Israeli soldiers kidnapped the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, after surrounding his home and breaking into it Wednesday.
Local sources reported that the army invaded As-Suwwana neighborhood, in Jabal Al-Mokabbir in occupied East Jerusalem, and broke into the home of the Mufti before kidnapping him.
Sheikh Hussein asked to follow the soldiers by car to the Al-Maskobiyya Police Station and interrogation facility in the city, but they refused and placed him in one of their vehicles.
In related news, the army kidnapped Engineer Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of a committee in charge of maintaining Islamic graveyards in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, Israeli police officers were heavily deployed at the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, interrogated dozens of worshipers while inspecting their ID Cards, withheld their ID cards and informed them that they will get their ID’s back once they leave the mosque area.
In addition, a number of settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque yard through the Al-Magharba Gate accompanied by dozens of soldiers and police officers.
On Tuesday evening, the Israeli Police handed orders to Palestinian shop owners in the Old City ordering them not to display their products in front of their shops on Wednesday evening in order to allow the settlers to march through the city and its markets while marking the so-called “Jerusalem Day”.
The “Jerusalem Day” is a an Israeli “national holiday” that started in June 1967 after the Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem, and the rest of Palestine following the six-day war. In 1982, the Israeli Knesset passed a “legislation” considering Jerusalem “complete and united” as the eternal capital of Israel.
- Grand Mufti of Jerusalem detained (gulfnews.com)
Israeli police arrested Palestinian worshipers on Saturday at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, after an alleged scuffle erupted during a visit by a group of Jews and Christians to the mosque.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an that six Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones at groups of Jews and Christians visiting the compound.
Witnesses told Ma’an that police detained ten Palestinians and attacked Muslim worshipers with electric shock batons.
Dozens of Israeli settlers raided the mosque from al-Magharbeh gate, witnesses said. One settler drank wine and another allowed her daughter to urinate near an olive tree in the compound, they said, adding that a guard at al-Aqsa Mosque intervened, leading to scuffles.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director of Islamic endowments in Jerusalem, said 200 Israeli settlers had entered the mosque in a provocative way, adding that religious officials had forced Israeli police to close al-Magharbeh gate for the day.
Israel’s police spokesman said further visits of Jewish and Christian groups were scheduled on Sunday afternoon and would continue as planned.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Jews also consider the area, which they refer to as Temple Mount, as imbued with important religious meaning.
- News Black-out and Political Farce over Jerusalem Clashes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Despite their ferocity, the March 9th 2013 clashes in the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa failed to make international headlines. The virtual news black-out was indicative of prevailing attitudes towards Jerusalem as a whole. Palestinian officials argue, and rightly so, that even the Arab media is complicit in this neglect. With every outrage committed in Al-Aqsa Mosque tensions rise to boiling point, evoking memories of September 2000 when Ariel Sharon ignited the second intifada with his provocative incursion into the Mosque compound.
Palestinians’ daily harassment at checkpoints, house demolitions and arbitrary arrests at the hands of Israelis are surely bad enough. However, the willful desecration of religious sites and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, is one indignity too many. In recent days Israel has taken its violations to new levels with a spate of incursions into the mosque, ending with the defiling of the Holy Qur’an.
Can things get worse? Many are expecting a dramatic turn of events. According to the Chief Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Shaikh Ekrima Sabri, “The arrogance of the Israeli occupation and its on-going provocations will ignite the third uprising and no one will be able to stop it.”
For now, the Israelis are hoping that Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces will prevent this from happening. As a pre-emptive measure they have arrested scores of young men across the West Bank. Abbas vows that he will not allow another intifada. In this regard he is consistent, for he was staunchly opposed to the 2000 uprising. Besides, there is also the spectre of what happened to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who was blamed for instigating and encouraging the Aqsa Intifada.
There was, however, no justification for last week’s gratuitous violence. There were no attacks on Israelis or their property. The only Palestinian “crime” was that they protested against the defiling of the Qur’an by an Israeli soldier who was filmed kicking the Holy Book days earlier.
Friday’s attack on worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque left scores injured. Israeli soldiers and Special Forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at worshippers inside the mosque. The obvious conclusion from this is that Israel is determined to raise tensions in the run up to US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country.
