Israel: Escalating Tensions Over Al-Asqa Mosque Attack

After the July 14th attacks in Jerusalem’s Old City, tensions have been escalating. This attack, wherein two Israeli policemen were killed by three Palestinian citizens of Israel (who were all later shot by police) at the sacred site for both Muslims and Jews appears to be part of the “Jerusalem intifada,” which began in October 2015, according to the BBC. Later that day, Israeli police shut down the compound, disabling Friday prayers for Muslims and angering Palestinians. After metal detectors were installed that day as a safety measure, Muslims protested by refusing to enter the compound, praying outside instead. Whilst the metal detectors were removed as of the 23rd of July, the damage had already been done as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had frozen contact with Israel over the matter until normalcy returned. Israel needs to stop resorting to force as its first option and start pursuing diplomacy which is the only long term solution.

Protests persisted all week, and at least three Palestinians were killed in protests this Friday. One was killed by an armed Israeli settler and hundreds were wounded as the Israeli police force fired live ammunition, tear gas, and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse protesters. Muslims were protesting the use of metal detectors and the new measure of barring all Muslim men under 50 from the site. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he “deeply deplores” the killings of three Palestinians and urged Israelis and Palestinians not to escalate tensions, stating that religious sites were places for reflection, not violence. Three Israeli’s were also killed in a knife attack in an occupied West Bank settlement. Guterres further urged that the status quo at the compound (i.e no metal detectors and heightened security) be maintained.

Whilst Israel has now decided to stop the use of the metal detector, it has caused enormous tensions. Nisreen Alayan, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – East Jerusalem, stated that the measures would only intensify violence, as seen in the past, as such measures have never contributed to peaceful proceedings. Palestinians themselves were enraged by the metal detectors installed at al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which they see as another hostile move from Israel. Palestinians view their attacks as legitimate armed resistance against 5o years of occupation, Al Jazeera reports. Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, also stated that protests against Israeli occupation of Palestine will only intensify as a result of Israel’s actions.

Israel has since called upon Arab countries to provide security solutions as Maj-Gen Mordechai told BBC Arabic, adding that rather than a political or religious solution, only a security solution was needed. Yet, when the history and politics of Palestine and Israel is at the heart of this matter, merely a security solution will not suffice. Whilst Israel is a self-proclaimed innocent victim in all of this, they must take responsibility for their actions — both past and present. Israel now occupies almost all of Palestine, making Israel an aggressor, even coloniser, as historian Ilan Pappe states. To this day Israel continues to use violence under the guise of security, yet violence breeds violence, never peace. Israel needs to have an open dialogue with Palestine, and honestly assess the current situation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must also re-establish contact with Israel and urge Palestinians to be peaceful, otherwise, Israel will continue with its restrictive and violent measures. Arab countries as well the USA, UK and other western powers must also persuade Israel to be more accommodating to Palestine and support Palestinians in their right to their land, culture and life opportunities. Israeli people must also be educated about the Palestinian plight and what happened to them. If Palestinians and Israelis can work together to reconcile, then one day a peaceful solution may come about.

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