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The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017
MEMO | October 29, 2019

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

There are various estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is a near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that 47,000 Palestinian Christians are living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Ninety-eight per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing.

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 per cent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organisation said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun, as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 per cent, merely 11,000 people.

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two per cent.

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is evident to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim community alike.

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine.

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant.

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historical roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits, but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity.

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland.

Read: Morocco insists that Palestine is one of its core principles

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state amid a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda.

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are devout Christians.

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimised equally as their Muslim brethren. They have also played a significant role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.

Israel must not be allowed to ostracise the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its fierce drive for racial supremacy.

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘soumoud’ – steadfastness – and solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Dream

Al-Haq | October 22, 2019

This is the story of the Palestinian dream, Khaled Abu Joudeh, who decided to build a house for his seven children, in the Kafr Aqab neighbourhood; and under the pretext of its proximity to the Annexation and Expansion wall, the so-called Jerusalem Municipality decided to demolish it on June 12, 2019.

October 22, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Israel arrests Palestine’s Jerusalem minister

Israeli forces detain Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami. (Photo: via Social Media)
MEMO | September 25, 2019

Israeli forces detained Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, according to an official statement, reports Anadolu Agency.

In a statement, the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry said Israeli forces raided the minister’s home and searched it before taking him into custody.

There was no comment from the Israeli military on the arrest.

This is the second time Israeli forces arrested the Jerusalem minister in the last three months.

Israeli forces have escalated their actions against Palestinian activities in Jerusalem since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the occupied city as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

How to confront Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank

By Dr Youssef Rizqa | MEMO | September 4, 2019

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing everything possible to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is still doing everything possible to coordinate with Israel’s security agencies, suppressing every new resistance cell, most recently the one in Nablus.

If the PA can preserve the Arab nature and character of the West Bank by suppressing resistance and security coordination, then there is no reason for it to complain about Netanyahu’s annexation call. How can the PA complain about Israel to the world, while it helps Israel, facilitates its security measures and prevents its own citizens from resisting illegal settlements and the Judaisation of their land? If the PA is resorting to the outside world and complaining about Israel, why doesn’t it let its people in the West Bank help it to thwart Israel’s plans?

The PA’s policy is strange, as Abbas is fighting Israel abroad in Western countries and international forums, but not at home; nor does he allow the Palestinian factions and citizens to exercise any kind of legitimate resistance to the Israeli occupation. Does he hope to liberate the West Bank of the Israeli settlements by complaining to Western countries? If that was even remotely possible, why couldn’t he prevent Israel from annexing Jerusalem or stop the US from moving its embassy to Jerusalem, even though the entire world, including Britain and France, do not recognise Israel’s annexation of the Holy City?

The correct response to the Jerusalem issue is to activate national resistance, while the appropriate response to Netanyahu’s call to annex parts of the West Bank is to activate the resistance and withdraw from security coordination. There is no other solution that can preserve the Arab nature of the West Bank and prevent illegal settlement expansion.

Abbas cannot walk down the right path — which must surely be the path of his own people — while taking the crooked path, travelling between Western and Eastern capitals and begging them to put pressure on Israel. He has forgotten that countries with specific ideologies and which believe Zionism’s Biblical myths are not influenced at all by external pressure.

Israel and its supporters have the power to exert pressure and influence over others in, for example, the US, where support for the occupation state is strong, as well as among the governing classes in France, Germany and Britain. Ideology must be tackled with ideology; myths must be disproved by established historical facts; and resistance must be used to prevent settlement expansion and Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Felesteen on 2 September 2019

September 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinian Authority warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | August 19, 2019

Palestinian Authority (PA) yesterday warned of Israeli attempts to impose spatial divisions at Al-Aqsa Mosque as part of the electoral campaigns of right-wing parties led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Assabeel newspaper reported.

In a statement, the PA’s Foreign Ministry said that the ruling Israeli right-wing, headed by Netanyahu, “has been carrying out hundreds of judaisation projects” aiming to “change the status quo in Jerusalem, its holy sites and the surrounding neighbourhoods.”

“This judaisation campaign has been escalating in the light of the unprecedented and unlimited American support.”

“Israel believes it is almost completing its mission regarding the future of Jerusalem, so that it is taking punitive measures and putting pressure on Jerusalemites in order to push them out of the city,” the statement continued.

It is also working to impose temporal divisions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “ahead of reaching a point to completely demolish it.”

This, it said, was Israel’s “open war” against Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem and Jerusalemites.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Police raid Aqsa Mosque’s Bab al-Rahma, seize furniture

Days of Palestine – August 18, 2019

Israeli occupation police, on Saturday evening, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Bab al-Rahma prayer area and confiscated some furniture items.

Local sources said that Israeli police officers desecrated the Bab al-Rahma prayer area and embarked on carrying away shoe cabinets and patterned wood panels.

The sources added that the officers threatened Aqsa guards with arrest if they tried to prevent them from carrying out the confiscations.

The Israeli police had already removed furniture from the same prayer area recently, raising fears among the Jerusalemites about Israeli intents to reclose the place and turn it into a synagogue.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 2 Comments

FCO Speeds Up Planning to Move UK Embassy to Jerusalem

By Craig Murray | August 18, 2019

Following US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s talks with Boris Johnson and his ministers in London last week, FCO officials have been asked to speed up contingency planning for the UK to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with an eye to an “early announcement” post Brexit.

The UK is currently bound by an EU common foreign policy position not to follow the United States in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem. As things stand, that prohibition will fall on 1 November. FCO officials had previously been asked to produce a contingency plan, but this involved the construction of a £14 million new Embassy and a four year timescale. They have now been asked to go back and look at a quick fix involving moving the Ambassador and immediate staff to Jerusalem and renaming the Consulate already there as the Embassy. This could be speedily announced, and then implemented in about a year.

