Sammy Stein: We must not inflame the dispute at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque

Campaigner Sammy Stein calls for calm amid escalating tensions at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem

A RECENT article on CommonSpace opined that the stand-off at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem began when five people were killed in the vicinity of the compound shortly before.

However, there is more to the story than what. The incident at the Al Aqsa compound came as a result of an ambush and the murder of two Israeli police officers and the injury of another by Arab-Israeli terrorists near the al-Aqsa mosque, in the area known as the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, one of the holiest places in the world for both muslims and jews. 

The weapons used by the assailants were kept on the Temple Mount and, in all probability, inside the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam.

It is important for all to advocate for calm and understanding in a situation like this rather than sow the seeds of conflict.

Following this, the three assailants fled towards the mosque. The police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. This was the first time in decades that the compound had been closed for muslim Friday prayers.

In response to the murder by terrorists, metal detectors were installed at the muslim entrances to the Temple Mount, but not on the Mount itself, in order to preserve the sanctity of the site and the integrity of the security arrangements. 

Under these arrangements, Israel is responsible for security and a Jordanian-funded religious trust, or Waqf, looks after the day-to-day running of the site, thus ensuring that muslims have access to pray at the mosque while jews pray at the Western Wall.

The purpose of the metal detectors and other security measures was to protect worshippers and prevents terror. These measures can in no way be considered an Israeli government attempt to control the Al-Aqsa mosque when it is clearly the actions of terrorists that have led to these changes. 

We should focus on a message aimed at preventing terror, and condemn any further incitement.

It should be noted that for over 10 years there have been similar airport-style security arrangements for access into the Jerusalem entrance to the Western Wall and no-one using this entrance has complained, far less rioted.

Furthermore, many religious sites across the world, including Mecca, where 5,000 CCTV cameras cover the annual Hajj, the Al-Sadeq Mosque in Kuwait and the Vatican, use physical security to protect worshippers and prevent terror.

But the Palestinians are complaining and showing the depth of their feeling by rioting and murdering innocent civilians because of these metal detectors that can go a long way towards preventing the smuggling of guns, knives and other weaponry on to the Temple Mount and into the Al-Aqsa mosque.

A conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following the killing of two police officers was the first conversation the two held in many months. 

It is vital to support peace rather than ferment further distrust and violence between people who should be working energetically together to deliver peace in the region.

Netanyahu initiated the call to request that Abbas calm the situation following the attack and to prevent incitement. Abbas condemned the attack in their discussion and said that he opposed any and all kind of violence, especially in places of worship.

It is important for all to advocate for calm and understanding in a situation like this rather than sow the seeds of conflict. We should focus on a message aimed at preventing terror, and condemn any further incitement. Further escalation would play into the hands of Hamas, which wants another intifada - an act that would result in catastrophe for both sides.

It is vital to support peace rather than ferment further distrust and violence between people who should be working energetically together to deliver peace in the region.

Picture courtesy of brionv

Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.