By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh:
In concurrence with the 42nd anniversary of the burning of al-Aqsa Mosque, it happens to be the 82nd anniversary of the Buraq Uprising that broke out in defense of the Western Wall of al-Aqsa Mosque.
Muslims have always agreed on the need to support Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque regardless of their sects, differences and disputes. Thus, any pressure on Jerusalem would provoke nationwide anger and zeal in pursuit of dignity.
In 1931, after the Buraq Uprising, representatives of 22 Muslim countries met in the General Islamic Conference in Jerusalem to discuss ways to protect al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, and Palestine as a whole. Additionally, after the arson of al-Aqsa Mosque, representatives from all around the Islamic world also met to establish the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which yet represents the overarching framework of the Islamic world, consisting of 57 member countries.
The igniting spark that led to the eruption of al-Aqsa Intifadah (uprising) was extinguished by Sharon’s provocative visit to al-Aqsa Mosque on 28/9/2000. This Intifadah, with which the Arab and Muslim world interacted magnificently, lasted nearly five years.
Subsequently, the General Islamic Conference had already perished and the role of the OIC had been reduced to declaring stances and statements every now and then, alongside the miscellany of shy actions that were neither appropriate to the status of Jerusalem nor to the role of the Islamic world. Accordingly, al-Aqsa Intifadah cooled down.
The Israeli occupation persisted together with the campaigns of Judaization, settlement building and uprooting. However, the people of Jerusalem withstood rigorously as Jerusalem and al-Aqsa cry out in frustration. Nowadays, this frustration got so muffled that it is hardly heard by anyone. It is as if people got used to hearing such news that is no longer significant, exciting, or provocative.
After 63 years of Israel’s occupation of the western part of Jerusalem and 44 years of the eastern part, Arabs and Muslims might have reached a state of depression. Additionally, many might have got used to hearing the same news over and over again for a long period of time; others might have been busy with their local and regional concerns; others awaited the outcomes of negotiations for a peaceful settlement; others blamed it on the Palestinian schism; and perhaps others also attribute it to how busy Arabs were with their revolutions and their repercussions.
These abovementioned reasons might be some or all of the reasons; however, what everyone should realize is that the Judaization of Jerusalem is progressing rapidly and systematically. All this project does is that it seeks to create facts on the ground and tries to portray a false new image of Jerusalem that is different from its Arab-Islamic identity. The cries of Jerusalem are real, but are suppressed and strangled by the occupation and can no longer be heard by the deafened ears of Arabs and Muslims.
The Western Part of Jerusalem
Few are those who remember the western part of Jerusalem that was recognized by the PLO as part of Israel under the Oslo Accords, and thus excluded from the negotiations process. Since its occupation by the Zionists in 1948, the silenced moans of the western part of Jerusalem are frequently heard, especially after evicting around 60 thousand of its Arab population from neighborhoods such as: Ma’aman Allah, Upper Baqa‘a Fawqa, Lower Baqa‘a, Qatamon, Talbiya, Al-Musrara, German Colony, Greek Colony, and parts of Abu Tor and Al-Thawri neighborhood.
Around 88.7% of the western part of Jerusalem’s total area is owned by Palestinians. However, as part of their Judaization project, the Israelis built neighborhoods all over its territories and the neighboring confiscated Arab lands, such as the village of Lifta -on which the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and a number of ministries were built- and the villages of Ein Karem, Deir Yassin, Malha and others.
The Eastern Part of Jerusalem
In 1967, Israel completed its occupation of the eastern part of Jerusalem, which is considered part of the West Bank, after it had been under Jordanian control. A frantic campaign of Judaizing the eastern part of Jerusalem started ever since, declaring the unification of Jerusalem under the Israeli Administration on 27/6/1967. On 30/7/1980, Israel officially announced Jerusalem as the “the unified and eternal capital of Israel.”
After having occupied around 87.5% of the eastern part of Jerusalem, Israel built settlements all around these territories and deprived the Palestinians of their right to build on most of the land of Jerusalem. Only 9,000 out of 72,000 dunums were earmarked for construction purposes, which is equivalent to 12.5% of the total area of the eastern part.
Since 1968, the Israeli authorities started building settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem—Ramat Eshkol; the establishment of other settlements followed rapidly as a cordon of 11 Jewish neighborhoods was created within the “Municipality of East Jerusalem.” Another broader cordon containing 17 Jewish settlements was also created around Jerusalem to isolate it from its Arab-Islamic surrounding. This would thus thwart any peace settlement that can restore the eastern part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
The Separation Wall, which is being created nowadays, surrounds Jerusalem to isolate it from its Arab-Islamic surrounding. This wall extends around Jerusalem over a parameter of about 167 kilometers. According to reports, 231 thousand Palestinians, or about 56% of Jerusalem’s population, will be affected negatively by the establishment of the wall. Moreover, the completion of this dangerous cordon deprives the Arab-Islamic world from 617 holy sites and cultural venues in Jerusalem.
In 2009, Israel launched a campaign to Judaize the names of thousands of monuments and archeological sites in Jerusalem in an attempt to impose a Jewish character on the city and distort its Arab and Islamic sites.
For example, the name of Wadi Hilweh street was changed into Ma‘aleh David, while Wadi al-Rababeh, which is located to the south of al-Aqsa Mosque, is now called Gehenna or Valley of Hinnom. As such, many dangerous developments have been manifested during 2009, as Jewish names are put beside the Arabic ones on maps from websites such as Wikimapia, e.g., the name al-Haram al-Qudsi is put beside the Temple Mount and Mount Moriah. Whereas Google maps has ignored the name and put only Har HaMoriyah (the Temple Mount).
