IN what has become a shocking but unfortunately all too frequent ritual, Israeli security forces raided the Al Aqsa mosque on at least two occasions over the past few days. Footage from the incursions is disturbing, showing Israeli personnel savagely beating Palestinian worshippers, and desecrating the precincts of the revered sanctuary. According to Tel Aviv the mosque was raided because Palestinians were ‘illegally’ holed up inside. However, it is believed that the actual reason behind the brutal Israeli action was to clear the path for provocative visits by Jews to the Haram As Sharif during Passover. Jewish visits, including by ultranationalist and virulently anti-Arab settler groups, are a regular feature which violate the ‘status quo’ of the sacred precinct, also known as the Temple Mount. However, when these intrusions coincide with days of Muslim and Jewish religious observance such as Ramazan or Passover, the potential for tension is considerably higher. This is all the more true when Jewish groups openly talk of destroying the mosque, and replacing it with the ‘Third Temple’. Many in the present Israeli cabinet also subscribe to these extreme views.
The Al Aqsa intrusions were followed by an exchange of rocket fire between Gaza and Lebanon and the Jewish state, as well as violence in the occupied territories. While there has been condemnation of Israeli actions from across the world, not enough has been done to rein in Tel Aviv, and permanently stop the provocative raids and blatant desecration of occupied Jerusalem’s Muslim holy places. If, for example, Muslim extremists had stormed and desecrated the Western Wall, the din of global outrage would have been deafening. These double standards must end. Israel should be under no illusion; should the status quo — exclusive Muslim control over the Al Aqsa complex — be tinkered with, there will be a firestorm across the region that will be impossible to control, and the extremists in Tel Aviv will be entirely responsible.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2023