Are tensions at al-Aqsa reaching another boiling point?

Ben White is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. He is a writer for Middle East Monitor, and his articles have been published by Al Jazeera, al-Araby, Huffington Post, The Electronic Intifada, The Guardian’s Comment is free, and more.
A new conflict has emerged amid intensifying efforts by Israeli authorities and settlers to change the status quo at the holy site

Israeli police detain a Palestinian demonstrator at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)

Below the Western media’s radar, tensions have been escalating in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.

In the last week, a new confrontation has emerged over al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in the context of intensifying efforts by Israeli authorities and settlers to change the status quo and take over Palestinian properties in and around the Old City.

The Jordanian government recently decided to expand the composition of the Waqf – the body charged with managing al-Aqsa Mosque compound – to include a number of high-ranking Palestinians, alongside the long-standing Jordanian members.

Gates shuttered

The move came in response to what International Crisis Group’s Ofer Zalzberg described to Haaretz as “the erosion of the status quo” at the site, including the tolerance by Israeli occupation forces of “quiet worship” by Jews in the compound – “a relatively new development”, the paper noted.

Last Thursday, the newly expanded council inspected, and prayed at, a building located at the Gate of Mercy (Bab al-Rahma), shuttered by Israeli occupation authorities since 2003. At the time, the closure was justified on the grounds of alleged political activities and links to Hamas – but the building has remained closed ever since.

What is taking place in Jerusalem is ‘an organised and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem’

Overnight on Sunday, Israeli forces put new locks on metal gates that lead to the building. When Palestinian worshippers attempted to open the gates, clashes broke out, and a number of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police.

Tuesday night saw renewed confrontations and arrests, while an Israeli court on Wednesday banned a dozen or so Palestinians from entering the compound. Both the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas have condemned the developments, and warned of the “volatility” of the situation.

New facts on the ground

Events in the compound cannot be viewed in isolation from the bigger picture in Jerusalem, and in particular, what Israeli NGO Ir Amim has called an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground”, including “a mounting number of state-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighbourhoods”.

One expression of such campaigns is the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes so that settlers can take possession of the properties. Last Sunday, the Abu Assab family was expelled from their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, a fate facing hundreds more Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem.

What is taking place in Jerusalem is “an organised and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem and to establish settlements in their stead”, in the words of an Israeli settlements’ monitor.

A Muslim man checks a gate closed by Israeli police at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)
A Muslim man checks a gate closed by Israeli police at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 18 February (AFP)

“It is very clear what they want: a Jewish majority here and in East Jerusalem,” Silwan-based activist Jawad Siyam told the Independent recently. His community is blighted by the presence of the settler-run “City of David” compound, which is set to receive a further boost from Israeli occupation authorities in the form of a planned cable-car station.

Jerusalem has largely been out of the headlines for awhile, with most attention – understandably – being paid to the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip and the bogged-down efforts to secure relief from the blockade. Israeli elections are also on the horizon, and speculation continues over what precisely the Trump administration has got in store by way of a “peace plan”.

In the background, however, accelerated Israeli colonial policies in occupied East Jerusalem could be leading to a new boiling point.

Grassroots activism

The Waqf has stated that it seeks the opening of the Bab al-Rahma site, a demand that has the potential to become a focus for the kinds of mass protests witnessed in the summer of 2017. Then, metal detectors introduced by Israeli occupation authorities outside al-Aqsa Mosque compound sparked spontaneous demonstrations, with the devices ultimately removed.

Whether or not the Waqf chooses such a path, it could also find its hand forced by the pressure of grassroots activism; there is considerable concern among Palestinians that the Israeli government – along with the so-called “Temple movement” activists – are ultimately working towards a spatial division of, and establishment of formalised Jewish prayers within, al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

How Israel is ‘cleansing’ Palestinians from Greater Jerusalem

Meanwhile, the United States is proceeding with the closure of its consulate in East Jerusalem, and relocation of Palestinian “affairs” to an office within the new embassy – a potent symbol, were one needed, that the Trump administration’s vision will be a stark departure from even the pretence of a “two-state solution”, and a rubber-stamp for Israel’s de-facto, single state.

This week’s events – however they develop – are a reminder, however, that while Israel and the US see Jerusalem as fair game for an accelerated process of colonisation and deepening imposition of Israeli sovereignty, the city’s Palestinian residents are experienced spoilers of Israeli designs, and may well soon reprise such a role.