The ugly scenes in Islam’s third most sacred mosque were preceded hours before by the desecration of the graves of revered Islamic scholars and sages in Ma’man Allah cemetery. Eighty-five per cent of the cemetery has been seized to build amusement parks, museums and even dog kennels. Two recent developments illustrated the shambolic approach of western politicians and governments to these manifestly criminal acts. The first was a threat from a gutless Canadian government to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it resorts to an international court to seek redress against the Israelis. Canada’s Foreign Minister [John Baird] made the announcement at the annual conference of the largest North American pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. In Britain, meanwhile, opposition leader Ed Miliband declared himself to be a Zionist and warned in a speech to the Board of Deputies of British Jews — the nearest thing to AIPAC on this side of the Atlantic that any thought of a boycott campaign against Israel is unacceptable. In both instances the message to the occupier was clear; carry on with more of the same illegal and unjust behaviour, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
UN Resolution 2787 called “upon all states dedicated to the ideals of freedom and peace to give all their political, moral and material assistance to peoples struggling for liberation, self-determination and independence against colonial and alien domination”; what happened to its lofty ideals? Countries like Canada and Britain appear to have abandoned them when the country being questioned is Israel.
On the ground, the coordination and division of roles between Israel’s army, Jewish settlers, the judiciary and the politicians continue unimpeded. The sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has now, to all intents and purposes, been turned into an Israeli military outpost, contradicting the universal right to worship that all humanity is entitled to. Indeed, days after International Women’s Day, Palestinian women were prevented from attending classes in the mosques spread around Al-Aqsa’s courtyards. The silence of those critics of Islam who have a lot to say about Muslim women being oppressed is deafening in the face of the brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinian women.
In the absence of any meaningful political negotiations the politicians should tell us how to protect Palestinian rights. All they are doing at the moment is giving Israel time to realise its ambitions at the expense of Muslims.
These despicable acts of sacrilege will continue for as long as Israel enjoys the support of the US and its western allies. Every failure to act is an incentive which emboldens Israel to impose its administrative control over Al-Aqsa Mosque, to determine who enters the sacred site and when they can enter. These unjustified and deliberate attempts to insult and humiliate Muslims can only add to the dangerous climate of regional instability and move it inexorably towards the abyss of religious confrontation.
Dr. Daud Abdullah can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Historic buildings around Al-Aqsa continue to be demolished (alethonews.wordpress.com)
For the third day in a row, Israeli bulldozers are demolishing historic arches and facades of Islamic buildings dating back to the Mamluk and Ottoman eras on the north side of Buraq Square. The site lies just 50 metres from the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa.
Details of the architectural vandalism by the Israeli occupation authorities were provided by Al-Aqsa Foundation for Religious Endowments and Heritage in a press statement. The Israeli demolition work is a prelude to the establishment of a centre promoting the state’s Judaisation policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. The buildings in question formed part of the Moroccan Quarter of the Old City, which was demolished by the Israelis in 1967 at the start of the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The foundation said that it will use exclusive maps and documents to show how the Israelis plan to establish a synagogue, a police station, a reception area and show rooms on the site, all of which will be linked to tunnels under Al-Aqsa Mosque. A press conference will be held on Sunday for that purpose which will be attended by the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah. Among the other speakers will be the Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council and the Imam of Al Aqsa Mosque, Dr Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, and Hatem Abdel Qader, who deals with the Jerusalem file for Fatah, as well as the foundation’s director, Amir Khatib.
According to the documents held by Al-Aqsa Foundation, the development will necessitate the destruction of noted Islamic landmarks. It is worth noting that the State of Israel pledged in its Declaration of Independence that it “will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”. The State of Israel regularly breaks both pledges with apparent impunity.
- Palestine: Occupation continues to falsify al-Aqsa’s history, protest villages continue & violations against Gaza’a fishermen (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- Palestine: Hundreds of Israelis storm Nabi Yusuf tomb, part of Buraq Square destroyed, a crime against Al Aqsa & demolitions (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — A Palestinian committee in occupied Jerusalem warned against the decision by the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem to confiscate 1,800 meters of the southern land of the Bab al-Rahma Cemetery in Jerusalem, and considered it a new aggression on Waqf and holy sites.
