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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Israel fuels tensions in Jerusalem

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

VIOLENCE erupted in occupied Jerusalem on Sunday when hundreds of Zionist settlers, backed by the Israeli police, stormed into Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque to clash with thousands of Muslims holding morning prayers. This followed a call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow Zionist settlers into the Muslim holy compound.

“Over 1,729 Jewish settlers have entered the compound,” firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority, said. “The settlers’ incursions were backed by Israeli police officers.”

Zionist settlers, backed by the occupation police, attacked tens of thousands of Palestinian Muslims marking the first day of Eid Al-Adha, one of the main Islamic holidays, at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City. The Israeli police attacked the Muslim worshippers and forced them out of the compound, preventing them from performing their religious obligations. At least 61 Palestinians were injured after Israeli forces attacked the worshippers with rubber bullets, tear-gas and truncheons. Sixteen were taken to hospital.

Sunday marked both the start of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday commemorating the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the temples that once stood on ‘Temple Mount’ and other disasters in Jewish history.

Meanwhile Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has called for closing Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, in line with the Chief Rabbinate’s long-standing position against Jews visiting the holy site. Most Orthodox rabbis, such as Yosef, prohibit Jews from going to the Temple Mount out of concern that they will stray into areas that Jewish law says are off-limits.

“The ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount is forbidden according to Jewish law, at the essence of the prohibition, and it is appropriate that the ascent of Jews be prohibited all year round,” said Yosef.

The Zionist provocation was condemned by the Left in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

“Far-right activists have entered the al-Aqsa area to provoke thousands of Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha,” Aida Touma-Sliman, a communist MP in the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) said on Sunday. “The far-right activists are backed by [Transportation Minister Bezalel] Smotrich, their representative, who is trying to pour fuel on the fire. The responsibility for this provocation rests on [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan and Netanyahu.”

Another Hadash MP, Ofer Cassif, said Jewish far-right activists are not seeking holiness but rather incitement: “This incitement is not the result of a religious conflict but a planned continuation of the rampage of occupation forces in East Jerusalem, which kidnaps children, beats protesters, steals evidence and destroy homes.”

“The storming of al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem by Israeli occupation forces this Eid morning is an act of recklessness and aggression, designed to provoke religious and political tensions in the City and across Palestine,” said Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). “We condemn this aggression, which is reprehensible and dangerous, and hold the Israeli political establishment fully responsible for its grave consequences,” she said.

“To score points in [the current] election season, Israeli politicians are competing [to see] who can exhibit higher levels of aggression and hostility against the Palestinian people during this important religious holiday, including the endorsement of Israeli settler plans to storm Al-Aqsa Compound. These Israeli attacks and political endorsements of extremism are stoking the flames of religious fervour and threaten to plunge the region into a sectarian war. They reflect a dangerous and irresponsible agenda that must be confronted with blanket and unequivocal international condemnation,” she added.

The Palestinian official called on the international community “to confront this belligerence and to intervene to stop any further deterioration in Jerusalem. Israel bears full responsibility for storming al-Aqsa and fuelling religious tensions in Jerusalem.”