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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

Egypt, Jordan, Morocco to attend US-led Palestinian conference

MEMO | June 11, 2019

Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have informed the Trump administration they will attend a US-led conference in Bahrain this month on proposals for boosting the Palestinian economy as part of a coming US peace plan, US officials said on Tuesday, reports Reuters.

Egypt and Jordan’s participation is considered especially important since historically they have been key players in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and are also the only Arab states to have reached peace agreements with Israel.

However, Palestinian leaders’ decision to boycott the June 25-26 conference has raised doubts about its chances for success. They have shunned a broader diplomatic effort that US President Donald Trump has called the “deal of the century,” which they see as likely to be heavily tilted in favour of Israel and denying them a state of their own.

Despite that, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a chief architect of the long-delayed peace plan, is pressing ahead with arrangements for the Bahrain meeting, where the economic components are expected to be unveiled as the first step in the plan’s rollout.

Acceptance of the invitation to the conference by Jordan and Egypt will bring to the table two countries that border both Israel and Palestinian areas.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have previously confirmed their attendance, a White House official said.

The official declined to say what level of representation the countries would send. US officials have said they were inviting economic and finance ministers, as well as business leaders from the region and around the world.

Global financial bodies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank also plan to be present.

US officials have been vague about the timing for the second phase of their initiative, which would be the release of proposals for resolving the thorny political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With Israel heading for new elections in September after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to meet a deadline to form a government, uncertainty is expected to further delay the full release of the plan.

Most experts are skeptical the Trump administration can succeed where decades of US-backed efforts have failed.

 

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jordan monarch orders changes to $10 billion gas deal with Israel

Press TV – April 30, 2019

Jordanian King Abdullah II has ordered a review of his country’s multi-billion-dollar deal to import natural gas from the Israeli-occupied territories.

The London-based and Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, citing senior Jordanian political sources, reported that the king made the decision “in a technical report that examines Jordan’s interests from the continuation or the freezing of the agreement.”

Khaled Bakkar, the head of the finance committee in the Jordanian parliament, said the gas deal apart from being “blatant normalization” with the Israeli regime, is “economically weak” based on the feasibility studies.

He stressed that Jordan’s energy production surpassed the country’s needs, and the import of Israeli gas was only for the benefit of the Tel Aviv regime.

On September 26, 2016, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company signed a 10-billion-dollar deal with US-based Noble Energy and Israeli partners, which will tap the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel for the supply of approximately 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or 300 million cubic feet per day (mcf/d), over a 15-year term. Production is expected to begin around 2019 or 2020.

On March 26, members of Jordan’s parliament called for the cancellation of the gas deal with Israel during a parliamentary session closed to the public.

House Speaker Atef Tarawneh stated that all sectors of the society and members of parliament utterly reject the Jordanian electricity company agreement to buy Israeli natural gas.

Several legislators argued that the multi-billion-dollar deal violates Article 33, section two of the Jordanian constitution, which states: “Treaties and agreements which entail any expenditures to the Treasury of the State or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians shall not be valid unless approved by the parliament; and in no case shall the secret terms in a treaty or agreement be contrary to the overt terms.”

Lawmaker Saddah al-Habashneh said the deal was unconstitutional, stressing that members of parliament were not given access to read what he called the “secret” deal.

“Why are they hiding it? It’s a clue that there is something. It is totally rejected,” he commented.

Habashneh then demanded the deal be scrapped along with Jordan’s peace accord with Israel – known as Wadi Araba Treaty and signed on October 26, 1994.

“We are calling for the Wadi Araba agreement to be dropped. What is peace when they’re attacking Gaza?” the parliamentarian said.

“And with yesterday’s recognition of the Golan Heights, what’s left? We want dignity,” he pointed out.

On March 25, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation, formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The announcement came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement, called the US decision a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.

“The liberation of the Golan by all available means and its return to the Syrian motherland is an inalienable right,” according to the statement carried by Syria’s official news agency SANA, which added, “The decision … makes the United States the main enemy of the Arabs.”

The Arab League also condemned the move, saying “Trump’s recognition does not change the area’s status.”

Iran, Iraq, Russia and Turkey also condemned the US move.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

May 1, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Egypt plan to lift siege requires disarmament of Gaza

MEMO | March 22, 2019

An Israeli report said that Egypt has put forward a plan for a settlement between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Thursday that “according to security sources in Egypt and Palestinian officials in Gaza and Ramallah, Israel and Egypt have become convinced that Hamas’s control in Gaza is a self-evident fact.”

