Video: Is Israel a step closer to al-Aqsa takeover?

For the first time in decades, Israel closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City to Friday prayers.

The closure followed an attack near an entrance to the compound which houses the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims.

Three Palestinian citizens of Israel ambushed police officers, fatally injuring two and lightly wounding another.

The assailants fled back into the compound where there was reportedly an exchange of fire before the Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces.

Since the killings on Friday morning, Israel has arrested dozens of employees of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the holy site.

When the compound was reopened two days later, Palestinians and Waqf officials refused to enter, objecting to metal detectors installed by Israel.

They have continued to stage sit-ins and perform prayers in the streets around the compound in protest of the Israeli restrictions.

Israeli forces have injured scores of worshippers as protests continued into Tuesday night.

Independent journalist Dan Cohen says that in reporting these events mainstream media have missed a critical part of the story.

He told The Real News: “The huge context that is missing, which might explain what precipitated this attack, was that there is a far right, what I would call an apocalyptic right-wing Israeli movement that tours the al-Aqsa compound under military protection on a daily basis, where they make explicit threats to destroy the mosques hoping that they will provoke Palestinians to react violently.”

“Then the Israeli military will have the pretext to arrest, expel and even kill anyone who resists with the idea that eventually Israel will control the entire compound and be able to destroy the mosques and build a temple in its place,” Cohen added.

Israel may follow the playbook it used in Hebron, where it took the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians by an American Jewish settler as a pretext to tighten its control of the Old City and partition the Ibrahimi mosque.

“If you go to Hebron now, it’s one of the most shocking forms of Israeli apartheid that you’ll see,” Cohen said.

The encroachment on al-Aqsa is spearheaded by the so-called Temple movement – messianic Jewish extremists who seek to replace the existing al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple.

While once on the fringes of Israeli society, this movement has gained power in Israel as well as support from the Israeli government.

Cohen said that there has been a “theocratization” of the Israeli military and institutions.

“In the past decades and especially the past couple of years, the Temple movement – mainstreamed into Israeli society as religious Zionist fundamentalists – have achieved prominence and really taken over the state,” Cohen said.

He added: “Now this movement to destroy the al-Aqsa compound is positioned as the tip of the spear in the Zionist project, in Israeli society, against Palestinians.”

Watch the video above.

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People need to go through metal detectors to get into basically everywhere these days, including religious institutions both in Israel and abroad. I am sure there is too security in Mecca and there is no protest there. Considering that weapons were stored on the plaza, wouldn't a real proponent of safety and peace be in favor of this measure for everyone's safety? Besides, if Israel wanted to destroy the mosque, considering their military strength, wouldn't they have done so or blocked all entrance a long time ago? Muslims are allowed to pray on the plaza and Jews and others are not, which in and of itself seems a bit against what "equal rights" looks like. I think this fear mongerring is unhelpful.

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People go through metal detectors set up to protect a place, not as part of a scheme of an illegal army of occupation. In this case, the people "protecting" a place have vowed to destroy the mosque and undermine its place as a pivotal and central site for Muslim worship. At the present time, Jewish persons can pray at the western wall which a simple picture will illustrate is part of the same site. The status quo is designed to protect both Jewish and Islamic places of worship. Israel has destroyed over 500 Islamic places of worship over the years and so this is not fear mongering or unhelpful, it is the lived reality for millions of people. One only needs to travel to hundreds of religious sites within an (uncheckpointed) hours drive to Jerusalem to know what Israel does to Muslim, Christian and Palestinian areas that it covets. Only a die hard and committed Zionist ideologue would try to convince using the threat posed by the Israeli military as baseless fear mongering. The time has long passed when the vast majority of people following this issue won't easily see through this hasbara.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.