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Israel and the arson attack against Al-Aqsa Mosque

Friday, 21 August is the 46th anniversary of the 1969 arson attack against Al-Aqsa Mosque, when it was set on fire by an Australian Jew, Michael Rohan, in coordination with Israel’s occupation authorities and its military forces. The attack was triggered by hatred, intolerance and racial discrimination instilled by the founders of Israel against Arabs, Islam and Christianity. The historic minbar (pulpit) Salahuddin was reduced to ashes; indeed, the whole mosque would have been destroyed if it wasn’t for the Muslim and Christian Palestinians who went to Jerusalem from all over the occupied West Bank to fight the blaze.

Although the Israeli security forces conspired to close the gates of the Noble Sanctuary, the local people forced them open after a short but fierce clash. It was obvious that the authorities hoped that the delay would be sufficient to allow the whole mosque to burn down. Once inside, the Palestinians found that the water pumps were broken, so they used buckets and other small containers to carry water in a human chain. Even Christian priests were involved, crying, “They are burning down one of God’s holy places!” When fire trucks from Nablus, Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin and Tulkarem arrived, the Israeli authorities prevented them from joining the fire-fighting operation on the pretext that it was the duty of the municipality of occupied Jerusalem.

The people of occupied Jerusalem went on strike immediately upon the fire. The strike spread all over the occupied Palestinian territories, including inside Israel itself. There was a great deal of sadness, anger and pain among Arabs and Muslims at this horrific crime. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 271 on 15 September, 1969, in which it expressed its sorrow for the damage caused by the arson, in light of the military occupation of Jerusalem. The council stressed that taking land by military conquest is illegal and demanded that Israel should cancel all measures it had taken to change the status of the city.

Was the attempt to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque the work of a “crazed” individual or was it planned by the state? Theodore Herzl, the founder of the world Zionist movement and author of “The Jewish State”, wrote fifty years before the founding of Israel: “If one day we got Jerusalem and I was still alive and capable of doing anything, I will remove everything that is not sacred to Jews and I will burn the centuries’ old monuments.”

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under the entry for “Zionism”: “The Jews would want to get united and go to Jerusalem and overcome the power of the enemy and bring back worship to the temple and to establish their kingdom there.” The founding Zionists stressed, “that the Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the Holy of Holiest in the temple, is for the Jews.”

Putting Zionist ideology into practice, Israel occupied the western part of Jerusalem in the war of aggression it sparked in 1948 and declared it to be the capital of the nascent state. Jordan announced in 1960 that the eastern part of the city was the second capital of the Hashemite Kingdom.

Resolutions of international legitimacy which represent the minimum approved by the Arab governments and members of the Security Council include a comprehensive Israel withdrawal from Arab Jerusalem and the abolition of all measures taken by Israel to change the geographic and demographic status of Jerusalem which have affected the historical status of the city; these include the confiscation of Palestinian land and property, the deportation of Palestinians and the Jewish settlements. They also call for the dismantling of Jewish “neighbourhoods” (illegal settlements), and allowing people who were expelled during the 1967 war to return to Jerusalem.

America’s bias towards Jewish ambitions, which are anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rights, was clear in Resolution 106 adopted by the US Congress on 22 May, 1990, which was issued as a law in 1995, four weeks after the signing of the Oslo Accord 2 in the White House. The law included a commitment not to change the status of Jerusalem; this illustrates that such US commitments lack credibility.

The preamble of the US law included pro-Israel allegations and lies about Jerusalem, the city founded before the appearance of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It became an Arab-Islamic city after it was liberated from Byzantine invaders at the hands of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Three items were included in this law: first, that Jerusalem remains united and undivided, which is actually US recognition and legitimisation of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. It also recognised a “unified” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which endorses the following Zionist myths:

  • Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years.
  • The city was not the capital of any people other than the Jewish people.
  • Jerusalem is central to Judaism. It has been mentioned in the Torah 766 times.
  • It is not mentioned by name in the Qur’an.
  • Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli government, including the parliament, the president and the Supreme Court.

