THE holy city of Jerusalem was shaken by several nights of protests over the last several days as Palestinian citizens faced off against Israeli security forces over access to the Al Aqsa mosque. The situation was exacerbated when a far-right Jewish group staged a provocative march in the disputed city in which extremists chanted “death to Arabs”. While the Israeli administration said it had restricted Palestinians’ access to the mosque due to ‘coronavirus restrictions’, the Arabs felt this was a ruse to prevent them from gathering at Al Aqsa. The barricades blocking access to the mosque have been removed, but not after over 100 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes.

The recent violence illustrates that Jerusalem/Al Quds remains a flashpoint, despite illegal Israeli attempts to annex the holy city, while the threat to peace posed by radical Jewish groups is also very high. The fact is that no Palestinian faction will be willing to give up claims on the holy city, despite intense pressure from powerful foreign actors. A statement from the Palestinian presidency termed East Jerusalem “the eternal capital of Palestine and ... a red line”, indicating that any attempts to restrict access to the city will be resisted. Moreover, the vicious attacks of extremist Jewish groups targeting Palestinians need to end immediately. The Israeli state wastes no time in raining down bombs on men, women and children in Gaza if rockets are fired at the Jewish state from the Strip. However, Tel Aviv tends to treat murderous settler groups with kid gloves, even though some harbour a clearly genocidal agenda against Arabs. But expecting Israel to treat Palestinians with dignity and respect and to punish their tormentors is asking too much. After all, Israel itself has been guilty of crimes against humanity targeting Palestinians and its own Arab population, as Human Rights Watch has recently noted. This is something Tel Aviv’s staunch defenders and supporters in the West, as well as those in the Muslim world rushing to establish relations with it, must explain.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2021

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