A PIC news correspondent said the IOF rolled into the An-Najah Campus dormitory in al-Maajin neighborhood, in western Nablus, and wreaked havoc on the apartment of lecturer Issam Rashed al-Ashqar, 57, before they kidnapped him and seized his car.
Al-Ashqar, an ex-prisoner, is a lecturer at the Physics Department at An-Najah University. He had previously been sentenced to several prison-terms, mostly in administrative detention, without charge or trial. He has also been diagnosed with health disorders.
The Israeli occupation army further kidnapped the two Palestinian citizens Amjad Abu Sbeih and Yazen al-Basiti from their own family homes in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The IOF stormed Jenin’s western towns of Anin and Zabouba and cracked down on Palestinian drivers in the eastern outskirts of the city.
A PIC reporter quoted eyewitnesses as stating that the IOF kidnapped the citizen Abdul Nasser Mohamed Yassin, 42, from Anin village after they ravaged his home and subjected the family to intensive questioning.
A military checkpoint was pitched by the IOF near the main entrance to Zabouba town.
The campaign culminated in the abduction of other Palestinians from Nablus, al-Khalil, and Bethlehem’s town of Beit Fajjar.
A controversial Israeli bill to silence the Muslim call to prayer is to go forward after it was amended so as not to affect the Jewish Shabbat siren, the speaker’s office said Wednesday.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, had blocked the draft law in its original form for fear it would also force the toning down of the sirens that announce the start of the Jewish day of rest at sundown each Friday.
But he lifted his objections after it was amended to apply only between 11 pm and 7 am.
The bill will “probably” now be put to a preliminary vote in parliament “next week,” a spokesman for speaker Yuli Edelstein told AFP.
It will then require three further parliamentary votes before it becomes law but it has already sparked outrage around the Arab and wider Muslim world.
Even Israeli government watchdogs have slammed the proposed legislation, describing it as a threat to religious freedom and an unnecessary provocation.
Arab Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi has vowed to appeal to the High Court of Justice if the Shabbat siren is excluded from the scope of the bill on the grounds that it discriminates between Jews and Muslims.
The law would apply to mosques in annexed Arab east al-Quds (Jerusalem) as well as the occupied territories. But supersensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound — Islam’s third holiest site — will be exempted.
“No changes will be made on” al-Aqsa Mosque an Israeli official told AFP.
US President-elect Donald Trump does not think the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories should be condemned because they don’t pose “an obstacle to peace,” according to a top Trump adviser.
The comments were made on Thursday by Jason Greenblatt, the chief legal officer and executive vice president at the Trump Organization. He has been tapped by Trump as his top adviser on Israel.
Greenblatt’s comments would mark a stark departure from the long-time Washington stance that Israeli settlement construction in occupied Palestinian lands makes it more difficult to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
An Israeli minister called for renewed settlement expansions after Greenblatt’s comments. Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis said Tel Aviv thinks it’s time to move forward with more settlements now that Trump has won the US presidency.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has repeatedly criticized Israel over the settlement expansions, saying they make it difficult for Israel to reach peace with Palestinians.
The US and Israel are close allies but relations were often tense between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli settlements and the nuclear agreement with Iran last year.
Analysts say a Trump presidency may be profoundly negative for Palestinian aspirations while buoying Israel’s confidence.
Under the Trump presidency, analysts expect there to be less pressure from Washington to halt illegal Israeli settlement building, meaning the settler population will grow unchecked.
“The Palestinian people hold no hope that the change of American president will mean a change in policy towards the Palestinian cause,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “That policy is constant and biased in favor of Israel’s occupation.”
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. America’s military assistance to Israel has amounted to $124.3 billion since it began in 1962, according to a recent congressional report.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Donald Trump on his election as US president on Wednesday and called him “a true friend” of the Zionist entity.
“President-elect Trump is a true friend of the state of Israel, and I look forward to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in our region,” the right-wing premier said in a statement.
“The ironclad bond between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared values, buttressed by shared interests and driven by a shared destiny.”
“I am confident that president-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the unique alliance between our two countries and bring it to ever greater heights.”
