Playing with fire in the Holy Land - IBRAHIM KALIN

Playing with fire in the Holy Land

Israel's recent aggression in Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem has turned the Muslim holy site into a war zone. This is an extremely dangerous development with the potential to raise tensions not only in Palestinian territories but also across the Muslim world.

In the early hours of Sept. 13, a group of Israeli extremists entered the mosque area unannounced where Muslims were praying. Escorted by dozens of Israeli soldiers, the group included the Israeli Minister of Agriculture Ari Uriel. Israeli soldiers clashed with the Muslim worshippers inside the compound and the Masjid al-Qibla, firing concussion grenades and injuring dozens. The mosque's windows, walls and carpets were damaged. Videos from the scene show people running in panic inside the mosque while Israeli soldiers enter the holy site with weapons and throwing tear gas. The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, said Israel has "effectively taken over the holy site."

This act of aggression comes on the first day of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Like other religious dates, Rosh Hashanah is a day when people are reminded to remember, repent and think about the purpose of their lives on earth. It embodies peace and friendship regardless of one's faith or custom. While millions of Jews around the world celebrated the Jewish new year with a message of peace and friendship, the Israeli extremists, supported by politicians and guarded by soldiers, instigated a new cycle of violence inside the Muslim holy site. Does this reflect the spirit of Rosh Hashanah?

It does not. And there are more troubling facts on the ground. For some time now, the Israeli government has been trying to impose a de facto partitioning of the Masjid al-Aqsa compound. The division is planned to be temporal and spatial whereby Muslims would be banned from entering the holy site and everyday certain hours would be allocated to Jewish settlers only. The entry into Masjid al-Aqsa area is already under strict Israeli control.

Dr. Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, was in the mosque when the attack happened. Recollecting the event with horror, he noted that Israel is implementing its "recent decision to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque." He said he and other Arab members of the Knesset as well as social and religious figures witnessed firsthand "how the Palestinians were removed from the mosque and its courtyards before the police started allowing dozens of Israeli fanatics in."

The Israeli government is seeking to introduce a spatial and temporal partitioning similar to the one in Ibrahim Mosque in al-Khalil (Hebron). This is nothing short of playing with fire. Extremist Jewish groups have been calling for the demolition of Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place. Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to al-Aqsa Mosque in September 2000 had led to what eventually came to be the second Intifada against Israeli occupation.

What happened in al-Aqsa on the first day of the Jewish new year is an act of aggression and an attempt to desacralize Islam's third holy site after Mecca and Medina. It is a provocation by a handful of Jewish extremists and settlers, supported by the Netanyahu Government - a provocation that will have repercussions across the Muslim world and lead to greater tensions between Jews and Muslims.

Muslim leaders have already condemned the incident. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with Palestinian, Saudi, Jordanian, Qatari leaders as well as with the leaders of France, Germany, EU and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Erdoğan and other leaders called on Israel to put an end to this aggression. The U.N. Security Council expressed "grave concern" over the recent events.

This is not just about a site in Jerusalem, which literally means Dar al-Salaam, the "land of peace." It is about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. The Israeli extremists not only want to dominate the holy land but also punish Palestinians and Muslims for resisting the occupation. No other land invasion in modern history has caused as much injustice, conflict and resentment as Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in a move that violated international law - a move that has never been recognized by the international community. Which means one thing: Israel continues to violate international law on a daily basis.

This provocation, orchestrated and defended by the Netanyahu government, unveils its real intentions about the peace process and the two-state solution. Palestinians and Muslims around the world will never accept the violation of the holy sites in Masjid al-Aqsa. People of conscience, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim or secular, should join hands in resisting this insane act that will only bring violence and animosity. Jerusalem is a symbol of peace and reconciliation among the three Abrahamic faiths. It should stay so and not be sacrificed to the illegal acts and insane fantasies of a handful of extremists.

Source: Daily Sabah


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