Ramadan attacks on Al-Aqsa a symptom of larger Israeli occupation of PalestineWritten by Wan Naim Wan Mansor
The recurrence of violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, during the holy month of Ramadan year after year, has become a predictable pattern.
Last week, Israeli police attacked the mosque compound for two consecutive nights (April 6 and 7), injuring dozens of Palestinians (including children) and arresting over 300. In response, militant groups from Gaza and Lebanon launched rocket attacks and Israel retaliated with airstrikes, resulting in minor injuries.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has strongly condemned the Israeli violence and urged the United Nations Security Council to hold Israel accountable and liable for their "heinous crimes", as well as to demand the immediate release of all Palestinian detainees.
He also urged Israel to halt any aggressive acts that violate the status quo of the holy site and endanger regional peace and stability, highlighting Malaysia's unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.
The Israeli incursion into the holy mosque and Palestinian national symbol is not an isolated episode, but rather a symptom of the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Al-Aqsa lies at the heart of the contention between Muslim and Jewish religious claims, and its current administration reflects the delicate power balance (or imbalance) between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Therefore, addressing this issue could be a leverage point—a place where a small shift can produce significant changes all around—for advancing peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The legal status and access of the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is governed by a delicate arrangement known as the "status quo". This agreement, dating back to 1967, stipulates that Israel is responsible for security, while Jordan's Islamic Waqf oversees religious affairs. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but not pray at the site.
However, this status quo has been repeatedly undermined and violated by Israeli actions and policies, such as raids, restrictions, settlements, excavations and provocations. These have provoked anger and resistance among Palestinians and Muslims around the world, and have often led to violence and conflict.
One of the more recent major events sparked by the attack on Al-Aqsa was the 2021 war, which was triggered by Israeli raids during Ramadan and whuch escalated into an 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza that killed over 250 people.
Other notable events include an Australian Christian extremist setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, Jewish fanatics attempting to lay a cornerstone for a new temple on the Temple Mount in 1990, which resulted in the deaths of 20 Palestinians and injuries to over 150 others, and Ariel Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000, which sparked the second intifada lasting until 2005.
The ongoing issue of the Israeli incursion into the Al-Aqsa Mosque has not only political and historical implications but also ethical and moral ones from both human rights and Islamic perspectives.
In a March 23, 2023 letter to the International Criminal Court, UN Special Procedures mandate-holders highlighted the worsening situation in Palestine.
The letter, addressed to Karim A. A. Khan QC, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, expressed concern over widespread impunity and the deterioration of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories as a result of alleged violations of international law by various actors. Evidence of intentional and systematic human rights violations since June 13 2014 was also disseminated.
Alternatively, from an Islamic standpoint, resolving this issue is consistent with the higher objectives of Islamic law (maqasid al-shariah), which seek to promote and protect human wellbeing by enhancing welfare (maslahah) and preventing harm (mafsadah).The Israeli incursion violates the traditional five fundamental rights of: religion (din), life (nafs), intellect (aql), lineage (nasl), and property (mal), along with additional maqasid such as dignity (karamah/muruah), justice (adl), and freedom (hurriyyah).
In numerous ways, resolving the problem of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque could act as a leverage point for the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is of great cultural and religious significance to Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. Addressing the issue of Israeli intrusions in a way that these groups regard as fair and just could perhaps serve to relieve tensions and create confidence among the parties involved in the larger conflict.
It can build momentum for larger negotiations and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. If the parties concerned can successfully reach an agreement on this matter, it may help to boost confidence and faith that progress on other concerns may be accomplished as well.
It could assist in reducing the possibility of additional unrest and conflict in the region. Addressing this specific issue may minimise the possibility of additional occurrences and contribute to a more stable climate for larger discussions and diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
Furthermore, the question of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of human rights and international law, as well as religious sensitivity and historical relevance. Addressing this problem could improve the prospects for peace and justice in the region, as well as the lives and dignity of millions of people.
In conclusion, the problem of Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is difficult to solve, but it is also a key leverage point for achieving lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The frequent raids by Israeli forces and settlers into the mosque compound, often accompanied by violence and violations of Palestinian rights, have sparked widespread anger and resentment among Palestinians and Muslims worldwide.
The recurring clashes in the mosque are not only a security threat but also a source of religious, ethical, and human suffering. Therefore, finding a solution to this issue is not just a political imperative but also a moral and humanitarian necessity.
Published in New Straits Times on Friday, 14 April 2023.