Netanyahu avoided controversial topics in his statement, unlike members of his government.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the hardline Jewish Home party, said after Trump’s victory that the idea of a Palestinian state was over.
“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the centre of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett said in an apparent reference to the occupied West Bank.
“This is the position of the president-elect … The era of a Palestinian state is over.”
Others, including politicians from Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for Trump to follow through on his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem).
JERUSALEM – Israeli authorities Tuesday morning demolished two residential buildings in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi al-Jouz and al-Issawiya for building without Israeli-issued licenses.
Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces escorted two excavators to the Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood at 4 am. Israeli soldiers were also deployed throughout the alleys of the neighborhood, before surrounding a three-story building as Israeli excavators tore it down.
According to locals, the building consisted of stores on the ground floor, apartments on the second, while the third floor was still under construction.
Local sources highlighted that the stores on the first floor contained food supplies belonging to Palestinian families, adding that Israeli forces demolished the stores without allowing families to remove their supplies.
The demolition occurred after the building was constructed without Israeli-issued building permits, locals said, much like most of East Jerusalem as the process to obtain the permits are often time-consuming and expensive.
After Israeli forces completed the demolition in Wadi al-Jouz, they headed to the neighborhood of al-Issawiya and demolished a residential building, claiming it was lacking Israeli-issued building permits, according to locals.
Member of a local committee in al-Isawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, told Ma’an that the building was a two-story building, still under construction.
According to Abu al-Hummus, the first floor consisted of commercial stores, while the second served as a residential floor.
A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality was not available for immediate comment.
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 already well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
More than 1,383 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank — the area under full Israeli security and civilian control — and East Jerusalem, though the Israel’s Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a “disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities,” which they boasted “see high approval ratings.”
However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan found that the procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits were lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs could reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).
As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for costly building permits is nearly impossible, and only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.
Israel has just emerged from its three-week high holidays, a period that in recent years has been marked by extremist religious Jews making provocative visits to Al Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
Many go to pray, in violation of Israel’s international obligations. Most of them belong to groups that seek to replace the mosque with a Jewish temple. They now enjoy increasing parliamentary support, some of it from within prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party.
A rash of such visits last autumn outraged Palestinians and triggered a wave of so-called lone-wolf attacks on Israelis. The attacks have recently abated.
Taking advantage of the renewed quiet, Israel allowed a record number of ultra-nationalists to visit the mosque, figures released last week showed. Parties of Israeli soldiers are also entering the site.
The police, whose recently appointed commander is himself from the extremist settler community, have recommended that restrictions be ended on visits by Jewish legislators who demand Israel’s sovereignty over the mosque.
For Palestinians, Israel’s treatment of this supremely important Islamic holy site symbolises their powerlessness, oppression and routine humiliation. Conversely, a sense of impunity has left Israel greedy for even more control over the Palestinians.
The gaping power imbalance was movingly detailed last month at a special hearing of the UN security council. Hagai El-Ad, head of B’tselem, which monitors the occupation, termed Israel’s abuses as “invisible, bureaucratic, daily violence” against Palestinians exercised from “cradle to grave”.
He appealed to the international community to end its five decades of inaction. “We need your help. … The occupation must end. The UN Security Council must act. And the time is now,” he said.
Israeli politicians were incensed. Mr El-Ad had broken one of Israel’s cardinal rules: you do not wash the country’s dirty linen abroad. Most Israelis consider the occupation and Palestinian suffering as an internal matter, to be decided by them alone.
Mr Netanyahu accused B’tselem’s director of conspiring with outsiders to subject Israel to “international coercion”.
With the US limply defending Mr El-Ad’s freedom of speech, Mr Netanyahu found a proxy to relaunch the attack. David Bitan, chair of his party, demanded that Mr El-Ad be stripped of his citizenship and proposed legislation to ban calls in global forums for sanctions against Israel. Unsurprisingly, Mr El-Ad has faced a flood of death threats.
Meanwhile, another UN forum has been considering Israel’s occupation. Its educational, scientific and cultural body, Unesco, passed a resolution last month condemning Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian holy sites, especially Al Aqsa.
