By: Mohsen Mohammed Saleh.
When Prince (later King) Saud bin ‘Abdul-Aziz passed the village of Anabta on 14 August 1935 on his way to Jerusalem, the Palestinian poet ‘Abdul-Rahim Mahmud read him a poem. “O Prince, did you come to visit al-Aqsa mosque, or did you come to bid it farewell, before it is lost, and nothing else is left for us, except tears?”
The poet’s predictions came true. Thirty-two years later, al-Aqsa mosque was lost. ‘Abdul-Rahim Mahmud was killed in the battle of al-Shajara (The Tree) in the Palestine War in 1948.
Since the start of the Zionist project in Palestine, the British occupation nearly a century ago, al-Aqsa mosque has been at risk of loss and Jewish appropriation. The people of Jerusalem and Palestine, and their supporters, have been thwarting one risk after the other, however, dismantling plots and challenges with their own capabilities, no matter how simple, and even if they were little more than their fingers and teeth.
They continued to rally, defend, and hold their ground steadfastly…, even as the other Arabs neglected their duties and failed their brethren… For fifty years, Judaization schemes in Jerusalem relentlessly continued to alter the city’s Arab and Islamic character, and distort its cultural identity…, and al-Aqsa mosque has been at the heart of this battle and plot.
Things have reached boiling point…, and the cries have reached the heavens: “Enough is enough.” “Enough is enough”!! is exactly what Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, ‘Adel al-Jubeir, said recently. But before anyone thought he meant the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and Palestine…, Israel’s assaults on al-Aqsa mosque…or Israel’s siege of Gaza Strip (GS), settlement in the West Bank (WB), and the Separation Wall; or the confiscation of Palestinian land, the Judaization schemes…, or the Israeli denial of Palestinian rights, it turned out he meant enough is enough, of Hamas and the Muslim Brothers (MB) movement!!
No matter what Jubeir’s position on “political Islam” movements is, Hamas (as seen by huge masses of Arabs and Muslims) has been for years the first and foremost resistance force fighting the Israeli project in Palestine, the first line of defense, alongside other resistance groups, protecting the Arab, Islamic, and cultural identities of Jerusalem and Palestine.
The historical position of Saudi Arabia is to defend Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque, and the Palestinian people, and Jubeir’s statement does not reflect Saudi traditional policy.
It may be worthwhile to recall a historic position by the late King Faisal bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (1964–1975) on Jerusalem and the need for armed struggle to liberate it. He once said bitterly: “What are we waiting for? The global conscience!! Where is this global conscience?! Jerusalem is calling for your help…so what are we afraid of?! Do we fear death?! Is there a better way of dying than to die fighting in the way of Allah?
“O Muslims,” he continued, “We want an Islamic revival, without nationalism, racism, or partisanship, an Islamic call for jihad. I pray if Allah destined me to die is to die as a martyr.”
He added, “Our holy sanctuary and our holy sites are being violated and abused… by sins and decadence… I pray to Allah that if He does not destine us to fight the jihad and liberate these holy sites, to then not keep me one moment alive!”
This was the Saudi position. So what is Hamas and the resistance forces doing that is different from what King Faisal talked about?! His speech, which reflects the pride, honor, and dignity of the nation, if it was uttered today by anyone, Arab countries (including some Gulf regimes) would accuse him of extremism and terrorism, or at the very least, of irresponsibility and unrealism…
The Zionists occupied West Jerusalem in 1948, and fully subsumed its identity into a Jewish city. Then they seized East Jerusalem (and the rest of WB, GS, the Golan Heights, and Sinai) in 1967. For the past fifty years, they have been working tirelessly to Judaize Jerusalem…; They brought in more than 200 thousand settlers to East Jerusalem, building nearly 30 Jewish districts and settlements there and in surrounding areas.
They isolated Jerusalem with a racist Separation Wall that has become a de-facto international border, and withdrew Jerusalem residence cards from more than 15 thousand Palestinians (who are the sons of the city). Israel has threatened more than 20 thousand Palestinian homes with demolition, using the pretext of lacking permits from the occupation authorities.
Israel has put al-Aqsa mosque at grave risk by digging dozens of tunnels and excavations under its foundations, and has attempted to alter the architectural identity of the city by planning a series of Jewish synagogues and buildings, in addition to seizing most of the lands of East Jerusalem (87.5%) and “buying” under pressure or outright seizing whatever Palestinian properties and homes in the city they can get.