Israel Hayom quoted Egyptian security sources and Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It explained that the Egyptian proposal stated that they would disarm the factions – except for light weapons – in exchange for lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip.

According to this plan, all internal affairs will remain in the hands of Palestinian organisations headed by Hamas or a unified political entity for all organisations in the Strip. The internal security of the Gaza Strip will be based on “Hamas National Security Forces, which are currently operating.” The arms that will be in possession of the Internal Security Forces will be light weapons, in small quantities and subject to a strict control system.

In turn, the Israeli and Egyptian siege on the Gaza Strip will be lifted, according to the newspaper. Also, projects in the areas of infrastructure, employment, economy, health and education, financed by the United Nations, the European Union and Arab countries, “led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE,” will be implemented. The plan calls for the opening of a maritime route to the Gaza port, which will allow in the first stage the export and import of goods directly to the Gaza Strip.

The newspaper asserted that “these parties have succumbed to the fact that the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty in regaining control in the Gaza Strip, whether after an internal Palestinian reconciliation, or because of the collapse of Hamas rule against the backdrop of the grave humanitarian situation, or because of the continued military confrontation with Israel.”

According to the newspaper, Egyptian sources stated that the Israeli policy towards the Strip is “soft,” and that this stems from Israel’s unwillingness to allow the “Hamas regime” to collapse and in anticipation that in the event of Hamas’s collapse, “extremist groups loyal to Iran or Salafist groups similar to Daesh will enter” to fill the vacuum.

The newspaper further said that estimates in Israel and Egypt indicate that “such a settlement can be implemented within three to five years, but the main obstacle is that Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions will oppose disarmament.”

Quoting sources it described as officials in Ramallah, the newspaper added that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO leadership would agree to “overthrow” Hamas and the factions in Gaza “only in case it led such a process when the control of Gaza is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.”

The newspaper asserted that US security bodies obtained a draft of the plan which was formulated by Israeli and Egyptian crews. It quoted an Egyptian security official saying: “We are currently waiting for the new government to be elected in Israel to speed up the process; while the goal after the Israeli elections is the entry of other influential Arab countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE.”

The Egyptian security official added that “if Abu Mazen and the leadership in Ramallah do not put obstacles, the plan can be put into effect with the full cooperation of all the regional actors and through providing guarantees and assistance by the international community. But, it is estimated that there will be strong opposition to the disarmament plan of the Gaza Strip by the PLO and mainly by the armed factions in Gaza.”

March 22, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oman rejects mediating between Israelis, Palestinians

Press TV – October 27, 2018

Oman says it will not act as a “mediator” between Israelis and Palestinians, playing down an earlier visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The sultanate was only offering ideas to help Israel and Palestinians to come together, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told a security summit in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Saturday.

The remarks came a day after Netanyahu visited Oman in a rare visit, while accompanied by other senior Israeli officials, including the head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

“We are not saying road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” Reuters cited Abdullah as saying.

Despite apparently trying to sound impartial, Abdullah said Oman relied on the United States and efforts by US President Donald Trump in working towards the “deal of the century.”

The Trump administration has targeted the plan at the situation in the Palestinian territories.

Details are yet to emerge, but reports say it envisages a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty across about half of Israel-occupied West Bank and all the Gaza Strip. The deal also reportedly foresees potential disarming of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, and does not find Palestinians entitled to the eastern part of Jerusalem al-Quds as their capital.

This is while Abbas, who visited Oman before Netanyahu for three days, has renounced the plan, saying it has been devised without consulting the Palestinians. He also spurned any intermediary role by the US late last year after Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

In June, however, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan assured the US of their support for the plan during visits to those countries by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy to the region.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the Manama gathering on Saturday that the kingdom believed the key to “normalizing” relations with Israel was the “peace process.”

The Omani minister also claimed Israel was “present in the region, and we all understand this, the world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations.”

Observers say Muscat has come to accommodate the US plan under pressure from Washington and Riyadh, the strongest US ally in the Persian Gulf region, which has been inching towards Tel Aviv over the past years.

Palestinian groups, however, condemned the Israeli prime minister’s visit to Oman, urging Arab countries to support the oppressed people of Palestine, instead.

Hamas warned about the dangerous consequences of Netanyahu’s visit for the people of Palestine. The Islamic Jihad movement also censured the visit, saying Oman acquitted Netanyahu of the crimes committed against innocent Palestinians by welcoming him to the country.

Commenting on Netanyahu’s visit, Paul Larudee, with the Free Palestine Movement, told PressTV, “What in the world would Netanyahu know about peace and stability, when his objectives and objectives of Israel have always been war and instability?”