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

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Update on Israeli Feud with UNESCO

As I reported in a post yesterday, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has in the past week adopted a couple of resolutions that have aroused Israeli indignation. One of the resolutions–the one which seems to have sparked the most fury–recognizes the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site.

According to the video in the embedded tweet below, Israel has now announced a cut of $1 million in UN funding, apparently in retaliation.

 declared the obvious,  is 🇵🇸. Why is Israel even in the UN? They’ve broken so many laws — 🇮🇱 needs to be shunned & boycotted!

 As I reported in yesterday’s post–and as the video above also mentions–the World Heritage committee, in addition to designating the site as Palestinian, also declared it to be endangered. Reportedly the concern here, or at least one of the concerns, is the threat from vandalism. Given that Hebron is inhabited by Israeli settlers, who seem to be free to commit crimes against the Palestinian population with impunity, the apprehension is probably justified. But of course this aspect to the resolution’s passage in all probability had the effect of arousing Israeli anger all the more.

The Israeli official in the video I posted yesterday–the man who interrupted the proceedings by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews” and who was accused by the representative from Cuba of turning the meeting into a “politicized circus” by way of response–this man’s name, apparently, is Carmel Shama-Hacohen, and he reportedly is Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. According to a report here, shortly after the Hebron resolution was passed, he declared that fixing his “toilet” was more important than the vote just taken:

Israel isn’t known for its fondness of the United Nations and its institutions, but a resolution passed on Friday questioning Israel’s continued occupation of the ancient West Bank city of Hebron and the damage it might be causing to holy sites there drew an unusual response.

“Sorry … I have a very urgent … sorry, Mr Chairman … it’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris,” Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said sarcastically while addressing the forum’s annual gathering.

“There is a huge problem in my toilet, and it’s more important than the decision you just adopted, thank you.”

Also in yesterday’s post I made an offhand observation regarding the impression that comments by Israeli officials often leave with me. Specifically, I said:

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

When I wrote those words yesterday, little did I know that Israel does not even hold a seat on World Heritage Committee–which would seem to lend a sort of special significance to my comment about the rude guest showing up uninvited. But indeed, I made that discovery today.

If you go to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention website, you can find a PDF document that lists the current members of the World Heritage Committee. There are 21 of them in all. Here is a screen shot from the document (click to enlarge):

As you can see, Israel is not on the list. In other words, Hacohen, who spent part of the meeting talking about his toilet and importuning silence on behalf of “six million murdered Jews,” is not even a member of the committee. But yet, according to Israelis, it is the committee members who are guilty of bad behavior.

By the way, the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations are taking place in Krakow, Poland, and they are not over yet. The session is supposed to continue through Wednesday, so there may be more to come.

Israel Turns UNESCO Meeting into ‘Politicized Circus’

Israel, not for the first time, is royally P.O.’ed at UNESCO. The UN organization’s World Heritage Committee has been holding a meeting in Krakow, Poland–and in a session on July 4, the body passed a resolution naming Israel as an “occupying power” while at the same time condemning its tunneling and underground excavation activities in the old city of Jerusalem.

Said excavations, presumably for archaeological purposes, started up several years ago. I first put up a post about them back in 2014 after it was reported that they were causing structural problems with Palestinian homes in the area, so it’s good that UNESCO is addressing the issue. But the resolution angered the Israeli representative, who threw a temper tantrum by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews.” And this is what we see in the video below:

As you can see, the representative from Cuba charged the Israeli–rightfully in my opinion–with turning the meeting into a “politicized circus.” She then reciprocated by calling for a moment of silence for Palestinians who have died. As the video shows, the overwhelming majority of people in the auditorium rose to their feet. It did not sit well with the Israelis.

According to a report here, one Israeli official accused the UNESCO committee of being “detached from reality,” while the Zionist state’s Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying, “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and no decision by UNESCO can change that reality.”

That all was, as I say, on July 4.

Three days later, on July 7, Israel again had a hissy fit over a resolution–passed by the same committee. This time the measure had to do with Hebron, specifically recognizing its old city as an endangered World Heritage site. Hebron’s old city includes a site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (or Mosque of Abraham) and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs. In that regard it has significance to both religions. But the committee voted to recognize the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site–rather than an Israeli one. This of course makes perfectly logical sense because Hebron is in the West Bank and the West Bank is internationally recognized as rightfully belonging to the Palestinians. But again Israelis resorted to tantrums.

