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Activists call for global action to demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people

In recent years, Israel has stepped up its campaign to Judaise the holy city of Jerusalem, attempting to create new facts on the ground in an effort to deny Jerusalem's Palestinian residents any rightful claim to their city and its sacred sites.

Jerusalem has always been holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and has long served to inspire those struggling to emancipate the downtrodden. Indeed, this historic city is venerated across the world for enhancing the spiritual heritage of all humanity.

And yet despite Israel's increasing acts of aggression, the international community, which through UN resolutions defines East Jerusalem as an occupied city, has repeatedly failed to act against Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the holy city.

Thus, in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Jerusalem, Palestinian and international activists are appealing to people of conscience around the world to mobilise and rally in the streets on 6 and 7 June to demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people.

The Haram Al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, is the compound in the Old City of Jerusalem that is home to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and the first Qibla towards which Muslims directed their prayer. This is the only site in the world where all the Prophets of the three Abrahamic religions once performed prayer. However, today Al-Aqsa Mosque has now become a site where Jewish extremists and Israeli occupation forces regularly terrorise Palestinians and deprive them of their rights.

Under the Israeli occupation, most Palestinians are denied entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinians living in Gaza are barred completely, while other Palestinians living in the rest of historic Palestine between the ages of 15 and 40 are frequently banned from coming to pray at the mosque. Many of the Palestinians who do try to access the holy city cannot because of the difficulties posed by checkpoints, the Separation Wall and other apartheid barriers to their mobility. Most Palestinian refugees can only dream of visiting Jerusalem.

At the same time, Jewish extremists who are determined to Judaise all of historic Palestine, and especially Jerusalem, increasingly provoke, on almost a daily basis, the few Palestinian worshippers who can access Al-Aqsa Mosque by touring the compound under armed guard. When Palestinians assemble to protect their sacred site, Israeli occupation forces violently disperse these protests and make dozens of arrests.

Meanwhile, the occupation authorities are seeking to Judaise the landscape. Israel is undermining the foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque by carrying out excavations underneath the compound, and has announced plans to build a large synagogue right next to the mosque, despite the recent construction of two large synagogues in the vicinity.

Furthermore, as Al-Jazeera recently reported: "A right-wing Israeli settlement group has been put in charge of two controversial new projects to develop the area around the Haram Al-Sharif." Yehudit Oppenheimer, the director of Ir Amim, an Israeli group advocating fair treatment for Palestinians in Jerusalem, warned that by launching these two projects, Israel will soon have complete control over the entire compound: "Now tourists will enter from Jaffa Gate [an entrance from West Jerusalem into the Old City], walk through the Jewish quarter, see the Western Wall [and] visit the City of David," getting all their information about the area from the extremist settlement group only.

"The sites and signs will look Israeli; all the information and tours will consolidate an exclusively Jewish narrative," she added. "Most Israeli and foreign tourists will have no idea that they are in Palestinian territory. It will feel to them like they are still in Israel."

All of these actions are in line with the Zionist plan to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and build the so-called Third Temple in its place. Millions of dollars are being sent to Israel each year, mostly from the US, to finance these violations and abuses of Palestinian rights.

The Israeli occupation authorities also target Palestinian Christians as well. As Ma'an News Agency recently reported, "Every year, millions of Christians – including tens of thousands of Palestinian Christians – converge upon the holy city to mark the holiest days of the Christian calendar. In recent years, however, these celebrations have been marred by violence, and at times Israeli authorities have even banned Palestinian Christians from entering the city to celebrate their holidays, even while allowing foreign pilgrims in."

Muslim and Christian organisations have repeatedly appealed to the international community to stop these attacks against the holy city, as well as to guarantee Palestinians, and all humans, access to the Muslim, Christian and Jewish sacred sites.

Al-Aqsa Foundation of Heritage and Islamic Waqf, founded in 2001 in order to maintain and protect the holy sites in Jerusalem, regularly issues appeals to the Muslim world, Arab nations and international rights organisations to stop Israel's continued violations.

And in 2009, Palestinian Christians released the Kairos Palestine document, inspired by the Kairos call issued by South Africans during their own struggle to end apartheid, requesting for "the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades."

However, despite Israel's escalating violations against Jerusalem and its people, the international community has so far failed to act.

In response, in 2012 Palestinian and international activists launched the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) to ask Arabs in the countries bordering Palestine and people around the world to peacefully mobilise and demand "freedom for Jerusalem and its people", as well as an end to Israel's apartheid policies, ethnic cleansing and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

The GMJ has the support of hundreds of grassroots organisations worldwide and endorsements from esteemed individuals including: Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, Palestinian democracy activist Dr Mustafa Barghouti, Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem HE Atallah Hanna, Jewish Renewal Movement Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Indian politician and activist Swami Agnivesh, African National Congress leader Ronnie Kasrils, civil rights activist Reverend Jeremiah Wright, American philosopher and civil rights activist Dr Cornel West, retired US Ambassador Edward Peck, anti-war activist Medea Benjamin and historian and writer Dr Tariq Ali.

In March 2012 and June 2013, hundreds of thousands of people in major cities around the world took to the streets to answer this call. This year, the GMJ is once again asking all people of conscious to peacefully take to the streets on 6 and 7 June. Marches will be taking place in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Mauritania and Turkey to name a few, as well as in cities across Asia and Europe.

In addition to protests, groups will hold cultural events on Jerusalem and Palestine, and Friday prayer sermons will focus on the holy city. Malaysian activists are going to organise flash mobs and North American activists are launching a petition to the Group of Elders to act now to stop Israel's violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaher Birawi, the international spokesperson of the GMJ, explained to MEMO that: "We will not stop working with all freedom loving people who strive for peace and the liberation of our holy city. We established the GMJ as an annual event in order to expose the racist policies of the Zionist occupation and to provide an opportunity to mobilise our collective energies and efforts all around the world, seeking to create a peaceful popular resistance movement to force Israel to stop its crimes against the holy city and its people."

Our holy city can no longer afford to wait for the moral conscious of the international community to awaken. Palestinians are asking people around the world to raise their voices to demand an end to the occupation of Jerusalem and freedom for all of Palestine.

Visit the GMJ website and Facebook pages in Arabic and English for more information.


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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