The Old City
On 11/6/1967, the Israeli forces expelled the residents of the Moroccan Quarter in the Old City (which is around one square kilometer in area), after giving them a notice to leave in just a few minutes. This notice was followed by the destruction of the neighborhood’s 135 houses facing the Western Wall of al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Buraq Wall), most of which were Islamic endowments. The Israeli authorities demolished this area and turned it into an empty yard for their worshiping purposes. They also took over Al-Sharaf neighborhood or what is known as the Jewish neighborhood in the Old City of Jerusalem.
On 18/4/1968, the Israeli authorities issued an order to confiscate 116 donums, which included that neighborhood, in addition to the Chain Gate Street, al-Bashura neighborhood and the Moroccan Quarter. These used to include five mosques, two nooks, four schools, an ancient market and 700 buildings, of which, before the 1948 war, the Jews used to own a total of 105 buildings, while the Arabs used to own the remaining 595 buildings. In addition, the Israelis established many outposts in the Old City; but still, Arabs comprise the majority of the population and would do anything to keep their homes.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is in Danger
The Israeli authorities endeavor to achieve a permanent and direct Jewish presence in al-Aqsa Mosque and its periphery. They try to make of it a contested area between Muslims and Jews. They work on paving the way to confiscate parts of it, and then in later stages, to take control of it, in preparation of building what is called the Third Temple.
They encouraged or overlooked repeated storming incidents by Jewish extremists. They also endeavor to turn it into an area open for Jews and tourists, to give it the appearance of a museum or a touristic shrine, and to deprive it of its solemnity, status and Islamic character.
Moreover, Israeli authorities have allowed the construction of synagogues at the Mosque’s walls such as the Tankaziyya School Synagogue, below the Mosque such as Wilson’s Arch, and in its periphery such as the Ohel Yitzhak (Tent of Isaac) and in 2010 the Hurva Synagogues
Israelis began a flurry wave of excavation underneath al-Aqsa Mosque and the surrounding region, focusing on the areas west and south of the mosque. These excavations caused the cracking of a number of buildings, among them the Ottoman Mosque, Ribat al-Kurd, al-Jawhiriya school and al-Manjakia school.
Since 1967, excavation works have been developing through ten very active, yet quiet and discreet stages. Unloading dirt and rocks from beneath al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock put those sites at great danger of collapse that might be caused by any storm or earthquake.
During 1967-1990, al-Aqsa Mosque was subject to around 40 attacks. Neither the peace process nor the Oslo Accords could stop these attacks which amounted to 72 during 1993-1998. Additionally, incursions into the Mosque increased under protection from the Israeli Police and reached 55 incursions during 22/8/2009-21/8/2010.
The Arab Population… Suffering and Resilience
The Israelis are keen about turning the life of the Jerusalemites into living hell and they use all means of pressure, temptation and fraud to get their homes. On the other hand, the Jerusalemites suffer tremendously before they could obtain a permit to build their houses; thus, more than 15 thousand apartments were built without permits and are hence likely to be destroyed at any time.
The Israeli authorities pursue a policy of systematic house demolition. In addition, they confiscate the identity cards of the Jerusalemites thus expelling them and preventing them from living in their own city. In this respect, ID cards of around 4672 Jerusalemites were revoked in 2008.
In the context of expelling Jerusalemites comes the Israeli attempt to expel three deputies in the Palestinian Legislative Council and a former minister affiliated with Hamas. While the Israeli authorities succeeded in deporting Deputy Muhammad Abu Tair, the other three figures are still holding their sit-in at the ICRC since more than 400 days.
The Israeli authorities have planned to keep the number of Arab residents within 22% of the total Jerusalemite population, however, the number of Arabs increased. Thus, according to estimates of 2009, around 773 thousand residents live in the eastern and western parts of Jerusalem including 497 thousand Jews (64.3%), 200 thousand of whom live in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The remaining 276 thousand Arabs amount to 35.7% of the population and they mostly live in the eastern part of Jerusalem.
The Israeli occupation has failed, despite all measures, to decrease the Arab population. Yet, it is noticed that there is a decline in the number of Christians living in Jerusalem from 20% in 1948 to around 2% in 2009, where they face the same pressures faced by the Arab population and consequently had to leave the city.
Israeli Spending and Arab-Islamic Ignorance
The Jerusalem Municipality spends annual budget amounting to a billion dollars not to mention the budgets spent by relevant ministries including the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Ministry of Public Works and other governmental bodies.
Wealthy Jews such as Moskowitz and Zionist Christians from outside Israel, in particular from the US, help finance the projects of the settlement organizations active in Jerusalem, such as Ateret Cohanim (lit. crown of the priests), Ir David Foundation (Elad), the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, and other societies. Anyhow, according to estimates, these societies execute projects in Jerusalem that have a yearly budget of no less than $150 million.
On the other hand, the OIC, which represents 57 Muslim nations, spends around $10 million per year which is way less than the donations given by wealthy Jews.
These are some of Jerusalem’s muffled cries hoping that they get the attention of the Arabs and Muslims.
The original Arabic article appeared on Al Jazeera.net on 21/8/2011
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 29/8/2011