Again, Israelis were enraged at this brief disturbance of their well-oiled machinery of oppression. The abuses documented by Unesco were overshadowed by Israeli protests that its own narrative was not the focus.
While Israel exercises ever more physical power over Palestinians, its moral credit is running out with foreign audiences, who have come to understand that the occupation is neither benign nor temporary. The rise of social media has accelerated that awakening, which in turn has bolstered grassroots reactions such as the boycott (BDS) movement.
Aware of the dangers, Israel has been aggressively targeting all forms of popular activism. Facebook and YouTube are under relentless pressure to censor sites critical of Israel.
Western governments – which joined the chorus of “Je suis Charlie” after ISIL’s lethal attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine last year – have cracked down on the boycott movement. Paradoxically, France has led the way by banning such activism, echoing Israeli claims that it constitutes “incitement”.
And left-wing social movements emerging in Europe face loud accusations that any criticism of Israel is tantamount to an attack on all Jews. Notably, a British parliamentary committee last month characterised as anti-semitic parts of the opposition Labour party under its new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a champion of Palestinian rights.
In these ways, European governments have been trying to hold in check popular anger at a belligerent and unrepentant Israel.
Illustrating that caution, Uneso was forced last week to vote a second time on its resolution, this time removing the word “occupation” and, against normal practice, giving equal status to the occupier’s names for the sites under threat from its occupation.
Even with the resolution neutered, Unesco’s usual consensus could not be reached. The resolution passed by a wafer-thin majority, with European and other governments abstaining.
Israel and its enablers have successfully engineered a hollowing out of official discourse about Israel to blunt even the mildest criticism. Gradually, western powers are adopting Mr Netanyahu’s doubly illogical premises: that criticising the occupation is anti-Israel, and criticising Israel is anti-semitic.
Incrementally, western leaders are conceding that any criticism of Mr Netanyahu’s policies – even as he tries to ensure that the occupation becomes permanent – is off-limits. Mr El-Ad called for courage from the western powers that dominate the security council. But the signs are his words have fallen on deaf ears.
GOP nominee Donald Trump does not believe that settlements built by the Zionist regime of Israel in Palestine are illegal, his advisor on Israel says.
David Friedman, who was campaigning for the New York billionaire at a restaurant on Mount Zion (Jabel Sahyoun) in East Jerusalem al-Quds, made the comments to AFP after the Wednesday rally.
“I don’t think he believes that the settlements are illegal,” Friedman said.
He also said the former reality TV star is “tremendously skeptical” about the so-called two-state solution, promoted by the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama during his eight years in office, but to no avail.
The Obama administration has already voiced criticism over Tel Aviv’s expansionist policies, considered illegal by the international community.
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
Over half a million Israelis live in more than 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under the international law. Tel Aviv has defied calls to stop the settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Guaranteeing enmity with Tehran
Some 150 people, including extremist Israelis and evangelical Christians, took part in the Trump rally in on Wednesday.
Friedman echoed previous remarks by Trump, saying the real estate mogul would recognize East Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel if he wins the White House in the US 2016 presidential election.
A short video message by Trump was also played at the event, in which he said, “Together we will stand up to the enemies like Iran, bent on destroying Israel and her people. Together we will make America and Israel safe again.”
According to leaked emails from March 2015 by former US secretary of state Colin Powell, the regime has pointed 200 nuclear weapons at the Iranian capital.
Did Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, actually read the full text of the UNESCO resolution on Palestine and Israel, before he raved with anger?
“I think this is a mistaken, inconceivable resolution,” he said.
“It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel. It is shocking and I have ordered that we stop taking this position (his country’s abstention) even if it means diverging from the position taken by the rest of Europe,” he added.
Renzi, who became Prime Minister in 2014 at the relatively young age of 39 knows exactly how the game is played. In order to win favor with Washington, he must first please Tel Aviv.
His country has abstained from the October 12 vote on a resolution that condemns Israel’s violations of the cultural and legal status of Occupied East Jerusalem. This decision has ignited the ire of Israeli Ambassador to Rome, Ofer Zaks, who riled up the Jewish community in Italy to protest the abstention. Renzi, in turn, was converted into a champion of the ‘Temple Mount’, the name Israel uses to describe the Palestinian Muslim holy site.