The budget of the Israeli occupation Jerusalem Municipality is nearly 7.37 billion shekels (around $1.93 billion). Israeli associations exist whose specialty is to push forward Judaization schemes, such as Ateret Cohanim organization, Elad Society, and the Temple Mount Trustees Society, which together spend around $150 million a year. Meanwhile, Israeli projects for the spatial and temporal division of al-Aqsa mosque between Jews and Muslims are proceeding, encouraged by the indifference of Arabs and Muslims, and only disrupted by the resistance of Palestinian Jerusalemites.
On the other hand, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which was created in response of al-Aqsa mosque fire in 1969 and is comprised of 56 Muslim countries, has a measly budget (about $10 million) for its Jerusalem Committee. It is less than what a club pays a footballer, and much less what is spent on ceremonies and other extravagances as everyone knows.
If we assume that these countries wanted to allocate the equivalent of the zakat money on their oil revenues alone (based on the zakat proportion of 2.5% on revenues and assets) to support and liberate Jerusalem, the sum would be over $15 billion!! At the same time, the regimes in these countries spend tens of billions of dollars annually to buy weapons they stockpile in their warehouses, or use to repress their peoples, or against each other.
For its part, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah allocated around $12 million (or 0.3%) out if its $3.765 billion budget to the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs.
In the summer of 2009, this was the reason behind the resignation of Minister Hatem ‘Abdul-Qadir, around 40 days after his appointment. In comparison, the salaries of security forces in the PA (2016) were around $867 million or 42% of the total PA salary budget.
The people of Jerusalem did not wait for the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the PA, or Arab and Muslim leaders to resist the occupiers… They insisted on being the best example of steadfastness…, and held the hot ember in their hands to preserve their city and holy sites, and their Arab-Islamic identity.
It would have been sufficient for a resident of Old Jerusalem, for example, to sell an old crumbling apartment of less than 100 sq. meter to become a millionaire, as he would find dozens of Jewish buyers… But he and almost all Jerusalemites decided to resist, “bite the wound,” and bear all forms of suffering and poverty, and Israeli economic, security, social, and political pressures…, and despite being unable to repair his home or finding any source of help to remain steadfast.
Arabs in the Old City of Jerusalem, the walled town surrounding al-Aqsa mosque, still represent more than 85% of the population, and the majority of the population of East Jerusalem. Although the occupation has tried for the past several years to reduce their numbers in Jerusalem (East and West) to less than 22%, Arabs were able to increase to more than 36%, compared to 26% shortly after Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The people of Jerusalem were in the heart of the Intifadah of 1987–1993, and al-Aqsa Intifadah in 2000–2005. They were and remain fully committed to the current Jerusalem Intifadah, which has alternately escalated and quieted for the past two years.
No doubt, their Palestinian brethren in the territories occupied in 1948, WB, and GS, in addition to Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and international activists, have an important role in supporting the resistance of Jerusalem and its people. However, the Jerusalemites remain the heart of the effort.
The people of Jerusalem and their brethren in Palestine have succeeded in hindering the temporal and spatial division of al-Aqsa mosque, which had entered advanced stages in the summer of 2015, paying a price in blood for this goal.
However, the fragmented and distracted Arab and Islamic depth, preoccupied with other crises, has not sided with them properly or formed real pressure against Judaization projects. As a result, the Jerusalem Intifadah has been alone in the absence of strong supporters and backers, encouraging the Israelis to resume and escalate their assaults. For this reason, it was not strange that two soldiers of the Israeli occupation were killed in al-Aqsa mosque.
Some misleading voices claimed the timing of the operation was not suitable, and even questioned the intentions of those behind it. However, resistance operations against occupation will never find a timing that satisfies everyone, and there will always be those who object to them, especially those whose interests are affected or whose dereliction of duty is exposed by them.
For example, when Fatah launched its operations in 1965, the Arab regimes accused it of collaborating with outside forces and of attempting to drag the regimes to a battle they were not ready for. When Hamas resumed operations following the establishment of the PA in 1994, Fatah, PLO, and PA leaders accused it of attempting to disrupt the national project and Palestinian statehood.
But resistance operatives rarely have the “luxury” of choosing the right time and place. As long as the occupation stands, resistance is legitimate and mandatory. Countries or large organizations may have different calculations, but no one can rein in young men, who take the initiative and have their own calculations.
Allah willing, the Jerusalemites will succeed in remaining steadfast and to foil Israeli measures, especially the metal detectors at the mosque. They will do what they can to foil Israeli attempts to Judaize al-Aqsa mosque and implement their spatial and temporal division.
However, is it not time for our Arab and Muslim regimes to understand that enough is enough of their behavior and failure? Is it not time for the elites, intellectuals, parties, and pundits to understand that enough is enough of their sophistry? Our people in Jerusalem have exhausted all their abilities, while the threat against al-Aqsa mosque grows every day. It is time for everyone to shoulder their responsibilities.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 3/8/2017