Finally, the law requires the US administration to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In all of this, the American legislation contradicts the principles of international law and the rights of Arabs and Muslims in the Holy City, which was the first direction of prayer for the early Muslims and is the third holiest place in Islam. It violates UN Security Council resolutions approved by the United States which considers Jerusalem to be occupied Arab land and that Israel must withdraw from it. The UN Security Council has recognised the legal status of East Jerusalem as an occupied territory and declared the unilateral Israeli annexation to be illegal and against international laws and conventions.

Most of the Arab countries and the Arab League were suspiciously silent towards the US support for Israeli ambitions in Jerusalem. Even Yasser Arafat, the then Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), thanked President Bill Clinton, who announced that he did not support the decision, but would abide by its implementation. The law showed America backing away from positions announced by earlier US administrations towards the occupied city.

Both Israel and the US saw the emergence of several extremist Jewish and Christian organisations which planned to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a temple on its ruins. The Zionists fostered the centrality of Jerusalem in the hearts of Jews and their supporters from evangelical Christians and Christian Zionists. This was important because of the city’s political and religious status in Islam and Christianity, as well as its strategic location and historical and economic importance. It was done to humiliate Arabs and Muslims and erase all traces of Arab-Islamic civilisation in Jerusalem, which goes back centuries. The British gave Palestine to the Zionists with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and subsequent events leading up to 1948 and the declaration of the State of Israel, and then the 1967 war launched pre-emptively by the Israelis.

Israel is following a Judaisation plan in all of Jerusalem, East as well as West. Canaanite, Aramaic and Arabic were once the languages which prevailed, but no longer. In the 3-4,000 year history of the city, it was ruled by the ancient Israelites for fewer than 500 years. The Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa was created as a place of worship of the One God at the dawn of time; the so-called Wailing (Western) Wall is officially and legally an Islamic religious endowment (Waqf) property, as is the Moroccan Square now cleared for use by Jews at the wall. Ownership of the Western Wall was determined by Britain’s Shaw Commission in 1930 to lie with Arab Muslims. Jerusalem was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate and during the British Mandate it was the capital of Palestine.

Al-Aqsa Mosque faces real danger, because Jews and Christian Zionists in and beyond Israel are calling for its destruction and the building of a temple on its ruins, even though archaeologists have not been able to find any evidence that a temple has ever stood on the site. In 1968, after occupying the city during the 1967 war, Israel established a Jewish Quarter in the Old City as part of the Judaisation process.

Despite claims to protect the sanctity of the religious sites of all faiths, Israel closes the gates of Al-Aqsa regularly to Muslim worshippers while allowing Jewish extremists to enter the mosque for their own rites and rituals on a daily basis. Indeed, the Israeli parliament is looking at a draft law which would grant Jews the right to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque three times a day, repeating what has already been done in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque. Churches are fire-bombed and vandalised, with the apparent approval of fundamentalist rabbis and the authorities.

The Arab identity of Jerusalem is the essence of the Palestinian cause, and the key to war and peace in the region. It is the main challenge to the Arabs and Muslims, so it must be placed in the highest priority while maintaining the options of resistance, arming of the West Bank and the outbreak of a third intifada. The conflict over Palestine and Jerusalem is a national, religious and legal issue, neither the Arab League, the Arab summits nor the leadership of the PLO have the right to give it up or to give up any part of the holy soil, or compromise in this matter. There will be no solution at all in Jerusalem unless the city regains its Islamic Arab identity and the Israeli-imposed Judaisation is removed, with full Arab sovereignty restored.

Today we are in dire need of grassroots Arab, Islamic and international action to save Al-Aqsa Mosque from destruction and Judaisation before it is too late. Al-Aqsa Mosque is at the core of the Arab and Islamic identity of Palestine and it is not permissible for any Arab leader, Palestinian or otherwise, to give it away simply in order to gain the approval of the United States and the international pro-Israel lobby. Any and all of Israel’s excavations, demolition and construction of neighbourhoods and Jewish colonies inside the Old City of Jerusalem, are extremely provocative and could have disastrous consequences for the region and the world. Decisions and actions which affect the Palestinian sovereignty over the city and its Arab and Islamic identity are null and void; it will be free from Israeli control, no matter how long it takes and how much of a price has to be paid.

Translated from Quds net, 6 August, 2015.

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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