The Committee of Bab al-Rahma Cemetery in Silwan in occupied Jerusalem stated in a press statement that the Israeli occupation is violating the sanctity of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem through attacking mosques, churches and other places of worship, as well as through attacking the dead in their graves.
It said the confiscation of the cemetery’s land is an attempt to Judiaze it and establish tourist pathways and “Talmudic landmarks”, aiming to establish their alleged temple, preventing the Palestinian residents from burying their dead in this historic cemetery.
The committee warned against the danger on the holy city and towns and Al Aqsa Mosque especially after the escalating Israeli Judaization plans that aim to erase its Islamic and Christian Arab character.
The Committee criticized the passive attitude of Arabs and Muslims toward the Israeli Judaization’s systematic plans that could encourage Israeli greed in the area.
- OCHA: Israeli occupation destroys 13 houses weekly in West Bank (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian young man electrocuted, brutally beaten in Silwan (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers move into Silwan home (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers break into al-Aqsa, sing and perform Talmudic rituals… Again (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Aqsa Foundation: Israeli intents to establish Talmudic prayers in al-Aqsa (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
In the vein of its previous documentary project presenting a montage of 24 hours of life in Berlin, the German Zero One film production company has been planning a similar venture on Jerusalem.
Berlin-based Zero One Film will work alongside Palestinian producer Daoud Kuttab and newly founded Israeli prodco 24 Communications. The latter is a joint venture between Israeli prodcos Pie Films and Inosan, which worked on the original version of HBO hit In Treatment.
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and Jerusalem Film Fund are backing 24h Jerusalem and the producers hope to secure the remaining €400,000 (US$500,000) of its €2.4m budget at MipTV this week.
Palestinian directors have now pulled out of the project – they were unaware of the presence of the Israeli production company, nor of backing from the Jerusalem Film Fund, which is in turn funded by the Jerusalem Development Authority. Current activities of the JDA include expropriating Palestinian land in East Jerusalem for parks. The JDA received “40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem”.
Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.
The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.
The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.
“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.
“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”
The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.
It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.
He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”
The JDA, which operates under the 1988 Jerusalem Development Authority Law, was established to further entrench Israeli control over the city and is also involved in the Jerusalem light rail project.
Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Office and the mayor of Jerusalem sponsored a JDA program to work toward this goal. On its website the JDA is very clear about the role of the Jerusalem light rail project, stating that “The investment in the light railway project was one of the government’s key strategies to empower Jerusalem as a capital.”
The JDA is also an instrumental actor in the proposed construction of 1,400 new housing units in the Gilo Jewish settlement colony, located near Bethlehem in occupied East Jerusalem.
In this light, the involvement of the JDA in the 24h Jerusalem project clearly designates the film as unacceptable normalisation with the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.”  This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).
One Palestinian participant in the 24h Jerusalem project, Enas aL-Muthaffar, made clear his objections to the film project in an open letter on August 25th. He reveals that he was not informed at all about the Israeli production partner. Nor were the Palestinian directors to be involved in the editing process.
To whom It May Concern,
When Kuttab Productions first contacted me early July, it failed to mention that Israel is part of this project, although I specifically inquired about this issue. And then again, you sent me an email on July 9th, which also failed to mention that Israel is in fact part of your film production. I only knew about Israel being a co-producer of Jerusalem 24 when I asked specific technical questions about the characters, crew and the editing phase. I was surprised to know that the selected filmmakers are only requested to film on September 6th and that we have no say in the editing phase. Then, you said: The editing phase will happen in Germany where the Palestinian and the Israeli films will be edited in one feature length documentary. This is not information that can simply be passed on in such a way!
I reject to be part of Jerusalem 24: a German/ Israeli/ Palestinian co-production for the following two main reasons:
· I respect and support Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International law and respects Palestinian rights.
· I refuse to be part of a peace propaganda machine that continues to ignore Israel’s cruel colonization of Palestine.
There is a longer list of reasons related to the current steps undertaken by Israel that aim at changing the demographic, social and cultural composition of the city of Jerusalem – to name few:
· Advocating the largest act of de-population of East Jerusalem since 1967.
· Continuing expansion of illegal settlements.
· Renewal of closure of East Jerusalem Institutions.
· Building restrictions and home demolitions.
· Revoking residency rights and denying family reunification.
· Continued illegal diggings under al-Aqsa mosque compound.
