Wednesday, May 03, 2017
Dubai: On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a devastating pre-emptive attack on East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Within in days it had conquered these territories and by June 27 it had adopted a law extending its own laws and administration to the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem where it unilaterally extended the municipal borders of West Jerusalem to cover the newly occupied East Jerusalem. Even though Israel’s founding fathers never claimed East Jerusalem, the city was annexed by Israel in 1980 under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, an act internationally condemned and declared invalid by the United Nations.
Within a few days of conquering the Old City the Israelis had bulldozed the Maghrebi (Moroccan) Quarter to the ground and later used the space to create the huge open plaza that now exists in front of the Al Buraq (Western Wall), and build the new Jewish Quarter with its modern synagogues and hostels for Jewish pilgrims.
But this open brutality was only part of the way that the Israeli occupiers have extended their authority over the Old City through the decades. They have worked hard to drive out the city’s Palestinian inhabitants, and erode the Palestinians’ position in occupied Jerusalem. Outside the Old City, but within the Israeli-defined boundaries of Jerusalem, they are working hard to terrorise and evict the Palestinian population and take over more and more land and houses as they seek to squeeze out the Palestinians.
Today the Israeli municipal authorities are currently infiltrating the Christian and Muslim Quarters with Jewish colonists who buy houses, or even apartments and single rooms, to occupy them. After which the authorities build police barriers around the properties to ‘protect’ the Israeli colonists and harass the Palestinians. The Israelis are tunnelling under the Muslim Quarter to extend their access to Al Buraq Wall (Western Wall) where the Jews pray, but also in a desperate effort to tunnel under the Haram Al Sharif to find pre-Muslim remains in order to threaten the status quo of Al Haram Al Sharif.
The Israelis have continuously enforced neglect on Muslim and Christian sites. An example of this was told to Gulf News by Huda Al Imam who is a member of an old Jerusalem family and a vigorous campaigner. She had formed a group to restore the wonderful Mamluk bath houses of Hamam Al Shifa and Hamam Al Ain close to Al Haram Al Sharif in the Old City which had fallen into disrepair since they were still active in 1970s.
Al Imam raised 2 million euros from the European Union to save the historic buildings, but the Israeli Ministry of Antiquities banned the restoration. No reason was given and no action has been taken by the Israelis to restore the bath houses, and the condition of these historic buildings is steadily getting worse and worse. There is no appeal or challenge allowed to the Israeli authorities’ arbitrary action that is designed to destroy Jerusalem’s Palestinian and Arab heritage. This is one example of how the occupying Israelis regard annexed East Jerusalem as part of Israel and do not allow the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to have any status at all in Jerusalem, which is bitterly regretted by many Palestinians in the city who are desperate to have some political representation.
Jerusalem is a unique city where three religions come together. Muslims venerate Al Haram Al Sharif which is the mosque precinct containing both Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which make up Islam’s third most holy site after Makkah and Madinah. Very early Muslims were directed by the Prophet Mohammad, PBUH, to pray towards Al Aqsa and only later changed the direction of prayer towards Makkah.
Because the site of the Jewish biblical temple would have been somewhere on Al Haram Al Sharif, Jews for centuries have refused to tread on the ground and a status quo was preserved after occupation, but extremist Jews have recently connived with the Israeli security forces to regularly storm the barriers and march around the Muslim precinct, while threatening to end Muslim control of the holy site.
The only genuine surviving part of the Jewish temple is the Al Buraq Wall, called the Western Wall or Kotel by the Jews. The huge stones are a holy and venerated site for all Jews, and have been a site of Jewish pilgrimage for centuries. They form the base of the massive foundations of Al Haram Al Sharif but neither site need intrude on the other and they have coexisted for centuries until the Israelis perverted the situation.
Jerusalem is also where Jesus was crucified by the Romans, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, covers the sites of both Jesus’ crucifixion and grave. Several Christian sects share the management of the church in unhappy harmony, and host millions of pilgrims every year.
By Francis Matthew Editor at Large
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