“The importance is what their objectives are not. They are not about Arab unity, not about solidarity with Arabs who are suffering namely the Palestinians,” he said.

“These other countries realize that sooner or later they are potential targets of Israel… that they can be in the same place that the Palestinians are now,” Larudee said.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Minister: Jordan ending land lease ‘provocation’ to Israel

MEMO | October 23, 2018

The Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, of the right-wing Jewish Home party has described the decision of King Abdullah of Jordan to end a lease of two areas of land to Israel that was agreed in annexes to the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries as “provocative”.

“I call on Prime Minister, Netanyahu to explain to the king that Jordan needs Tel Aviv more than Israel needs Jordan,” Ariel is reported to have said. “Israel provides Jordan with large quantities of water. If it were not for this water, the people of Amman would have water only two days a week instead of four,” the Israeli minister was quoted as saying said.

Ariel also called on King Abdullah to “extend the land lease agreement to benefit Israeli farmers” in the region.

There was no official comment from Jordan in response to Ariel’s remarks.

Jordan said on Sunday it would not extend the 25-year deal that allows Israel to use two tracts of territory along its border just as Israel said it was still planning to negotiate an extension.

“These are Jordanian lands and they will remain..” the monarch said. In an “era of regional turmoil” his kingdom -sandwiched between Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Israel to its west – Jordan wanted to protect its “national interests,” Abdullah said.

October 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

The Real Reasons behind Washington’s War on UNRWA

By Ramzy Baroud | Dissident Voice | September 27, 2018

The US government’s decision to slash funds provided to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is part of a new American-Israeli strategy aimed at redefining the rules of the game altogether.

As a result, UNRWA is experiencing its worst financial crisis. The gap in its budget is estimated at around $217 million, and is rapidly increasing. Aside from future catastrophic events that would result in discontinuing services and urgent humanitarian aid to five million refugees registered with UNRWA, the impact of the US callous decision is already reverberating in many refugee camps across the region. Currently, UNRWA has downgraded many of its services: laying off many teachers, reducing staff and working hours at various clinics.

Nearly 40 percent of all Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, a country that is already overwhelmed by a million Syrian refugees who sought shelter there because of the grinding and deadly war in their own country.

Aware of Jordan’s vulnerability, American emissaries attempted to barter with the country to heed the US demand of revoking the status of the two million Palestinian refugees. Instead of funding UNRWA, Washington offered to re-channel the funds directly to the Jordanian government. Thus, the US hopes that the Palestinian refugee status would no longer be applicable. Unsurprisingly, Jordan refused the American offer.

News of this failed barter resurfaced last August. It was reported that US President Donald Trump’s special envoy, Jared Kushner, tried to sway the Jordanian government during his visit to Amman in June.

Washington and Israel are seeking to simply remove the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees, as enshrined in international law, from the political agenda altogether.

Coupled with Washington’s strategy to “remove Jerusalem from the table,” the American strategy is neither random nor impulsive.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote to the US Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, in an email last January. The email, among others, was later leaked to Foreign Policy magazine. “This (agency) perpetuates a status quo,” he also wrote, referring to UNRWA as “corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”

This notion that UNRWA sustains the status quo – meaning the political rights of Palestinians refugees – is the main reason behind the American war on the Organization, a fact that is confirmed through statements made by top Israeli officials, too.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, echoed the American sentiment. UNRWA “has proven itself an impediment to resolving the conflict by keeping the Palestinians in perpetual refugee status,” he said.

Certainly, the US cutting of funds to UNRWA coincides with the defunding of all programs that provide any kind of aid to the Palestinian people. But the targeting of UNRWA is mostly concerned with the status of Palestinian refugees, a status that has irked Tel Aviv for 70 years.

Why does Israel want to place Palestinian refugees in a status-less category?

The refugee status is already a precarious one. To be a Palestinian refugee means living perpetually in limbo – unable to reclaim what has been lost, and unable to fashion an alternative future and a life of freedom and dignity.

How are Palestinians to reconstruct their identity that has been shattered by decades of exile, when Israel has constantly hinged its own existence as a ‘Jewish state’ on opposing the return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees? Per Israel’s logic, the mere Palestinian demand for the implementation of the internationally-sanctioned Right of Return is equivalent to a call for “genocide”. According to that same faulty logic, the fact that the Palestinian people live and multiply is a “demographic threat” to Israel.