There is no way in which I can separate my art from who I am, from my life, from my duty to resist everything and anything that doesn’t acknowledge my right to exist on my land in freedom and dignity.
Enas I. aL-Muthaffar
Enas’ stance is confirmed in an Al Akbar piece [Google translation]:
Yesterday, I sent a group of Palestinian institutions and individuals working in the field of culture and art message to «Book of production» declare the absolute rejection of various forms of normalization with the occupier and «standing in the face of attempts to penetrate the cultural front as the line of the clash with the basic occupation, and intellectuals were and will remain the spearhead in the clash of cultures and civilizations with brute occupation force.
Haidar Eid further affirms terms of the PACBI boycott relevant to the joint film project [Google translation]:
That all meetings and projects that combine between the Palestinians and the Israelis must be placed in the proper context against the occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and most importantly that these meetings be pro-boycott by directives issued by the National Committee of the province.
According to Amira Hass, 20 directors, including Israelis, have now pulled out of the film project in support of the cultural boycott and filming, scheduled for September 6, has been halted.
- Israeli settlers move into Silwan home (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Analysis: Is Israel’s permit policy political, or economic? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel to Annex More of East Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- New Israeli military complex planned in Jerusalem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army To Demolish Homes In Silwan (imemc.org)
- Settlers Hurl Stones At Palestinian Homes In Jerusalem (imemc.org)
JERUSALEM – Israeli settlers, accompanied by police guards, moved into a section of a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem on Sunday, locals said.
Israeli authorities had informed the Hamdullah family they would have to evacuate part of their home in the Silwan neighborhood of Ras al-Amud after a court ruling said it belonged to settlers, local group the Wadi al-Hilweh information center said.
The family says they have been living on the premises since 1952 after purchasing the land from the al-Ghoul family.
Israeli daily Haaretz said that settler patron Irwin Moskowitz bought the land in 1990 from Orthodox Jewish groups, who claimed they had bought the land before 1948.
In 2005 a Jerusalem court ruled that the family must evacuate all buildings constructed after 1989.
Moskowitz wants to expand Maaleh Hazeitim, the largest settlement in East Jerusalem, on the land.
The Hamdullah home lies in a critical neighborhood near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the site of a number of settlements and controversial Israeli archeological digs, which residents fear are intended to cement Israeli control over the area.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem — regarded as the capital of a future Palestinian state — after a 1967 war, a move never recognized by the international community.
- Army To Demolish Homes In Silwan (imemc.org)
- Settlers Hurl Stones At Palestinian Homes In Jerusalem (imemc.org)
- Army Invades Al-Aqsa Mosque, Attack Worshipers, kidnaps two (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Palestinian women wait to cross an Israeli checkpoint on their way from
the West Bank city of Bethlehem to attend prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque
in Jerusalem during Ramadan 2011. (MaanImages/Luay Sababa)
After years of travel restrictions, Israel last month opened up its borders to many (not all, of course) Palestinians from the West Bank. In Nablus alone, 17,000 permits were issued out of 25,000 applications. Certain age groups were allowed in without a permit.
The occasion was the holy month of Ramadan, but there is no denial that a decision was taken somewhere in the Israeli military establishment to loosen up the big prison that millions of Palestinians find themselves in.
Even the dreaded Qalandiya checkpoint all of sudden became much easier to cross, with soldiers merely looking at the car number while crossing, at times without the long lines that have become its trademark.
Naturally, Palestinians were delighted to be able to pray in Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque and visit relatives and friends in Jerusalem and inside the Green Line. Many had not been in Jerusalem for decades.
Parents took their children (some teenagers) to see a Jerusalem they had never seen. Many flooded West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and other locations.
Palestinians shopped (the Malha mall is said to have sold goods worth two million shekels in one weekend). They hit the beaches and stores, enjoying a rare occasion to get out of the closed area of the West Bank.
The Israeli decision, carried out unilaterally (except for the administrative part at the liaison offices), surprised many, including the political establishment.
What was the reason for this Israeli “benevolence” at a time when hundreds of foreigners coming to visit Palestine are denied entry at the King Hussein Bridge?
Palestinian commentators hit the airwaves with arguments, wondering whether the decision was primarily political or economy-related.