Johnson heads the most radically pro-Israel cabinet in UK history and the symbolic gesture of rejection of Palestinian rights is naturally appealing to his major ministers Patel, Javid and Raab. They also see three other political benefits. Firstly, they anticipate that Labour opposition to the move can be used to yet again raise accusations of “anti-semitism” against Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, it provides good “red meat” to Brexiteer support in marking a clear and, they believe, popular break from EU foreign policy, at no economic cost. Thirdly, it seals the special link between the Trump and Johnson administrations and sets the UK apart from other NATO allies.

Bolton also discussed the possibility of UK support for Israeli annexation of areas of the West Bank to “solve” the illegality of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. My FCO sources believe this is going to be much more difficult politically for the Cabinet to agree than simply moving the Embassy, due to lack of support on their own backbenches.

This is an insight into the future of British foreign policy if the Johnson government, and the UK, both survive. In the massive defeat of the UK at the UN General Assembly two months ago over the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands, the UK was in a voting block with only the USA, Israel, Australia, Hungary and the Maldives, against the rest of the world. The Maldives had a particular maritime interest there, but the leadership of the others – Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Scott Morrison, Benjamin Netanyahu and now Boris Johnson – constitute a distinct and extreme right wing bloc. These are very worrying times indeed.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbas must take practical measures concerning suspension of all deals with Israel: Hamas

Press TV – July 28, 2019

A senior official from the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement says the recent decision made by President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas to suspend all agreements signed with the Israeli regime needs practical steps.

Mousa Abu Marzouk, in a post published on his official Twitter page on Saturday, described the move as “a step reflecting the wishes of Palestinian people, who aspire for freedom and independence.”

He added that Abbas’s decision to stop implementing agreements signed with the Israeli regime needs practical steps, national unity and internal reconciliation in order to yield results, and to confront potential risks facing Palestinians.

On Thursday, the 84-year-old Palestinian president declared the suspension of all agreements with the Tel Aviv regime.

The measure came after an emergency meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the wake of recent demolition of a cluster of Palestinian homes in Sur Baher neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

“We announce the leadership’s decision to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side,” Abbas said at a speech in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

He added that a committee would be formed in order to implement the decision, but did not provide further details.

“We will not bow to dictates and imposing a fait accompli by force in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and elsewhere,” Abbas stated.

Abbas said the move comes as Israeli authorities “ignore” all the signed agreements with the PA.

The Palestinian Authority and the Israeli regime work together on various matters, including water distribution, electricity, economic relations and security coordination.

Hundreds of Israeli troops with bulldozers tore down about 70 homes in 10 apartment buildings in Sur Baher on July 22, despite local protests and international criticism.

On Wednesday, the United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning Israel’s demolitions.

Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa had earlier circulated a draft statement, expressing grave concern over the demolitions. They stated that such practice would undermine the viability of the so-called two-state solution, and the prospect for a just and lasting resolution of the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

July 28, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinian President Suspends Agreements with Israel Following Demolition of 70 Palestinian Homes

IMEMC News – July 26, 2019

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, announced Thursday evening the suspension of all agreements and accords signed with Israel, citing the demolition this week of 70 Palestinian homes in Sur Baher, an area that is supposed to be under full Palestinian control according to the signed agreements.

Abbas also cited the pressure put on him to accede to the Kushner Plan, called by Kushner and Trump a so-called ‘deal of the century’, which would force the Palestinians to give up their right to self-determination on their own land.

In his statement, Abbas also called for reconciliation between the Palestinian political factions to form a united front against the Israeli military occupation.

He said the suspension will take effect by Friday.

“We will not succumb to the dictates and the imposing of a fait accompli on the ground with brute force, specifically in Jerusalem. All that the (Israeli) occupation state is doing is illegal.

“Our hands have been and are still extended to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. But this does not mean that we accept the status quo or surrender to the measures of the occupation.

“We will not surrender and we will not coexist with the occupation, nor will we accept the ‘deal of the century.’ Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain. They are not a real estate deal in a real estate company…. no matter how much time it takes, the repugnant occupation is going to be defeated and our future state will be independent.”

He called for the implementation of th Egyptian-mediated Cairo Agreement of 2017 between the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, saying, “My hand is extended for reconciliation and it is time to get more serious”.

The statement came after Israeli military forces demolished 11 buildings, including a nine-story apartment building, and rendered 70 Palestinian families homeless on Monday and Tuesday of this week in Wadi al-Hummus, in the Sur Baher township.

Israel claimed that the buildings were too close to the Israeli-constructed Wall, which severs Jerusalem from West Bank.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2004 that the barrier violated international law, but Israeli forces continued its construction throughout the West Bank.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel’s machinery of dispossession has crushed the hopes of an inspirational family

The struggle of Jawad Siyam perfectly illustrates the relentless oppression faced by all Palestinians

By Jonathon Cook | The National | July 14, 2019

Israeli police forced out the Siyam family from their home in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem last week, the final chapter in their 25-year legal battle against a powerful settler organisation.

The family’s defeat represented much more than just another eviction. It was intended to land a crushing blow against the hopes of some 20,000 Palestinians living in the shadow of the Old City walls and Al Aqsa mosque.

Dozens of families in the Silwan neighbourhood have endured the same fate as the Siyams, and the Israeli courts have approved the imminent eviction of many hundreds more Palestinians from the area.

But, unlike those families, the Siyams’ predicament briefly caught public attention. That was because one of them, Jawad Siyam, has become a figurehead of Silwan’s resistance efforts.

Mr Siyam, a social worker, has led the fight against Elad, a wealthy settler group that since the early 1990s has been slowly erasing Silwan’s Palestinian identity, in order to remake it as the City of David archeological park.

