Struggle for the soul of Jerusalem

Developing Just Leadership

Ayesha Alam

Safar 08, 1436 2014-12-01

Islamic Movement

by Ayesha Alam (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 10, Safar, 1436)

Masjid al Aqsa, the first Qibla of Muslims, is under threat of Zionist occupation. Will Muslims respond to this latest threat in any meaningful way or allow the Zionists to usurp it?

It is the greatest of ironies that despite the seas of woe and hardship that the Palestinians have struggled through for their survival, the stakes of the occupation are only increasing. A struggle for the soul of Jerusalem is underway, throwing into peril not only the lives of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, but also the future of Islam’s shrines in the Holy Land. At this juncture, thousands of Palestinian lives and the fate of al-Masjid al-Aqsa stand in the balance.

For the past few months, Israeli politicians have been loudly clamoring for demolishing al-Masjid al-Aqsa and rebuilding in its place, the Third Temple — the prior two temples having been destroyed respectively by the Babylonian King Nebuchnezzer and the Roman Emperor Titus. This directly contradicts the terms of the Six Day War, where the Zionists agreed to give both Muslims and Jews access to the holy site, restricting Jews to the Wailing Wall and safeguarding Muslim attendance at the Aqsa compound.

Months of incendiary speeches have finally born fruit. On November 5, over 60 Israeli military personnel and right-wing settlers stormed the Aqsa compound, injuring Muslims there and damaging the structure of the holy building itself. “The Israeli police allowed the settlers [occupiers] to enter and storm the compound and are now providing them protection,” said Shaykh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and al-Aqsa Affairs, a Palestinian NGO. “At least 15 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, including two in the head and one in the eye, while dozens suffered teargas inhalation,” a Palestinian guard of the holy complex told Anadolu Agency.

Then, on the Friday of that week, Israel prevented Muslim worshippers under the age of 35 from praying at the Aqsa compound. The AP news service reported, “Hundreds of Palestinians knelt on prayer carpets in a Jerusalem street Friday, faced by a cordon of Israeli riot police who blocked them from reaching Islam's third-holiest shrine in the nearby Old City.” The Islamic waqf, the Jordanian religious trust that administers al-Aqsa, reported that Israeli security forces also damaged the masjid’s doors, burnt carpets and broke glass during the confrontation. These actions of the State of Israel, a flagrant breach of treaties and statues of international law with respect to the religious plurality of the Holy City, even led to the normally quietist Jordan to withdraw its ambassador from Israel.

The mainstream US media remained more or less silent on the Zionist raid on al-Aqsa. After retrospectively mentioning the raid, most media outlets blamed it on the shooting of New York-born Rabbi Yehuda Glick on November 29 in Jerusalem.

The mainstream US media remained more or less silent on the Zionist raid on al-Aqsa. After retrospectively mentioning the raid, most media outlets blamed it on the shooting of New York-born Rabbi Yehuda Glick on November 29 in Jerusalem. Glick is a well-known Islamophobe, who is one of the prime activists for demolishing al-Masjid Al Aqsa and rebuilding the Temple. He is the close colleague of Moshe Feiglin, the deputy Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, and together the pair have led forays into the Aqsa compound and incited Muslim worshippers. As blogger and social activist ‘Ali Abunimah noted on his Electronic Intifada website, the events surrounding Glick’s [supposed] killing are murky and suspicious. On the night of November 29, Glick was shot by a gunman on a motorcycle as he was leaving a conference titled “The Jewish people return to the Temple Mount.” (Glick was not killed – editor).

The Israeli regime immediately blamed the Palestinians on the testimony of Feiglin, who as “eye-witness” stated the gunman, speaking Hebrew with an Arabic accent, threatened Glick. Based solely on this testimony, right-wing squatters and Netanyahu launched on the warpath and attacked al-Masjid al-Aqsa. However, Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran an article that quoted Glick making some suspicious comments only a week before the shooting. In his interview, Glick predicted that the (Israeli) State would usurp al-Masjid Al-Aqsa and rebuild the Temple only after an act of violence against Jews.

