Recent events in Jerusalem, especially in Al-Aqsa Mosque, open the door to many possibilities, the most important of which is the outbreak of a third Intifada that will not favour the main players in the region. That includes the US and Israel; the recent meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in order to ease the tension is proof of this.
There is no doubt that Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque are at the core of the conflict; they are the ticking bomb that will explode in the face of all of those who have manipulated the rights of the Palestinian people, especially America and Israel. The growing pace of settlement construction in Jerusalem and the attempts to control Al-Aqsa indicate that Israel is trying to impose yet more “facts on the ground” that will hamper any negotiations and agreements regarding a final agreement with the Palestinians that may be imposed by the international community.
With the increase in the number of attempts made by Jewish extremists to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray therein, we must pause and stress that the Noble Sanctuary is authentically Islamic and that the Jews have no right to it. The Zionists have been excavating beneath the mosque for decades on the pretext of searching for archaeological evidence to confirm their claims about the Temple of Solomon. However, they have failed to find any evidence of the temple’s existence, although this has not prevented them from continuing to violate the sanctuary and dig under the mosque, putting it at serious risk of collapse.
With regards to the increase in attempts to storm into the mosque, its Manager Dr Najih Bekirat said that it was a result of three complexes suffered by the Israeli occupation: “The fear of the existence of Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic and Arabic root complex, which has caused them to eliminate the mosque. The ideological complex of the burning and destruction of the First and Second Temples and the search for the temples in light of the lack of clear texts indicating where the temple is located. The most dangerous complex is the realisation of the occupation that the Zionist project is gradually diminishing and the reason for which they gathered the Jewish people in Jerusalem, the ‘promised land’, and the Temple do not exist, and, therefore, they are racing against the clock to seize Al-Aqsa Mosque and Judaise it.”
There is no doubt that Jerusalem is considered blessed and holy by all divinely-inspired religions, but that does not justify followers of such religions to take control of the sanctities of any other. Historically, in the seventh century CE, when the Muslims introduced Islam to Palestine, it was not a Jewish land and there were no Jews in Jerusalem. During that time, the Muslims did not harm the Jews in any way; indeed, they respected them. It is a well-known fact that the Jews only have a few synagogues in the city that are relatively newly-constructed, as well as some graves. The first synagogue was built in the 18th century; all are located in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. This area is known as the Jewish neighbourhood, and includes the Ark of the Covenant, Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, Beit El, Midrash and Tabiyya.
The Jews also have their own cemetery that includes four prominent graves: the grave of Prophet Zakaria, Prophet Jacob, the grave of Absalom and the grave of Jehoshaphat.
As for the Buraq/Western Wall (Wailing Wall), which is considered to be holy by the Jews, the prevailing belief is that it is the remnants of the ancient wall that surrounded the Temple courtyard. For the Muslims, though, the Buraq Wall is considered to be the southern part of the Western wall of the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary); the Jews never regarded it as a place of worship at any time until after the Balfour Declaration in 1917. This wall was never believed to be part of the Temple before then.
According to the Jewish Encyclopaedia, published in 1917, the Western Wall became part of Jewish religious traditions around the year 1520 CE as a result of Jewish immigration from Spain, after the Ottoman conquest in 1517.
During the British Mandate over Palestine, the Buraq Revolution took place on 23 August, 1929; an international commission was formed to examine the claims of Muslims and Jews to the Western Wall. The commission was headed by the former Swedish Foreign Minister, Eliel Lofgren; the former Vice President of the International Court of Justice, Charles Bard from Switzerland, served as a member. After the investigation conducted by this committee and after hearing all points of view, the committee issued a report in 1930 and submitted it to the League of Nations; it confirmed the undoubted right of the Muslims to ownership of the Buraq Wall.
After the 1967 war and the Israeli takeover of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Moroccan Quarter next to the Buraq Wall was demolished. The occupation authorities created a large paved courtyard to accommodate the Jews who come to pray in front of the wall.
Most studies published by unbiased Jewish experts confirm that the Torah narrative lacks any archaeological evidence. Such experts include Professor Israel Finkelstein, Chairman of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University, and his colleague David Ussishkin, who both believe that Jerusalem was not founded during the time of Solomon, but 100 years before him, and that his era is in any case very vague; in short, they said that there is no evidence supporting what is said in the Old Testament about him.
The evolution of the Jewish ruling on praying in Al-Aqsa
After the Zionists occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which is the supreme halakhic and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel, issued a ruling in 1968 that prohibits Jews from praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque. The ruling stated that the remains of rabbis and Jews who were killed during the destruction of the Second Temple were mixed with the soil of “Temple Mount”, so it is not permissible to pray there until the Temple is rebuilt and the rabbis and Jewish remains are reburied. (To date, no remains have been found to support claims about the existence of the Temple in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.) The ruling also stated that the “Temple Mount” must not be ascended in its current situation, and that the Jewish people must wait for the return of the Messiah. It also said that those who ascend it are merely doing so to achieve political gains and nothing more.
However, since Ariel Sharon entered Al-Aqsa in 2000 accompanied by hundreds of security forces, a new Zionist trend has emerged which aims to annul the rabbis’ ruling. A turning point in the “idiosyncratic” position on the matter of Jews praying in Al-Aqsa came in 2008. Dozens of rabbis signed a ruling contradicting the justifications cited by the Chief Rabbinate regarding the prohibition of Jews praying on the “Temple Mount”.
After the recent events in Al-Aqsa, the supreme Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued another ruling emphasising the prohibition on Jews entering Al-Aqsa. Rabbi Yosef is the son of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who is infamous for his racism against Arabs and Palestinians.
