The Israeli occupation authorities expelled all of the Muslim worshippers and closed the doors of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem between the sunset prayer on 17 August and the dawn prayer the following day. This was under the pretext of searching for weapons after they had shot martyr Ahmed Mahameed from Umm Al-Fahm outside the mosque walls, when he was accused of trying to stab an Israeli policeman.
It seems to be an integral part of the right-wing Israeli government’s policies towards Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem to exploit the simplest security and non-security incidents, whether linked to Al-Aqsa or not, in order to reinforce its control of the mosque and prepare for its ultimate Judaisation. The government is working towards this while completely ignoring the real threat that it poses to its own security.
A full closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by the occupation forces also satisfies the frenetic Israeli government’s desire, supported by extremist public opinion, to demonstrate and even celebrate its complete control over the Noble Sanctuary. Israeli police control who is allowed into and out of the mosque. The right-wing government needs this to cover up its failures in the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli public believing that it has surrendered to the perseverance of Palestinian resistance. As far as the general public are concerned, the government seems to have abandoned its previous “need” to eliminate the “terrorist” resistance in Gaza.
The Israeli government no longer cares about international public opinion of its supposed upholding of religious freedom in “democratic” Israel. It is no longer concerned with the recommendations of its own professional circles on the need to avoid attacking religious symbols, beginning with Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to refrain from shifting the conflict from a national to a religious issue, as this poses a great danger to Israel’s achievements through its occupation to date. As well as the shift of Israeli society towards the right and the extreme religious right wing, there has been a change regionally and internationally in favour of Israel. US President Donald Trump’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state has given Israel an unprecedented prize and support for its racist and extremist policies, especially on all matters relating to the Holy City and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The changes in the positions of some Arab countries towards Israel on the basis of a joint effort to confront the so-called Iranian threat have encouraged the state to attack Islam’s third holiest site because it can predict that reactions to such aggression will be limited to verbal condemnation. Even if the Palestinians stage an uprising in Jerusalem, Israel’s new Arab friends will succeed in controlling the situation and restoring the status quo. However, it is necessary to say here that while Israeli predictions and calculations are sometimes accurate, they often fail.
The closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque is another stage in the Israeli policy of excluding Muslims from the mosque. This also includes the ongoing targeting of the activists who stay in Al-Aqsa around the clock to maintain a Muslim presence there; they are attacked, pursued and arrested, or handed “security” orders to remove them from the sanctuary. This is all done under false pretences and justifications which often have no legal or moral basis whatsoever. Furthermore, the employees of the Religious Endowment Department (Waqf), mosque guards and Reconstruction Committee staff are also targeted, which hinders work at Al-Aqsa.
Through its use of closures and intrusions by illegal settlers and Jewish prayers on the Islamic site, Israel seems to be trying to condition Palestinian public opinion to accept the idea of its control over the sanctuary and the worshippers who use it, including when they can use it. This has all the hallmarks of a temporal and spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews, as has happened at Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. It is so obvious that it will not fool the people of Palestine, either in Jerusalem or elsewhere.
Its brute force appears to have blinded Israel to the fact that Al-Aqsa Mosque and what is being imposed by the state in the Noble Sanctuary is at the centre of all or most of the Palestinian unrest. This will continue as long as Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa do.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 19 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.