Tension At Al-Aqsa Compound As Muslim And Jewish Festivals Overlap

Israeli police have cleared Palestinian worshippers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which overlaps with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av. Israeli police used tear gas, rubber bullets and sound grenades to clear the Mosque, located in occupied East Jerusalem, a vital location in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to al Jazeera, 61 Palestinians were injured by Israeli police. Jewish people are barred from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as determined by a longstanding agreement between the two groups. Many Muslims were gathered outside the Mosque after hearing the news that Israeli police would be letting in Jewish people.

According to al Jazeera, outside the crowded Mosque and in front of the Israeli police, Palestinians chanted: “With our soul and blood, we will redeem you, Aqsa.” Jordan, the Mosque’s custodian and one of the only two Arab countries with a peace treaty with Israel, condemned Israel’s “continuous violations”. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused Israel of provoking religious and political tension: “The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Israeli occupation forces this Eid morning is an act of recklessness and aggression.” He also said that Israel’s actions are “fueling religious tensions in Jerusalem” and that Israeli officials would be “fully responsible for its grave consequences”.

Israel’s actions in allowing the Jewish people to pray in a Mosque purposely not been open to them is concerning, along with the fact that they knowingly violated their agreement with the Palestinians. Additionally, the violent actions of the Israeli police in sending Muslims away from their Mosque on a holy day is cause for concern, especially in East Jerusalem where so much of the conflict between the two nations has occurred. Furthering religious disputes in the Israel/Palestine area is concerning for the future of the area and peace negotiations between the two nations.

The Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem has been an area of conflict between the two sides for some time. In early 2019, after a supposed firebomb scare, Israeli police assaulted Muslim worshippers and religious figures near the Mosque and closed the compound for a day, in a move that Palestinian groups see as a continuation of Israel’s arbitrary policies. In June 2019, Israeli forces and settlers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sparked even more violence. While the conflict between the two groups is incredibly complex and violent on both sides, one of the most important factors in creating peace between the two nations is how they deal with religious spaces that have significant meaning for both Abrahamic religions.

While there has been violence coming from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli police using violence to clear Muslim worshippers from their Mosque during a Muslim holiday is problematic and cause for concern. For both sides to be able to someday negotiate a way to navigate peace, the violence – especially at holy sites, must stop, and it is up to both sides to instigate this. Through continuing violence perpetrated by both sides, it is hard to see where peace can blossom.

Bella Kocabiyik