Renzi cravenly went on damage control mode without truly understanding the nature of the resolution, which merely condemned Israel’s obvious violations of international law, and only calls for Israel to respect the status of Palestinian culture in the occupied city.
None of procedures that led to the vote on the UNESCO’s resolution – voted by 24-6, with 26 abstentions – violated protocol, nor was any of the wording inconsistent with international law. In fact, UNESCO was merely doing its job: attempting to protect and preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the world.
Jerusalem is a sacred and a holy city to a majority of humanity, simply because it is significant to the spiritual wellbeing of the adherents of the three monotheistic religions. In fact, the resolution stated so:
“Affirming the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions …”
Renzi’s outburst is quite disappointing, to say the least, for the young, eager politician simply tried to score cheap political points with Israel – thus the United States – without a full, or even partial comprehension of what the UNESCO resolution resolved. Nor did he seem aware of the fact that such text is largely a repeat of what has been discussed by the world’s leading cultural organization in April, and repeatedly before that date.
“If anyone wants to say something about Israel, let them say it, but they should not use UNESCO… To say that the Jews have no links to Jerusalem is like saying the sun creates darkness,” he said, paraphrasing the sentiment displayed by the Israeli Prime Minister.
It would be rather sad if Renzi sees a mentor in Benjamin Netanyahu, for the latter is one of the least liked world leaders who has made a mockery of international forums and derided the United Nations itself as anti-Semitic and its process as ‘theater of the absurd’.
This is what Netanyahu had said in response to the resolution and shortly before he suspended his country’s membership in UNESCO. Using a language that is as amusing as his cartoon depiction of the Iranian nuclear bomb in his famous UN spectacle in 2012, he said:
“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”
Other Israeli officials followed suit with a chorus of denunciations, included Israeli President, Reuven Rivilin, who described the decision as an “embarrassment” for UNESCO. Culture Minister, Miri Regev, cut to the chase, by labeling the resolution “shameful and anti-Semitic.”
In fact, it was neither.
In addition to Renzi’s odd reaction, the United States and other western governments reacted with exaggerated anger, again without even addressing the situation on the ground, which prompted the resolution – and numerous other UN resolutions in the past – in the first place.
Even the Czech parliament jumped on board, voting to condemn what they described as a “hateful, anti-Israel’ sentiment.”
I have read the resolution repeatedly to pinpoint the specific text that could possibly be understood by Israel’s friends as hateful, to no avail. The entirety of the text was based on past international conventions, resolutions, international law, and refers to Israel as the Occupying Power, as per the diktat of the Geneva Conventions.
The Italian, Czech, American anger is, of course, misdirected and is largely political theater.
But, of course, there is an important context that they refuse to address.
Israel is working diligently to appropriate Muslim and Christian heritage in East Jerusalem, a city that is designated by international law as illegally occupied.
The Israeli army and police have restricted the movement of Palestinian worshipers and is excavating under the foundation of the third holiest Muslim shrine, Haram al-Sharif, in search of a mythological Temple.
In the process of doing so, numerous Palestinians, trying to defend their Mosque from the attacks staged by Israeli occupation forces and extremist Jewish groups, have been killed.
How is UNESCO to react to this?
The resolution merely, ‘called on Israel’ to “allow for the restoration of the historic status quo that prevailed until September 2000, under which the Jordanian Awqaf (Religious Foundation) Department exercised exclusive authority on Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif.”
Moreover, it ‘stressed’, the “urgent need of the implementation of the UNESCO reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls.”
Where is the ‘hate’ and ‘Anti-Semitism’ in that?
Israel’s anger is, of course, fathomable. For nearly fifty years, following the illegal occupation and annexation of the Palestinian Arab city, Israel has done everything it could possibly do to strip the city of its universal appeal and Arab heritage, and make it exclusive to Jews only – thus the slogan of Jerusalem being Israel’s ‘eternal and undivided capital.’
