The escalating clashes between Israeli settlers and Jerusalemite Palestinians are the harbingers of a major eruption with incalculable consequences. Immediately billed as a “religious war” by the media and Israeli right wingers, they are in fact the outcome of longstanding Israeli plans to Judaize the city and empty it of its Palestinian inhabitants. Al-Shabaka Policy Member Nur Arafeh analyzes the major changes that Israel has illegally imposed on Jerusalem and addresses the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)/Palestinian Authority’s (PA) effective abandonment of the population to fend for itself. She concludes with policy recommendations to the PLO/PA, Palestinian academics and analysts, and the international solidarity movement.
The Myth of Religious War
Jerusalem has been thrust into the spotlight due to the recent clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Also referred to as Al-Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, the compound contains Al-Aqsa itself, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Dome of the Rock, where Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. Jews revere the site in the belief that it was once the location of two ancient Jewish temples.
A number of ultra-Orthodox Jews have been repeatedly violating the status quo that has been in place since 1967 by making incursions inside the Al-Aqsa compound and calling for Israel to build a third temple on what they term the Temple Mount.1 A video posted recently on YouTube by the Temple Institute, which is part of the so-called Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, depicts a third temple replacing Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and police in Jerusalem were punctuated by horrific attacks like the kidnapping and murder of the Palestinian youth, Mohammed Abu-Khdeir in July 2014. After Yehuda Glick, a key figure in the Temple Institute and a strong advocate of its messianic scheme, was allegedly shot by a Palestinian, members of the Temple Mount Movement made further incursions into Al-Aqsa, and on 30 October 2014 Israel banned prayers in the compound for the first time since 1967. Tensions in Jerusalem reached boiling point after an attack by two Palestinians on an ultra-Orthodox synagogue on 18 November 2014 left four Jews and a Druze police officer dead. The New Year began with a warning by the Mufti of Jerusalem of an Israeli organization’s plans to register Al-Aqsa Mosque as Israeli property.
But can this really be described as the start of a religious war? ..
– Read more: In Jerusalem, ‘Religious War’ Is Used to Cloak Colonialism – Nur Arafeh, Al-Shabaka Policy Brief