Aqsa impasse continues
Israel imposes more restrictions on Muslim worshipers
A delegation of Arab leaders from 1948-occupied
Palestine visiting al Aqsa, Wednesday, 7 October.
From Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Faced with a determined Muslim stance against persistent efforts by government-backed Jewish extremists to arrogate a foothold at the Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli government has imposed further restrictions on Muslim entry into the Haram al Sharif compound, considered the third holiest Islamic sanctuary.
Muslim officials in al-Quds ( Jerusalem ) told PIC that Israeli police forces stationed at the sanctuary’s gates were forcing worshipers to leave their identity cards. Those refusing to leave their IDs with the police were refused entry and forcefully turned back or arrested.
The stringent measure is apparently meant to force the incoming Muslims to leave the Mosque as soon as possible and not remain ensconced at the cite in order to repulse Jewish intruders seeking to gain “prayer rights” at the Islamic shrine.
Jewish groups are openly calling for the destruction of Islamic holy places in Jerusalem in order to build a Jewish Temple, which some Jewish theological circles claim would speed up the appearance of a Jewish Messiah, or Redeemer, who would rule the world from Jerusalem .
Earlier, the Israeli occupation authorities issued a ban barring Muslim males below the age of 50 years from accessing the Aqsa Mosque. Younger people, including those holding the Israeli citizenship, were not allowed to reach the vicinity of the Haram al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary)
As many as a hundred Muslims have been arrested for “disobeying police orders” and “disturbing the peace.”
Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic movement across the Green Line ( Israel ) and his deputy Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib have been placed under town arrest and barred from entering al-Quds for one month.
The draconian measure coincided with fresh threats by some Jewish leaders to outlaw the Islamic movement and strip its leaders of citizenship.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslims who have maintained an uninterrupted presence at the Aqsa Mosque for the past two weeks are feeling a certain sense of victory, having succeeded in thwarting entry of Jewish intruders into the Aqsa esplanade and also in highlighting hostile Jewish designs against the Islamic holy place.
“Undoubtedly. Our morale is very high, and the reason is simple. Our cause is just and our struggle is motivated by a deep sense of justice. This is a matter of deep faith. This is why our people are steadfast in their unshakable conviction that what we are doing is right and just,” said Sheikh Ikrema Sabri.
Sabri said more and more Muslims around the world were now aware of the dangers haunting Islamic holy places in Jerusalem as a result of Jewish plots.
“Our goal was from the very inception to raise the awareness of the Muslim world, governments as well as peoples, about what is happening here. And I think we have achieved this goal.
“I am not saying the battle is over, obviously it won’t be over until the occupation is over. But at least we have succeeded in communicating a message to Israel and the world at large that any assault against this sanctuary will trigger a huge conflagration.”
This is a message that not only Muslim religious leaders and wakf officials are trying to get through.
The leaders of the 1.5 million-strong Arab community in Israel are also trying rather forcefully to send the same message “to all those concerned.”
On Wednesday, a large delegation from the “Follow-up committee” representing heads of local councils, Arab Knesset members and civic leaders toured the Aqsa Mosque esplanade.
During the solidarity tour, the leaders of the Arab community across the Green Line vowed to “sacrifice blood and soil for the Aqsa Mosque.”
They also undertook to form a “first line of defense” against Zionist-Jewish plots to demolish Islamic holy places for the purpose of building a Jewish Temple within the al-Aqsa arena.
“It is our fate to be the most immediate defenders of Islam’s first Qibla (direction to which Muslims face during prayer). We will do what we have to do with utmost serenity and conviction, and determination,” said Muhammed Zeidan, a veteran political and community leader.
The struggle to protect Islam’s third holiest place from recurrent Israeli attempts at gaining a foothold for Jews, possibly by way of portioning the holy place, is likely to continue and escalate.
This is the view of nearly every Muslim in Jerusalem and occupied Palestine , laymen, intellectuals and leaders.
Ibrahim abu Ghush is the personal secretary of Sheikh Muhammd Hussein, one of the highest- ranking religious officials at the Supreme Muslim Council, the body overseeing the Aqsa Mosque.
He told PIC that the Islamic leadership was under no illusion that Israel might take a sensible approach and prevent extremist Jews from provoking Muslims by storming the Aqsa esplanade and holding Talmudic Jewish rituals.
“We have to be constantly vigilant. We have to maintain a constant and sizeable presence. We have to show them that no matter what they do to scare us, we will remain committed to defending and protecting this place even if this cost us our lives.
“We have an iron-clad will to defend our mosque.”
Abu Gush dismissed as “silly and ludicrous” Israeli claims that “Muslims are making problems out of nothing and that the Israeli police were out there to maintain peace and security.”
“Of course, these are cheap lies and the Israelis are very good at lying.
“How could they claim that we are creating trouble when they are allowing all these fanatics to desecrate the holy place. These are not legitimate tourists or visitors. A true visitor who visits a holy place or even a historical place doesn’t call for its destruction as these fanatics do. These are actually terrorists at heart. They are only awaiting the opportune time to carry out their evil designs.”
Sheikh Sabri and other Muslim leaders in Jerusalem and in occupied Palestine in general have lauded a call by Sheikh Yousuf al Qaradawi, the prominent Muslim scholar based in Qatar , for declaring Friday, 9 October, a day of anger to protest Israeli plots against the Aqsa Mosque.
“We are confident that the call by the venerable scholar will be heeded all over the Muslim world. We also hope that Muslim states will initiate a political and diplomatic campaign to force the Israeli regime to halt Jewish provocations against the Aqsa Mosque,” Sabri said.
The Jordanian government this week warned Israel that altering the “status quo” at the Haram al Sharif of Jerusalem would have grave consequences.
Some Egyptian and Arab League officials have made similar statements. However, Israel seems utterly unsettled by these largely innocuous statements, which suggest that the situation in Jerusalem is likely to deteriorate further especially if the occupation authorities continue to encourage Jewish extremists to arrogate a foothold at the most contentious spot on earth.
On Thursday, 8 October, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that an influential rabbi told Shimon Peres that Jews shouldn’t make pilgrimage to “Temple Mount” so as not to evoke global outrage.
The paper quoted Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv as saying that Jews are prohibited to ascend to the Temple Mount:
“According to halacha (Jewish religious law), it is forbidden to ascend to Temple Mount. I’ve said this in the past, and I am once again repeating this statement that Jews are forbidden to go up to the site.”