They said that Israel was satisfied with the high degree of security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and that the security situation was the best in years and therefore Israelis wanted to take advantage of this security lull to help release Palestinian tension.
Some argued that Israel was concerned that a third intifada might be around the corner and that their decision allowing masses of Palestinians to move around might help steer people away from a return to violent confrontations.
Others pointed out the various statistics showing how much Palestinians purchased in Israel and said that this was a calculated decision to help Israel’s economy and to counter the boycott of Israeli products.
Some, however, said that this does not make sense because the amount of money spent by Palestinians in this one burst is peanuts compared to the large Israeli economy.
Yet others argued that with the Palestinian Authority’s financial situation in a dire situation, the number of unemployed Palestinians will increase dramatically, which could contribute to the return of violence. This economic safety valve, it was argued, had more with the idea of returning the Palestinian economy to the days when it was totally dependent on Israel.
With Israeli companies needing workers and with the anti-African mood in the Israeli public, the argument was that it might be time to allow Palestinian workers who commute and therefore not cause a major social problem in Israel to start working in Israel.
Palestinian laborers are very much desired by Israeli employers because of their high level of productivity, knowledge of Hebrew and understanding of the needs of Israeli employers.
To many, the Palestinian workers are much better than the imported Thai workers or African migrants.
Whatever the real motivation behind the Israeli move to relax its border-crossing policy, it seems clear that a political solution is much further than previously expected.
An independent Palestinian state with strong economic ties with Jordan, Egypt and the Arab world is perhaps farther now than in decades.
With the lack of a horizon for peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic peace initiative is now in high gear, being applied unilaterally by the Israeli army.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
Israeli settlers hurl stones toward Palestinians during clashes in the
village of Burin near Nablus (MaanImages/Rami Swidan, File)
NABLUS – Eight Palestinians sustained injuries late Friday when Jewish settlers pelted a bus with stones on the main road between Ramallah and Nablus, a Palestinian official said.
Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that settlers from Shilo hurled stones at a bus carrying Palestinian worshipers on their way back from al-Aqsa Mosque.
The attack, he said, took place at 1:30 a.m. and eight people including men and women were injured. They were taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, he said.
Daghlas highlighted that Israeli military forces closed the main road between Ramallah and Nablus for more than two hours after the incident to prevent further attacks.
The Israeli military confirmed receiving reports about the incident.
“Once the reports were received, IDF soldiers arrived at the scene and set up temporary checkpoints while searching for suspects,” a spokeswoman told Ma’an.
Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is systematic in the West Bank.
On Wednesday settlers vandalized Palestinian property in the Ramallah village of Sinjil.
A group of settlers from Givat Ariel outpost wrote “Palestinians should die,” and “Stay away from our lands,” on a wall in the village, Sinjil mayor Ayoub Swaied said.
Settlers also left an improvised explosive device made from chemicals under a car. A box containing ethylene, benzene and sulfur was found underneath a car in the village, Swaied added.
- Palestinian stabbed, shot in settler attack near Nablus (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers enter Nablus village beat up a man, ransack his car, IOF arrests 5 Palestinians – No Settler (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Bulldozers carry out work on a pathway next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem (MaanImages/Magnus Johansson, File)
JERUSALEM – The deputy leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Kamal al-Khateib, said Tuesday that the Israeli municipal council of Jerusalem planned to transform the yards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound into public parks and gardens, to make them accessible for the Jews to visit at any time.
Speaking to reporters, Al-Khateib said that the process of ‘Judaising’ Jerusalem had been accelerated since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. “The occupation is working to efface the Palestinian features in the holy city through unprecedented procedures they carried out this month,” he added.
“For the first time, the occupation has allowed settlers and extremists to access Al-Aqsa compound during Ramadan paying no attention to the feelings of the Muslim worshipers there,” he said. “Meanwhile, the municipality which represents the occupation approved a decision to consider the yards in Al-Aqsa compound public parks which anybody can access.”
In mid-July Palestinian officials denounced Yehuda Weinstein, the Israeli attorney general, after he claimed that the Al-Aqsa area was part of Israel and referred to the mosque’s courtyards as public space.
Weinstein was quoted on Israeli news sites as saying the area was under Israeli jurisdiction for matters such as planning and building, and said the courtyard was for public use.
