Five Palestinians were killed and nearly 1,000 others were wounded within ten days in Jerusalem, beginning July 14.
Commenting on this alarming figure, the Israeli rights group, B'Tselem accused the Israeli army of "sweeping disregard" for Palestinian lives in Occupied East Jerusalem.
Palestinians, however, remained undeterred, continuing their protests in the city.
Aside from its geographic centrality and spiritual significance for Palestinians, the powerful symbolism of Jerusalem unites all Palestinians regardless of religion, region or ideology.
It is no surprise that several Palestinian uprisings of various magnitudes bore the name ‘al-Aqsa’ or ‘Jerusalem’. This is compelled by more than mere religious fervor.
The capture of Jerusalem was the pinnacle of Israel's military victory in 1967 and is ‘celebrated’ with tremendous arrogance year after year.
The ‘celebrations’ of this year were the most conceited yet. Israeli officials spoke in a language laden with triumph; religious leaders insisted on the need to demolish the holy sites in search for a Third Temple. Israel once again united on the incessant, deviant desire to further humiliate Palestinians.
Since the tragic fall of Jerusalem five decades ago, the Israeli army and police controlled every aspect of life of Palestinian Jerusalemites, determining who enters and who leaves the holy city.
On a daily basis, but specifically on Fridays, thousands of Israeli soldiers stand guard at every checkpoint, every gate and every major street, checking IDs, detaining and abusing Palestinian travelers.
Israel’s ultimate aim is to make life virtually unbearable for Palestinians, - with the hope that they would eventually leave the city - while facilitating the expansion of illegal Jewish colonies.
However, Palestinians remain resilient, as it is in Jerusalem that they hope to establish their capital.
Even before Israel illegally annexed the city in 1981, Palestinians were already feeling unwanted in their own home, violently pushed around, prohibited from constructing, restricted in their travel, and harassed and often turned back when they tried to reach Al-Aqsa to pray.
This is the context that is largely and glibly omitted when the recent violence is communicated in the media, which unfairly reports of 'clashes' as if Palestinians, armed with their prayer rugs, are engaged in a fair fight against gun-laden Israeli soldiers.
On Friday, July 14, a gun-battle erupted between three armed Palestinian men and an Israeli occupation force stationed at the Haram al-Sharif Compound, the Holy Sanctuary, which hosts Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and other holy Muslim sites.
Mohammed Ahmed Jabareen, 29, Mohammed Hamed Abd Al-Latif Jabareen, 19, and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdal Jabareen, 19, were immediately killed by occupation soldiers. Two Israeli officers were also killed.
On that day, several Palestinians were killed in various parts of the West Bank and a 3-year-old child from Gaza died while awaiting a permit to cross from the besieged region to the West Bank for treatment. None of this registered in international media.
Even before Israel illegally annexed the city in 1981, Palestinians were already feeling unwanted in their own home, violently pushed around, prohibited from constructing, restricted in their travel, and harassed and often turned back when they tried to reach Al-Aqsa to pray.Ramzy Baroud
Immediately, the Israeli army shut down the holy site for several days, marking the first time that Al-Aqsa was closed in modern history. It was re-opened after metal detectors were installed - an act that was met by Palestinian defiance. They protested for days at a high cost of death and injury.
On July 24, the metal detectors were removed. However, they were replaced by ‘smart surveillance’ technology, signaling Israeli insistence on controlling the site.
For Palestinians - Muslims and Christians alike – Al-Aqsa took on a new meaning following the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. Scenes of Israeli soldiers raising the Israeli flag over Muslim and Christian shrines in the city five decades ago, are etched into the collective memory of several generations, and the image recurred in this instance.
Israeli plans in East Jerusalem, however, are far greater than Al-Aqsa itself. Last April, the Israeli government announced plans to build 15,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.
The international community recognizes East Jerusalem as a Palestinian city. The United States, too, accepts international consensus on Jerusalem, and attempts by the US Congress to challenge the White House on this understanding have all failed. That is, until Donald Trump came to power.
While many Americans were quite surprised by Donald Trump’s presidency, many Israelis were quite euphoric.
Shrewd politicians like Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saw the Trump presidency as an opportunity to expand illegal settlements and to free himself from the burden of the ‘peace process.’ Others, including “mystically-inclined Jews (saw) Trump as a sort of divine instrument.”
“Within Israel’s controversial Temple Mount movement, which seeks to build the Third Temple in the center of Jerusalem’s Old City, Trump has found vocal advocates who see him not simply as a political ally, but as something more,” reported the Forward.
One such advocate is Israeli Rabbi Hillel Weiss, accused by Israel’s own media of wanting to “annihilate the Palestinians.”
Speaking to Breaking Israel News, Weiss said Trump “can choose to be a part of a process to bring the Messiah.”
That anticipation translated on the ground to numerous provocative ‘visits’ to Al-Aqsa compound by Jewish extremists accompanied by armed soldiers, as The Temple Movement seems to be experiencing unprecedented popularity.
Zionist enthusiasm over Trump is understandable. Not only has the new president made his anti-Muslim rhetoric a staple in his campaign, prior to his inauguration in January, he had also promised to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
While the US embassy is yet to officially enact this promise, the new administration is sending a message that it is no longer bound by, and will act in in clear violation of, international law with regard to the Occupied Territories.
Despite US-Israeli pressure, several resolutions have been passed by the UN cultural center, UNESCO, and the UN General Assembly, in recent months, which have reaffirmed Palestinian rights in the city.
In response, Israel and the US moved to punish Palestinians for this international consensus.
As soon as Trump walked into his Oval Office, the Israeli government opened the floodgates of settlement expansion in the occupied city, after being partially limited from doing so during the presidency of Barack Obama. This was, in part, Netanyahu’s response to UN Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.
Since then, the Israeli Knesset began pushing laws that make life even more unbearable for Palestinian Jerusalemites, including one that limits the Muslim call for prayer – this law passed its second reading last March, and was championed by Netanyahu himself.
The political upheaval has translated on the ground to more violence, as thousands of Israeli occupation soldiers and police were rushed to the city to restrict Palestinian movement and block thousands of worshippers from reaching Al-Aqsa. Hundreds were detained in a massive security campaign.
Israeli police expanded the ever-growing list of Palestinians who are prevented from reaching their houses of worship. Palestinians resisted by constantly attempting to reach Al-Aqsa or demonstrating in protest. Others, like the Jabareen’s, reached their breaking point.
In the absence of a strong leadership, Palestinians are growing increasingly desperate and angry. The Palestinian Authority is largely busy with its own pitiful power struggles, sparing no time for Palestinians who are left with little political hope and no clear sense of direction.
Last June in Jerusalem, speaking to a crowd celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the city, Netanyahu declared that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound would "forever remain under Israeli sovereignty."
The current upheaval is Netanyahu’s response to the international community. Along with its allies in Washington, the Israeli government is determined to exploit the American support for as long as Trump is in office.
Meanwhile, the new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took on the task of silencing any international criticism of the Israeli occupation, referring to international attempts to end the occupation as a form of 'bullying.'
Empowered by the Trump administration, Netanyahu seems to believe that his dream of subduing East Jerusalem is being realized. The price of his dream, however, is likely to be costly.
More violence is likely to follow. Palestinians, whose deaths receive little media coverage, are pushed to further lengths of desperation and fury as their holy city is crumbling under the heavy boots of soldiers, amid international silence and unconditional US support for the Israeli government.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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