The most prominent figures and extremist Zionist groups that storm Al-Aqsa and call for its destruction
Since 2008, a majority of Jewish religious leaders have been calling for prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Jewish extremist groups have used such calls to justify storming Al-Aqsa and using force in order to pray there. However, the most dangerous development in this matter is that government ministers and members of the Knesset (MKs) from the ruling coalition are playing a leading role in carrying out such assaults on the sanctuary.
Construction Minister Uri Ariel has emerged as the number two in the right-wing religious Jewish Home Party, especially in terms of organising and leading operations to storm Al-Aqsa. He has also performed what is known as the “Birkat Kohanim” (Priestly Blessing) prayer in Al-Aqsa.
Moshe Feiglin, an MK from the ruling Likud Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, followed in Ariel’s footsteps and has made several statements to the effect that it is a “shame” that the “Temple Mount is under Muslim control.”
Deputy Minister of Transportation and religious MK from the Likud Party, Tzipi Hotovely, plays an important role in inciting against Al-Aqsa and participating in the storming operations. Five months ago, she chose to celebrate her wedding in Al-Aqsa Mosque with an escort of Israeli police officers. Hotovely is one of the young leaders who openly expresses her desire to reach the top of the Likud and government leadership pyramid.
Religious and political leaders are not alone in calling for Jewish control over Al-Aqsa Mosque. There are also calls from secular figures, such as retired General Uzi Dayan, who previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army and head of the Military Intelligence Division. He called on Israeli school and university students to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to establish and highlight what he called the “eternal relationship between the Jewish people and this place.”
As well as calls to pray in Al-Aqsa, influential religious leaders are calling openly for its destruction. Some of these people are associated with the government and coalition parties. For example, Rabbi Dov Lior, who serves as the Chief Rabbi of the Kiryat Arba settlement and is the most prominent religious authority for the Jewish Home party, holds four ministerial portfolios in the Netanyahu government. He has called explicitly for the mosque to be destroyed as soon as possible.
The main extremist Zionist groups that are storming into Al-Aqsa Mosque are:
- Temple Mount Faithful: An extremist group seeking to Judaise Al-Aqsa Mosque and the surrounding compound. This group is based in occupied Jerusalem with a branch in the United States through which Christian extremists provide financial support. Its primary aim is to build a Temple in place of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was shot and wounded recently, is one of the senior leaders of this group and he was at the head of storming operations against Al-Aqsa. He is also one of the leading activists in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) regarding the issue of dividing Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews.
- Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) was founded by Moshe Levinger in May 1974 and is an extremist religious popular movement working to construct a Temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa. It believes in using violence to achieve its goals.
- Hai VeKayam Movement was founded by Mordechai Carbal and Yehuda Etzion, who was a member of the Jewish Underground, which plotted to blow up Al-Aqsa Mosque in the early 1980s. This movement had several plans to blow up Al-Aqsa.
- Kach Movement: This right-wing extremist movement was founded in 1972 by American Jewish Rabbi Meir Kahane. Followers include the extremist Alan Goodman, who carried out an attack on Al-Aqsa on April 11, 1982. This resulted in his death and the wounding of a number of worshippers.
- Kahane Chai movement: An extremist right-wing terrorist movement that is no different from the Kach movement in terms of ideology. Most of the members of this movement are American Jews, who are trained in one-on-one combat as well as close combat and light weapons at the movement’s special training camp in the United States.
- The Betar Revisionist youth movement is a Zionist youth group founded in 1923. It has a number of branches in several countries, including Israel. The movement is concerned with holding Jewish prayers in Al-Aqsa courtyard.
- Temple Mount Institute: The members of this movement call openly for the demolition of Al-Aqsa Mosque in addition to expelling all Muslims from the “Land of Israel”. Its most prominent figures include Yisrael Ariel and Rabbi Eugene Korn, who is considered to be a spiritual leader for a number of the young Jews who attacked Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1968.
- Women’s Forum for the Temple: This is headed by Einat Ziv and Rivka Shimon. The organisation aims to organise regular storming of Al-Aqsa by allocating two days a month to desecrate the mosque. The organisation has called on all religious Jewish women to organise storming of Al-Aqsa on a number of Jewish websites.
Foreign support for settlements in Jerusalem and such extremist groups
In clear violation of American law, many Jewish associations and organisations, including the Irving Moskowitz Foundation established by the eponymous American millionaire, provide full funding for all Jewish settlement activities in East Jerusalem. In 1996, Moskowitz and fellow millionaire Ira Rennert joined together to fund the construction of the “Buraq tunnel” under Al-Aqsa Mosque. This led to an outbreak of violent clashes between the Palestinians and Israelis, resulting in deaths on both sides.
Similar organisations include the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency for Israel located in America, the World Zionist Organisation, the United Jewish Appeal, the United Israel Appeal, Americans for a Safe Israel, and Friends of Israel Society. There are more than 1,000 Zionist and Zionist Christian organisations which fund settlement activity in Jerusalem. The money donated to Israeli settlements is considered tax-free in America.
There is no doubt that the dangers posed to Al-Aqsa Mosque will accelerate an inevitable major confrontation between Zionists and Muslims. What is now occurring in Al-Aqsa will transform the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a religious struggle, which will not be in the best interest of Israel and its allies in the long-run. As long as extremist Zionist groups continue to violate Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem and spark provocations, the third Intifada will ignite. This, of course, is if it hasn’t already done so. Some Israeli newspapers believe that what has been happening in occupied Jerusalem is a “soft” Intifada that started months ago.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.