Photo: Palestinians clash with Israeli police at al-Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
By Jakob Stein
On Sunday, the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque. Thousands of Palestinians had gathered at the al-Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem for the religious celebration, when reports broke that the police were going to allow Jews to enter the compound for Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of two ancient Temples that stood on the site.
The conflict broke out when Palestinians began blocking the gates to prevent settlers from entering, and police charged into the compound, firing tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades. Protesters responded to the baton charge by pelting police with stones. An estimated 1,700 Israeli settlers managed to enter the al-Aqsa compound, but their presence was hampered by the nearly 100,000 Palestinian worshipers who had been mobilized to defend the site.
As per agreements between Muslim and Jewish authorities, Jews are barred from praying at the site, although tourist visitors are allowed at certain times. Jewish tradition also prohibits them from entering the compound on the basis that the Temple Mount, as it is referred to in Judaism, is claimed to be the historical site of the Ark of the Covenant.
The conflict erupted in the broader context of far-right Jewish nationalists, known as the Temple Movement, pushing for more incursions into the mosques with the goal of taking them over for Israeli settlers. They have a history of provoking clashes against Palestinians with the aid of Israeli police. The ultimate aim of the movement is for the destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque and the subsequent building of a new Jewish Temple atop its ruins.
With Israeli elections next month, parliamentary cretins like Benjamin Netanyahu are pandering to the far-right Temple Movement to whip up support among the most reactionary section of the electorate. As the national resistance of Palestinians continues in the face of sharpening contradictions within the settler colonial state, ideas once considered extreme, like challenging the longstanding status quo around al-Aqsa mosque, have become mainstream.
The desire to control the al-Aqsa compound fits into Israel’s larger goal of occupying an increasing amount of Palestinian land, especially key areas like Jerusalem and the West Bank. The conflict between Jews and Muslims in Palestine is not one based principally on religious differences; it is a national struggle between settlers with the support of US imperialism on the one hand and the oppressed Palestinian nation on the other.
Palestinian national resistance remains an inspiration to those struggling under the thumb of occupation and imperialist domination around the world. As the oppressed peoples of the world watch, the masses in Palestine continue to wage a fierce struggle against their dispossession and colonization. The mass mobilization seen Sunday is yet another example of the Palestinian nation’s refusal to submit peacefully to the US-backed settler-colonial interests of Israel.