Israel’s ever-aggressive band of radical Jewish settlers have committed a “flagrant violation against places of worship”, according to the country’s Islamic-Christian Commission, by repeatedly storming the iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem over the last few days.
Indeed, the settlers’ actions, which have been orchestrated by radical rabbi Yahuda Glick, are feared to be the concluding attempts at Judaising the mosque and clearing the way for the Israeli authorities to unveil it as a synagogue.
And the latest incidents, as reported in the Middle East Monitor, have been condemned as provocative and dangerous by the general director of Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Mosque affairs, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in Palestinian east Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1980, and is considered the third-holiest Islamic site in the world. The mosque forms part of the Temple Mount compound, which is considered the most holy site in Judaism and a site of historic significance for Christians.
Dome of the Rock
The settlers’ actions, which have included scaling the sacred Dome of the Rock, will almost certainly be seen as an expression of contempt for the Palestinians’ historic claims to the site itself, as well as to east Jerusalem, which Israel is progressively colonising.
In some ways, it’s a surprise that Israel has taken this long to turn its attentions to the mosque, given that it has targeted sites of historic or cultural significance to the Palestinians over the last 15 years, the most notable being the destruction of the old city of Nablus.
This, however, is of a much higher order of significance. An illustration of the sensitivity around the Al-Aqsa Mosque can be seen in Ariel Sharon’s notorious visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 which, though agreed in advance with the Palestinian Authority, was the fuse that lit the Second Intifada.
Sharon, surrounded by Israeli riot police that day, did not enter the mosque itself, but by the time the resulting Palestinian uprising had subsided nearly five years later, an estimated 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis had lost their lives.
If anyone needs confirmation of the Jewish fundamentalists’ arrogance and provocation, and the state of Israel’s disinterest in peace, then this is surely it.