In his remarks Tuesday, Al-Khateib said soldiers detained the imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday while he was praying. “Israeli troops stormed the mosque and prevented worshipers from completing their prayer,” he said.
On Thursday a mosque guard told Ma’an that 20 rightists entered the grounds of the holy site.
- Israel destroys Umayyad palaces next to Al-Aqsa Mosque (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Islamic official: Al Aqsa belongs to Muslims, not Israel (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian Youths detained, beaten and banned from al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli Intelligence (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Army Invades Al-Aqsa Mosque, Attack Worshipers, kidnaps two (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
On Tuesday, July 24, Israeli television broadcast one of the first new advertisements that promote and call for the “construction of the alleged Jewish Temple” on the ruins of the al-Aqsa mosque which Israelis seek to destroy.
The new ad shows an Israeli family spending a day at the beach: the father is reading news about the new Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi, and his children are building the temple in the sand. The message conveyed the idea that children are completing what their parents couldn’t do.
Then the father notices the temple, throws the newspaper on the ground and the camera zooms onto the picture of Mursi. Israelis try to show with the ad that even after the election of Mursi as a President, Israel will not be halted or prevented from building the temple.
It’s worth mentioning that the Temple Israel Board of Trustees group expressed more than once their concerns about electing Mursi the President of Egypt. In their opinion it may hinder Israel’s rights to build the temple.
It appears obvious that the group has started a psychological war against President Mursi.
- Israeli Video Insults New President of Egypt (ashraf62.wordpress.com)
- New Egyptian President Ridiculed in Israeli Video (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- Israel destroys Umayyad palaces next to Al-Aqsa Mosque (altahrir.wordpress.com)
The discovery of a rare aerial photo of Jerusalem in the 1930s, taken by a Zeppelin, has provided the long-sought after proof that when Israel occupied the Old City in 1967 it secretly destroyed an important mosque that dated from the time of Saladin close to the al-Aqsa mosque.
The destruction of the Sheikh Eid mosque – in an area widely considered to be the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – revives questions about Israel’s continuing abuse of Islamic holy places under its control.
The issue has been in the spotlight recently because of a growing number of arson and vandalism attacks by Jewish extremists on mosques in Jerusalem and the West Bank, in what are termed “price-tag” attacks designed to dissuade the Israeli government from making diplomatic concessions to the Palestinians.
Following the torching by Jewish settlers of a mosque near Ramallah two weeks ago, Dan Halutz, a former military chief of staff, admitted there was no political will to find the culprits. “If we wanted, we could catch them, and when we want to, we will,” he told Army Radio.
The question of whether Jerusalem’s Sheikh Eid mosque had survived up until modern times had been the subject of heated debates between Palestinian and Israeli scholars. The discovery of its location is not of only historic and academic interest. Earlier this year, before the aerial photo was unearthed, development at the spot where the mosque once stood led to damage of what was left of the building below ground, archaeologists now admit.
Israel’s Antiquities Authority, its chief archaeological institution, dug up the mosque’s remaining foundations and disinterred a human skeleton, believed to be Sheikh Eid himself.
The site of the mosque is next to the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), a raised compound of Islamic holy places that includes the al-Aqsa mosque and is flanked on one side by the Western Wall, a major Jewish prayer site.
Control over the Haram al-Sharif is contested by Israel, which believes that the mosques are built over two Jewish temples destroyed long ago. There is growing pressure from Jewish religious groups to be allowed to pray on the Haram al-Sharif, and some extremists have threatened to blow up the mosques so that they can build a third temple.
A provocative visit in 2000 to the site by Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, backed by more than 1,000 police triggered the second intifada.
The remains of Sheikh Eid mosque were destroyed during excavations carried out as Israel prepares the area next to the Haram al-Sharif for the construction of a large visitor centre.
The plan is part of a series of changes by Israel to the area near the Western Wall that has been fuelling tensions with Palestinians. The alterations violate international law because Jerusalem’s Old City is occupied territory.
Benjamin Kedar, vice-president of Israel’s National Academy of Sciences, who discovered the old photo after searching archives in Germany, called the treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque “an archaeological crime.”