Mr Siyam has served as a spokesman, drawing attention to Silwan’s plight. He has also helped to organise the community, setting up youth and cultural centres to fortify Silwan’s identity and sense of purpose in the face of Israel’s relentless oppression.

However, the settlers of Elad want Silwan dismembered, not strengthened.

Elad’s mission is to strip away the Palestinian community to reveal crumbling relics beneath, which it claims are proof that King David founded his Israelite kingdom there 3,000 years ago.

The history and archeological rationalisations may be murky, but the political vision is clear. The Palestinians of Silwan are to be forced out like unwelcome squatters.

An Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, refers to plans for the City of David as “the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing”.

It is the most unequal fight imaginable – a story of David and Goliath, in which the giant fools the world into believing he is the underdog.

It has pitted Mr Siyam and other residents against not only the settlers, but the US and Israeli governments, the police and courts, archaeologists, planning authorities, national parks officials and unwitting tourists.

And, adding to their woes, Silwan’s residents are being forced to fight both above and below ground at the same time.

The walls and foundations of dozens of houses are cracking and sinking because the Israeli authorities have licensed Elad to flout normal safety regulations and excavate immediately below the community’s homes. Several families have had to be evacuated.

Late last month Elad flexed its muscles again, this time as it put the finishing touches to its latest touristic project: a tunnel under Silwan that reaches to the foot of Al Aqsa.

On Elad’s behalf, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, wielded a sledgehammer to smash down a symbolic wall inaugurating the tunnel, which has been renamed the Pilgrimage Road.

Elad claims – though many archaeologists doubt it – that in Roman times the tunnel was a street used by Jews to ascend to a temple on the site where today stands the Islamic holy site of Al Aqsa.

The participation of the two US envoys in the ceremony offered further proof that Washington is tearing up the peacemaking rulebook, destroying any hope the Palestinians might once have had of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Friedman called the City of David complex – at the core of occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – “an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel”. Ending the occupation there would be “akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty”.

While Israel, backed by the US, smashes Silwan’s foundations, it is also dominating the sky above it.

Last month Israel’s highest planning body approved a cable car from Israeli territory in West Jerusalem into the centre of Silwan.

It will connect with the City of David and a network of boardwalks, coffee shops and touristic tunnels, such as like the Pilgrimage Road, all run by Elad settlers, to slice apart Silwan.

And to signal how the neighbourhood is being reinvented, the Israeli municipality enforcing the occupation in East Jerusalem recently named several of Silwan’s main streets after famous Jewish rabbis.

Former mayor Nir Barkat has said the goal of all this development is to bring 10 million tourists a year to Silwan, so that they “understand who is really the landlord in this city”.

Few outsiders appear to object. This month, the tourism website TripAdvisor was taken to task by Amnesty International for recommending the City of David as a top attraction in Jerusalem.

And now, Elad has felled the family of Jawad Siyam in a bid to crush the community’s spirits and remaining sense of defiance.

As it has with so many of Silwan’s homeowners, Elad waged a decades-long legal battle against the family to drain them of funds and stamina.

The Siyams’ fate was finally sealed last month when the Israeli courts extended the use of a 70-year-old, draconian piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law, to Silwan.

The law was crafted specifically to steal the lands and homes of 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948 by the new state of Israel.

Ownership of the Siyams’ home is shared between Jawad’s uncles and aunts, some of them classified by Israel as “absentees” because they now live abroad.

As a result, an Israeli official with the title Custodian of Absentee Property claimed ownership of sections of the house belonging to these relatives, and then, in violation of his obligations under international law, sold them on to Elad. Police strong-armed the family out last week.

To add insult to injury, the court also approved Elad seizing money raised via crowdfunding by more than 200 Israeli peace activists, with the aim of helping the Siyams with their legal costs.

Palestinians such as Jawad Siyam exist all over the occupied territories – men and women who have given Palestinians a sense of hope, commitment and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s machinery of dispossession.

When Israel targets Jawad Siyam, crushes his spirits, it sends an unmistakeable message not only to other Palestinians, but to the international community itself, that peace is not on its agenda.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 5 Comments

In Israel the Push to Destroy Jerusalem’s Iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque Goes Mainstream

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 24, 2019

The iconic golden dome of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, located on the Temple Mount or Haram el-Sharif, is the third holiest site in Islam and is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of the city of Jerusalem. Yet, this ancient site that dates back to the year 705 C.E. is being targeted for destruction by increasingly influential extremist groups that seek to erase Jerusalem’s Muslim heritage in pursuit of colonial ambitions and the fulfillment of end-times prophecy.

Some observers may have noticed the growing effort by some Israeli government and religious officials to remove the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque from the Jerusalem skyline, not only erasing the holy site in official posters, banners and educational material but also physically removing the building itself. For instance, current Knesset member of the ruling Likud Party, American-born Yehuda Glick, was also the director of the government-funded Temple Institute, which has created relics and detailed architectural plans for a temple that they hope will soon replace Al-Aqsa. Glick is also close friends with Yehuda Etzion, who was part of a failed plot in 1984 to blow up Al-Aqsa mosque and served prison time as a result.

“In the end we’ll build the temple and it will be a house of prayer for all nations,” Glick told Israeli newspaper Maariv in 2012. A year later, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel stated that “[w]e’ve built many little, little temples… but we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount.” Ariel stated that the new Jewish Temple must be built on the site where Al-Aqsa currently sits “as it is at the forefront of Jewish salvation.” Since then, prominent Israeli politicians have become more and more overt in their support for the end of Jordanian-Palestinian sovereignty over the mosque compound, leading many prominent Palestinians to warn in recent years of plans to destroy the mosque.