“Not a Jewish site?!” thundered Netanyahu. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Of course, the committee didn’t say it wasn’t a Jewish site; they just said it was a Palestinian site–because the site is, after all, in Occupied Palestine. In fact, according to a report here, the resolution–which passed by a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions–“emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli charged the committee with attempting to “appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people,” and she went on to further accuse the UNESCO delegates of maliciously spreading lies.

“This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies,” she is quoted as saying.

You might recall I put up a post about Hotoveli a week ago.  This was after she did an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in which she expressed the view that “it’s not because of the Israelis” that Palestinians live under such abject conditions. No, “it’s really dependent on them,” she insisted, adding that “their leadership doesn’t give them the ability to live under democratic values.”

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

By the way, in case you missed it, Israel recently confiscated an array of solar panels that had been donated by the Dutch government to a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Despite being surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, the village in question, Jubbet al-Dhib, is not connected to the national electric grid. The Dutch government has called the action “unacceptable,” and Holland’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, has reportedly now lodged a formal protest. The solar panels cost approximately $600,000.

Thousands of settlers (jewish terrorists) storm the Ibrahimi Mosque

Source

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AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Thousands of Israeli settlers stormed at dawn Friday the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil and performed Talmudic rituals under the protection of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

The Israeli settlers have intensified during the past two days their break-ins into the Mosque in coincidence with the Jewish New Year.

Earlier Thursday, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) imposed tough security restrictions on Palestinian movement in al-Khalil’s Old City.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) warned that the Israeli Occupation Forces aim to impose further control over the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil by changing its features under the pretext of security.

According to the council, the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) is a major Palestinian historical, architectural, and archaeological site. Al-Khalil Rehabilitation Committee has helped preserve the site since 1996. Moreover, the old town of the city, including the Ibrahimi Mosque, is registered on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage sites in Palestine.

On February 25, 1994, an Israeli settler known as Baruch Goldstein, wearing his army uniform and carrying his army-issued assault rifle, walked past Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint and into the Ibrahimi Mosque. It was the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims and there were 400 or 500 Palestinian men praying.

According to reports, once inside, Goldstein observed the scene and waited until those present knelt to pray before opening fire.

Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed and some 150 wounded before Goldstein’s victims subdued him and beat him to death.

Following the massacre, the Israeli government imposed a series of security measures across al-Khalil. The Ibrahimi Mosque itself was divided, with Muslim access reduced from the entire space to around 40 percent of the site. The other 60 percent was allocated to Jewish worshippers, who accessed the site from a separate entrance.

Instead of offering a hand to those who were killed and injured, the Israelis gave the settlers more space and access to the mosque. It was as if they were rewarding the murderers.

israel wipes Muslim, Christian holy sites off the map and invents new Jewish ones

This file photo shows the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The Israeli tourism ministry has published a map of the occupied Old City of al-Quds (Jerusalem), which omits significant Muslim and Christian holy sites and entire neighborhoods in the area.

The so-called Old City map, which is distributed free of charge at tourist information centers across the city, does not refer to the venerated 14-hectare compound that comprises al-Aqsa Mosque — Islam’s third holiest site — and the Dome of the Rock, as “al-Haram al-Sharif,” and simply refers to it by its Jewish name of the Temple Mount, Al Jazeera reported.

Moreover, the map makes no reference to the Church of St. Anne, which is a Roman Catholic church located near the Lions’ Gate and churches of the Flagellation and Condemnation in East al-Quds.

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the second Protestant church in Quds, is also shown on the map with a tiny and hard-to-find name.

The map, however, highlights dozens of sites whose historical importance is disputed, and a large number of them are indeed illegal settlements constructed in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City of al-Quds.

Among 57 numbered sites, almost half are buildings occupied by illegal settlers in East Jerusalem and are largely unknown to licensed tour guides.

This photo shows the so-called Old City of al-Quds (Jerusalem) map published by the Israeli tourism ministry.

One such tour guide, requesting anonymity, said the map favors Jewish sites regardless of their touristic value and appears religiously flawed.

“When I saw it, I thought it was a map for only Jewish tour groups. The narrative it shows is quite exclusive to one religious group,” the tour guide said.

Aziz Abu Sarah, a resident of al-Quds, said, “The St. Anne’s Church, which I think is one of the most amazing places, is not on the map. There are many Christians coming to Jerusalem, and they are going to get a map that doesn’t identify their holy sites. It’s not a smart decision.”

