Police arrest a Palestinian demonstrator in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Wadi Joz, July 21, 2017. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Religious restrictions in Jerusalem

Jerusalem witnessed massive protests by Palestinians over Israel’s decision earlier in the week to force Muslims to pass through metal detectors in order to enter the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif) mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian civilians were confronted by heavily armed Israeli soldiers, resulting in 3 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops ■ Over 300 injured ■ Four Israeli soldiers wounded ■ 30 people arrested

“Thousands of Palestinians came to Jerusalem today to perform the most non-violent peaceful act possible — prayer. And yet despite this, Israel came armed with thousands of soldiers backed by heavily-armed settlers who shot and killed at least two Palestinians. While Israel claims that this was done for ‘security,’ its actions beg the question: who is providing security to Palestinians? Who is protecting Palestinians from 50 years of brutal Israeli military rule, home demolitions, theft of their land for settlements, and the daily violence of Israel’s occupying army and settlers?

“At the same time that Palestinians are being forced to go through metal detectors to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque, Israel is allowing the Temple Mount Faithful — a group of messianic Israeli extremists, including senior government officials, who have made it clear that they seek the destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque — to go on the Haram al-Sharif compound as part of an attempt to take it over. Netanyahu knows that this will lead to violence and has done nothing to stop it.”

“The new Israeli measures of installing metal detectors, electronic gates, and other new facts on the ground in the Old City and Al-Aqsa compound are simply a continuation of policies that Israel has been pursuing during the past 50 years of its repressive military rule over the Occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. The aim is to expand Jewish-Israeli political, economic and demographic control over the city, while further evicting and dispossessing Palestinians.

“These policies have included the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and its isolation from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, discriminatory urban and zoning policies, home demolitions and settlement expansion, residency revocation, and shutting down of Palestinian institutions. All of this is within the context of the growing messianic fanaticism and government support to groups like the Temple Institute, which aim at building a temple in the Noble Sanctuary to replace Al Aqsa mosque.

“The latest incident is thus being used by Israel as a pretext to continue its longstanding plan to “Judaize” Jerusalem, a policy that is clearly enshrined in all master plans prepared for the city by both the public and the private sector.”

“With at least two Palestinians reportedly killed in East Jerusalem today and more than 113 others injured by Israeli occupation forces during protests there and around the occupied territories, it is not difficult to understand why Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own security establishment is counseling against the new restrictions on Muslim prayer at the Haram Al Sharif Mosque Compound. The restrictions do little to enhance the security of either Palestinians or Israeli police but are a cynical ploy by Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty in a place and has been under Islamic Waqf control for centuries, including for the last 50 years of Israel’s occupation over Palestinian land. The international community, regional states, and the Organization of Islamic States have an obligation to act to restore respect for the status quo agreement and religious freedom and unrestricted access to worship.

“Sadly, rather than supporting religious freedom for all the peoples of the Middle East — Christians, Jews & Muslims — and ending the Israeli siege and strangulation of Gaza, a place the UN has now said is not fit for human habitation, some US lawmakers are busy pushing legislation that would make it a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison for US persons to engage in constitutionally protected boycotts to pressure Israel into compliance with international law and end its impunity.”

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