In recent years, a centuries-old effort by what was once a small group of extremists has gone increasingly mainstream in Israel, with prominent politicians, religious figures and political parties advocating for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque in order to fulfill a specific interpretation of an end-times prophecy that was once considered fringe among practitioners of Judaism.

As Miko Peled, Israeli author and human-rights activist, told MintPress, the movement to destroy Al-Aqsa and replace it with a reimagined Temple “became notable after the 1967 war,” and has since grown into “a massive colonial project that uses religious, biblical mythology and symbols to justify its actions” — a project now garnering support from both religious and secular Israelis.

While the push to destroy Al-Aqsa and replace it with a physical Third Temple has gained traction in Israel in recent years, this effort has advanced at a remarkably fast pace in just the past few weeks, owing to a confluence of factors. These factors, as this report will show, include the upcoming revelation of the so-called “Deal of the Century,” the push for a war with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Trump administration’s dramatic lenience in regards to the activity of Jewish extremist groups and extremist settlements in Israel.

These factors correlate with a quickening of efforts to destroy Al-Aqsa and the very real danger the centuries-old holy site faces. While the U.S. press has occasionally mentioned the role of religious extremism in dictating the foreign policy of prominent U.S. politicians like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it has rarely shone a light on the role of Jewish extremism in directing Israel’s foreign policy — foreign policy that, in turn, is well-known to influence American policies.

When taken together, the threats to Al-Aqsa are clearly revealed to be much greater than the loss of a physical building, though that itself would be a grave loss for the world’s Muslim community, which includes over 1.8 billion people. In addition, the site’s destruction would very likely result in a regional and perhaps even global war with clear religious dimensions.

To prevent such an outcome, it is essential to highlight the role that extremist, apocalyptic interpretations of both the Jewish and Christian faiths are playing in trends that, if left unchecked, could have truly terrifying consequences. Both of these extremist groups are heavily influenced by colonial ambitions that often supersede their religious underpinning.

In Part I of this two-part series, MintPress examines the growth of extremist movements in Israel that openly promote the destruction of Al-Aqsa, from a relatively isolated fringe movement within Zionism to mainstream prominence in Israel today; as well as how threats to the historic mosque have grown precipitously in just the past month. MintPress interviewed Israeli author and activist Miko Peled; Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta in New York; Imam and scholar of Shia Islam, Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, of the Islamic Institute of America; and Palestinian journalist and academic Ramzy Baroud for their perspectives on these extremist groups, their growing popularity, and the increasing threats to the current status quo at Haram El-Sharif/Temple Mount.

The second part of this series will detail the influence of this extremist movement in Israeli politics as well as American politics, particularly among Christian Zionist politicians in the United States. The ways in which this movement’s goal have also influenced Israeli and U.S. policy — particularly in relation to the so-called “Deal of the Century,” President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the push for war against Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — will also be examined.

Two centuries in the cross-hairs

Though efforts to wrest the contested holy site from Jordanian and Palestinian control have picked up dramatically in recent weeks, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound had long been targeted prior to Israel’s founding and even prior to the formation of the modern Zionist movement.

For instance, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Kalisher — who promoted the European Jewish colonization of Palestine from a religious perspective well before Zionism became a movement — expounded on an early form of what would later be labeled “religious Zionism” and was particularly interested in the acquisition of Haram el-Sharif (i.e., the Temple Mount) as a means of fulfilling prophecy.

As noted in the essay “Proto-Zionism and its Proto-Herzl: The Philosophy and Efforts of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher” by Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Professor of Israeli Politics and Judaic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Kalisher sought to court wealthy European Jews to finance the purchase of Israel for the purpose of resettlement, particularly the Temple Mount. In an 1836 letter to Baron Amschel Rothschild, Kalisher suggested that the eldest brother of the wealthy banker family use his abundant funds to bring Jewish sovereignty to Palestine, specifically Jerusalem and the Temple Mount:

[E]specially at a time like this, when the Land of Israel is under the dominion of the Pasha… perhaps if his most noble Excellency pays him a handsome sum and purchases for him some other country (in Africa) in exchange for the Holy Land, which is presently small in quantity but great in quality… this money would certainly not be wasted… for when the leaders of Israel are gathered from every corner of the world… and transform it into an inhabited country, the many G-d-fearing and charitable Jews will travel there to take up their residency in the Holy Land under Jewish sovereignty… and be worthy to take up their portion in the offering upon the altar. And if the master (Ibrahim Pasha) does not desire to sell the entire land, then at least he should sell Jerusalem and its environs… or at least the Temple Mount and surrounding areas.” (emphasis added)

Kalisher’s request was met with a noncommittal response from Baron Rothschild, leading Kalisher to pursue other wealthy European Jewish families, like the Montefiores, with the same goal in mind. And, though Kalisher was initially unsuccessful in winning the support of the Rothschild family, other notable members of the wealthy European banking dynasty eventually did become enthusiastic supporters of Zionism in the decades that followed.

Kalisher was also influential in another way, as he was arguably the first modern Rabbi to reject the idea of patiently waiting for God to fulfill prophecy and proposed instead that man should take concrete steps that would lead to the fulfillment of such prophecies, a belief that Kalisher described as “self help.” For Kalisher, settling European Jews in Palestine was but the first step, to be followed by other steps that would form an active as opposed to a passive approach towards Jewish Messianism. These subsequent steps included the construction of a Third Temple, to replace the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans around the year 70 C.E., and the reinitiation of ritual animal sacrifices in that Temple, which Kalisher believed could only be placed on the Temple Mount, where Al-Aqsa then sat and still sits.

Kalisher wasn’t alone in his views, as his contemporary, Rabbi Judah Alkalai, wrote the following in his book Shalom Yerushalayim:

It is obvious that the Mashiach ben David [Messiah of the House of David] will not appear out of thin air in a fiery chariot with fiery horses, but will come if the Children of Israel bend to the task of preparing themselves for him.”

