Last week, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon outlawed two Muslim groups and banned them from entering Al Aqsa sanctuary. The groups, the Murabitun and Murabatat, comprised of civilian men and women of all ages, respectively, were formed to protect Al Aqsa, peacefully and through civil disobedience inside the sanctuary, from incursions by extremist Jewish settlers. Contrary to the Defense Ministry’s characterization of these volunteers as being the cause of the “tension and violence” at Al Aqsa, the members are not inciting these conflagrations but rather are acting to protect Al Aqsa from militant settlers who have every intent of seizing the holy site for themselves. Furthermore, these Palestinians have every right to gather in their houses of worship.
Today, Israeli forces padlocked the doors to Al Aqsa mosque, locking some Palestinian youth inside. A public call was then made that the Muslim site was open to Jews “who wanted to visit” for the Jewish New Year, according to media reports.
The violence prohibits Palestinians from worshipping freely, a right enshrined in international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And Israeli violence also contravenes American law, which stipulates that as a recipient of US Foreign Military Assistance, Israel is obligated to protect the freedom of religious worship.
Attacks against Palestinian worshipers have increased significantly in the past year, mainly due to the Temple Movement under the protection of the Israeli military and police. The Temple Movement is a coalition of several Messianic, extremist Jewish groups who want to destroy the Al Aqsa sanctuary in order to build their own temple.
Palestinians, as well as Muslims around the world, are fearful that Israeli authorities will seize control of Al Aqsa mosque and close a large portion of it to Muslims like they did at Al Ibrahimi mosque in Al Khalil. In that case, after Jewish militant Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Palestinians in Al Ibrahimi in 1994, Israeli military authorities shut down the mosque. When it re-opened, only one-third was accessible to Palestinians. The condition exists until today.
Bills to divide Al Aqsa have been discussed in the Israeli Knesset in recent years; and the Jerusalem Municipality is discussing a resolution to turn the sanctuary’s courtyard into a public park which, eventually, would lead to the expulsions of Palestinians from that site. Many have said that dividing the mosque would have major implications in the Muslim world, which could spark massive violence.
Since Israeli General Shlomo Goren called to blow up Dome of the Rock at the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, Al Aqsa and worshipers there have never been free from attacks, intimidation and threats of destruction. Though Israeli officials say they support the ‘status quo’ of Al Aqsa as being under the control of the Jordan-based Islamic Trust, several agencies within the government support the Temple Movement.
“The freedom to worship is a fundamental human right, yet the United States continues to send more than $3.2 billion to Israel unabated every year,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman. “It is time for the US to start holding Israel accountable and to the same human rights standards to which we hold other countries.”
“It is in America’s best interest to ensure Israel comply with international and American law and allow Palestinians to worship freely and to ensure Al Aqsa mosque stays unmolested,” said Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, AMP national policy director. “This is an extremely significant site, not just for Palestinians but for all Muslims. Protecting the sanctity of Al Aqsa for Muslims is imperative if peace is ever to be achieved in the Middle East.”