Stone throwing incident at Al Aqsa

Stone throwing incident at Al Aqsa

by Sheila Musaji

Pamela Geller published an article On Passover, Muslims Stone Jews at the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount and she calls them “savages”.  Her partner Robert Spencer published Muslims stone Jews on Temple Mount on last day of Passover with the comment “Yet judging by the international media and UN resolutions, one would almost think that Jews were stoning Muslims trying to enter the Dome of the Rock.”

Once again we have a black and white, one-sided presentation of an incident that happened on March 31st.  Is it possible that anything happened leading up to this incident (or other incidents)?  Could there be more to this story?  Might there have been any provocation?  Or are Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims just born with an unquenchable urge to throw rocks at Israeli’s?  Looking at new reports from just the month that this incident happened, it seems clear that there is much more to this story than the oversimplified telling by Geller and Spencer.

On 3/6 al Ahram reported clashes erupted in Jerusalem on Wednesday after eight Jewish settlers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of Israeli police:

The settlers prayed in front of the mosque before clashes broke out with Palestinian Muslims, a guard at the mosque told Egypt’s state news agency MENA.  “Israeli authorities allow military troops, settlers and even tourists to enter Al-Aqsa, which provokes the feelings of Muslims praying in the mosque,” the guard added.

A Palestinian man was shot during the clashes and transferred to a medical clinic. Also, An Israeli soldier removed a Palestinian woman’s veil after she prevented a settler from photographing her.

These tensions came ahead of US President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories that will begin on 20 March.

On 3/7, PNN reported Israeli Police Prevent Female Students from Entering Al-Aqsa Mosque:  “On Thursday 7th March, Israeli police, stationed at the main entrances of al-Aqsa Mosque, prevented some 50 female students who study Quran from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

On 3/8, NBC News reported url=]Clashes at iconic Al-Aqsa mosque raise tensions ahead of Obama visit[/url]

On 3/9, Hurriyet Daily News reported Turkish Foreign Ministry condemns Israeli police raid on al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

On 3/12 The Daily Beast reported Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Displaced Worshippers:

Last night, a march of extremist Israeli settlers took over the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, filling the streets with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers enforcing a strictly “Jews only” policy on the streets of the Muslim Quarter that put the nearly 30,000 Palestinian residents of the Muslim Quarter under curfew until the march was over.

This follows a week of attacks of this nature on Al-Aqsa Mosque—the third most holy site in Islam just a few meters away from the Dome of the Rock, the iconic golden crowning glory of Jerusalem. Under normal circumstances, though anyone can enter the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, only practicing Muslims are allowed to enter the inside of Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, in recent years extremist Israeli settlers—protected by IDF soldiers or Israeli police—have stormed the mosque, claiming that it should be destroyed so that the Third Temple can be erected in its place.

Recently, due to heightened tensions leading to violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank that many Israelis fear could lead to a Palestinian uprising, the attacks on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound have intensified.

This most recent string of attacks started on Sunday when an Israeli soldier attacked Palestinian female students inside of the mosque and deliberately stepped on and destroyed her Qu’ran when it fell to the floor, according to the Israeli-Arab NGO Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage. A few days later on Wednesday, eight Israeli settlers accompanied by soldiers entered the mosque during prayers and ripped off a woman’s hijab—a traditional head covering required for worship at the mosque. On Friday—International Women’s Day—clashes erupted when dozens of Israeli policemen were present at the mosque compound as Palestinian worshippers gathered for noon prayers. According to Israeli Police Spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld, police entered the compound when Palestinians responded to their presence with rocks and two petrol bombs—molotov cocktails. According to Palestinian sources, including a video account, the soldiers raided the compound firing teargas and stun grenades, pushing several women and injuring one journalist.

Many reports claim that these violent attacks are in response to Palestinian tensions surrounding President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel. However, according to residents of Jerusalem—both in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and in the surrounding Arab neighborhoods—these attacks are routine.