Though Kalisher wasn’t the lone voice promoting these ideas, his beliefs — aside from promoting the physical settlement of European Jews in Palestine — remained relatively fringe for decades, if not more than a century, as secular Jews were hugely influential in the Zionist movement after its official formation. However, prominent religious Zionists did influence the Zionist movement in key ways prior to Israel’s founding. One such figure was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who sought to reconcile Zionism and Orthodox Judaism as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, a position he assumed in 1924.

Yet, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group based in New York that opposes Zionism, told MintPress that many religious Zionists have since latched onto Kalisher’s ideas, which were widely rejected during his lifetime, in order to justify neocolonial actions sought by secular Zionists. “This rabbi, at the time, other rabbis ‘roared’ against him and his beliefs weren’t accepted,” Rabbi Weiss stated, “But now, the ones who are talking about building this Third Temple…. these are Zionists and they have found some rabbi whose ideas benefit them that they have been using to justify Zionist acts” that are not aligned with Judaism “and make them kosher.”

Weiss further expanded on this point, noting that the participants of the modern religious Zionism movement that seek to build a new Jewish temple where Al-Aqsa currently stands are, at their core, Zionists who have used religious imagery and specific interpretations of religious texts as cover for neo-colonial acts, such as the complete re-making of the Temple Mount.

“It’s like a wolf in a sheepskin… These people who want to incorporate the teachings of this rabbi [Rabbi Kalisher] are proudly saying that they are Jewish, but are doing things Jews are forbidden from doing,” such as ascending to and standing upon the Temple Mount, which Rabbi Weiss stated was “a breach of Jewish law,” long forbidden by that law according to a consensus among Jewish scholars and rabbis around the world that continued well beyond the formation of the Zionist movement in the 19th century.

Weiss also told MintPress:

There are only a few sins in Judaism — which has many, many laws, that lead to a Jew being cut off from God — and to go up to the Temple Mount is one of them… This is because you need a certain level of holiness to ascend and… the process to attain that level of holiness and purity cannot be done today, because [aspects of and the items required by] the necessary purity rituals no longer exist today.”

Rabbi Weiss noted that, for this reason, the Muslim community that has historically governed the area where Al-Aqsa mosque stands never had any problems with the Jewish community in relation to the Temple Mount, as it has been known for centuries that Jews cannot ascend to the area where the mosque currently sits and instead prayed only at the Western Wall. He also stated that the prophetic idea of a Third Temple was, prior to Zionism, understood as indicating not a change in physical structures on the Temple Mount, but a metaphysical, spiritual change that would unite all of mankind to worship and serve God in unison.

Rabbi Weiss asserted that the conflict regarding Al-Aqsa mosque started only with the advent of Zionism and the associated neo-colonial ambition to fundamentally alter the status quo and structures present at the site as a means of erasing key parts (i.e., Palestinian parts) of its heritage. “This [the use of religion to justify ascending to and taking control of the Temple Mount] is a trap for conning other people into supporting them,” concluded the Rabbi.

Nonetheless, Kalisher’s impact can be seen in today’s Israel more than ever, thanks to the rise and mainstream acceptance within Israel of once-fringe elements of religious Zionism, which were deeply influenced by the ideas of rabbis like Kalisher and have served in recent decades as an incubator for some of Israel’s most radical political elements.

Meanwhile, as the debate within Judaism over the Temple Mount has changed dramatically since the 19th century, its significance in Islam has remained steadfast. According to Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, “Al-Aqsa is the third holiest mosque in Islam… it is considered to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and has been mentioned in the Qoran, which glorifies that mosque and identifies it as a blessed mosque. All Muslims, whether they are Sunni or Shia, revere that mosque” — a fact that has remained unchanged for over a millennium and continues to today.

Religious Zionism gains political force

The modern rise of the religious Zionist movements that promote the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque and its replacement with a Third Jewish Temple is most often traced back to the Six Day War of 1967. According to Miko Peled, who recently wrote a piece for MintPress News regarding the threats facing Al-Aqsa, “religious Zionism” as a political force became more noticeable following the 1967 war. Peled told MintPress:

After the ‘heartland’ of Biblical Israel came under Israeli control, the religious Zionists, who before then were marginalized, saw it as their mission to settle those newly conquered lands, and to be the new pioneers, so to speak. They took on the job that the socialist Zionist ideologues had in settling Palestine and ridding it of its native Arab population in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and up to the early 1950s. They saw the “return” of Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, or Shchem and, of course, the Old City of Jerusalem as divine intervention and now it was their turn to make their mark.

It began with a small group of Messianic fanatics who forced the government – who at that point, after 1967, was still secular Zionist – to accept their existence in the highly populated areas within the West Bank. That was how the city of Kiryat Arba [illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank] was established. The government, it is worth noting, was happy to be forced into this. From a small group that people thought were fringe lunatics to a Jewish city in the heart of Hebron region.”

Peled further noted that this model, employed by the religious extremist groups that founded illegal West Bank settlements like Kiryat Arba, “has been used successfully since then and it is now used by the groups that are promoting the new Temple in place of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.” He continued, pointing out that “whereas 20-30 years ago they were considered a fringe group, this year they expect more than 50,000 people to enter the compound to support the group and their goals. Religious Israeli youth who opt out of military service and choose national service instead may work with the [Third] Temple building organizations.”

Extremist settlers escorted by Israeli after they stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 22, 2018. Mostafa Alkharouf | Anadolu

Dr. Ramzy Baroud — journalist, academic and founder of The Palestine Chronicle — agreed with Peled’s sense that the Third Temple movement or Temple Activist movement has grown dramatically in recent years and has become increasingly mainstream in Israel. Baroud told MintPress:

There has been a massive increase in the number of Israeli Jews who force their way into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound to pray and practice various rituals… In 2017 alone, over 25,000 Jews who visited the compound — accompanied by thousands of soldiers and police officers and provoking many clashes that resulted in the death and wounding of many Palestinians. Since 2017, the increase in Jews visiting the compound has been very significant if compared to the previous year when around 14,000 Jews made that same journey.”

