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Waves of attacks against West Bank mosques

Israeli security forces set up metal detectors at the entrance of Al Aqsa Mosque after the Israeli authorities closed Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Saturday following a shootout that left five people dead, in Jerusalem on July 16, 2017. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Israeli security forces set up metal detectors at the entrance of Al Aqsa Mosque after the Israeli authorities closed Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Saturday following a shootout that left five people dead, in Jerusalem on July 16, 2017. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]

In recent months, there have been repeated attacks by Israeli settlers against mosques across the West Bank. They were carried out with the complicity of Israel’s occupation army and encouraged by the leaders of settler groups and political blocs, as well as the rabbinic guides of extremist gangs; gangs who own weapons and operate under the full knowledge and gaze of the occupation forces.

A few days ago, settlers from one of the oldest colonies established on the territory belonging to the villagers of al-Mughair and Qaryut in the north-east of the governorate of Ramallah in the West Bank, set fire to the great mosque in al-Mughair. A significant amount of the mosque’s contents was destroyed in the blaze. The perpetrators left their trade mark in Hebrew graffiti scrawled on a nearby wall which read; “this is the beginning of revenge”.

About a year ago, on the morning of 4th May 2010, settler gangs set fire to a mosque in the eastern district of al-Labn in the south of Nablus city which represents one in a series of terrorist operations against Palestinians and their sanctuaries undertaken by settler groups.

The burning of the al-Mughair mosque came after the burning of the al-Labn mosque in the east before which there was the burning of the Grand Hassan al-Khader mosque in the district of Yassouf near the city of Nablus in the West Bank. It was targeted by a group of settler gangs who burnt large parts of it after smashing the mosque’s main door and dousing the interior in petrol. The blaze completely gutted the mosque’s library which was full of Qurans, along with parts of the carpet before the village inhabitants arrived to extinguish the flames.

The latest conduct of these Israeli settler gangs clearly highlights the type of society they have established on Palestinian land. The settlers occupying Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank especially exemplify this. The majority of them are associated with the policies of the ideological Zionist right and the right-wing biblical hard-liners mired in mythological narratives.

All in all, these attacks highlight the nature of the policies being implemented by the right-wing coalition government led by Benjamin Netanyahu along with a broad spectrum of hard-line Zionist extremists, and the exponents of theories of ‘transfer’ and ethnic cleansing headed by the Moldovan immigrant, Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the Yisrael Beiteinu party. As the facts confirm, settler terrorism is always dependent on the patronage and support of the highest levels of decision making in Israel. It is seldom far from the cover of the occupation army, especially as there are more than half a million members of the army colonising the land occupied in 1967 and who possess more than half a million pieces of weaponry.

There is abundant evidence which point to the occupation army’s support for, and protection of the settler gangs against the Palestinian people and their sanctuaries across Palestine. One vivid example of this is witnessed in the heart of Hebron city where 400 Jewish settlers have taken up residence in one of the city’s districts tormenting the lives of more than 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the city. All of this occurs under auspices, protection and commission of the occupation army. The barbaric conduct of the settlers are derived from official Israeli policies which proclaim settlement expansions, projects and bids to expel Palestinians on a daily basis; which considers Jerusalem the indivisible and eternal capital of Zionist Israel and which demand that more than half of the land in the West Bank should be annexed to Israel under any future settlement.

These current attacks on mosques must be seen in the context of a wider program aimed at fuelling the conflict; it demonstrates the extent of disdain for the religious and human value of others. This, therefore, requires a concerted Arab, Islamic and global effort to put a final end to these practices and to the cover provided by Israel and its occupation army.

At the end of the day, the occupation bears the consequences of such brutal practices and provocations which affect the values and sacred places of Muslims, and similarly of their Christian peers in certain parts of Jerusalem. The daily dangers which afflict the people, the land and the sanctities in Palestine must be combated through coordinated Arab and Islamic policies that differ from the current Arab policy, which is based only on statements of condemnation and rejection. A new policy is required; which enacts effective measures against Israeli settler terrorism in order to protect the sacred houses that are being profaned and burned under the gaze and knowledge of the world.

The timid condemnations emanating from some Arab capitals or those issued by the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference are no longer sufficient; they amount to nothing more than throwing dust into the eyes of people to absorb their anger. Likewise, US and European verbal condemnation of the settlers’ attacks on mosques, mean absolutely nothing so long as the United States provides political cover for the practices of the occupying power and supports its continuation and survival in the lands occupied in 1967.

Hence, a practical stance has now become an urgent priority on the agenda of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League and all other Arab and international organisations and institutions in solidarity and support for the Palestinian people; in the defence of their national sanctities; and to push the international community to intervene to provide international protection for the people and their Islamic and Christian sanctities leading to national independence.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al Bayan Al Emirati on 17/6/2011. The author is a Palestinian writer.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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