Much can be said about the circumstances behind the creation of UNRWA by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1949 – its operations, efficiency and the effectiveness of its work. But for most Palestinians, UNRWA is not a relief organization, per se; being registered as a refugee with UNRWA provides Palestinians with a temporary identity, the same identity that allowed four generations of refugees to navigate decades of exile.

UNRWA’s stamp of “refugee” on every certificate that millions of Palestinians possess – birth, death and everything else in between – has served as a compass, pointing back to the places those refugees come from – not the refugee camps scattered in Palestine and across the region, but the 600 towns and villages that were destroyed during the Zionist assault on Palestine.

These villages may have been erased, as a whole new country was established upon their ruins, but the Palestinian refugee remained – subsisted, resisted and plotted her return home. The UNRWA refugee status is the international recognition of this inalienable right.

Therefore, the current US-Israeli war does not target UNRWA as a UN body, but as an organization that allows millions of Palestinians to maintain their identity as refugees with non-negotiable rights until their return to their ancestral homeland. Nearly 70 years after its founding, UNRWA remains essential and irreplaceable.

The founders of Israel envisioned a future where Palestinian refugees would eventually disappear into the larger population of the Middle East. Seventy years on, the Israelis still entertain that same illusion.

Now, with the help of the Trump administration, they are orchestrating yet more sinister campaigns to make Palestinian refugees vanish, wished away through the destruction of UNRWA and the redefining of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.

The fate of Palestinian refugees seems to be of no relevance to Trump, Kushner and other US officials. The Americans are now hoping that their strategy will finally bring Palestinians to their knees so that they will ultimately submit to the Israeli government’s dictates.

The latest US-Israeli folly will prove futile. Successive US administrations have done everything in their power to support Israel and to punish the supposedly intransigent Palestinians. The Right of Return, however, remained the driving force behind Palestinian resistance, as the Gaza Great March of Return, ongoing since March, continues to demonstrate.

The truth is that all the money in Washington’s coffers will not reverse what is now a deeply embedded belief in the hearts and minds of millions of refugees throughout Palestine, the Middle East and the world.


Dr. Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. He is athor of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle and his latest My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com.

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Israel won’t prosecute embassy guard over Jordan shootings

MEMO | January 21, 2018

Israel will not prosecute a guard from its embassy in Amman who killed two Jordanians in July, as had long been demanded by the kingdom, two Israeli sources said to Reuters on Sunday.

Instead, the Foreign Ministry and Shin Bet security agency will review protocols surrounding the actions taken by the guard, Ze’ev Moyal, and his conduct, “and share the results with the Jordanians”, a diplomatic source said.

The killings led to a rift between the countries, which both said last week had been mended.

Jordan said Israel had apologised for the embassy deaths, would compensate the victims’ next of kin and “implement and follow up legal measures” in the case.

Jordanian officials were not immediately available to comment on the diplomatic source’s account. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman declined comment.

Amman had previously demanded a homicide trial for the guard, whose repatriation under diplomatic immunity and hero’s welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered Jordanians.

Israel said in the aftermath of the incident that the guard had acted in self-defence, shooting a workman who stabbed and wounded him lightly, and that the second Jordanian was killed by stray fire.

Asked on Sunday whether criminal prosecution of the guard was possible, a second Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “No way.”

The guard’s prospects of remaining in the Israeli secret service may be in doubt, however, after a Jordanian newspaper published his name and photograph. Other fine-print elements of the reconciliation deal were designed to limit legal culpability for Israel, the diplomatic source said.

Israel would not pay damages to the next of kin directly, but instead provide a $5 million lump sum for the Jordanian government to disburse as compensation, that source said. The money is also meant to cover the needs of the family of a Jordanian shot dead by an Israeli border guard in 2014.

Two sources close to the families confirmed the payout sum.

The Israeli diplomatic source said the Netanyahu government had not apologised for the shooting of the alleged assailant but rather “voiced regret”.

On Thursday, a Jordanian government spokesman said Israel had sent a memorandum stating its “deep regrets and apologies”.

Yet Israel distinguishes between the two expressions of contrition, seeing in the latter a potential admission of guilt.

See Also:

Israel to Jordan: Reopen embassy or you will run dry

January 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Behind the mask of liberalism, security has priority over human rights in Jordan

By Inès Osman | MEMO | November 11, 2107

In the western world, Queen Rania of Jordan is viewed largely as one of the most progressive leaders in the Arab and Islamic region. Describing herself as “a mum and a wife with a really cool day job”, her social media accounts – which have approximately 27 million followers, almost three times her country’s population – feature both family portraits and pictures of her meeting women and children in refugee camps.

