Escalating clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Jerusalem have been framed as a religious war by the media and right-wingers on both sides. That is understandable given the frequent assaults on Al-Aqsa mosque compound, mostly by Jewish settlers under heavy police protection. However, the clashes are described as religious in nature more by the Israelis than the Palestinians, as if to justify acts that cannot be legally or morally justified.
The supposedly democratic and civic state of Israel has never cracked down any extremist Jewish groups in the way Arabs have been doing against Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and other radical Islamist organizations.
After recently writing about Jerusalem, an Israeli professor at an American university emailed me, advising me to tone it down regarding the clashes in the Old City, and claiming that the Islamic Waqf (trust) in Jerusalem has been working to change the Jewish identity of the city.
This is not a religious war. It is Palestinians resisting settlers who are pursuing a political agenda of changing the status quo in Jerusalem regarding holy sites, which has been in place since 1967.Raed Omari
How? Have Muslims in Jerusalem ever stormed the Wailing Wall, the Kotel or any other Jewish holy site? Have Jerusalemites ever attacked settlers unless in retaliation? The fact is that insecurity, tension and religious fanaticism in Jerusalem are always ignited by settlers under Israeli army protection.
Of course, when Al-Haram al-Sharif is under attack, Palestinians will respond using all possible means to defend their third-holiest site. However, this is not a religious war. It is Palestinians resisting settlers who are pursuing a political agenda of changing the status quo in Jerusalem regarding holy sites, which has been in place since 1967. This is part of the Israeli scheme to transform the multi-religious, multi-cultural city into a purely Jewish one.
The recent Israeli ban on Palestinian worshippers in illegally annexed East Jerusalem is not a security measure, but an affront to the administrative status quo that guarantees followers of all three Abrahamic faiths the right to worship. Changing that status quo violates Israeli commitments and closes the door on the two-state solution.
Jerusalem and Al-Haram al-Sharif is a red line for all Muslims. I was told days ago by a Pakistani ex-general that his country - a nuclear power - cannot remain idle over Jerusalem. “Al-Haram al-Sharif, like Mecca and Medina, is in our hearts and blood. We were taught that in the military academies.”
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
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