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Jordan's guardianship of Jerusalem's holy sites has to be questioned

Israeli security forces attack Palestinian Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, on May 21, 2021. [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli security forces attack Palestinian Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, on May 21, 2021. [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

The recently Israeli military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza prompted a response that shocked the occupation state and many people around the world. Not only were the resistance groups in the besieged territory able to hit targets deep inside Israel, and saw Ben Gurion Airport closed as a result, but they were also reacting to attacks on the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa Mosque. Moreover, to everyone's astonishment, the Palestinian citizens of Israel rose up in support of the resistance, joining their compatriots in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. It was a united response to Israel's brutal assault and ongoing occupation.

It was the effectiveness of the resistance response which pushed Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire. It also led to the Israeli security cabinet deciding on Tuesday to cancel a march by far-right Jews through the Old City and Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem scheduled for today.

The "Flag March" is an annual event celebrating Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem in the June 1967 Six Day War. Waving Israeli flags and shouting racist slogans — "Death to the Arabs" is common — the marchers seek to provoke the Palestinians. Apparently Netanyahu's outgoing government has now given permission for the march to take place next week.

Throughout the talks with mediators about a ceasefire, the resistance rejected Israeli demands to detach Gaza from Jerusalem. The groups even rejected the proposal that Israel will set a timetable for the de-escalation of tension in the occupied holy city.

Instead, the Palestinian resistance groups insisted that Jerusalem, the West Bank, 1948-occupied Palestine and the Gaza Strip are united as a single Palestinian issue. No single component of the issue can be separated from the others. This has set a precedent by imposing conditions upon the Israeli occupation authorities. The resistance may not be as powerful and well-equipped as the Israel Defence Forces, but they could still have the final say regarding Gaza, occupied Palestine and Jerusalem.

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Predictably, Israel is not really respecting its commitment to the ceasefire, but it is obvious that it is still heeding the warnings from Gaza. However, the number of the daily incursions by Jewish settlers at Al-Aqsa Mosque has declined sharply, and the government, which is under pressure from right-wing extremists, is still unsure about a green light for the Flag March, even with a modified route that would avoid touching the Arab areas of the city. Hence the decision to postpone it to next week, by which time the new "government for change" should be sworn in.

All of this poses some very serious questions. If, for example, Palestinian resistance groups operating under a tight siege, are able to engage Israel in this way, what about neighbouring countries, some of which have larger armies than the occupation state?

Hundreds of Jordanians gather during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians and protest against Israeli aggression on Gaza, on 16 May 2021 in Amman, Jordan. [ Laith Al-jnaidi - Anadolu Agency ]

Hundreds of Jordanians gather during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians and protest against Israeli aggression on Gaza, on 16 May 2021 in Amman, Jordan. [ Laith Al-jnaidi – Anadolu Agency ]

I am thinking mainly of Jordan, which remains the official and legal guardian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. The Hashemite Kingdom hosts ambassadors from almost every country in the world, and has its own ambassadors all over the globe; it is a member of major international organisations, including the UN; and it is a signatory to major treaties and conventions. Despite all of this, Jordan has been unable to prevent even one Israeli violation of Palestinian rights.

Ever since I was old enough to listen and understand, I have heard Jordan condemning Israeli violations against Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Such condemnations go back years, and are usually accompanied by stern warnings that Amman will take unilateral measures to deter the Israeli occupation and maintain the status quo until an international or a regional solution on the issue is reached. I have heard all of this and more, but I have never seen Jordan turn such warnings into actions. The Israeli occupation authorities have been able to proceed with their Judaisation of the holy city, totally unfazed by any token opposition voiced by the Arab and Muslim states, Jordan included.

As far as I am concerned, merely paying the wages of the security and religious endowment employees in Jerusalem is not enough to qualify Jordan to be the guardian of the holy sites. The real guardians are the Palestinian people, whose peaceful resistance does so much to rattle the Israelis and their occupation. People such as Sheikh Raed Salah, Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib, for example, as well as others. To them we must add the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza. They are now a real deterrent factor making the occupation authorities think twice, and then think again, before doing anything untoward against the people of occupied Palestine. The Hashemite Kingdom's guardianship of Jerusalem's holy sites really does have to be questioned.

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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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