By Dr Yousef Rezqa
Israeli media sources have recently published the following statement: “Netanyahu’s government has decided to implement its decision to divide Al-Aqsa mosque in two phases: the first phase is to limit the presence of Palestinians by targeting and arresting religious scholars and students because they are considered to be a demographic threat according to Israeli security forces. The second phase will include the enforcement of daily hours where Jews can enter Al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians will be forbidden to enter Al-Aqsa mosque during this time. The same regulations have been previously applied to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.”
If we are to abide by the Netanyahu government’s policy, we will find ourselves in the midst of a new fait accompli that deprives Muslims of their basic right to worship in Al-Aqsa Mosque at any hour of the day. This is the same right that all Muslims have in the Grand Mosque in Mecca or the Holy Mosque in Medina. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest mosque in the Islamic tradition and the chance to visit to it is just as important to Muslims as the journey to the two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia.
On Sunday, the IDF’s attack on worshippers in Al-Aqsa was wide-reaching and brutal; nearly 100 people were injured during the raids. Several of the mosque’s windows were destroyed and the Israeli police went so far as to arrest a number of worshippers inside the mosque. On Monday evening, Israeli police and military forces attacked worshippers a second time, which led to five severe injuries and the arrests of many others. It is expected that Israeli defence and police forces will continue their assault on worshippers until they tire and succumb to the new status quo. In the same context, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon has warned against the dangers of targeting and arresting students, professors and scholars, which confirms the statement made by Hebrew media that Netanayahu has personally taken it upon himself to implement the division of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
It would appear that the second stage of Israel’s plan is set to take place simultaneously as the first stage; Israeli police forces currently prohibit Muslim worshippers from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque from 7am until 11am before dhuhur Prayer. This new time slot is the designated time for Jewish worshippers.
Sheikh Omar Al-Kaswani, the head sheikh and director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, says that Israeli police have locked the mosque’s main door with chains in an effort to trap worshippers inside. Kaswani also stated that Israeli police forces are occupying the roof of the mosque as well as its surrounding platform.
As expected, the reaction of the pan-Arab community has been to express their dismay and anger to the international community. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has promised that it will defend Al-Aqsa Mosque should it face any aggression, and Al-Azhar University in Cairo issued a statement directed at Israeli forces warning them of Muslim backlash and anger. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubair said: “We will move and respond to all levels and acts of aggression carried out by Israeli occupation forces against settlers in Al-Aqsa Mosque”.
Unfortunately, the truth is that Netanyahu does as he pleases and the Arab community merely responds by saying that it will act and it will rise. There is a big difference between he who does something and he who says he will do something. The situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque is dire and requires action – it cannot wait. The religious war that is taking place in Al-Aqsa is affecting the third holiest site in Islam and it began with Israel taking the first shot, according to Arab sources.
As I say this, I should point out that we must also take note of all that is happening around us and of all the regional conflicts that are taking place in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, especially as they escalate into sectarian conflicts. Sectarianism is at the root of all of these conflicts and it is the wood that is fuelling Israel’s fire and giving Netanyahu’s government the perfect opportunity to divide Al-Aqsa and implement the same system that is currently in practice at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Jerusalem is calling out for our attention at a time when Israel’s flag threatens to wave in the capitals of the Arab world. Meanwhile, we foolishly reserve the right to respond to these events “when the time and place is right”.
(Translated from Felesteen.ps on 16 September 2015.)