 1,000-year-old historic minbar. Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, the liberator of Jerusalem from the clutches of the Crusaders, had gifted the minbar for al-Masjid al-Aqsa.
Since 1969, a number of other encroachments have occurred on the holy sanctuary. In September 2000, General Arial Sharon, an aggressive Zionist who had served in various capacities in the Israeli cabinet, accompanied by a number of squatters (aka “settlers”) barged onto the Noble Sanctuary triggering the second Palestinian intifa∂ah. The Zionist squatters are usually from North America or Europe. Armed with the Talmud in one hand and Uzi submachine gun in the other, they claim God promised them the whole of Palestine and they have a right to destroy the Noble Sanctuary to build their third temple.
Sharon’s provocative act naturally emboldened the pushy Zionist squatters to become even more aggressive. While the Palestinians bravely resist such Zionist moves, they are virtually powerless against heavily armed squatters that have the backing of the occupation forces. What can unarmed people do against the most militarized state in the region?
Following the eruption of the latest crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had no plans to change the legal status of al-Haram al-Sharif. In other words, he tried to indicate that Jordan would continue to maintain the holy site. But what is the ground reality?
For two years now (since August 2015), the Zionist occupation regime has imposed restrictions on Palestinian worshippers’ entry into the holy compound. This has now been escalated by the installation of metal detectors in flagrant violation of the Palestinians’ fundamental right to worship unencumbered.
August seems to be an ominous month for the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Last year (August 13, 2016) more than 300 Zionist squatters, aided and abetted by the colonization forces, barged onto the holy sanctuary. They claimed they wanted to offer prayers on the occasion of the Ninth of Av. Why would they need to offer prayers on the Muslims’ holy site? When the Palestinians resisted such illegal encroachments, Israeli soldiers shot and killed them. Scores were injured, some attacked inside the masjid.
Muslim reaction to the latest Zionist encroachments and provocations has been rather mute. The Palestinian resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad have held rallies in Gaza to protest the latest Zionist moves, as have Jordanians. At the state level, only the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially condemned Zionist actions. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on July 23 called on governments around the world to support “the oppressed Palestinians and counter inhuman measures and aggression of the usurping Zionists.”
He condemned the “…Zionists and their crimes, aggressions, and violations of the basic rights of Palestinians, in particular restrictions put on religious freedom and access to holy places” in al-Quds (Jerusa-lem). Qassemi also took the regional states to task for their silence and inaction in the face of the Zionist crackdown. Addressing the international community, especially the United Nations, he asked them “to urgently address the unfortunate developments in the occupied territories and firmly stand against the oppression, racial discrimination, and religious discrimination policies of the Zionist regime.”
Islamic Iran’s forthright stand has once again exposed the Arabian regimes’ silence and treachery in the face of Zionist provocations and aggression. These regimes are quick to condemn Muslims on the basis of fiqhi differences, but when it comes to clear and well-documented Zionist crimes, they adopt a deathly silence.
Muslims around the world must rise up in opposition to the latest Zionist aggression. Remaining silent in the face of such provocations is not an option. Israel’s crimes must be exposed and condemned in the strongest possible terms.