(CHICAGO 10/13/2014) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is outraged that Israeli forces today fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians inside Al Aqsa mosque, disrupting the holy site’s sanctity and safety. The Palestinians were taking refuge from aggressive Israeli settlers, who, with increasing frequency, have been harassing Palestinian worshipers at Islam’s holiest site in Palestine and third holiest place overall.
After dawn prayer today, extreme right settler groups, protected by Israeli soldiers and police, entered the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the second time in less than one week. At the same time, most Palestinian men under 50 and nearly all women were banned from offering prayers in the mosque, in contravention of international law.
Israeli attacks against Al Aqsa are not new. For instance, in 1967, immediately after the end of the Six Day War, “the Israeli army chief rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, tried to convince a commander of the conquering forces, Uzi Narkis, to blow up the mosque ‘once and for all,’” according to published historical accounts.
What’s changed is the frequency of settler incursions into the Muslim holy site, coupled with discussions in the Israeli Knesset about dividing Al Aqsa in the manner of the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, which apportioned two-thirds of the mosque for Jews, prohibiting the area to Palestinians. The Jerusalem Municipality also is discussing plans to turn the courtyard area between the Dome of the Rock mosque and Al Aqsa into a public park. Israeli authorities already have given the extremist settler group Elad the right to create an oversized ‘visitor center’ that will abut the mosque compound, further cutting off Palestinians from their historical religious site. UNESCO is so concerned about recent ‘Judaization’ developments in Jerusalem it dispatched a fact-finding committee to study the issue in April.
All these actions come at a time when Israeli settlers have forcibly moved into Palestinian homes and the creation of new settlements in East Jerusalem are planned.