Baroud also noted:

[The Temple Activist movement] has achieved a great deal in appealing to mainstream Israeli Jewish society in recent years. At one point, it was a marginal movement, but with the rise of the far right in Israel, their ideas and ideologies and religious aspirations have also become part of the Israeli mainstream.”

As a result, Baroud asserted:

[There is] an increasing degree of enthusiasm among Israeli Jews that is definitely not happening at the margins [of society], but is very much a part of the mainstream, more so than at any time in the past, to take over the Al-Aqsa mosque, demolish the mosque in order to rebuild the so-called Third Temple.”

However, Rabbi Weiss disagreed with Peled and Baroud that this faction presents a real threat to the mosque, given that the mosque’s destruction is widely rejected by Diaspora Jewry (i.e., Jews living outside of Israel) and that destroying it would not only cause conflicts with the global Muslim community but also numerous Jewish communities outside of Israel.

As Rabbi Weiss told MintPress:

Some of the largest and most religious [i.e. ultra-orthodox] Jewish communities outside of Israel, like the second largest community of religious [ultra-orthodox] Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn [in New York], and also in Israel … are opposed to this concept of taking over the Temple Mount and other related ideas.”

Weiss argued that many of these religious Zionists in Israel that are pushing for a new Temple “do not follow Jewish law to the letter and don’t come from the very religious communities, including the settlers…They don’t go to expressly religious schools, they go to Zionist schools. Their whole view is built on Zionism and [secondarily] incorporates the religion,” as opposed to the reverse. As a result, the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque, in Weiss’ view, could greatly alienate the state of Israel from these more religious and ultra-orthodox communities.

In addition, Rabbi Weiss felt that many Jewish and secular Israelis would also reject such a move because it would create even more conflicts, which many Israelis do not want. He described the Temple Activists as “a vocal minority” that represented a “fringe” among adherents to Judaism and a group within Zionism that has tried to use the Temple Mount “in order to be able to excuse their occupation and to try to portray this [the occupation of Palestine] as a religious conflict,” with the conflict surrounding the Temple Mount being an extension of that.

Weiss believed that the push to take over the Temple Mount was a “scare tactic” aimed at securing the indefinite nature of the occupation, and noted that many Israelis did not want a spike in or renewal of conflict that would inevitably result if the mosque were to be destroyed. He also added that he did not think there was a “real threat” of the mosque being targeted because international rabbinical authorities have stood fast in their opposition to the project promoted by the Temple Activists.

“Tomorrow might be too late”

It is hardly a coincidence that the growth of Temple Activism and associated movements like “neo-Zionism” have paralleled the growth in threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque itself. Many of these threats can be understood through the doctrine developed by Rabbi Kalisher and others in the mid-19th century — the idea that “active” steps must be taken to bring about the reconstruction of a Jewish Temple at Haram El-Sharif in order to bring about the Messianic Age.

Indeed, during the 1967 war, General Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the IDF, had told Chief of Central Command Uzi Narkiss that, shortly after Israel’s conquest of Jerusalem’s Old City, the moment had come to blow up the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. “Do this and you will go down in history,” Goren told Narkiss. According to Tom Segev’s book 1967, Goren felt that the site’s destruction could only be done under the cover of war: “Tomorrow might be too late.”

Goren was among the first Israelis to arrive at the then-recently conquered Old City in Jerusalem and was joined at the newly “liberated” Al-Aqsa compound by a young Yisrael Ariel, who now is a major leader in the Temple Activist movement and head of the Temple Institute, which is dedicated to constructing a Third Temple where Al-Asqa mosque currently stands.

Narkiss rejected Goren’s request, but did approve the razing of Jerusalem’s Moroccan quarter. According to Mondoweiss, the destruction of the nearly seven centuries old Jerusalem neighborhood was done for the “holy purpose” of making the Western Wall more accessible to Jewish Israelis. Some 135 homes were flattened, along with several mosques, and over 700 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed as part of that operation.

Following the occupation of East Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa has come under increasing threat, just as extremist movements who seek to destroy the site have grown. In 1969, a Christian extremist from Australia, Daniel Rohan, set fire to the mosque. Rohan had been studying in Israel and, prior to committing arson, had told American theology student Arthur Jones, who was studying with Rohan, that he had become convinced that a new temple had to be built where Al-Aqsa stood.

Then, in 1984, a group of messianic extremists known as the Jewish Underground was arrested for plotting to use explosives to destroy Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. Ehud Yatom, who was a security official and commander of the operation that foiled the plot, told Israel’s Channel 2 in 2004 that the planned destruction of the site would have been “horrible, terrible,” adding that it could provoke “the entire Muslim world [into a war] against the state of Israel and against the Western world, a war of religions.”

One of those arrested in 1984 in connection with the bomb plot, former Jewish Underground member Yehuda Etzion, subsequently wrote from prison that his group’s mistake was not in targeting the historic mosque, which he called an “abomination,” but in acting before Israeli society would accept such an act. “The generation was not ready,” Etzion wrote, adding that those sympathetic to the Jewish Underground movement “must build a new force that grows very slowly, moving its educational and social activity into a new leadership.”

