As Israel sets to dismantle age-old landmarks in the holy site of Al-Aqsa, Khaled Amayreh gauges Muslim and Arab reactions, and, as well, the apparent cohesion on the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian front
Catalogue of provocations
Israel's encroachments upon the Al-Aqsa Mosque have not been sporadic, but, rather, a systematic endeavour
When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli army's chief rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, tried to convince a commander of the conquering forces, Uzi Narkis, to blow up Al-Aqsa Mosque "once and for all". This story was retold by Narkis shortly before his death in 1997 and quoted by Avi Shlaim in his important book, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.
"There was an atmosphere of spiritual elation. Paratroopers were milling around in a daze. Narkis was standing for a moment on his own, deep in thought, when Goren went up to him and said 'Uzi, this is the time to put a hundred kilogrammes of explosives in the Mosque of Omar, and that's it. We'll get rid of it once and for all.' Narkis said 'Rabbi, stop it.' Goren then said to him, 'Uzi, you'll enter the history books by virtue of this deed.' Narkis replied, 'I have already recorded my name in the pages of the history of Jerusalem.' Goren walked away without saying another word."
Goren re-entered the Haram Al-Sharif esplanade on 15 August 1967, in military uniform along with two-dozen soldiers from the Israeli army, in order to take measurements of its length and width. Afterwards, Goren announced where the Jewish "Second Temple" would be positioned. Two weeks after this incident, the Israeli occupation army seized the key to the Moroccan Gate leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Four days after the seizure of East Jerusalem, Israeli army bulldozers wantonly demolished the Maghariba and Al-Sharaf neighbourhoods, levelling them to the ground. The Palestinian inhabitants of the two neighbourhoods were expelled unceremoniously at gunpoint. At least 135 houses, two mosques, and two religious schools were completely destroyed.
In April 1968, Israel confiscated the Haret Al-Maghariba for "public use" and built on the site a large plaza in front of the so-called "Wailing" or "Western Wall". The Haret Al-Maghariba and the adjacent smaller Haret Al-Sharaf, which was also obliterated, were both Islamic waqf (religious endowment) property dating back to the Kurdish Muslim warrior Salaheddin Al-Ayoubi who defeated the Crusaders and restored Jerusalem to Islam.
On 21 August 1969, an Australian Christian Zionist, bearing the name Michael Dennis Rohan, set fire to the interior of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fire quickly destroyed the exquisite and ancient minbar, or pulpit, of Salaheddin (a new minbar, a replica of the old one, was put into place 1 February 2007). Rohan claimed he was "the Lord's emissary" and acting upon divine instructions. He said his purpose was to enable the Jews to build a temple in order to hasten the second advent of Jesus. Israeli authorities, who later claimed that Rohan was deranged, hindered efforts to extinguish the fire.
In 1970, Israeli occupation authorities began intensive excavation works directly beneath Al-Aqsa Mosque on the southern and western sides, and in 1977, digging continued and a large tunnel was opened beneath the women's prayer area. In 1979, a new tunnel was dug under the mosque, going east to west.
On 2 March 1982, an armed Jewish terrorist and Talmudic student attacked Al-Aqsa Mosque from Bab Al-Silsila after assaulting Muslim guards. Eventually, he was overpowered.
On 11 April 1982, a Jewish American terrorist, who was also an Israeli soldier, entered the Dome of the Rock and started firing randomly at Muslim worshipers. Dozens of people were killed and injured. The Israeli government subsequently pardoned Allen Goodman, a member of the Jewish Defence League, after he spent but a few years in jail.
On 27 April 1982, Jewish terrorist leader Meir Kahana, along with 100 of his followers, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque carrying a large diagram of the Second Temple he was planning to build "on the ruins" of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On 27 January 1984, two waqf guards saw two Jewish terrorists fleeing near the Golden Gate. The two left behind ladders, 13 kilogrammes of explosives, and 21 Israeli- manufactured grenades similar to ones found there previously.
On 29 March 1984, the Archaeological Department of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs dug a tunnel, one metre in length, two metres in width and 10 metres deep near the western part of Al-Aqsa Mosque, endangering the Islamic "Majlis" or council building.
On 1 August 1984, Al-Aqsa security guards discovered another group of Jewish terrorists preparing to blow up the mosque. Sheikh Saadeddin Al-Alami, mufti of Jerusalem, said: "had it not been for the protection of God, the whole mosque would have been completely obliterated.
Also on 1 August 1984, the Jewish terrorist Youssef Zeruya was convicted of plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock Mosque and sentenced to three years in jail.
On 8 October 1990, Israeli "border police" soldiers murdered as many as 22 Palestinians and injured more than 100 others during a protest triggered by an attempt by Jewish extremists to lay the cornerstone for a Jewish temple in the Haram Al-Sharif plaza. On 19 August 1991, an Israeli judge, Ezra Kama, ruled that the Israeli police, not Palestinians, provoked the violence. The UN also condemned Israel for the carnage.
In September 1996, Israeli occupation authorities opened a large ancient tunnel beneath Haram Al-Sharif, sparking bloody clashes with Palestinian Authority police throughout the West Bank in which 57 Palestinians and 16 Israelis were killed.
In December 1997, Jewish terrorists tried to toss a pig's head into the Haram Al-Sharif compound.
On 28 September 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- then opposition leader -- in deliberate provocation led hundreds of Israeli crack police into the Haram Al-Sharif compound in order to "underscore Jewish rights". The next day, Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out.
On 7 February 2007, Israeli bulldozers began digging outside Bab Al-Maghariba (the Moroccan Gate). Israel claimed that it was but repairing an old ramp leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Muslim officials contend the digging is part of Israeli designs against the mosque.
Two days later, Israeli occupation authorities prevented Muslims from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque for the weekly congregational prayer. With effort a few thousand Palestinians entered the mosque where they protested against the provocative excavations. The Israeli police fired tear gas and stunned grenades at the protesters, injuring several of them.