He further suggested that the inclusion of certain sites within the boundaries of the Old City of al-Quds is aimed at promoting a one-sided Jewish representation of East Jerusalem and ignoring its Christian and Muslim identities.

“Politically speaking, it adds sites that are controversial, like the settlements in East Jerusalem, and I think that makes it political and one-sided,” Abu Sarah said.

This file photo shows the St. Anne’s Church in al-Quds (Jerusalem).

“There are a bunch of sites that are not only historically unimportant, but that are run by settlers,” said Betty Herschman, the director of international relations at Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights NGO that gives tours of East al-Quds to diplomats and others.

She added, “That is to the detriment of historically relevant Christian and Muslim sites, which you would think would be far more prioritized on a map of the Old City, the hub of the three major monotheistic religions.”

“This map, in addition to erasing important Muslim and Christian holy sites in the Old City, completely erases entire neighborhoods around the historic basin, supplanting them not only with Hebrew names but with the names of settlements,” Herschman argued.

She stressed that the settlements, for example Bet Orot, are built by radical and illegal settlers within the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods.

“The map is legitimizing private settlement around the historic basin,” Herschman said.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East al-Quds.

 

UNESCO Slams ’Israeli’ Continuous Aggressions against Al-Aqsa

Local Editor

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] adopted a resolution on Wednesday condemning “Israeli” violations in the handling of al-Aqsa mosque.

Al-Aqsa Holy mosque


The resolution adopted “strongly condemns “Israeli” aggression and illegal measures restricting freedom of worship and access to the holy Muslim site of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

It also “strongly deplores” among other things “persistent outbreaks of “Israeli” right-wing extremists on the site” and “urges “Israel”” to “take the necessary steps to prevent provocative actions that violate the site’s sanctity.”

After last-minute changes, however, the resolution approved by UNESCO’s executive board dropped a more firm clause.
That clause, which was proposed by several Muslim countries would have stated that the Western Wall was an integral part of the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The resolution was adopted with 26 votes in favor and six against. The countries that voted against it were The United States, Germany, The United Kingdom, Holland, the Czech Republic and Estonia. There were 25 abstentions including France, diplomats said.

The UNESCO text also stated that the “Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi and the Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque” were an integral part of Palestine.

The Palestinians won full membership of UNESCO in October 2011 in what was seen a major step forward for their efforts to achieve recognition as an independent state.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

22-10-2015 | 09:55

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian 

  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

PALESTINIAN SHOT DEAD AFTER STABBING ISRAELI SOLDIER IN AL-KHALIL

Al-Khalil (Ma’an) — A Palestinian man was shot dead after stabbing an Israeli soldier at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern West Bank city of Al-Khalil.

The mosque’s director Munther Abu al-Failat told Ma’an he had been told by witnesses that the soldier was stabbed about three times before he shot back at the Palestinian. Early reports in Israeli and Palestinian media named the Palestinian as Assad al-Salayma, although local sources told Ma’an the man, believed to be in his 20s, had not yet been identified. AFP reported that Israeli soldiers had been preventing Palestinians from accessing the mosque when the incident took place. Both the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian were moved from the mosque by ambulance, although the Palestinian was confirmed dead before he arrived at the hospital.

Israeli police said that the Israeli soldier received stab wounds in his head and chest, and described his condition as moderate. They said he is now in a Jerusalem hospital. The incident comes less than a week after Israeli settlers raised the Israeli flag over the roof of the mosque in a bid to provoke local Palestinians. The Ibrahimi Mosque, which is believed to be the burial place of the prophet Abraham, is of religious significance to both Muslims and Jews, and has historically been a flashpoint between Palestinians and Israelis, particularly after a Brooklyn-born Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994. Around 700 settlers live in 80 homes in the city center of Al-Khalil, surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinians.

The settlements — illegal under international law — are protected by the Israeli army in the tightly controlled city, where many streets are off limits to Palestinians. Saturday’s incident comes a day after a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed in East Jerusalem when he allegedly ran towards Israeli police officers “wielding” a knife.

There have been a spate of attacks on Israeli military and civilians in recent months, largely in the wake of Israeli activities across the occupied Palestinian Territories, including last summer’s offensive on Gaza which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead. In the six months to the end of February, the UN reported that 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and settlers across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while 10 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks. Thousands of Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in the same period.

 

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