Blocked from Jerusalem: Palestinian Politician, Mustafa Barghouti, Speaks Out on Al-Aqsa

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti shines a light on recent events in occupied East Jerusalem. (Photo: PDD)

Palestine Deep Dive’s latest live show, “Al-Aqsa Under Attack! Ramadan in Palestine Under Israeli Occupation” with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti shines a light on recent events in occupied East Jerusalem.

Dr. Barghouti is a distinguished Palestinian politician and qualified physician.

He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and currently serves as the Secretary-General of the Palestine National Initiative (PNI), a coalition of secular and democratic groups, preaching nonviolent resistance and an end to apartheid.

Speaking live on Wednesday 27th April 2022, Dr. Barghouti illuminates Israel’s recent attacks on Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, from where he recently reported, and Israel’s broader violations against Palestinians’ right to worship.

He also reveals how he was blocked from entering Jerusalem last week, and discusses the International Criminal Court’s recent announcement it received a complaint accusing Israel of systematically targeting journalists working in Palestine.

Al-Aqsa Under Attack 

Deep Dive’s show host, Mark Seddon, asks Dr. Barghouti about his experiences on the ground at Al-Aqsa on April 15, 2022.

“I was there two weeks ago, the Friday before last when the most horrible attack happened on peaceful worshipers by the Israeli army.

“They started beating people, and they started shooting them with what they call rubber bullets which are not really rubber bullets. They are rather big and very dangerous metallic canisters. They shot at people without discrimination. They injured 156 people, many of them seriously.”

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, over 150 Palestinians were injured that day, with most of the injuries incurred by rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons.

“Then they forced everybody out of the mosque except for those who were strangled inside the building of the mosque itself. They eventually attacked them inside that mosque, inside the prayer area. Entering the mosque with their shoes which is, of course, unacceptable by religious traditions, and then shooting at people inside the mosque itself not only in the yards around it, and then arresting them.”

Viral videos circulated online show Israeli forces firing tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers, while Palestinians attempted to barricade themselves inside the mosque.

Immediately after the attacks, Dr. Barghouti says he attended a local hospital to check on the injured:

“They ranged in age from children at the age of 15 to very old people, the oldest was 79 years old. Their injuries were extremely severe many of them. I saw at least 20 cases of people who had broken skull, depressed injury as we call it, or depressed fracture of the skull causing internal bleeding of the brain. All of them needed neurosurgical operations.

“One was 79 years old who I will always remember. He was attacked with this one of these, what I call, metallic grenades, and, his whole mandible and maxilla, his whole face was shattered. He had to go through an operation. After the operation, he was breathing in a very heavy way,” Dr. Barghouti added.

“I saw a young boy who was 18 years old who lost his eye because of the same injury.”

Israeli police said they arrested at least 300 Palestinians that day, while Palestinian sources, including Dr Barghouti, put the number at over 400. According to Israeli police, three officers were wounded from “massive stone-throwing”.

Why Does Israel Attack Al-Aqsa?

Seddon says such scenes from Al-Aqsa are reminiscent of the “dying days of apartheid South Africa” before asking Dr. Barghouti why Israel feels the need to stop Palestinian worshippers from entering.

“Because they wanted to empty the mosque so that Jewish visitors could enter the area and do some Jewish prayers which is totally unacceptable, and is a violation of the nature of the place as a Muslim holy site,” responds Dr. Barghouti.

“But also it’s about the Israeli side trying to create a new reality in the Aqsa Mosque as if the Aqsa Mosque can be divided between Muslim and Jewish people, and eventually eliminating its Muslim nature. That’s, in my opinion, what they are aiming at,” he says.

Dr. Barghouti also claims that Israel violates Palestinians’ right to worship:

“One of the lies is that [Israel] allows freedom of religion, which is totally untrue. For instance, the vast majority of Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians are not allowed into Jerusalem and were not allowed during the last week, during Easter time, and during the prayers in Ramadan.

“90% of Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed into the mosque. 100% of people in Gaza, maybe with the exception of 10 or 15, are not allowed to arrive in the mosque and pray there. The 6.5 million Palestinians who are refugees outside, who are forced out of their country by Israel’s ethnic cleansing in the 1948 also are not allowed to come in.”

Freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank is vastly restricted, with travel permits required to be obtained from Israel first before entering East Jerusalem. For Palestinians under blockade in Gaza, travel to East Jerusalem is almost completely restricted.

“The vast majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians are not allowed to reach their religious sites and to practice their religion. We had similar attacks on Christians who were trying to celebrate Easter last Sunday” says Dr Barghouti.

Blocked from Entering Jerusalem

Seddon asks if there are extremists who want to destroy the mosque in its entirety.

“There are extremists who dream every day of uprooting the whole Aqsa mosque and even bombing it… [but] the issue is more than that,” Dr. Barghouti responds.

“The issue is that what you have here is a systematic racist policy of a system of apartheid. A much worse apartheid from what prevailed in South Africa at one point in time.

“Let me remind you that East Jerusalem is not part of Israel, it’s an occupied territory, but it’s a land that Israel annexed illegally by international law.”

Dr. Barghouti reveals he was restricted from entering Jerusalem himself last week:

“As I said, they are not allowing people in in a very discriminatory way. For instance, last Friday, I tried to go to the mosque again and I was stopped by an Israeli military checkpoint, and they told me that I am not allowed in, although they claimed that they will allow every person above the age of 50. I’m definitely more than 50. They said, no, I am not allowed for security reasons.”

“Although I was born in Jerusalem, my sister lives in Jerusalem, I worked as a medical doctor in Jerusalem for 15 years in the famous hospital there called Al Makassed Hospital. Since 2005, they have systematically prevented me from reaching Jerusalem. On that Friday, they detained me for more than an hour and then they forced me back. That is an example of how they practice their discriminatory system and policy,” Dr. Barghouti added.

ICC Receives Complaint Accusing Israel of Targeting Journalists 

Seddon mentions the recent announcement from the International Criminal Court that it has received a complaint accusing Israel of systematically targeting journalists working in Palestine and failing to properly investigate the killings of media workers, amounting to war crimes.

The complaint was submitted in early April 2022 from The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), working with leading human rights lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Doughty Street Chambers.

Dr. Barghouti replies, “As you mentioned, many of those who were injured over the last weeks were journalists and some of them were also seriously injured. You don’t see that because there is a very huge amount of hypocrisy. I wanted to call this year, the 2022, ‘the year of ultimate hypocrisy by Western media and by many Western countries’, where there is such a level of double standard, unbelievable.”

“When you see 6,000 punitive acts and sanctions taken against Russia within a period of two weeks and not a single sanction on Israel over the last 74 years of ethnic cleansing, the longest occupation in modern history and the worst system of apartheid ever, not a single sanction, nothing, not even against illegal settlers…”

Seddon completes part one of the discussion by saying, “On this line of the journalists, according to Doughty Street Chambers here in London and the UK, some 46 [Palestinian] journalists in total have been killed since 2000, and no one has been held to account.”

(Palestine Deep Dive)

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