Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel demonises worshippers to justify its raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque

April 11, 2023 at 9:27 am

Muslims perform prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem on April 07, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

While hundreds of Israeli police officers were surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, the far-right occupation government maintained active communications with Jordan, demanding the removal of Muslim Palestinian worshippers from Al-Qibli Mosque within the sanctuary. In justification of its demand, the Israeli government described the worshippers as a “dangerous mob” and accused them of preparing to fight against the occupation police, whose officers, Haaretz reported, were bracing themselves to clear them out.

The tactic has failed, despite enlisting the help of the media in the occupation state. Most outlets repeated the government claims that the Muslims in Al-Aqsa generally, and Al-Qibli Mosque in particular, were not staying there for acts of worship during the Blessed Month of Ramadan. According to the official narrative parroted by the media, the Muslims in the mosque were preparing to attack the police and illegal Jewish settlers who planned to tour the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site for two billion Muslims in the world.

“Hundreds of worshippers barricaded themselves inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque late on Saturday,” reported Haaretz, “as Israeli police officers attempt to remove them from the holy site.” The message was repeated by most of the Israeli media.

It was also Haaretz, though, which reported last December that signs in English and Hebrew warning Jews that, “According to Torah Law, entering the Temple Mount area [Al-Aqsa complex] is strictly forbidden due to the holiness of the site” had been renewed and reinstalled. The authority behind the signs is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. In other words, according to Judaism, Jews should not go into what they call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, or simply Al-Aqsa Mosque.

READ: Palestinian minor killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

The Muslim worshippers did not have guns or wear combat fatigues while hiding behind barricades waiting for the Israeli occupation police or settlers to come and kill them. The fact is that they closed the doors of one of the prayer halls in Al-Aqsa Mosque — known as Al-Qibli Mosque — and continued their night prayers which, during Ramadan, Muslims perform in addition to the regular five daily prayers. These Tarawih prayers late at night are performed in mosques all over the Muslim world; they are not specific to Al-Aqsa.

When Muslims in Al-Aqsa were beaten viciously and dragged out forcibly by Israeli police last week, they decided to stay in the mosque in even greater numbers and protect themselves against the aggression. During the past few nights, hundreds of Palestinians have been detained and prevented from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, even residents of the Old City in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem, where the holy site is located.

Israel sent a message to Jordan, which is the internationally-recognised custodian of holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, urging the Waqf authorities to “remove the Palestinians immediately who have barricaded themselves inside Al Aqsa Mosque… who are preparing to clash with police and Jews visiting the site and attending the traditional Passover Priestly Blessing at the adjacent Western Wall in the morning.”

The message was sent by Israel’s foreign ministry. “Those who desecrate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and barricade themselves inside it are a dangerous mob, radicalised and incited by Hamas and other terror organisations.” This was ironic coming from the authorities whose police officers desecrated the mosque and smashed it up last week, describing the worshippers as “extremists”. The terminology — “mob”, “radicalised and incited” and “extremists” — is classic Israeli propaganda, as is the obligatory mention of “Hamas” and “terror organisation”.

Jordan rejected the Israeli claims about the worshippers and accused the occupation state of trying to “fabricate the facts” about the issue. A Jordanian official said that the Israeli demand was an attempt to “put the responsibility on the Waqf [run by Jordan] for the dangerous escalation stemming from Israel’s attacks on worshippers.”

OPINION: Israel’s new settler governor

The unnamed official said that Amman refused to accept Israeli messages sent through mediators, adding that it will accept direct messages if they include promises by the occupation state to “stop violating the status quo, stop the attacks on worshippers and cancel the restrictions on freedom of worship.”

At the same time, Amman warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the Israeli occupation police raid Al-Aqsa Mosque and remove the Palestinians. Such a move, the Jordanians added, would lead to “more tension and violence, for which everyone will pay the price.”

Israel has no right to decide when Muslim worshippers may enter, stay in or leave Al-Aqsa Mosque. Under international laws and conventions, as the occupation state, Israel is obliged to protect the Muslim worshippers and guarantee them free access to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

An understanding with Jordan has been in place ever since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. Between 1948 and 1967, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom. The official status quo is that both Israel and Jordan recognise the full rights of Muslim worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but not pray there. As noted above, according to their own Torah Law, Jews are not even supposed to visit the site.

The increasing number of illegal Jewish settlers raiding the holy site raises concerns among Muslims around the world about an Israeli plan to partition Al-Aqsa Mosque temporally and spatially between Muslims and Jews, as has been done in Hebron’s Ibrahim Mosque. Figures published by the Jewish settler Temple Mount group Beyadenu show that a record 51,483 Jews entered Al-Aqsa — always protected by Israeli occupation security forces — last year alone.

READ: Over 1,500 Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Palestinian resistance factions have always warned Israel against trying to change Al-Aqsa’s historical and religious identity, or violate the status quo. “The aggression of the occupation will only be met with resistance, and the resistance is ready to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” said Hamas spokesman for the city of Jerusalem, Mohammad Hamada. Israel’s extreme far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and his government bear full responsibility for what happens to Al-Aqsa Mosque and those staying in it, he added. “Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and attacks on it will blow up in the occupation’s face.”

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.