The struggle over Al-Aqsa Mosque is a colonial and not a religious one

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aljazeera

At its origins, Zionism was a pure colonial project to serve the interests of wealthy European Jews who had financed European colonialism in the 19th century. It was a secular movement which used religion at later stages to recruit simple followers.

In his only visit to Jerusalem in 1898, [Theodor] Herzl found in Jerusalem a miserable Jewish community, full of superstition and fanaticism, and preferred to build his intended capital in Galilee.

Leading Zionists have expounded the priority of their aims clearly: to acquire land and bring Jews to colonise it. The Zionist programme was a gradual takeover of Palestine.

It is the same today. But history and international law go against Zionist schemes.

In July 1924, the British Mandate of Palestine, in spite of its bias towards Zionism, promulgated an order-in-council that guaranteed the status quo of religious sites and practises, which existed many centuries before.

When Jewish fanatics broke the law and attacked the Buraq Wall (Western Wall) in 1929, an international committee was convened to investigate the situation; it determined that the Buraq Wall is an absolute Muslim property and Jews are only allowed to pray there “as per custom”, provided they do not install any permanent structures.

The famous United Nations resolution 194 of December 1948, calling for the return of refugees, states that “the holy places, religious buildings, and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practise”.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict states that “the high contracting parties further undertake to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against cultural property.

They shall refrain from requisitioning movable cultural property situated in the territory of another high contracting party; and, they shall refrain from any act directed by way of reprisals against cultural property”.

But Israel violates all these laws.

After the Israeli destruction of the 800-year-old Moroccan Quarter in June 1967, Jews wanted to take the Noble Sanctuary. The burning of Saladin’s minbar in August 1969, the slaughter of worshippers on many occasions, and now, the brazen attempts to attack Al-Aqsa Mosque, highlight Israel’s unchecked behaviour.

This is a direct consequence of Israel revealing its true face of fanaticism, racism, and extended occupation. It is futile to call this Israeli government right-wing. Its basic structure is, as always, a settlers’ regime that now wants to ensure its full control of what is left of Palestine and to make Jerusalem the unchallenged political and religious capital of Greater Israel.

This development is a direct result of the absence of a trustworthy Palestinian leadership, of its acquiescence in the Oslo Accords to serve the Israeli occupation, of the failure of the Arab government to defend Arab rights – with some actually siding with Israel – and of the inability of 1.5 billion Muslims to defend the first Qibla and the third holy mosque after Mecca.

But resistance will undoubtedly rise, possibly from unexpected quarters.

Resistance can take many forms: legal, public, boycott, and international sanctions, to name a few. The list is endless.The burden will fall upon people, not governments.There is a great reservoir of power there.

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The present struggle over Al-Aqsa is the consequence of Israel’s use of religious dogma as a cover for its violent settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank since 1967.

Recall that the key founders of Zionism and the Israeli state – Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, for instance – were not particularly religious and indeed anti-religious. Religious dogma was not the most prominent feature of Zionism in its earliest phases. Rather, Zionism was modelled after other 19th-century European Romantic nationalist movements.

After 1967, Israel sought excuses for its colonisation of the newly conquered West Bank, leading to the ascendancy of the so-called national-religious trend and the formation of Gush Emunim, the right-wing group that spearheaded the new settlement movement in the West Bank.

Their doctrine, once seen as fringe even in Israel, is now entirely mainstream. It posits that the modern-day Israeli state is justified in settling the whole “Land of Israel” because of promises contained in biblical texts.

In this sense, modern-day Zionist settler-colonialism is not terribly different from its defunct cousins in South Africa and Northern Ireland, where Afrikaners and Unionists respectively imagined themselves as beleaguered peoples fulfilling a covenant with God by settling the land.

The logical extension of this post-1967 trend is the so-called “temple movement”, which today finds support in the heart of the Israeli government and establishment.

Temple groups, funded by the state and the occupation municipality in Jerusalem, are actively agitating for the construction of a Jewish “Third Temple” in place of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

These are the groups behind the increasingly aggressive incursions into Al-Aqsa, under the guise of seeking more access for Jews. But the outcome they seek is the destruction of Al-Aqsa in order to build the temple; some groups have already developed detailed blueprints for it.

Many believe that violent provocations will bring about the conditions necessary to bring their vision to reality.

If they make a serious attempt to destroy Al-Aqsa – something that is growing more likely by the day – there is no underestimating the catastrophic geopolitical consequences.

The Palestinian and broader Muslim reactions to Israel’s use of religious dogma to justify its violent takeover of Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank has sometimes been to advance religious counterclaims and to emphasise the Islamic sanctity of Al-Aqsa as the prime motivation for defending it.

But recasting the anti-colonial struggle in Palestine in religious terms would be a mistake, which ultimately plays into Israel’s hands.

Zionists actively promote the idea that Jews, represented by Israel, and Christians, represented by “the West”, are engaged in a global struggle against “radical Islam”. A religious struggle has no ultimate solution. It is an endless war. That suits Israel just fine.