“Of course I cannot predict whether the Dome of the Rock will be removed from the Mount while the new body is developing or after it actually leads the people,” Etzion stated, “but the clear fact is that the Mount will be purified [from Islamic shrines] with certainty…”

Upon his release from prison, Etzion founded the Chai Vekayam (Alive and Existing) movement, a group that Al Jazeera’s Mersiha Gadzo described as aimed at “shaping public opinion as a prerequisite for building a Third Temple in the religious complex in Jerusalem’s Old City where Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located.” Gadzo also notes that “according to messianic belief, building the Third Temple at the Al Aqsa compound — where the First and Second Temples stood some 2,000 years ago — would usher the coming of the Messiah.”

Six years later, another group called the Temple Mount Faithful, which is dedicated to building the Third Temple, provoked what became known as the Al-Aqsa massacre in 1990 after its members attempted to place a cornerstone for the Third Temple on the Temple Mount / Haram El-Sharif, leading to riots that saw Israeli police shoot and kill over 20 Palestinians and wound an estimated 150 more.

This was followed by the riots in 1996 after Israel opened up a series of tunnels that had been dug under Al-Aqsa mosque that many Palestinians worried would be used to damage or destroy the mosque. Those concerns may have been well-founded, given the involvement of then- and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Third Temple activist groups in creating the tunnels and in subsequent excavations near the holy site, which were and continue to be officially described as “archaeological” in nature. During the 1996 incident, 80 Palestinians and 14 Israeli police officers were killed.

Some Israeli archaeologists have argued that these tunnels have not been built for archaeological or scientific purposes and are highly unlikely to result in any new discoveries. One such Israeli archaeologist, Yoram Tseverir, told Middle East Monitor in 2014 that “the claims that these excavations aim at finding scientific information are marginal” and called the still-ongoing government-sponsored excavations under Al-Aqsa “wrong.” When those “archaeological” excavations at Al-Aqsa resulted in damage to the Western Wall near Al-Aqsa last year, a chorus of prominent Palestinians, including the spokesman for the Fatah Party, claimed that Israel’s government had devised a plan to destroy the mosque.

Since 2000, Al-Aqsa mosque has been the site of incidents that have resulted in new state crackdowns by Israel against Palestinians both within and well outside of Jerusalem. Indeed, the Second Intifada was largely provoked by the visit of the then-Likud candidate for prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who entered Al-Aqsa mosque under heavy guard. Then-spokesman for Likud, Ofir Akounis, was later quoted by CNN as saying that the reason for Sharon’s visit was “to show that under a Likud government it [the Temple Mount] will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

That single visit by Sharon led to five years of heightened tensions, more than three thousand dead Palestinians and an estimated thousand dead Israelis, as well as a massive and still continuing crackdown on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud told MintPress that Sharon’s provocation in particular, and subsequent provocations, are often planned and used by Israeli politicians in order to justify crackdowns and restrictions on Palestinians. He argued:

[Some powerful Israeli politicians] use these regular provocations at Al Aqsa to create the kind of tensions that increase violence in the West Bank and to [then] carry out whatever policies they have in mind. They know exaclty how to provoke Palestinians and there is no other issue that is as sensitive and unifying in the Palestinian psyche as Al-Aqsa mosque.

Not only do we need to be aware of the fact that [provocations at] Al-Aqsa mosque are being used to implement archaic, destructive plans [i.e., destruction of Al-Aqsa and construction of a Third Temple] by certain elements that are now very much at the core of Israeli politics, but also the fact that this type of provocation is also used to implement broader policies pertaining to Palestinians elsewhere.”

Drums beating loud

While there have long been efforts to destroy the historic Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, recent weeks have seen a disturbing and dramatic uptick in incidents that suggest that the influential groups in Israel that have long pushed for the mosque’ s destruction may soon get their way. This reflects what Ramzy Baroud described to MintPress as how support for the construction of the Third Temple where Al-Aqsa currently sits is now “greater than at any time in the past” within Israeli society.

Earlier this month on June 2, a religious adviser to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Al-Habbash, took to social media to warn of an “Israeli plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” adding that “If the Muslims don’t act now [to save the site]… the entire world will pay dearly.”

Al-Habbash’s statement was likely influenced by a disturbing event that occurred that same day at the revered compound when Israeli police provided cover for extremist Israeli settlers who illegally entered the compound during the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Israeli police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian worshippers who had gathered at the mosque during one of Islam’s most important holidays while allowing over a thousand Israeli Jews to enter the compound. Forty-five Palestinians were wounded and several were arrested.

Though such provocative visits by Jewish Israelis to Al-Aqsa have occurred with increasing frequency in recent years, this event was different because it up-ended a long-standing agreement between Jordan’s government, which manages the site, and Israel that no such visits take place during important Islamic holidays. As a consequence, Jordan accused Israel’s government of “flagrant violations” of that agreement by allowing visits from religious nationalists, which Jordan described as “provocative intrusions by extremists.”

Less than a week after the incident, Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev, a member of the Netanyahu-led Likud Party, called for more settler extremists to storm the compound, stating: “We should do everything to keep ascending to the Temple Mount … And hopefully, soon we will pray in the Temple Mount, our sacred place.” In addition, Regev also thanked Israel’s Interior Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, and Jerusalem’s police chief for guarding the settler extremists who had entered the compound.

In 2013, then-member of the Likud Party Moshe Feiglin told the Knesset that allowing Jewish Israelis to enter the compound is “not about prayer.” “Arabs don’t mind that Jews pray to God. Why should they care? We all believe in God,” Feiglin — who now heads the Zehut, or Identity, Party — stated, adding, “The struggle is about sovereignty. That’s the true story here. The story is about one thing only: sovereignty.”

In other words, Likud and its ideological allies view granting Jewish Israelis entrance to “pray” at the site of the mosque as a strategy aimed at reducing Palestinian-Jordanian control over the site. Feiglin’s past comments give credibility to Rabbi Weiss’ claim, referenced earlier on in this report, that the religious underpinnings and religious appeals of the Temple Activists are secondary to the settler-colonial (i.e., Zionist) aspect of the movement, which seeks to remove Palestinian and Muslim heritage from the Temple Mount as part of the ongoing Zionist project.