However, behind this glossy image lies a different reality for Jordanian citizens. For a start, anyone who dares to criticise either the Queen herself or her husband King Abdullah II faces between one to three years in prison under article 195 of the Penal Code. When, in January 2017, a former member of parliament published an article on Facebook denouncing corruption and asking whether the King was aware of the situation, he was arrested by the intelligence services and charged with “insulting the King” and “undermining the political regime”; the latter constitutes a terrorist offence in Jordan.

Alarmingly, this former MP is only one of many peaceful dissenting voices who have become victims of Jordan’s repressive apparatus made up of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) and the State Security Court (SSC), both under tight control of the executive. The GID, known commonly as the mukhabarat with a director who is appointed directly by the King, is tasked with carrying out operations to “safeguard national security”. In practice, however, the intelligence services have been cracking down on dissent by means of arbitrary arrest and torture.

Although the GID is no law enforcement agency, it arrests and takes suspects to its headquarters, where they are detained with no access to the outside world, be it their lawyer or family. During this period, detainees are subjected to torture and forced to make self-incriminating statements, which are then used as the sole evidence against them at trial. In 2015, the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture denounced the “widespread” use of this practice by the intelligence services, and called on Jordan to limit the powers of the GID.

It seems unlikely that the authorities will take measures to that end, given that the GID has so far responded to such criticism with denials. Indeed, on its website, the GID states that such reports are “exaggerated”, “politically motivated” and ultimately aimed at “harming Jordan’s good image and standing in the international community.”

However, the GID is not acting alone. Its judicial counterpart, the State Security Court, is another part of this repressive machinery. Not only is its General Prosecutor a military officer sitting at the GID headquarters, but the SSC judges – two from the military and one civilian – are nominated by the Prime Minister and can be replaced at any time by executive decision.

UN human rights bodies have raised concerns repeatedly over the lack of independence and impartiality of this exceptional jurisdiction. On 9 November, after reviewing the human rights situation in Jordan, the UN Human Rights Committee – a group of independent experts assessing the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) worldwide – published its concluding observations, in which it called for the abolition of Jordan’s SSC. The Committee had already made this recommendation twice before in 1994 and 2010, but the authorities have not taken any steps towards its effective implementation to date.

The SSC relies on a flawed legal framework to prosecute those who have exercised their right to freedom of expression. The victims face charges of terrorism, the definition of which has been broadened over the years to include acts of free speech.

It was in October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, that the Penal Code was amended to criminalise acts of terrorism for the first time. Back then, article 149 was enacted, listing as a terrorist crime any act that would “encourage the contestation of the political system” or “aim at changing the fundamental structure of society”. Several years later, in 2006, the authorities promulgated the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in response to the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. In 2014, the law was broadened to include nonviolent acts aimed at “causing disorder to the public order” or “disturbing relations with a foreign country”, definitions which are flawed and leave room for interpretation.

While Jordanian officials claimed that this move was aimed at providing a better response to threats of spillover from the Syrian conflict, in practice, these amendments have allowed the authorities to silence more dissenting voices. In its November 2017 conclusions, the Human Rights Committee reiterated its 2010 call to amend the Anti-Terrorism Law to bring it into compliance with the ICCPR, despite the authorities’ claim that the law is “living up to Jordan’s international obligations”.

Following a wave of demonstrations in 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring, Jordan’s monarch called for “sky-high” freedoms. However, it was also in 2011 that article 149 of the Penal Code was used for the first time against teachers who were protesting near the Prime Minister’s offices for the establishment of a teachers’ syndicate.

Since then, dozens of critics, journalists, political opponents and peaceful demonstrators alike have been arrested and tortured by the GID, and then prosecuted before the State Security Court under terrorism charges for merely having expressed their opinion.

A telling example of the political nature of such judicial harassment is the case of the well-known TV and radio presenter Amjad Qourshah, who was arrested in June 2016 after criticising Jordan’s participation in the US-led international coalition against Daesh. Qourshah had published a video on YouTube in which he stated that Arab states were being forced to fight a war that was not theirs. The State Security Court Prosecutor charged him with “disturbing relations with a foreign state” under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

As a strong ally of western countries, Jordan seems to be succeeding in maintaining its liberal image. In January 2015, Queen Rania and King Abdullah were among the world leaders who marched to defend the right to freedom of expression in Paris following the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo. Nevertheless, at the same time, the authorities have continued to clamp down on freedom of expression in the Hashemite Kingdom under the pretext of “national security”.

