by Yousef Aljamal
This following article by Palestinian rights activist, author, and translator Yousef Aljamal is crossposted from Politics Today.
The world watched in shock as the Israeli occupation forces broke into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, beating worshippers and forcing them out of the second holiest site in Islam during the holy month of Ramadan. Some 400 Palestinians were arrested, a hundred were injured, two of whom are in a critical condition, while the invading forces destroyed a small clinic attached to the mosque to prevent providing medical care to those in need. Ambulances and hundreds of Palestinians, who protested outside the gates of the mosque, were prevented from entering.
Israeli forces broke into al-Aqsa and forced worshipers out to clear the way for right-wing Israeli settlers who planned to storm the holy site during Passover on Wednesday, April 5. These Israeli provocations are the immediate result of an incitation by radical Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was formerly convicted of criminal charges and who, as a lawyer, defended and celebrated Israeli settlers burning a Palestinian family.
During an interview on Israeli Channel 12 on April 4, Ben-Gvir said, “Jews should storm the Temple Mount (al-Aqsa Mosque), because it is not only for Arabs; I call on Jews to storm the Temple Mount. It is the most important site for the State of Israel. I don’t accept that only Muslims enter the site … Jews, too, have human rights in this country, and they have the right to break into the site; I will, too, storm it, but not on Wednesday.”
His proposal was that Israeli settlers should break into al-Aqsa, but without offering sacrifices, again because “there are human rights for Jews too in this country.” Palestinians know these human rights well—they have been deprived of them for 75 years. Human rights and what remains of democracy in Israel today is only for Jews. It is no coincidence that the so-called democracy protests in Israel almost completely ignore Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and concentrate exclusively on the rights of Israeli Jews rather than the rights of Palestinians, who don’t even come second in this narrative.
Protests in Israel as aggression against the Palestinians continue
Some Israelis today feel threatened by the growing influence of right-wring religious parties, which make the majority of Netanyahu’s government. These fears, however, have nothing to do with the Palestinians. Most Israelis, be they on the right or left of the political spectrum, agree on the need to continue the occupation and they have no problem with what the world recently witnessed at al-Aqsa. The world will get used to it—or so they tell themselves. Instead, they are concerned that the Israeli government, which was formed on the premise of making life for the Palestinians who are already second-class citizens even worse, might suppress some of their rights.
Palestinians have no place in this equation and that’s why they are not involved in the ongoing protests in Israel. One of the demands Ben-Gvir was conceded and a quid pro quo for postponing judicial reforms until the summer was forming a new force under his command, which mainly aims to target Palestinians—as if Israeli police and army violence directed against them, especially during Ramadan, was not satisfactory. In other words, Ben-Gvir, who provoked storming al-Aqsa, will have a new force under his command that will further crush the Palestinians, as we have seen on April 5, in return for postponing judicial reforms in Israel, which have nothing to do with Palestinians.
Israel has been implementing a plan to divide al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews, both in terms of space and time, as it did with the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. This is why we see an increasing number of raids into the holy site during Ramadan, which sees increasing Muslim worship and presence there. Israel has been gradually implementing its plans to divide al-Aqsa Mosque.
Until three years ago, it rarely conducted raids into the mosque during the month of Ramadan. Now, not only do Israeli settlers break into al-Aqsa during Ramadan, but they also raise the Israeli flag in it. The next step will be allowing biblical sacrifices inside, and performing the biblical “epic falling”, in which they fall on the ground as part of their prayers, at the sacred site, which is an open call for a religious war in the Middle East.
This will necessarily translate into escalation in the Palestinian Territories, which, as the last two years have shown us all, Palestinians will pay for heavily. Soon after Israel assaulted worshipers at al-Aqsa, homemade projectiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza, to which Israel responded by targeting several sites in the coastal enclave. Similar to May 2021, such provocations will likely lead to further escalations, leaving more destruction and loss of lives on the Palestinian side.
Are international condemnations enough?
Except for shy condemnations, the world chose not to take action to bring Israel’s right-wing government to account. This silence will encourage the Israeli government to implement more aggressive and expansionist polices in the coming weeks, which will take the region, especially considering the ongoing domestic crisis in Israel, into a new military escalation. The world has to act now to prevent such escalation, which is building up at al-Aqsa and in Gaza as Palestinians will not stand watching as Israel violates their right to worship at the holy mosque. Israel is trying to export its internal crises into Jerusalem and Gaza, and Palestinians will likely pay dearly for their policy as they always have.
The world should boycott the Israeli government, comprised of far-right, radical settlers. Their plans and policies deny the existence of the Palestinian people and view them as aliens on their own land. The Israeli government not only encourages storms into al-Aqsa, but provides the support and cover to make them happen. The world should not accept normalizing beating Palestinians, killing them, and annihilating their villages, as an Israeli minister shamelessly advocated recently.
The Palestinians are here to stay, because they have no other place to go to and all of Israel’s policies will not force them to leave. It is high time for the international community to end the suffering and misery of the Palestinian people under Israel’s prolonged military occupation. While militarily occupying another nation and beating worshippers during their holy month, calls for “democracy protests” in Tel Aviv appear meaningless and shallow.
Israeli minister Ben-Gvir, who incited violence against Palestinians at al-Aqsa without a shame, should be boycotted and not welcomed anywhere in the world. Israel’s Western allies who contribute to the suppression of the Palestinian people through their silence should speak up as they readily do for Ukraine. Their silence will only translate into more violations against Palestinians who seem to be forgotten as the world celebrates the so-called democracy protests in Tel Aviv and allows Israel to control the lives of the Palestinian nation for more than seven decades now.