Israel’s brutality at Al-Aqsa Mosque reflects its political bankruptcy

Israel’s brutality at Al-Aqsa Mosque reflects its political bankruptcy

Palestinians wave national and Islamic flags inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem after prayers on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 22, 2022. (AFP)

When Israeli security forces last Friday used drones to drop tear gas on tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers in Al-Haram Al-Sharif, it provided another sign of the Israeli government’s failed policies. The use of drones to manage the huge crowds on the third Friday of Ramadan has even been criticized by Israeli media. Haaretz correctly noted the targeting of women and children in the courtyard outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. By targeting what Israel calls “provocateurs”, the Israeli security forces have displayed a racist policy that is against all things Palestinian and Muslim, the paper argued.
Ironically, the same security forces also dealt with last week’s unauthorized flag march by Israeli extremists, during which they used children’s gloves, blocking the advance of the march only with their own bodies and refraining from using any other means of crowd control.
But the use of drones reveals a much bigger problem. When dealing with large crowds of protesters, a two-tiered approach is normally taken. Stay away from any friction that could further escalate the situation, while trying to find ways to communicate or resolve the issues the protesters are trying to raise through their actions.
However, this approach does not seem to exist in the Israeli playbook when it comes to Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The complex, which spans some 15 hectares in Jerusalem’s Old City, has been a Muslim shrine for more than 1,200 years (excluding an 88-year period of Crusader rule). Every power that ruled Jerusalem respected the Islamic holy place and allowed Muslims to perform their prayers. No one has ever asked the question.
During the Ottoman period, which lasted 400 years, Sultan Osman III regulated relations regarding nine shared holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem by designating the status quo pact. This agreement, born out of a dispute over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher between Orthodox and Franciscans, has been the benchmark for holy places since its adoption in 1757. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the agreement has been followed to the word under the British mandate, by the Jordanians and even in the early years of the Israeli occupation.
However, the shift in Israeli policy to the right and the failure of the Oslo Accords to provide a clear representation of the 350,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem left a vacuum that was abused by Israel. Instead of allowing local leaders to develop, giving them someone to talk to when the going gets tough, the Israelis have pursued a scorched earth policy towards Palestinian nationalism. Any action or event with a suspicion of connection to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah has been banned. Even a children’s puppet festival funded by Scandinavians through the Palestinian Ministry of Culture has been banned.

Instead of letting local leadership develop, the Israelis pursued a scorched earth policy towards Palestinian nationalism.

Daoud Kuttab

At the same time, Israel banned some 35 organizations. Not only was Orient House closed under British Mandate-era emergency regulations, but organizations such as the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Board and others were banned from operating. for periods of six months that have been renewed regularly since 2001. Any activity that would give Palestinians a political voice has been banned. Even postal elections that are mandated under the Oslo Accords have been banned by the current Israeli government.
While shutting down all means of communication and preventing political representation, Israel faced huge crowds, especially during Ramadan, with unprecedented force. This includes the use of drones after the Al-Aqsa Mosque was stormed on April 15, damaging the mosque’s historic windows, defiling a holy site with soldiers’ boots, and injuring 170 Palestinians and arresting 450 simply to allow Jews to visit.
Such visits were approved in principle in a 2014 agreement between Jordan and Israel, which was guaranteed by the United States, which stipulated that the site was for Muslims to pray and all others to visit. Previous Israeli governments avoided visits during Ramadan, when more Muslims come to pray and often stay for long hours. Last Friday, the number of worshipers exceeded 150,000. Many stayed until evening prayers, but Israel wanted the crowds to dwindle as it feared they would disrupt Jews at the Western Wall who were celebrating the last day of the Passover.
If there had been trust, respect and local leadership, some of these issues could have been resolved through communication. However, with a lack of confidence and the absence of any political horizon to resolve the broader problem of occupation (which includes East Jerusalem), the Israeli government has applied a security-only approach with disastrous results. This attitude will continue to sow the seeds of hatred.

• Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem.
Twitter: @daoudkuttab

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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