Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Danger to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque

Danger to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Jerusalem is one of the most holiest places in the world. It has remained as one of the national cornerstones of the Palestinian struggle since the early 20th century when it seen as a hub of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation forces. Jerusalem, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, is at the heart of the Palestinian cause. The Mosque, revered by Muslims, was the first Qibla (direction of prayer) to which Muslims turned to pray five times a day before the Qibla was switched to Makkah. It is also considered the third holiest place in Islam (the first is Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah followed by the Prophet’s Mosque in Al-Madina). Muslims also believe that the Prophet ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on his Night Journey.

Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque comprises the whole area inside the walls of the Old City. The rectangular shaped compound has a total area of 0.144m2 and includes 200 historical monuments such as domes, shrines, wells, etc. The most important site is Al-Aqsa Mosque (with its silver-coloured dome), the Dome of the Rock (the golden dome), El-Marwani Mosque which was turned to horse stables by the Crusaders, in addition to  Buraq Mosque, Al-Ashrafiya  School and many other sites. It is therefore wrong to assume that Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the silver or the golden dome mosques, the reality is that it comprises the entire area inside the walls.

Al-Aqsa Mosque has seven aisles of hypostyle naves (a middle aisle, three aisles on the eastern side and another three on the western side). The aisles are supported by 53 marble columns and 49 stone pillars. The Mosque has 11 gates, seven in the north, one in the east, two in the west, and one the south. The compound has 25 wells, 8 of them in the yard of the holy dome and 17 in Al-Aqsa yard. There are also a number of fountains including the stone-domed Qaitabay fountain, and Qasem Pashah and Al-Budairi fountains. This is reported by a recent publication, Jerusalem’s Wounds.

Al-Aqsa boasts four minarets and a number of domes and benches used by Sufis, scholars and visitors from outside the city. The most famous domes are Al-Silsila, Al-Miraj and Al-Nabi.

Seminar on Human Rights
Situations in East Jerusalem
The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK organised a Seminar on Human Rights Situation in East Jerusalem held at the House of Commons, Committee Room B, London on 29 June 2015 where, besides distributing their report entitled Jerusalem’s Wounds published in June 2015, discussed and debated on different aspects of the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Mr. M. Jamil spoke on the Status of Human Rights in East Jerusalem. He mentioned the total area of Jerusalem. In 1946 the total area of Jerusalem was estimated to have been around 20.19 kilometres. On the eve of the 1967 war, the total area of the city was estimated to have been around 44.5 kilometres. Following the Oslo Accords between the  Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Israeli government in 1994, the total area of Jerusalem  (both the eastern and western parts) was estimated to have been around 123 kilometres.(70.4 km eastern part plus 52.6 kilometres square western parts).

He also mentioned about settlements. He said there are 29 settlements in Jerusalem, 14 of which are in the Eastern part of Jerusalem. The settlements are spread throughout the city and around it, and are home to more than 200,000 Israeli settlements.

Stripping Jerusalemites from residency
Mr. Ahmad Atton, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, gave an account of the stripping Jerusalemites from residency. He said two main points; firstly by forced deportation

1) Forced deportation –Jerusalem is declared by international law as an occupation territories protected by the International community, the United Nations and Palestinians cannot be forced out from the city of Jerusalem.

Mr. Atton also said that Israeli changed the landmarks of the City. They are trying to break and demolish the human rights of the Palestinians. Jerusalem is in danger – Israeli is dividing Jerusalem.

Mr. Atton also mentioned Israel is violating the International law; the world body knows what Israeli is doing.

He also spoke about the demographical changes in Jerusalem. 70% of the population is Jews; list is more and more and 13% of them are Palestinians.  He mentioned 450,000 ID cards has been withdrawn and sent them to West Bank

Professor Kevin Jon Heller spoke on the Jurisdictional questions relevant to the ICC consideration of settlements
1) International Criminal Law on the Israeli settlement
2) Three War Crimes Israeli committed – i) Transfer of population; Settlements in East Jerusalem; 200,000 today, transfer to East Jerusalem;
3) ICC Prosecution – Two aspects – i) Temporal scope; ii) Temple scope – 3rd June 2013; iii) Ad hoc – Territorial Jerusalem – occupied territories – East Jerusalem
- No clear cut Jurisdictions – Palestinian territories – pre-1967 green line

Jerusalem is an occupied territory. There is no question in international law; it is an occupied territory.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK distributed its published Report entitled Jerusalem’s Wounds (published in June 2015).

Jerusalem’s Wounds
According to the Report, “Jerusalem’s Wounds” published in June 2015, Jerusalem is one of the most holiest places in the world. It has remained one of the national cornerstones of the Palestinian struggle since the early 20th century when it seen as a hub of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation forces.

According to the Report, “The issues particular to Jerusalem are also seen as the catalyst that sparked the two intifadas during the past two decades. The Palestinian position is clear, in that no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is acceptable without the eastern part of Jerusalem being recognised as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Any discussion concerning Jerusalem is obliged to include a number of historical political, military and religious elements. With the exception of the Crusader period, the city has remained a haven of peace, and one of religious and intellectual tolerance, receiving with open arms all those who flocked to visit its holy places or settle there. The city had never imposed any restrictions on freedoms of worship until the western part of the city fell under Israeli occupation in 1948 followed by the eastern part in 1967. The latter had been under Jordanian administration between 1948 and 1967.”