Such contradictions seem rooted in Jordanian politics. In March 2016, the authorities launched a ten-year Comprehensive National Plan for Human Rights, which set among its priorities the enhancement of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Six months later, the Media Commission prohibited news outlets from reporting any news about the King or other members of the royal family.

This gap between Jordan’s liberal public image and conservative domestic policy is largely going unnoticed within the international community. However, as the UN Human Rights Committee recalled recently, one of the Kingdom’s most pressing challenges remains the need to find a balance between security and human rights; behind the liberal mask, the former still has priority over the latter.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

What Israel is Fighting for in the Middle-Eastern Mess?

By Valery Kulikov – New Eastern Outlook – 24.10.2017

As forces of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group are pushed across Syria and Iraq, one can clearly see Israel’s shifting position regarding the situation in Syria, which can be explained by Tel-Aviv’s desire to reorder the Middle East.

It’s clear that Israel has finally realized that it’s been betting on the wrong side in Syria and is now risks losing all. It goes without saying that once defeated, Israel’s leadership will be in no position to demand anything from anyone. This includes failing to establish a security zone within the Golan Heights, as well as failed ambitions over controlling the Iraqi-Syrian border which now will likely not come to fruition. In fact, the panic mode that the Netanyahu administration has been in for a while reflects the dramatic changes that are taking place in Syria and across the region. After Israel’s betting on the losing party for so long, Tel-Aviv has no other choice but to pursue damage control in a desperate bid to save its Jordanian and Kurdish proxies. Its new strategy states that it must draw Iraq and Syria away from Iran and integrate them into the Israeli-American-Saudi alliance.

Over the last six years of conflict in Syria, Israel would try to avoid any direct military confrontation. Only recently Israeli aircraft and artillery have started launching strikes inside Syrian territory. Among their targets included Hezbollah, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian government, but also military facilities of the Syrian Arab Army as well. In particular, the recent bombardment of Israeli artillery targeting Syrian army positions in the Golan Heights, according to Israeli media reports, destroyed three Syrian artillery positions.

Israel has always been deeply involved in the Syrian conflict. Repeated statements by Israeli officials that “Tel-Aviv pursues a policy of non-interference in the Syrian civil war” have been circulating within Western media sources for years. However, in a recent series of explanations given by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to European officials, he would acknowledge that Tel-Aviv destroyed dozens of Iranian convoys fighting in the Syrian Arab Republic against ISIS hordes. On June 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia were allies from the very beginning of the Syrian conflict, as Israel supplied the Syrian rebels operating alongside its borders with money, food, fuel and even drugs. The Wall Street Journal has also added that Israel might be sponsoring a total of four rebel groups operating inside Syria. These groups would use the cash provided to them to pay mercenaries and buy ammunition. These revelations, according to Zero Hedge, can also explain why ISIS terrorists would never attack Israeli citizens or launch operations deep inside Israel’s territory despite their close proximity.

According to Telegram’s Directorate 4 channel, militants have recently released a video of one of their gangs using anti-aircraft ammunition delivered from Israel while engaged in a deadly firefight against Syrian government troops in the vicinity of Daraa. It is noted that this was not the first time that media sources received confirmation that Israel has been supplying weapons to miltiants depicted by the West as “radical Islmasists.” In addition, it’s been repeatedly reported that Israel has been providing medical aid to militants wounded in Syria.

In mid-October it was reported that Syrian troops discovered four warehouses filled with US and Israeli-made weapons in the liberated Syrian city of Mayadin.

Tel Aviv’s sympathy for ISIS was confirmed last May by the editor of Politico, Bryan Bender, who visited Israel just before US President Donald Trump’s visit, discovering that Israeli military forces did not want the US to fulfill its promise to crush the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria .

Regarding the policy of Israel, a number of regional politicians and experts have noted an abrupt increase in its attempts to provoke the so-called redrawing of the Middle East map, which will inevitably result in the weakening of some countries across the region. This was stated, in particular, at the press conference given by Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in early October. Fazli would emphasize Israel’s support for the referendum of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, for the sole purpose of weakening Tel-Aviv’s opponents in the Middle East.

The consistent political support for an Iraqi Kurdistan provided by Israel has recently been emphasized by the commander of the elite paramilitary Peshmerga unit known as Black Tiger, General Sirwan Barzani, the nephew of long-time leader of the Iraqi Kurds – Masoud Barzani. Israelis have been freely visiting Iraqi Kurdistan with their national passports, although such a paper would make anyone an unwelcome visitor across the Arab world. Israeli companies are beginning to unofficially operate in Erbil, while the Kurds are seeking the support of the Israeli lobby in the US in hopes that it would support Kurdistan’s independence. Last year, the Kurdish authorities announced the opening of a “representative office for relations with Jews”, which can be viewed as a nascent diplomatic mission.

