Those who have been trying for years to transform the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, into a holy site not shared by people of every religious faith, but instead as a source of continuous religious hatred against Jews in the heart of Jerusalem, have finally succeeded.
Yesterday, clashes erupted between the Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, first and foremost in Jerusalem’s Old City and outside the Temple Mount, but also in many other areas inhabited by Israeli Arabs both in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. These violent confrontations have left dozens wounded and at least three dead, including a 17-year-old-boy. Not only is the eastern part of Israel’s capital in flames, but so too are its surrounding areas such as Abu Dis. Meanwhile, thousands of Muslims have taken to streets in the Palestinian towns of Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.
The resounding echo heard within these clashes is now reaching the entire Arab world with the headline that is being propagated by Islamic extremists: “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger.” It’s the same old propaganda that was invented by Arafat, namely the inflammatory formula that has the advantage of allowing the Palestinian to have a direct relationship with the Islamic world rage, and of mustering its support.
The situation began on July 14 at seven in the morning, when three Palestinian terrorists all holding blue cards, which allows free access to Arab citizens anywhere in Israel, penetrated the site by smuggling automatic weapons in a bag and then jumped outside near Lions Gate and killed two Israeli guards and wounded another. This terrible violation of every rule at a holy site that should be devoted to prayer and to religion and which even prompted Abu Mazen’s condemnation was, in fact, immediately welcomed by the Arab world as a heroic gesture, “as martyrs of the religion,” shahid, against its infidels.
Meanwhile, and since 1967, Israel has entrusted the management of the Temple Mount to WAQF, the organization that oversees holy Islamic site, which is controlled by the Jordanian government and the Palestinian Authority. And how can public order on a site besieged by terrorists be guaranteed?. The answer is what which even the Saudis, with 5000 CCTV cameras, have done at their holy sites in Mecca where millions of Muslim’s go on their annual pilgrimage (Hajj): greater security controls. Thus it’s quite surprising that metal detectors situated in front of the entrances of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem should arouse such anger throughout the Islamic world.
Netanyahu has oft-repeated that the status quo agreement in place since 1967 will not be broken and that this is only a temporary measure in order to avoid further terrorist acts at the site that threatens everyone, including Muslims who go to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. All – from the Arab League to the Jordanians themselves who, as usual, are terrified by how the Islamist will react, as well as Arab members inside the Israeli parliament along with the Great Mufti of Jerusalem, not to mention Hamas’ calls for a total uprising – are hurling invitations to flood Jerusalem and to go and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to get rid of the metal detectors.
Instead of seeing the latter as a simple security measure taken by Israel in order to protect people of all religions, including Muslims, is instead being depicted as an attempt by Israel to control Islam’s third holiest site.
The issue has been mulled over by all factions within the Israeli government in the hours before Friday, the day when many Muslims go to the site to pray. Returning from Budapest on Thursday evening, Netanyahu rushed straight from the airport to the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv for a security meeting. Meanwhile, he received an onslaught of phone calls from many world leaders asking for the metal detectors to be removed: but that would have entailed giving up on one of the most important principles of Israeli policy itself, namely that of defending the lives of its citizens, as well as a more obvious one, this time yes, by violating the status quo in which the sovereignty of Jerusalem and consequently the responsibility of maintaining order and combating terrorism rests with the Israeli government.
The metal detectors remained intact with the promise of removing them as soon as possible. However, the grand mufti of Jerusalem again launched his appeal by saying: “One billion and seven hundred thousand Muslims say no to security controls.”
Maybe any other state would give up, Israel who did not take any aggressive gesture and didn’t call in soldiers at the Temple Mount, but nevertheless tried to contain “the anti-security control” anger by stopping buses on their way to Jerusalem’s Old City and by preventing young people from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Now, the Palestinian world is waging war, accompanied by solidarity demonstrations chanting, “We will redeem Al-Aqsa” in Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries, who are urged on by the usual flames of hatred against Israel, which are fuelled by religion. It’s about waiting to see what tomorrow will bring. Abu Mazen is the last to have an interest in a religious clash that can only increase Hamas’ influence. Israel will seek to eradicate Islamic anger by returning to the status quo as quickly as possible.
However, that will certainly involve some kind of peace gesture: but what status quo can there actually be when dealing with a partner that has behind it the aggressive and overwhelming Islamic world?
Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (July 22, 2017)