Israel is angry because, after five decades of ceaseless efforts, neither UNESCO nor other UN institutions will accept Israel’s practices and designations. In 2011, following the admission of ‘Palestine’ as a member state, Israel ranted and raved as well, resulting in the US cutting off funding to UNESCO.
The latest resolution indicates that Israel and the US have utterly failed to coerce UNESCO.
What also caused much fury in Tel Aviv is that UNESCO used the Arabic references to Haram al-Sharif, Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim religious and heritage sites. The same way they would refer to Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza and China’s Great Wall by their actual names. Hardly anti-Semitic.
Since its establishment atop Palestinian towns and villages, Israel has been on a mission to rename everything Arabic with Hebrew alternatives. Recent years have seen a massive push towards the Judaization of Arab Christian and Muslim sites, streets and holy shrines, a campaign spear-headed by the Israeli right and ultranationalist groups.
To expect UNESCO to employ such language is what should strike as ‘absurd’.
Not only should the UNESCO resolution be respected, it should also be followed by practical mechanisms to implement its recommendations. Israel, an Occupying Power should not be given a free pass to besiege the holy shrines of two major world religions, restrict the movement and attack worshipers, annex occupied territories and destroy what is essential spiritual heritage that belongs to the whole world.
Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza Party has called on the government to recognize the state of Palestine. Back in December, the parliament approved a non-binding resolution, urging the government to formally recognize the Palestinian statehood. If implemented, Greece would become the first European country to follow Sweden’s lead which officially recognized Palestine in 2014.
Talking to Press TV, Joe Catron, an activist with International Solidarity Movement, has described the announcement as “a tremendous victory” for Palestinians and solidarity activists who have made Palestine a popular issue in Greece.
But at the same time, he drew attention to the fact that this is only “a symbolic move” which comes on the heels of other steps taken by Syriza to boost its ties with Israel.
“Since Syriza took power, we have seen it sign [an] agreement with Israel which is comparable only to Israel’s existing agreement with the United States,” he said. “We have seen it move to increase its energy cooperation with Israel and [have] even seen Syriza prime minister refer in writing, during a visit to the occupied Palestinian Jerusalem al-Quds, to it [the city] as Israel’s historic capital.”
He further noted that Syriza is playing a double game over Palestine by trying to cement its ties with Tel Aviv on the one hand; while taking limited pro-Palestine steps on the other.
“I do not think that Israel is happy to see any steps taken internationally in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinians, including this one. [But] I think they probably prefer it to any alternative that might include its isolation, for example Greece ending its energy ties. That is something that, I think, they would take more seriously,” Catron added.
According to the activist, it is up to Palestinians to decide whether such symbolic steps are worth celebrating or they are simply distractions from more concrete measures that might produce results.
Qpress, a media centre specialising in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa affairs, has been closed by Israeli authorities.
After being questioned and banned from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, the head of the news organisation, Dr Hekmat Na’amna, was informed that Qpress was being shut down in accordance with a military decision issued early this month.
He was also informed that the use of the website has been banned, in addition to the use of the Facebook page. He was warned by the Israeli intelligence that any use of Qpress would result in prosecution.
These orders issued by the Israeli military and security forces indicate that the Qpress agency has been banned and completely shut down.
Commenting on this decision, Mahmoud Abu Ata, a journalist specialising in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and holy site affairs and a former employee of Qpress said that “this closure aims to silence the voice of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the holy sites and to censor true facts and the true situation on the ground in occupied Jerusalem.”
“The occupation wants to cover up its crimes and plans against Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem as well as across Palestine. Qpress has always exposed such crimes as part of its media duty in a professional and transparent manner. However, it seems that such objectivity and honourable professionalism that portrayed the events, pictures and videos exactly as they occurred did not please the Israeli administration.”
A draft decision by UNESCO, which criticises Israel’s activities at holy places in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, has been denounced by Israeli officials. “It ignores thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and aids Islamist terror,” claimed Education Minister Naftali Bennett very dramatically.
Never one to miss an opportunity to conflate Judaism and Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that UNESCO had become a “theatre of the absurd”, to which he added: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids.”