On 3/15, Al Ahram reported Israel will allow only Palestinians carrying Israeli identity cards and above 50 years old to perform the Friday prayers in Al-Aqsa mosque

On 3/18, PNN reported 60 Israeli Female Soldiers, Jewish Settlers Raid Al-Aqsa Mosque: “Monday 18th March, around 60 Israeli female conscripts and dozens of Jewish settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, through al-Magharbeh gate.  The intruders enjoyed heavy Israeli police protection as the feverish Israeli attempts to Judaize the holy city gain momentum.”

On 3/21 and 3/22, President Obama was visiting Jerusalem. 

On 3/26, Maan News reported Far right Israeli MK calls for Jewish prayers at Al-Aqsa compound:

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said Tuesday that Likud’s Moshe Feiglin posted a call on his Facebook page for Israelis to pray at the Jerusalem compound.  He also posted pictures of himself at the sensitive Jerusalem holy site, according to the foundation.

The group called on Palestinian worshipers and students to gather at the mosque to protect it.  In early March, Feiglin attempted to enter the 7th century mosque but was stopped by Al-Aqsa guards and students, the Al-Aqsa Foundation said.  The controversial Likud MK has stated in the past that Palestinians in Israel should be relocated and that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.

On 3/29, Al Monitor reported Palestinian Christians Face Greater Restrictions This Easter:

Thousands of Christians from across the globe are flocking to Jerusalem to follow the footsteps of Jesus during the Easter festivities. But while pilgrims from Africa, Asia, the US and Europe can easily spend the most important Christian holiday in the historic city, Christian Palestinians living only five to 15 miles away cannot. According to Palestinian priests, the number of permits available have been greatly reduced for this holiday.

... In a news release on March 24, Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) expressed frustration that some parishes had received only 30% to 40% of the permits they had requested. 
“There should not even be a question of needing permits to visit one’s own city,” she said: “East Jerusalem is the occupied capital of the Palestinian people and freedom of worship is a basic human right for all of our Christian and Muslim citizens, a right which is being systematically and increasingly denied by a foreign occupying force.”

On 3/31, Al Ahram reported Palestinians protest Israelis visiting Al-Aqsa:

Israeli police arrested six Palestinians after stones were thrown at Israelis visiting Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday during the Jewish Passover holiday, a spokesman said.

“There was a regular scheduled visit on Temple Mount,” spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, using the Jewish name for the compound which is the third-holiest site in Islam but also Judaism’s most sacred place.  “Stones were thrown at the visitors by Palestinians,” Rosenfeld said. “There were no injuries. Six Palestinians were arrested at the scene by police who were escorting” the Israelis.

On 4/1, the day after the stone throwing incident, PNN reported Presidency Condemns Settlers Breaking into al-Aqsa Mosque:

The Israeli authorities Sunday allowed the entry of around 280 extremist settlers, protected by Israeli police, and six undercover Israeli police into al-Aqsa mosque yards, provoking the Palestinian worshipers after the undercover police urinated in the courtyards of the mosque, leading to clashes with the Israeli police.

Israeli special units showed up at the scene and arrested tens of worshipers, used teargas, rubber bullets and electric shocks against the provoked worshipers, causing several suffocation cases among them.  Israeli police also attacked the women and workers with clubs.

Meanwhile, Tens of Jewish settlers Sunday broke into the historical and cultural site of Solomon’s Pools located between the town of al-Khader and the village of Irtas, south of Bethlehem.  Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudineh warned of the implications of these measures that desecrate the sanctity of Islam religion and will only cause tension in the region.

Attempting to characterize the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “us vs them”, “savages vs civilized men”, and ignoring all context, and history is wrong.  Breaking the cycle of violence will require more honesty than that.  Those who are only pro-Palestinian - and therefore anti-Israeli, or only pro-Israeli - and therefore anti-Palestinian, are a hindrance to any possibility of a peaceful future.  There has to be room for the voices of those who want peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis to be heard.