“When will the change take place?” Glick asked Haaretz. “As soon as the Arabs harm someone on the Temple Mount, the prime minister will wake up and it will be too late. Violence is escalating every day, and the police are simply helpless. Police impotence leads to violence.” Soon afterward an excuse materialized, targeting Glick himself with Feinglin as a witness to spur into battle the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. ‘Ali Abunimah, discussing this article on Electronic Intifada, posed the question: why wasn’t Feiglin himself targeted by the gunman, when he was close enough to pick up the “Arabic accent” of the gunman’s Hebrew? The story smelled fishier than a barrel of month-old mackerel.

As predicted by Glick, Netanyahu went on the warpath following the shooting. “This is the root of the conflict: the refusal to recognize — and educate for — the existence of the state of the Jews,” he declared before the Israeli Parliament on November 18th. “Terrorism has followed us through all the years of the Zionist enterprise. We have always withstood it and we will do so this time as well. There are those who would like to uproot us from our land and from our capital. They will not achieve their aim. We are in a battle for Jerusalem, our eternal capital. In this battle we must be united; this is the order of the day… We must put aside all of the little differences and unite around one major issue — defending Jerusalem, defending the security of Israel’s citizens.”

There is indeed a battle for Jerusalem afoot. Not even the most rabidly right-wing squatter could find fault with these sentiments. Netanyahu is declaring war on the plurality of Jerusalem, anointing it as Jewish Jerusalem. Only determined Palestinian resistance has prevented the Zionist State from demolishing al-Masjid al-Aqsa, built as a small prayer house by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab during his khilafah, and expanded by the Umayyads. As a November 20 article on the website Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss observed, “Netanyahu’s battle for Jerusalem cannot end well for any of us.” The capital of peace and religious plurality is being remade as a symbol of Zionist racism and exclusivism, to the point that Islam’s third holiest structure is now endangered. Had the Muslims through the history of their rule over the Holy City followed the same policy adopted by the Zionists in this bloodstained time, the Wailing Wall structure would have long since been demolished.

Hamas and Fatah have both leaped into political action, calling out for resistance and international condemnation of Israeli actions. Hamas has called on Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the surrounding towns to resist Israel’s attemtps to take over the Aqsa compound. Clashes broke out on Friday, November 21, between Israeli military personnel and Palestinian protesters at Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and al-Quds. Palestinians were also attacked with live ammunition rounds in Hebron, the city where Ibrahim (a) is buried. Armed resistance also broke out in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. In line with its policy of apartheid and collective punishment, the Zionist State is reacting to Palestinian resistance by demolishing homes in East Jerusalem and seizing the land right and left.

The retaliatory land grab is of course part and parcel of the dream of rebuilding the Third Temple — the vision that this reconstruction project will reclaim Jerusalem as the Jewish capital, and lead to an explosion of settlement that will finally push out the Palestinian inhabitants of the city. Amid Israeli sqatters and voracious politicians, social media has now entered in the game of rebranding the “Third Temple” project. In the past three months, crowdraiser platform Indiegogo has hosted two separate campaigns to gather funds for rebuilding the Temple on the ruins of al-Aqsa, raising at the end of September 2014 more than $100,000 from donors around the world.

Latecomer Mahmoud Abbas declared that Israel’s actions vis-à-vis al-Masjid Al-Aqsa were equal to a “declaration of war” on Arabs and Muslims. Of course, Abbas has now been reduced to the pitiable position of Israeli punching bag...

Latecomer Mahmoud Abbas declared that Israel’s actions vis-à-vis al-Masjid Al-Aqsa were equal to a “declaration of war” on Arabs and Muslims. Of course, Abbas has now been reduced to the pitiable position of Israeli punching bag, who is lambasted or ridiculed at the pleasure of the politicians keeping him in power in order to divide the Palestinians. While Abbas’ comments against Israeli violence against al-Masjid al-Aqsa smacked more of self-defense rather than sincerity, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out at him. “Abu Mazen [Abbas] is trying to ignite the area by using the most sensitive place, the Temple Mount,” Lieberman said on November 22. “Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority are the ones behind the riots of East Jerusalem residents,” he charged.

Palestinians are once more standing in the brink, struggling against all odds to protect Islam from being wiped out from Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Muslims watch on, without the power to support their brethren en masse.

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