Jewish terrorist groups are plotting an attack in Jerusalem, reports Khalid Amayreh from the West Bank
Israel's Public Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said on Sunday that suspected Jewish terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks on the Haram Al-Sharif compound, which houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted officials in the Israeli intelligence service -- the Shin Bet or Shabak -- as saying that there was a possibility terrorists would crash a plane into the mosque, ostensibly to assure its destruction. Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam's third holiest site, after two in Saudi Arabia -- the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina.
Hanegbi suggested the attackers' goal would be to thwart the implementation of the disengagement plan -- the controversial Israeli proposal to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
However, a former leader of a Jewish terrorist organisation that sought to bomb Al-Aqsa in the late 1970s told Israeli state-run radio Sunday that the purpose of any "new action" would not have anything to do with the disengagement plan.
Various millenarian Jewish groups exist in Israel that openly call for the destruction of the mosque in order to facilitate the "rebuilding" of the Jewish temple on its grounds. Messianic Jews believe the destruction of the mosque and construction of their temple would expedite the appearance of a Jewish Messiah, or redeemer, who would rule the world from Jerusalem and bring about salvation for the Jewish people.
Muslim leaders in Palestine have warned of "unpredictable ramifications" and "horrible tribulations" all over the world in case anything happened to Al-Aqsa Mosque. "This is the ultimate red line. If Jewish terrorists embarked on such an act of sheer madness, they would trigger huge fires all over the world... only God knows how the fires would be extinguished," said Kamal Khatib, deputy head of Israel's powerful Islamic movement.
Khatib said the movement in Israel is extremely vigilant and is acting round the clock to stave off any terrorist attack against Islamic sites in the holy city. "We send thousands of people to the Haram Al-Sharif every day to make up for Israel's barring of our people from the mosque... And we see to it that there are no loopholes in security arrangements," he said.
The highest ranking Muslim cleric in East Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Jewish extremists are indeed capable of doing the unthinkable. "We know quite well that they are conniving, and coordinating their plans with the Israeli security establishment," he said. "We also know that the Israeli state uses the extremists as a supplemental tool to effect its thinly disguised goals, including the destruction of the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem."
However, Sabri warned that Israel might actually be trying to find a pretext to gain a "foothold" inside the Haram Al-Sharif compound under the pretext of "ensuring the security of the place." He cited the example of Hebron where, in 1994, following a massacre in which 29 Arab worshipers were killed by a messianic Jewish immigrant from Brooklyn, the Israeli army effectively took over the town's historic Ibrahimi Mosque and gave the bulk of the holy place to Jewish settlers.
The "arrangement" then was made under the rubric of "security" and preventing the repetition of the massacre. Sabri also said that the Israeli authorities knew the extremists "one by one" but have refrained from taking action against them for political reasons.
The Israeli police now allow Jewish extremists to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, despite strong opposition from the Supreme Muslim Council. Israeli officials, including security chiefs, argue that Jews have a right to visit the mosque compound, which they call the Temple Mount, just like anybody else. However, Wakf officials say that the extremists' visits are actually "inspection tours" to help plan attacks against the holy place.
On Sunday, a Jewish rabbi allied with the messianic Gush Emunim movement, which advocates the expulsion of non-Jews from Israel, told the Israeli army radio, Gali Tzahal, that he fully supported the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
"This is more than a positive thing, this is a desirable thing, and I am looking forward to seeing these mosques reduced to ruins," said Yehuda Tzion, who in 1980 headed the underground Jewish group which planned to bomb Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is the same man who urged the Israeli government to "send army bulldozers to the site and destroy these buildings once and for all... And if the state is not willing to do so, let other Jews do it."
One of the messianic Jewish groups that openly calls for the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque is the Temple Mount Faithful, headed by Girshon Solomon. A few years ago, he told Israeli television, with the Dome of the Rock in the background, that "it is time this pagan edifice has ceased to exist."
Interestingly, such provocative calls for violence go unpunished in Israel as long as they are made against non-Jews.
In 1980, Israeli terrorists planned to launch land-to-land missiles at the Dome of the Rock. Moreover, explosives that would have been used to blow up the mosque were found hidden behind its walls. Then the terrorists told Shin Bet interrogators that they only wanted to ignite a worldwide conflagration which would lead to the death of millions of people.
When asked why they would cause horrendous bloodshed, the plotters reportedly said the occurrence of the contemplated genocide would assure the appearance of the Messiah and fulfilment of their redemption.