Feiglin, earlier this year in April, called for the immediate construction of the Third Temple, telling a Tel Aviv conference, “I don’t want to build a [Third] Temple in one or two years, I want to build it now.” The Times of Israel, reporting on Feiglin’s comments, noted that the Israeli politician is “enjoying growing popularity.”

Earlier this month, and not long after Miri Regev’s controversial comments, an event attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, used a banner that depicted the Jerusalem skyline with the Dome of the Rock noticeably absent. Though some may write off such creative photo editing as a fluke, it is but the latest in a series of similar incidents where official events or materials have edited out the iconic building and, in some cases, have replaced it with a reconstructed Jewish temple.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman poses with a picture of the ‘Third Temple,’ May 22, 2018. Israel Cohen | Kikar Hashabat

The day before that event, Israeli police had arrested three members of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound’s Reconstruction Committee, which is overseen by the government of Jordan. Those arrested included the committee’s head and its deputy head, and the three men were arrested while performing minor restoration work in an Al-Aqsa courtyard. The Jordan-run authority condemned the arrests, for which no official reason was given, and called the move by Israeli police “an intervention in their [the men’s] reconstruction work.” According to Palestinian news agency Safa, Israeli police have also prevented the entry of tools necessary for restoration work to the site and have restricted members of the authority from performing critical maintenance work.

In addition, another important figure at Al-Aqsa, Hanadi Al-Halawani, who teaches at the mosque school and has long watched over the site to prevent its occupation by Israeli forces, was arrested late last month.

Arrests of other key Al-Aqsa personnel have continued in recent days, such as the arrest of seven Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, including guards of the mosque, and their subsequent ban from entering the site. The Palestinians were arrested at their homes last Sunday night in early morning raids and the official reason for their arrest remains unclear. So many arrests in such a short period have raised concerns that, should the spate of arrests of important Al-Aqsa personnel continue, future incidents at the site, such as the mysterious fire that broke out last April at Al-Aqsa while France’s Notre Dame was also ablaze, may not be handled as effectively owing to staff shortages.

Soon after those arrests, 60 members of a settler extremist group entered the al-Aqsa compound under heavy guard from Israeli police. Safa news agency reported that these settlers have recently been accompanied by Israeli intelligence officials in their incursions at the site.

All of these recent provocations and arrests in connection with the mosque come soon after the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, publicly stated in late March that he had recently come under great pressure to relinquish Jordan’s custodianship of the mosque and the contested holy site upon which it is built. Abdullah II vowed to continue custodianship over Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa, and declined to say who was pressuring him over the site. However, his comments about this pressure to cede control over the mosque came just days after he had visited the U.S. and met with American Vice President Mike Pence, a Christian Zionist who believes that a Jewish Temple must replace Al-Aqsa to fulfill an end times prophecy.

In May, an Israeli government-linked research institute, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote that Abdullah II had nearly been toppled in mid-April, just weeks after publicly discussing external pressure to relinquish control over Al-Aqsa. The report stated that Abdullah II had been a target of a “plot undermining his rule,” which led him to replace several senior members of his government. That report further claimed that the plot had been aimed at removing obstacles to the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century,” which is supported by Israel’s government.

Last year, some Israeli politicians sought to push for a transfer of the site’s custodianship to Saudi Arabia, sparking concern that this could be connected to plans by some Third Temple activists to remove Al-Aqsa from Jerusalem and transfer it piece-by-piece to the Saudi city of Mecca. On Thursday, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published an article asserting that “tectonic shifts” were taking place in relation to who controls Al-Aqsa, with a Saudi-funded political group making dramatic inroads that could soon alter which country controls the historic mosque compound.

Sayyed Hassan Al-Qazwini told MintPress that, in his view, the current custodianship involving Jordan’s government is not ideal, as control over the Al-Aqsa mosque “should lie in the hands of its people, [and] Al-Aqsa mosque belongs Palestine;” if not, at the very least, a committee of Muslim majority nations should be formed to govern the holy site because of its importance. As for Saudi Arabia potentially receiving control over the site, Al-Qazwini told MintPress that “the Saudis are not qualified as they are not even capable of running the holy sites in Saudi Arabia itself. Every year, there has been a tragedy and many pilgrims have died during hajj time [annual Islamic pilgrimage].”

Once fringe, now approaching consensus

The threat to Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock compound, the third holiest site in Islam and of key importance to three major world religions, is the result of the dramatic growth of what was once a fringe movement of extremists. After the Six Day War, these fringe elements have fought to become more mainstream within Israel and have sought to gain international support for their religious-colonialist vision, particularly in the United States. As this article has shown, the threats to Al-Aqsa have grown significantly in the past decades, spiking in just the past few weeks.

As former Jewish Underground member Yehuda Etzion had called for decades ago, an educational and social movement aimed at gaining influence with Israeli government leadership has been hugely successful in its goal of engineering consent for a Third Temple among many religious and secular Israelis. So successful has this movement been that numerous powerful and influential Israeli politicians, particularly since the 1990s, have not only openly promoted these beliefs, and the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but have also diverted significant amounts of government funding to organizations dedicated to replacing the historic mosque with a new temple.

As the second and final installment of this series will show, this movement has gained powerful allies, not just in Israel’s government, but among many evangelical Christians in the United States, including top figures in the Trump administration who also feel that the destruction of Al-Aqsa and the reconstruction of a Jewish Temple are prerequisites for the fulfillment of prophecy, albeit a different one. Furthermore, given the influence of such movements on the Israeli and U.S. governments, these beliefs of active Messianism are also informing key policies of these same governments and, in doing so, are pushing the world towards a dangerous war.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments