Palestinians mark Land Day
A protester holds a Palestinian flag in front of Israeli soldiers during a protest marking Land Day near the border between Israel and southern Gaza Strip (photo: Reuters)
Palestinians in Israel proper and the occupied territories this week marked Land Day, which commemorates the murder by Israeli troops of six Palestinians in the Arab Israeli town of Sakhnin in 1976.
The six young men were trying to stop Israeli authorities from confiscating their land for Jewish settlement expansion.
Large rallies and marches took place in several localities in the Galilee, Triangle and Negev regions, with speakers urging thousands of participants to cling to their land and keep up the struggle against Judaisation and ethnic cleansing.
Among the speakers was Arab Knesset member Ahmed Teibi who exhorted a large multitude of Arab Israeli citizens to “consolidate their existence on this land”.
“This is our homeland, this is our ancestral land, this is our patrimony; we have no other homeland. This is the message that we must communicate to the whole world, especially to the Israeli state.” Teibi said Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line (the former armistice line between Israel and the West Bank) ought to leave “no stone unturned” in order to “further consolidate our existence in our land”.
“Our roots have always been deep, but there are those who are trying to extirpate these roots by way of bulldozers and ethnic cleansing. We must foil and thwart these efforts by all means necessary.”
Other speakers reminded participants that Israel is trying to devise “every imagined and non-imagined tactic to steal our land and render us strangers in our own homeland”.
Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, said Palestine had always been Arab and Islamic irrespective of Zionist lies and fabrications.
“Their lies may prevail for some time. But one day the snow will melt away and the truth shall appear and the falsehood will be consigned to the dustbin of history.”
Similarly, numerous rallies took place in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip amid skirmishes between stone-hurling activists and heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
Land Day commemorations this year coincided with another attempt by messianic Jewish settlers to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest shrines.
According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, settlers were seen reciting prayers at the exclusively Islamic shrine. Palestinian eyewitnesses also reported seeing a Jewish settler urinating in the Mosque’s esplanade.
Messianic Jewish groups make no secret of their goal of earning “prayer rights” at the Haram Al-Sharif complex, or Nobel Sanctuary.
However, for Muslims in general, “Prayer rights” spell “vicious attempts to partition the Islamic sanctuary”.
“They want to do here what they did in Hebron,” said Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, the highest-ranking Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, alluding to the partitioning by Israel of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron following the 1994 massacre, when a Jewish terrorist murdered 29 Arab worshipers and injured many more.
“How would Catholics react if some Jews tried to partition Saint Peters Church in Rome between Jews and Catholics?
“Yet, this is what these invaders from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world are trying to do here; namely, take over holy places that belong to another religion and another people.”
According to reliable Palestinian sources, the Israeli occupation authorities are planning to introduce “far reaching changes” at Haram Al-Sharif, which could alter the legal status of the Muslim sanctuary.
The unspecific Israeli plans seem to have prompted the latest Palestinian-Jordanian agreement, reached in Amman last week, which confirmed “Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem”.
The agreement signed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday also stressed “our common goal of defending Jerusalem and its sacred sites” against Judaising attempts.
“This is a historic agreement. Abbas reiterated that the King is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque,” a statement issued from the Jordanian royal court said.
The statement went on to say: “The agreement emphasises the historic principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city from Judaisation attempts.”
Palestinian leaders lauded the agreement as a positive step toward putting up a solid front in the face of Israeli efforts to encroach on Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
“I don’t care if Palestinians or Jordanians or other Muslims carry out this mission. The important thing is that Muslims and Arabs must do everything possible to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Sheikh Raed Salah in interview with the BBC.
“Whether those who defend and protect this paramount Muslim sanctuary are Palestinians or Jordanian is irrelevant in the final analysis,” he added.
Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 allowing the Jordanian government to administer Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
However, there have been hints by the right-wing Israeli government that Israel might embark on unilateral action that would effectively wrest legal administration of the holy sites from Jordan.
And not every Palestinian is satisfied with the agreement, described by some pundits as “innocuous”.
Hizb Al-Tahrir, an Islamist party that calls for the reinstitution of the Islamic Caliphate, called the agreement “media hyperbole with no practical benefit for Muslims”.
“This agreement was signed as Jewish settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is utterly unlikely that the agreement will have any practical positive results on the ground. Only a truly Islamic state will be able to protect Islamic holy sites. Jordan has strong ties with the Zionist entity and is unfit to be a custodian or guardian of the holy places,” the party said.