Of course, there’s intelligence cooperation to be found between Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan. Simply, the “common enemy” has now changed – instead of targeting the hated Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, those services are now targeting the government of the now Shia Arab majority along with Iran which supports it. There is no doubt that through Kurdistan, Israeli special services have been enjoying ready access to the territories of Iran and Iraq, which in the event of a major war would be a crucial factor.

However, the Kurds are not cooperating with Israel openly because they are afraid of the wrath of Iran and the Arab world that it may trigger.

Israel’s goals in supporting Iraqi Kurds are truly multifaceted. One of them, according to the former Israeli intelligence officer Alexander Grinberg, is to resist Iran’s influence while maintaining leverage against Turkey. Especially given the fact that commercial relations between Turkey and Israel began to develop rapidly and both Ankara and Tel-Aviv share a number of positions on the Iranian issue, in spite of the fact that Erdogan is an impulsive leader with anti-Semitic and dictatorial habits, while according to the opinion prevailing in Israel today, it’s Turkey that is the main supporter of Hamas, not Qatar.

In a bid to preserve its role as a major Middle Eastern power in the eyes of America’s elite, Israel has offered Washington a plan that may allow it to push Iran both from Syria and the regional scene. The plan was drafted under the supervision of Israel’s Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, and approved by the country’s top political leadership. According to the Katz Plan, Washington must recognize the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967 as Israel’s sovereign territory. Such a recognition will grant Israel a number of advantages, especially in the matter of striking the positions of Hezbollah within Syrian territory, particularly those found in the immediate vicinity of the disputed heights. Also in the Katz plan, special emphasis is placed on preventing the permanent military basing of Iranians in Syria. In this regard, the US is recommended to tighten sanctions against Tehran on the pretext that Iran is “supporting terrorism.”

Tel-Aviv is also aware of the growing role that Russia is playing in the Middle East, so it wants to get Moscow on board with its plan of pushing pro-Iranian forces out of Syria. In order to achieve this goal Tel Aviv has been unprecedentedly active in approaching Moscow along with its “allied” Arab leaders: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. In exchange for reviewing its relations with Iran, Russia, which has already established two permanent military bases in Syrian territory, is promised to receive a whole set of “preferences”, including the tacit acceptance of Russian jurisdiction over Crimea by the West, the lifting of Western sanctions, the restoration of Russia’s membership in the G8, and guarantees on the preservation of Moscow’s air and naval bases in the Syrian provinces of Latakia and Tartus. There is another “benefit” for Russia in the form of keeping President Bashar Assad in power in Damascus indefinitely, as well as supplying Riyadh with Russian arms and the list goes on and on.

October 25, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Israel is flexing muscles at Hezbollah

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | September 7, 2017

The Israeli armed forces began a massive fortnight-long military exercise on Tuesday, billed as the biggest in the past 19 years, simulating a war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post reported that “thousands of soldiers and reservists from all different branches of the IDF (cyber, intelligence, ground forces, the air force and the navy) are going to coordinate their operations as during wartime.”

Hezbollah has reacted with disdain, a top official taunting Israel, “we are ready for any attack or Israeli stupidity.” He added, “The Israelis won’t succeed in surprising us, because Israel knows full well [what] Hezbollah’s capabilities are after the loss it suffered in 2006 [in the Second Lebanon War], which deterred the IDF.”

Israel’s advantage will be that Hezbollah is embroiled in other conflicts, in particular the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah’s capability, on the other hand, has vastly increased since 2006 and there is some merit in its claim of being “the second largest military in the Middle East,” apart from having at least 100,000 rockets aimed at Israeli targets. Logically speaking, a war is improbable but then, nothing is beyond the realms of possibility in the Middle East region.

Israel will be sorely tempted to test Hezbollah’s increased capabilities now rather than later, because a point of no return may be reached soon and will have a hard time holding itself back. The fact of the matter is that Israel is coming face to face with a new security paradigm that would have seemed incredible even six months ago. The spectre that haunts Israel today is that for the first time since the 1967 war, the balance of forces is shifting adversely.