A political, territorial and colonial struggle, by contrast, does have a solution: decolonisation and the restoration of the rights of the colonised people. That, of course, is the last thing Israel wants, which is why it will continue to stoke religious strife at Al-Aqsa.

Khalil Toufakji, head of Maps and Survey Department at the Orient House, Jerusalem

Israeli leaders have long strategised and planned to frame this conflict along religious lines. All of their designs for Jerusalem, ever since they occupied it in 1967, have been about how to increase the Jewish population of the city and decrease the Palestinian Muslim and Christian populations.

To achieve that end, Israel crafted several laws that favour incremental Israeli control of the city and systematic expelling of its Palestinian residents.

Israeli plans for Jerusalem are to put the Arab population in the city at only 12 percent, while the remaining 88 percent would be Jewish, with full Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, excluding the villages of Beit Hanina and other outlying areas.

The conflict in Jerusalem is a demographic one that Israel is framing along religious lines. In 1972, for example, then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir wanted the percentage of the city’s residents to be 78 percent Jewish and 22 percent Arab.

But now, the strategies have changed, with Israeli leaders speaking about a “Metropolitan Jerusalem” that would comprise about 10 percent of the entire land area of the West Bank.

This would include all of the Israeli settlements that are now outside the municipal boundaries of the city and exclude the Palestinian areas located outside of the separation wall.
This is known as Israel’s “master plan”, the “Jerusalem 2020“.

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Accordingly, Israel plans to build a synagogue inside the Aqsa courtyard to further enhance its religious narrative, inflaming Muslims’ religious passion and solidifying its religious framing of the conflict.

Israel wants to drag Palestinians and Arabs into a religious war between Muslims and Jews, altering the nature of the conflict from a conflict over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories to a religious war.

By framing the conflict as a religious one, Israel would argue on the world stage that Jews are once again being threatened with a holocaust, but this time around, at the hands of Muslims and in the Middle East, rather than in Europe.

It is a hideous design that incorporates politics, geography, law and slick PR tactics in order to convince the world.

At the same time, it is Israel that has systematically undermined the Palestinian Muslim and Christian historic presence in the city and worked tirelessly to eradicate the Palestinian character of the city.

What’s happening in Al-Aqsa today is a very dangerous escalation, and it does undermine the peace and stability of our city. The Israeli government should work to restrain Jewish extremists before they drag the whole region into more conflict and more violence.

We as Palestinian Christians have always stood with our Muslim brothers and sisters in defence of our city and our holy places. We condemn any act of vandalism against holy sites of all Abrahamic faiths.

We also stress the importance of the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and we value the role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as custodian of these holy sites.

The tragic events at Al-Aqsa are a serious reminder to all of us of the need to have a solution to this conflict, and we hope it will be a peaceful one. We always pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict – and particularly in Jerusalem – is not about religion; that is, it is not between Muslims and Jews or Christians and Jews. The issue is much bigger than that.

From a Palestinian Christian perspective, the issue for us is the same as for the rest of Palestinians who are not Christians. Palestinians have the right to have their own state in their own territories as per the agreements signed between Palestinian leaders and Israel.

This conflict cannot be resolved along religious parameters or framed as a religious one simply because it is not. A religious war is very dangerous for all of us.

Palestinians aspire to be free in their own country, regardless of the religious affiliation of anyone who is party to this conflict.

Source: Al Jazeera

How Israeli moves in Jerusalem are scotching Trump’s ‘Ultimate Deal’


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the US Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump to go their way.

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

A decision by Donald Trump this Thursday could prove fateful for the immediate future of Jerusalem, the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region.

He must decide whether to renew a presidential waiver, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that expires on June 1. The six-month waiver delays implementing a law passed by Congress in 1995 that requires the US to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

It is a law every president for the past 22 years has baulked at. It would pre-empt the Oslo accords and negate Washington’s assumed role as “honest broker”. Carrying out Congress’s wish would deny the Palestinians East Jerusalem, the only credible capital of a future Palestinian state.

But equally significantly, the law would recognize Israel’s efforts to claim sovereignty over the Old City’s holy places, especially the incendiary site of Al Aqsa mosque. That could provoke a conflagration both locally, among Palestinians, and more generally in the Middle East.

Trump’s key advisers are reported to be bitterly divided. Some, such as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, warn that, if the president fails to approve the deferral, his claims to be crafting the “ultimate deal” to bring peace to the region will be doomed from the outset.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the US Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump in the opposite direction.

On Sunday, Netanyahu staged a provocative stunt, holding his weekly cabinet meeting in a tunnel under Al Aqsa mosque compound to announce measures to bring millions more Jewish visitors to the occupied Old City, including a new cable car to the edge of the mosque.

It was Netanyahu’s decision to open the Western Wall Tunnel in 1996, when he first became prime minister, that brought the Oslo process into almost terminal crisis at an early stage. Three days of clashes killed more than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, the US Congress and Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem are due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s illegal occupation of the city in a ceremony conducted via video link.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that either Trump or vice-president Mike Pence are due to participate, in what could be interpreted as the first tacit recognition by the White House of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That would be a continuation of Trump’s break with official US policy towards Jerusalem during his visit to the region last week. He became the first sitting president to visit the Jewish prayer plaza at the Western Wall, below Al Aqsa. It was unclear whether his advisers had explained that where he stood had been a Palestinian neighborhood 50 years ago, before it was ethnically cleansed.

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He’s in

What did they do to Trump? The other 3 look to be on the same page.

But the Western Wall visit was more probably an effort to placate his core supporters. Christian evangelicals paid for dozens of billboards across Jerusalem reminding Trump that he won the election only because of their votes – and that they expect the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.

The day after Trump’s departure, Netanyahu exploited the president’s attendance at the wall to further damage prospects for peacemaking. He made a provocative speech to mark “Jerusalem Day”, Israel’s annual show of strength in East Jerusalem.

He claimed that Trump had disproved the “lies” promoted by the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, when it voted this month to re-state that Jerusalem is occupied.

In truth, it was Netanyahu who indulged in gross mendacity, claiming that East Jerusalem had been “desolate” and “neglected” before its occupation. Israel had “redeemed” the city, he said, while Al Aqsa mosque would “always remain under Israeli sovereignty”.

His supporters tried to give that claim concrete expression by staging the largest-ever march through the Old City on Jerusalem Day. Palestinians were forced into hiding or fled early as police allowed 60,000 Jewish ultra-nationalists to besiege the heart of East Jerusalem.

In a sign of the power balance in Israel, a small group of 50 left-wing Jews – many from the US – linked arms to try to block the march at the Old City’s entrance. Footage showed police brutally arresting them, grabbing them in chokeholds and breaking one woman’s arm.

Jerusalem is the most intractable of the final-status issues set out in the Oslo process. Those expecting miracles of Trump are going to be disappointed. His commitment to pressuring Netanyahu is weak, while the Israeli prime minister’s commitment to making concessions is non-existent.

Whether Trump signs the waiver or not on Thursday, all indications are that the US president – faced with domestic pressures and an intransigent Israeli government – is going nowhere with his “ultimate deal”.

The only real question to be decided on Thursday is whether Trump prefers to take the fast or protracted route to failure.

Clashes in Jerusalem as Occupation Forces Serve Demolition Orders

The continued international decisions against the occupation and its policy including that of UNESCO regarding Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque form a clear message from the international community that it does not agree with the policies that protect the occupation and contribute to the creation of chaos and instability.

Palestinian Jews before the Zionist invasion.

“The (crazy) idea of bringing world’s Jews to leave their homelands, settle in the occupied (Palestinian) land and ‘inventing a Jewish People’ out of them is the real ‘theatre of the absurd’.”

May 15, 2017

Clashes erupted on Sunday, between Palestinians in the al-Matar neighborhood, to the north of occupied Jerusalem, and Israeli soldiers, after the latter stormed the area and handed out notices for the demolition of four buildings there, according to witnesses.

WAFA correspondence reported witnesses as saying that Israeli forces stormed the neighbourhood and shut down a building, before serving demolition orders against four under-construction buildings in the area, provoking clashes with residents. No injuries were reported.

The orders came under the pretext of being constructed too close to the apartheid wall, which separates the neighbourhood from Qalandia airport.

Forces also seized two vehicles belonging to residents in the neighbourhood.

UNESCO voted on a resolution which denied any Jewish connection to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Buraq (Western) Wall in occupied Jerusalem.

Twenty-four member states voted in favour of the resolution, six against and 26 abstained.

The proposal was put forward by Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and the Palestinians.

Outlining that the city is holy to all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the resolution says Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards are only sacred to Muslims (As it always has been!)

Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine

 November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land.

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem (1867-1948) “We wish to express our definite opposition to a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

 


The British are criticized for not actively defending the Arab villages but there were insufficient troops and the US had refused assistance in the form of troops or other support (many US and other factions, including British, were actively supporting the Zionist takeover and had powerful backing). General Stockwell had specific orders that troops should only be used for defense. He was in liaison with both Arabs and Zionists and knew how strong the Haganah were (contrary to myth) and that the Palestinian Arabs, though they had plenty of courage, were badly organized, equipped and trained so stood no chance against the Zionists. Consequently, the Haganah was quickly able to occupy territory way beyond that designated by the UN. britishforcesinpalestine.org

Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration.

And yet, just two years earlier, Britain had committed herself to assisting the Arab nations in achieving their independence from the Ottoman Empire. Arab fighters all over the region, including thousands of Palestinians, fought for their freedom, allowing Britain to establish her mandate in Palestine.

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These Jews are Indigent to the Caucasus, not the Middle East.