The mosque, which originally served as an Islamic school, built by Malik al-Afdil, one of Saladin’s sons, is said to have been one of only three such buildings remaining in Jerusalem from that period. Its provenance and location are described in a 15th-century document. After the burial of its most famous preacher, Sheikh Eid, two centuries later, it became a major pilgrimage site for Muslims.
The mosque, it now emerges, was destroyed during the wholesale levelling of the Mughrabi quarter of the Old City – a war crime that has been largely overlooked by historians – in the immediate wake of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Under cover of dark, Israel sent in bulldozers to clear the area, forcing nearly 1,000 Palestinian residents out so that a wide prayer plaza could be created in front of the Western Wall.
The plaza became the nucleus for the re-establishment of an enlarged Jewish quarter in the Old City, which is gradually encroaching on the Muslim and Christian quarters through the activities of settlers and armed guards assigned by the Israeli authorities to protect them.
The visitor center is the latest plan in a long-running campaign by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is in charge of the Western Wall, to strengthen Israel’s hold on the area around the Haram al-Sharif, in what is seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to bolster Israeli claims to sovereignty over the compound of mosques.
The rabbi’s Western Wall Heritage Foundation oversees the Western Wall tunnels, which were opened in 1996 during current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous premiership. The opening sparked violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that led to dozens of deaths.
The Heritage Foundation is also attempting to relocate the Mughrabi bridge, a ramp now used chiefly by non-Muslims and Israeli police to reach the al-Aqsa compound, to further expand the prayer plaza in front of the Western Wall.
The visitor centre, which would be built close to the Mughrabi bridge, has aroused opposition from a group of dissident Israeli archaeologists. Yoram Tzafrir a professor at Hebrew University, recently told the Haaretz newspaper: “It might be said that the demolition of the Mughrabi quarter in 1967 was necessary … to allow masses to reach the Western Wall – not to build a new [visitor] building.”
The Heritage Foundation has justified its activities by saying that excavations destroying Islamic history are necessary to unearth older, Jewish archaeological remains. In a statement referring to the Sheikh Eid controversy, it said: “Excavations in the area of the Western Wall are intended to reach the earliest levels possible. Clearly this cannot be done without destroying later periods, whatever they may be.”
The historic and current abuses of the Sheikh Eid mosque are reflected in Israel’s repeated dismal scores in international surveys on religious freedom.
In 2010 the US State Department published a report placing Israel in the same category as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sudan. “Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under [Israel’s 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law] because the government does not recognize them as official holy sites,” the report stated. The 1967 law stipulates a punishment of seven years’ imprisonment for anyone found guilty of desecrating a holy site, and five years for impeding access to a holy site. But Israel has given such status only to Jewish places of worship.
The State Department’s findings were confirmed last year in a freedom of religion index organized by US academics at Binghamton University, who awarded Israel a zero score.
The treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque has echoes of a current and more prominent dispute close by, in West Jerusalem, where Israel has approved a plan by the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre to build a Museum of Tolerance over the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla, which includes graves believed to be those of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions.
Israeli media reported in 2008 that more than 100 skeletons had been unearthed and mistreated in excavations to prepare the site for construction work. The building of the museum has been delayed by financial problems caused by the global economic downturn.
While these high-profile cases have made headlines, violations of religious freedoms for the 1.3 million Palestinian Muslims living under occupation, who have citizenship, have gained far less attention.
The core grievance dates to Israel’s creation in 1948, when all land and property held in trust for the Muslim community was confiscated inside the borders of the newly established Jewish state. These properties – donated by generations of Palestinians to a waqf, or religious endowment – comprised not only holy sites and cemeteries but also schools, public buildings, shops and farmland.
After 1948, all of the waqf’s holdings, which constituted a tenth of the territory of the Holy Land, were seized by the state and, along with property belonging to more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees, passed to an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property.
Only the mosques in the 120 Palestinian towns and villages that survived Israel’s establishment have continued to operate, though under strict supervision. Israel, which pays the salaries of mosque employees, controls all appointments and monitors sermons.
Some 500 other villages, which were emptied of their Palestinian population in 1948, have been razed, often along with any local mosques or churches.
In cities that are now almost exclusively Jewish, such as Tel Aviv, mosques and cemeteries were simply developed over. In one notorious incident, the large Abdul Nabi cemetery was passed to a development company in the 1950s and a five-star hotel and several housing complexes for Jewish immigrants built over it.
