The Israeli authorities in Tiberias have broken into the historic Al-Bahr Mosque in order to start turning it into a museum, Al-Resalah reported on Monday. The move violates a 2000 agreement between the authorities and the Palestinian community in Israel to maintain the status quo at the mosque, which has been closed ever since. One fifth of all Israeli citizens are Palestinians, the so-called “Arab-Israelis”, and face institutionalised discrimination at the hands of the state.
Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian mosques, cemeteries and other religious sites since the state’s creation in 1948. Dozens have been turned into bars and night clubs in Jaffa, Lod, Al-Ramla, Ashkelon and other cities with no regard for their religious significance.
According to Arab48.com, the agreement reached in 2000 has been violated several times, with attacks on the building, including arson. Largely left unguarded, it has been used by drug addicts.
“We have to go to Tiberias and stop the desecration of the holy site which aims to erase any Palestinian symbols in the city,” insisted Mohammad Baraka, the Chairman of the High Committee for Arab Citizens. He said that the Arab citizens in Israel would never accept such a move and pledged to protect the mosque and other holy places.
“Those who forget the agreement to maintain the status quo should know that it was not easy to reach,” said Kamal Al-Khatib, the head of the freedoms sub-committee in the Arab Follow up Committee. “It seems that the right-wing trend is within the mindset of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the head of Tiberias municipality, which is known for its right-wing stances.”
Al-Bahr (“The Sea”) Mosque was built in 1743 by the Muslim ruler of Tiberias, Al-Zaher Omar. It is located on the shore of Lake Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Since the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948, the mosque has been abandoned and no Muslims have been allowed to enter it. Having been turned into a bar, an agreement was reached in 2000 between the Tiberias municipality and the Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Arab parliamentarians. However, it was abandoned again and Palestinians are not allowed to enter even to clean it.