The World Jewish Congress, meanwhile, called UNESCO’s announcement an “inflammatory, one-sided decision” as Israel took the predictable step of freezing co-operation with the UN cultural body which seeks to “contribute to peace and security” by safeguarding world heritage and cultural sites.
The UNESCO decision, however, does none of the things that the Israelis and their supporters claim. The draft decision “affirms the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions” while also affirming that “nothing in the current decision, which aims, inter alia, at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem, shall in any way affect the relevant Security Council and United Nations resolutions and decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem”.
Israel’s problem with the UNESCO decision emanates from the simple fact that it has no way of reconciling its colonialist policies in the West Bank and Gaza with international law. Israeli officials were just as quick to denounce the International Court of Justice’s decision on its construction of the “separation” wall or the dozens of UN Security Council resolutions condemning the construction of illegal settlements. Like its condemnation of the UNESCO decision, Israel extorts political gain by claiming security concerns and its fight against “Islamist terrorism”.
The 58 member of the UNESCO board voted this week on a draft document that raises concerns about Israel’s violation of international law. Israel, predictably, hopes to deflect these concerns by conflating Jewish history with Israeli policy. The draft text, which was passed by 24 votes in favour to six against, with 26 abstentions, noted the following:
- The failure of Israel, the Occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City and reiterates the request to Israel to prohibit all such works in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions;
- Called on Israel, the Occupying Power, to allow for the restoration of the historic status quo;
- Strongly condemned the escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the Awqaf [Religious Endowments] Department and its personnel, and against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site;
- Deplored the continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by right-wing Israeli extremists and uniformed forces, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqsa Mosque;
- Deeply decries the continuous Israeli aggressions against civilians including Islamic religious figures and priests, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to end these aggressions and abuses which inflame the tension on the ground and between faiths;
- Disapproves of the Israeli restriction of access to Al-Aqsa Mosque and called on Israel to stop all violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque;
- Criticised Israel’s refusal to grant visas to UNESCO experts in charge of the UNESCO project at the Centre of Islamic Manuscripts in Al-Aqsa Mosque;
Raised concern regarding the illegal demolitions of Umayyad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains as well as other intrusive works and excavations in and around the Mughrabi Gate Pathway, and also requests Israel, to halt such demolitions, excavations and works and to abide by its obligations under the provisions of the UNESCO conventions.
The draft resolution, which also goes on to deplore the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and reaffirms the integral link between Palestine and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, is a full scale condemnation of Israel’s total lack of disregard for Al-Aqsa Mosque, and its refusal to act in accordance with UNESCOs recommendation in maintaining the sanctity of the religious sites that are holy to all three Abrahamic faiths. Despite the best efforts of Israeli officials to paint this decision as yet another anti-Jewish declaration it is actually nothing of the sort.
A UN body such as UNESCO has a duty to highlight Israel’s ongoing annexation and colonisation of Palestine. It has an even bigger obligation to raise awareness of the systematic efforts by hostile parties — no matter who they are — to seize control of world heritage sites. Only in the eyes of Israel — the Occupying Power, remember — could that be seen as “inflammatory”.
An Israeli archaeological expert has asserted that there is no relation between the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and an ancient Jewish temple, Al Jazeera reported today. This will likely serve to undermine Israeli excavations of the site.
Meir Ben-Dov, an Israeli archaeological expert who is author of many books about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, further asserted that the Wailing Wall, the Jewish name for the Western Wall, has no sacred significance in the Jewish faith.
In related news, UNESCO members are expected to vote on a resolution that denies Jewish links to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, known as the Buraq Wall to Muslims, agencies reported on Thursday.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the resolution is expected to pass by a large majority, referring this to the inability of Israeli lobbying to persuade UNESCO members not to support the resolution.
“Israel has made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states,” Haaretz stated.
The Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan pushed the draft resolution forward that declares that Jerusalem is holy for all the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The draft also includes a section that stresses that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred only for the Muslims, referring to it as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or the Sacred Sanctuary.
In April, UNESCO’s executive board ratified a similar resolution, which was supported by a number of European countries, including France.
However, after a “harsh” telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande, France promised not to support any such resolution in the future.