Once again, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is being subjected to desecration, vandalism and assaults on the worshipers inside it. Last Sunday morning, dozens of settlers stormed Al-Aqsa from the Maghariba Gate, under tight security protection by the Israeli Occupation police, who dispersed the courtyards of the mosque of the worshippers and those in seclusion by throwing stun grenades at them. They then proceeded to expel them from the Al-Qibli prayer hall, harassing them and arresting a number of them in the late hours of the previous night. The Occupation authorities also deployed large numbers of its oppression units to storm it and attack those in seclusion as a prelude to securing the settlers’ storming, according to the Islamic Endowments Department in Jerusalem.
What right do they have to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque and attack worshippers? This Zionist policy has not been adopted suddenly but, rather, has been adopted and implemented for many decades and it aims to Judaise the historical Arab and Islamic landmarks in Jerusalem and they intensify their practices in the month of Ramadan to provoke the Palestinians. Their goal is to escalate the situation, not to calm it down, as the Occupation claims. The Occupation Forces began storming Al-Aqsa Mosque during the first hours of its occupation of Jerusalem in 1967 and it became a tradition amongst various groups in the Israeli society, across its various religious and ideological sects that claim the existence of a “temple” known as the “temple groups”. There are some who storm the mosque daily, weekly or monthly, while others do it once or twice, out of curiosity and to discover the area whenever they get a chance. They may only join those storming the mosque in the times of escalation. Some only storm Al-Aqsa for electoral propaganda, political goals or personal interests, etc.
Whatever the goal of these Zionists, they have no justification or any legal or political right that allows them to storm Al-Aqsa or demolish it to build the alleged Temple. They do so in the context of their belief in the holiness of the site and its centrality to establish the myth of the “Third Temple” by any means in order to “liberate” it from the Arabs in the context of their endeavour to “normalise” Jewish presence inside it, and to demand public prayer in it. They believe this will eventually lead to the construction of their alleged temple after getting rid of the Islamic chapels and seizing it from the hands of the Palestinians.
Commenting on this, Professor Yitzhak Reiter, President of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel, believes that Jewish extremists are prevented from these provocative practices for many reasons. He published it in his article in the newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth on 25 November, 2022. I will share the most important points he made. He says that the Al-Aqsa Mosque cannot be separated from the broader context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, where the Palestinians are subject to discrimination in all fields and, for them, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is their last stronghold, and they are worried that the third holiest place in Islam will be taken away from them. The second reason is that the principles of international law, the UN and the Geneva Conventions do not permit a country that has occupied a territory to harm the sacred sites of the nation they occupied.
He added that the third reason lies in the claim of seniority, on the basis that the Jews claim that they “were here first “and this is not true with regard to Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fact that the site included a Jewish temple 800 years ago does not outweigh the fact that there was an Islamic mosque there 1400 years ago. These testimonies refute the words of the extremist, Smotrich, who denied that the Palestinians existed a century ago, and perhaps history is the best witness that the Jews did not exist in Palestine and Jerusalem at that time.
In the face of all these facts, the Palestinians did not abandon the first of the two qiblas and they sacrificed their lives and blood for it, just as they confronted Sharon when he stormed it in the year 2000, and the uprising erupted. Today, they are standing in the face of Ben-Gvir’s storming, along with groups of setters, by stationing themselves there and this takes on many forms. It includes the youth stationing themselves in the Qibli Mosque the night before the stormings were set to take place, holding religious lessons, chanting “Allah is the Greatest”, while they carry out the stormings. These efforts have proven their success several times when during the storming times. When the number of Palestinians increases inside the mosque, the Occupation police are forced to provide higher levels of security and protection for the invaders, which exhausts them. This is why they remove worshippers and those in seclusion before the settlers’ storming operations, prevent Palestinians from entering during the morning storming operations, restrict entry to specific age groups or restrict entry to those who agree to leave their ID cards at the mosque entrance in order to record the personal information of those entering, and summoning them if needed. All of these practices followed by the Occupation authorities have become known and they are paving the way for spatial and temporal division.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 27 March 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.