Omar Afzal: Palestinian deaths at Al Aqsa Mosque raise fears of new Israeli crackdown on muslims

Omar Afzal from the Muslim Council of Scotland says the international community must stop turning a blind eye to Israel's actions

FOUR Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured in the current turmoil in Jerusalem.  

The director of Al Aqsa Mosque, Shaykh Kiswani, and 70-year-old Grand Mufti Ikrama Sabri, were among those injured by Israeli forces in their violent crackdown on protesters.

The stand-off stems from shootings in the vicinity of the Al Aqsa compound which killed five the previous Friday. Israeli police proceeded to storm the Al Aqsa Mosque, forcibly removing those inside and barred the gates; denying access to worshippers for two days. For the first time since 1969, Al Aqsa was closed for the Friday Jumma prayers.

East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and has been under a repressive occupation, deemed illegal under international law, by Israel since mid-last century. 

Two gates to the compound were finally reopened with new security measures including Israeli-controlled CCTV and metal detectors. The Palestinians, led by the Imams of Al Aqsa, have refused to accept the new arrangements and are boycotting the site, praying outside the gates in peaceful protest. 

Their fear is that these measures are a move towards imposing a system similar to the one in Hebron around the Al Khalil Mosque. In 1994, an American-Israeli entered the Al Khalil Mosque in Hebron, which contains the Tomb of the Patriarchs. He shot and murdered 29 muslims and injured 125, while they stood in congregation. Following the shooting, Israel shut down the Mosque.

When it reopened, half of the site had been annexed and tough new security procedures were imposed upon muslims. Shuhada Street, the Sauchiehall Street of Hebron, was also shut down. Homes and shops facing onto the street had their doors welded shut, with only Jewish settlers allowed to walk along it, under the watchful eye of Israeli forces. 

The same blueprint, Palestinians fear, is what lies ahead for East Jerusalem and Al Aqsa.

The Al Aqsa compound is one of the most coveted and contested pieces of land on the face of the earth. Known to muslims as Masjid Al Aqsa or the Al Haram As-Sharif (the noble sanctuary), it is Islam’s third holiest site. 

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For Jews, it is known as Temple mound, Judiasm’s holiest site; where the two Biblical temples once stood. So when shots are fired around the compound, the world holds its breath.

East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and has been under a repressive occupation, deemed illegal under international law, by Israel since mid-last century. 

Al Aqsa itself is managed through the Waqf, an Islamic body administered by Jordan, under a status quo agreement allowing muslims access to pray on the site while Jews pray at the Western Wall. 

Control of Jerusalem, and in particular the Al Aqsa Sanctuary, is the nucleus of the brutal Israeli occupation. For the extreme Zionist settlers, it is their ultimate prize.

For Palestinians, the fight for Al Aqsa is at the heart of their legitimate resistance to the occupation. What occupation means for the life of a Palestinian is the apartheid wall, humiliating checkpoints, travel restrictions, ever-growing settlements, the abduction, abuse and detention of children, the siege of Gaza and refugee families denied a right of return.

Control of Jerusalem, and in particular the Al Aqsa Sanctuary, is the nucleus of the brutal Israeli occupation. For the extreme Zionist settlers, it is their ultimate prize.

International leaders have largely turned a blind eye to the current unrest. With Saudi Arabia too busy testing its new toys (gleefully sold to them by the UK) in Yemen, and the other Gulf royals enacting an episode of Dynasty, Israel has seen an opportunity. 

They already has a free hand to flout international law, ignore UN resolutions, accords and treaties thanks to support from the US. As long as the world remains silent, the injustice and oppression will continue unabated. 

The potential fallout from attempting to take Al Asqa, though, might end up waking the neighbours in Israel’s 'tough neighbourhood'.

Picture courtesy of Chris Hoare

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Comments

gjm's picture

gjm

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 23:05

An Israeli crackdown on Palestine? How on earth can something be described as new when it has been a constant? How on earth can any human being not side with the palestinian argument?

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