Sharmine Narwani, a seasoned Beirut-based analyst of Middle East politics (and a personal friend of mine) has written an insightful piece in the American Conservative connecting the dots and explaining how a once-favorable balance of power has suddenly shifted in a direction that clips Israel’s wings.” She analyses that for a start, Israel is failing spectacularly in its attempt to dictate the limits to Iran’s presence in post-conflict Syria.

Israel knocked on the doors of the Trump White House to get the US troops to take on the responsibility of the so-called de-escalation zone in southern Syria bordering Golan Heights. But the Pentagon cold-shouldered the idea. Thereafter, three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Sochi to meet President Vladimir Putin to convey a veiled threat that Israel may choose to intervene if Russia did not rein in Iran’s influence in Syria. Putin, it seems, was also unimpressed.

In fact, the magnificent victory this week by the Syrian government forces in breaking the ISIS’ 840-day siege of the eastern Syrian city Dier Ezzor in the Euphrates Valley was possible only with the participation side-by-side by the Russian Special Forces, Iranian militia and Hezbollah. Moscow may have sent a strong signal to Netanyahu when RT, which is closely identified with the Kremlin, featured an unprecedented interview with the Hezbollah leader Sheikh Naim Kassem on Tuesday where he thoroughly denounced Israel’s “main part in Syria’s destruction” having been “an important supporter of the armed opposition, especially in the southern part of Syria.”

But there are other dimensions to the emergent security scenario as well that are worrying Israel. One, Hezbollah has successfully cleaned up the border regions separating Lebanon and Syria, where there was a big presence of the extremist Syrian opposition groups, including ISIS (some of which had enjoyed covert Israeli backing.) That has “freed up Hezbollah forces for deployment on other fronts – including its southern border with Israel.” It is a matter of time now before Hezbollah goes for the jugular veins of the extremist groups, especially the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, which are ensconced in the border of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (with Israeli support.) If and when that happens, Hezbollah (and Iran) would be Israel’s next-door neighbor in the Golan Heights.

Additionally, Jordan, which used to be Israel’s main staging post for operations in Syria, is showing signs of “defecting” to the Russian side. This is not surprising because Jordan sees the writing on the wall, especially after the Gulf Arab states began distancing themselves from the Syrian cauldron in the most recent months. Russia has been quietly cultivating Jordan. The Saudi establishment media organ Al-Arabiya carried a report on Monday to the effect that Jordan is edging toward re-opening relations with Syria and that Damascus is reciprocating the sentiment. It quoted a Syrian official as saying, “Hearts in Syria and Jordan still beat for each other and this reflects the Arab people’s longing for the project of reawakening and liberation.”

Meanwhile there are signs that Turkey may mediate a normalization between Jordan and Iran, too. What Israel is unlikely to overlook is that Hamas is also re-establishing links with Tehran. The new Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar was quoted as saying on Monday that Iran is now “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’ armed wing. (Fox News)

So, we get here an interesting regional line-up of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Jordan, Iraq and Iran which have a shared antipathy toward Israel for one reason or the other. Paradoxically, the recent spat within the Gulf Cooperation Council has erased the sectarian divide in the regional politics, which of course has a multiplier effect on Iran’s regional influence. Equally, Israel is viewed as a key patron of the Kurdish separatist movement in Iraq, while Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran have congruent interest in preventing, no matter what it takes, the emergence of an independent Kurdistan on the regional map. All in all, therefore, the victory in the Syrian war greatly boosts Iran’s regional standing and gives it land access to the East Mediterranean coast.

Read Sharmine Narwani’s article Israel’s Geopolitical Gut Check, here.

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Syrian Arab Army takes control of Jordanian border

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | June 9, 2017

Fierce fighting with ISIS and US backed jihadists in southern Syria has been ongoing for months. In June, two convoys of Syrian and allied soldiers came under fire from US forces illegally operating in the desert areas of southern Syria near the borders with Iraq and Jordan.

Today, the Russian General Staff announced that Syrian forces are now in full control of 105 kilometres of the border with Jordan. Jordan which for decades has been hostile to Syria has been an important passage for terrorists and illegal armed forces entering Syria.

The Russian General Staff who work closely with the Syrian Arab Army as part of the anti-terrorist coalition in the country issued the following statement as offered by Russian Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin,

“As part of the advance of the Syrian army and militia on Daesh’s (ISIS) positions, the control over 105 kilometres of the Syrian-Jordanian border has been restored

The efforts of the government forces on establishing full control over the Syrian-Jordanian border and the border with Iraq continue”.

This not only will help seal off areas where militants can enter Syria but crucially it will send a clear message to the Jordanian armed forces that their presence will not be allowed nor tolerated in Syria.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment