By Dr. Elias Akleh
Netanyahu’s late decision to include the Islamic Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron) and Bilal Mosque in Bethlehem to the so-called “Israeli list of national heritage sites” seems to re-ignite the spark of religious war between Jewish Israelis on one side and the Moslem Palestinians and the Islamic World on the other side.
This decision came as a first step in adopting his plan of reviving and renovating Jewish sites throughout Palestine; a plan he announced in his speech at the Tenth Annual Herzliya Conference last month. This plan is aimed at connecting the young Israeli generations to the land as a counter measure to the numerous Palestinian NGO’s web sites and activities aiming at asserting the Palestinian roots and heritage to the land.
Netanyahu’s government had also announced its decision to launch a 30-month project to allegedly renovate and develop the infrastructure of Christian and Moslem neighborhoods of the city of Old Jerusalem. The real aim of this project is the elimination of the Arab identity and characteristics of the town, and morphing it within a Jewish religious color.
The 43 years old Israeli archeological dig underneath and around the Islamic Al-Aqsa Mosque did not uncover any shred of evidence of the alleged Jewish temple on that site. After falsifying the history, Zionists now need to distort the Arabic features of the town and turn it into Jewish. The destruction of Palestinian Al-Bustan neighborhood to build the so-called Biblical Gardens Project around the old city is just one of those distortions.
Netanyahu had also declared Israel’s intention of keeping key parts of the West Bank even if there is a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He was referring to major Israeli colonies (settlements) in the West Bank especially those in Jericho and the Jordan River Valley along the eastern border of the West Bank. He alleged Israel’s control of the border is essential to block the alleged flow of weapons from Jordan to Palestinians. When Israeli government demanded no preconditions for the resumption of peace negotiation, this decision seems to be a precondition.
These announcements had infuriated the Palestinians, who went out into the streets demonstrating into every major city to protect their holy mosques, homes, and land. The demonstration in Al-Khalil (Hebron) was especially furious because Netanyahu’s decision to add the Ibrahimi Mosque to Israel’s list of national heritage coincided with the sixteenth anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre perpetrated by the Zionist Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who murdered in cold blood 29 Moslems while kneeling in prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque.
After the six-days-war in 1967 the Israeli government took control of the Ibrahimi Mosque, and provided protected and free entry to extremist Zionist Jews to pray while limiting access to Moslems prayers, who have to go through electronic gates and body search before entering their mosque. It is reported that Israelis are destroying the Islamic characteristic of the Mosque especially its ancient carpet by dropping burning acid on it.
Netanyahu’s decisions had encouraged extremist fundamentalist Jewish groups, who called for entry and prayer into Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Purim Jewish festival last Sunday. Violent clashes took place between the Israeli police, who tried to provide safe entry to hundreds of these extremists, and Moslem Palestinians, who gathered in the Mosque to protect it. This Friday, also, more clashes broke between the Israeli police and Moslem prayers at the Mosque.
Other extremist Zionist Jewish groups were so encouraged by these decisions so that they started building colonies on Palestinian land in Jericho. Others rushed in occupying more homes in the Jerusalem Palestinian suburb of Sheikh Jarah under the protection of Israeli police. More and more Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to allow extremist Israelis to occupy those homes. This Saturday, March 6th, has witnessed a huge gathering of Palestinians and pro-peace Israelis demonstrating against these evictions in the area.
Netanyahu’s decisions carry some dangerous implications. He knows that the US is applying pressure on Arab leaders and the Palestinian Authority to re-engage into peace negotiations without any preconditions such as freezing colonization (settlement). His decisions came as pre-emptive preconditions against any possible future political agreement in order for Israel to keep control over any area with alleged Israeli heritage sites. This translates into further fragmentation of contiguous land for any possible future Palestinian state.
The decision clearly demonstrates to Palestinians and to the world the Israeli intransigence, disregard to all international laws and UN resolutions, and aspiration for further expansion rather than for peace.
It can be easily seen that the 18 years peace negotiations yielded no peace, no end to Israeli occupation, and no Palestinian state in any shape or form. With their “land for peace” offer and Arab Peace Initiative the so-called Arab moderate leaders had achieved nothing but more Israeli colonization, demolishing more of Palestinians homes, and Judaizing more of Old Jerusalem including Christian and Moslem holy places. The process of peace negotiations with Israel has proven to be just a waste of time and providing opportunities for more Israeli colonization.
Yet, when Arab masses are demanding their leaders to protect their religious sites with actions rather than just mere condemnations, those Arab leaders, lacking any political will, had disappointed their people for the Nth time, and gave another lenient response to Netanyahu’s decisions. In their summit last Wednesday March 3rd Arab leaders agreed to a US proposal for “indirect” Palestinian-Israeli talks for a four-month period.
One wonders what “indirect” talks would produce that the 18 years direct talks did not accomplish.
The illegal Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidency had expired January 2008, was under tremendous pressure from the US and donor countries to resume negotiations with Israel. He and his gang are faced with the threat that their usefulness may terminate, and they may lose their political and economical power. But unlike the American administration Abbas could not drop his previous demand for settlement freeze before returning to negotiations. So he resorted to the Arab League to provide him with a political cover. He, now, can baldly claim that renegotiation was an Arab League decision.
Sadly and ironically the Arab League Chief, Amr Mussa, declared: “Despite a lack of conviction over Israel’s seriousness, Arab foreign ministers will give indirect talks a chance, for the final time, in order to facilitate US efforts, within four months.” He also added: “There was a consensus that Israel is not interested in peace, the proof being what is taking place on occupied land … Acts which are meant to provoke the Arab and American sides”
It was clear that the Arab League decision was aimed at providing an Arab cover for an already-taken Palestinian decision to hold indirect negotiations with Israel without any guarantees. Nabil Abu Rudeina, a Palestinian spokesman, gave a silly justification for calling on delegates to accept the principle of indirect talks when he said: “Israel does not want to return to the negotiating table, but it wishes to blame the Palestinian side saying that the Palestinians do not want to enter into negotiations. So we must put a stop to this pretext and reveal Israel’s true position before the international community and the American administration.”
After 18 years of fruitless negotiations with many Palestinians concessions and with the Arab Peace Initiative it has become so obvious to even the politically naïve person that Israel does not want peace. Abu Rudeina’s justification is no longer valid and constitutes only dust in the eyes.
Palestinian leaders, in Ramallah, understand very well that they have no power at all. They are just employees, whose job is to partially administer the occupied territories and to oppress Palestinians to guarantee Israel’s security. Any deviation from these duties would mean assassination, similar to what happened to Arafat, or at best the loss of their lucrative political positions. Many Arab leaders, on the other hand, are hoping for a Palestinian state in any form or shape to keep the Israelis busy and to stop any further expansion outside of Palestine.
With their immigration to occupied Palestine (Israel) from every part of the world Zionist Jews bring with them different, and often, opposing social, political and religious biases. Such biases create division and inner conflict. Netanyahu, like all his Zionist predecessors, understands the need for creating a common external enemy in order to unite his people. Israel needs a perpetual conflict with its neighbors in order to survive internal conflict. Israeli leaders, thus, provoke their Arab leaders in order to justify their aggression against them and to fulfill the Zionist dream of greater Israel.
Many Arab leaders are under the illusion that Israel would be contained into a border within Palestine. The Zionist end goal is to build greater Israel from Nile to Euphrates, and even larger if they could, in order to control the whole Middle East with its natural resources especially oil. Zionized western countries; Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and US are in full support to the Zionist project and would not restrict Israeli expansion.
It behooves all Arab leaders to abandon their weak ineffective moderate approach, to unite as one entity, and to adopt resistance to put a stop to this expanding Israeli cancer, otherwise they would face the same fate native American Indians had suffered … genocide.
– Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer of Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit-Jala. Currently he lives in the US. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.