The Report also mentioned, “On 30 June 1967, Israeli unified the eastern and western parts of Jerusalem and declared the holy city the capital of Israel. From that point, Israel has sought to change the character of the city in general and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.”

The Report maintained, “The population of East Jerusalem in 1967 was approximately 266,300 Arabs while the western part was home to 260,900 Jews. The total population of the city in 1967 (both the eastern and western parts) was around 564,300 (413,700 Jews (73.3%) and 150,600 Palestinians (23.7%). According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the residents of Esst Jerusalem (approximately 295,700Arabs) made up more than one-third of the total number of the city’s residents (804,400).”

Dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque
After describing the religious importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its particularities, The Report mentioned the dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque: “In August 1969, a Jewish man set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque destroying a 1000-year old pulpit. The act of arson was followed by many Israeli excavations under the Mosque. The underground tunnels, restrictions placed on attempts to restore parts of the Mosque, the loss of many of its relics to theft, the Hebrewisation of its name (Israelis refer to it as Temple Mount), the construction of scores of synagogues in adjacent areas, prohibiting prayer announcements and closing the mosque during Muslim religious festivals are some of the violations against the Mosque which currently faces two grave dangers:”

Continuous raids by Israeli settlers
While describing the dangers to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Report mentioned about the continuous raids by Israeli settlers. It said, “Over recent years, Israeli settlers, protected by the police with the blessing of the Israeli government, intensified their daily incursions into the Mosques compound. Settlers would raid the Mosque and start performing religious rituals provoking the anger of worshippers and Muslims around the world.  The raids are often accompanied by attacks on Muslim worshippers to prevent them from praying there. There have been a number of incidents during which settlers desecrated copies of the Holy Qur’an.”

The Report continued, “According to Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage, more than 14950 Jews (12569 settlers, 1102 intelligence officers, 1084 soldiers, 17 political figures and other party leaders) have raided the Mosque’s compound. The Foundation reported an average of 1246 Israelis - 1047 of them settlers - raiding the mosque every month, an increase of 12.7% compared with 2013. The Foundation stressed that the support of political leaders for these raids was one of the factors - behind the increase in their numbers. This political support is coupled with the words of Jewish Rabbis who have issued a number of religious dictates encouraging Jews to raid the Mosque.”

The Report also added: “The Second Intifada in 2000 prompted Israeli authorities to also ban Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque except during Ramadan. Those under 50 are not allowed to enter Jerusalem and scores of military checkpoints make it very difficult to navigate the roads to the Mosque. Authorities have prevented hundreds of Palestinians living inside Israel who hold the blue ID cards from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque and issued restraining orders to that effect. Anyone held in breach of these orders has to pay a hefty fine.”

The Report also quoted the Al-Aqsa Foundation’s statistics. “The Al-Aqsa Foundation described 2014 as the worst in the history of Jerusalem since the occupation of the city in 1967. More than 100,000 worshippers have been prevented from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2014 compared with 2013 when more than one and a half million Palestinians were allowed to pray there.”

Dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews and Arabs
The Report Jerusalem’s Wounds also mentioned about the Israeli secret plans of dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews and Arabs. It said, “Israel has made no secret of its plans to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Arabs and Jews to allocate time slots and specific locations for Jews to pray in the Mosque’s compound. Similar measures were imposed on Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994. These efforts have been spearheaded by deputy minister for religious affairs Eli Ben-Dahan who has lobbied to have a bill passed by the Knesset so as to guarantee Jews the right to pray inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent non-Jews from being there during those times.”

While mentioning Israeli plan of dividing Al-Aqsa, the Report quoted Dr. Jamal Amr. It said, “According to Jerusalem expert Dr. Jamal Amr, the proposed bill has become a reality without being officially adopted. The Knesset Committee entrusted with debating the matter has been suspended to avoid embarrassing the Arab Countries who manage the Mosque’s affairs and to avoid an Arab, Palestinian and Muslim backlash. Amr confirmed that Israel allows Israeli figures and delegations to roam Al-Aqsa Mosque between 7 and 11 am and 2 and 3:30pm. In terms of locations, the Israeli government has seized control of several kilometres of the area adjacent to the Mosque and allocated passages for Jewish settlers separate from that of the Arabs. The passages are protected with bullet-proof glass to enable them to view Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Report continued, “Al-Aqsa Foundation also revealed that Israeli sources had informed it of the existence of a division map and plans for establishing a Jewish synagogue on one-fifth of the total area of Al-Aqsa Mosque on the eastern side. According to the plans the area would extend from Al-Marawin Mosque in the south-eastern part to Bab Al-Asbat (the Gate of the Tribes) on the north eastern part.”

It maintained, “UNESCO has issued a number of resolutions condemning Israeli violations of the Mosque’s compound. The most recent resolution, adopted during the 195th session held in Paris, reaffirmed the description of Israel as an occupation power which renders any changes made to the 1967 territories illegal. The resolution denounced Israel’s attacks on Jerusalem’s history and heritage, the continuous settler raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, the attacks on worshippers and Waqf employees, the underground tunnels, the excavations and the bans imposed on restrictions and repairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

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