Most of the mosques that remained standing in the otherwise-destroyed villages have been desecrated, according to a survey undertaken by the Nazareth-based Human Rights Association in 2004. It found that these mosques, as well as Islamic shrines, had been made inaccessible, including to internal refugees living nearby. Some had been turned over to Jewish immigrants. For example, Caesarea, a former Palestinian coastal village that was transformed after 1948 into a wealthy Jewish community that is home to Benjamin Netanyahu, converted the Bushnak mosque into a restaurant.
Other prominent mosques in former Palestinian villages have been put to use as bars, night clubs, art galleries, shops, animal pens, grain stores and synagogues.
There is little that can be done to prevent such desecration in most cases because Israel’s 1978 Antiquities Law offers no protection to buildings dating after 1700.
Meanwhile, other, older mosques have been declared closed military zones, leaving them derelict. The beautiful Ghabisiya mosque in northern historical Palestine is fenced off and enveloped in razor-wire, while the Hittin mosque, built by Saladin in 1187 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Hittin, close to the Sea of Galilee, has become a crumbling ruin, with refugees living close by forbidden to repair it.
Over the past 15 years, the two branches of the Islamic Movement have worked to identify and document the Muslim holy places that were destroyed and those that survived but are today off-limits.
It has also antagonised the Israeli authorities by leading a campaign to restore many of the most important sites. When the Islamic Movement helped a group of internal refugees from the former village of Sarafand, on the Mediterranean coast, restore their mosque in 2000, it was bulldozed overnight in still-unexplained circumstances.
Even rare successes in the Israeli courts have made little impact in practice. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that Beersheba council must use the city’s imposing and recently restored Grand Mosque as a museum to Islamic culture rather than a general museum, as the council had planned.
However, in March the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in occupied Palestine, which helped fight the case, complained to the Israeli attorney-general that the council had ignored the ruling and was using the mosque to stage an exhibition on British and Israeli rule in the Negev. It also noted that the council had staged a wine and beer festival in the mosque’s grounds last year.
Nuri al-Uqbi, a Bedouin activist who has led a long campaign to try to restore the Grand Mosque to a place of worship, said: “I felt horrified and furious at this violation of the mosque’s sanctity. In the mosque there are plastic dolls and models wearing British and Israeli uniforms, some of them in shorts, among other exhibits that are irrelevant to Arab-Islamic culture or tradition.”
Beersheba council has refused to provide a Muslim place of worship in the city, despite its being home to 1,000 Muslim families and daily drawing many Bedouin visitors from the surrounding Negev. Other legal efforts related to waqf property have also come to nought. In 2007 Palestinians living in the historic city of Jaffa, now a mixed Jewish-Arab suburb of Tel Aviv, unsuccessfully petitioned the district court to discover what had happened to local waqf property.
The government refused to divulge the information, claiming it “would seriously harm Israel’s foreign relations”. This was presumed to refer to the damage that might be done to Israel’s image abroad should it be revealed to what uses the waqf property had been put.
The case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.
However, all the signs are that the court is unlikely to be sympathetic. In 2009, after a five-year legal struggle by Adalah, the Supreme Court rejected a petition demanding that the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law specifically include protection for Islamic sites.
While agreeing that Muslim holy sites were generally in a “miserable condition”, it said that the matter was too “sensitive” for it to issue a ruling.
Under pressure from the court, however, the Israeli government promised to spend $500,000 on the maintenance of Muslim holy places, a sum that has been widely criticised by the community as “pitiful.” The money will be allocated by the Israel Lands Administration, which according to Adalah lawyers, “has done nothing to prevent the desecration of Muslim holy sites and in many instances played an active role in their desecration.”
Restrictions on Muslims’ freedom of worship seem likely to intensify in the months and years ahead. Late last year Netanyahu gave his backing to a law that would ban mosques from using loudspeakers to call residents to prayer.
Observing that there had been many complaints about noise, Netanyahu observed: “The same problem exists in all European countries, and they know how to deal with it. It’s legitimate in Belgium; it’s legitimate in France. Why isn’t it legitimate here? We don’t need to be more liberal than Europe.”
Netanyahu had apparently forgotten that he was not in Europe and that the Muslims he was talking about are not immigrants but the native population.
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