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Far Right Settler March Demanding Control of Al Aqsa Mosque Disbanded for Inciting Violence

8 December 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | Occupied East Jerusalem

     Marking the first night of Hanukkah, on December 7, around 150 ultra-nationalist, Kahane terrorist linked extremist settlers demanding “full Jewish control” of Al Aqsa Mosque shouted racist abuse and waved banners of violent incitement against Al Aqsa Mosque. The violent-extremist group was granted authorization to march through the Muslim Quarter, but was stopped before it could start when Israeli police confronted the mob for violating the terms of its protest permit and inciting violence. Signs calling for the bulldozer-demolition of Al Aqsa, one of the holiest structures in Islam, were reportedly confiscated.  

Clashes between Israeli police and far-right activists at a march through Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday night. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi.

     Permission was granted on the eve of the event, against every indication that march organizers would not be following the tepid ‘restrictions’ placed on the march including an attendance cap and disallowance of the route reaching the holy site. Extremist, settler-colonial citizen forces are granted the right to murder and showered with arms by their government with which to do so. But under pressure through public outcry against the provocative event, occupation police dispersed the demonstration.

     Far right march organizers had circulated a declaration through social media linking the events in Gaza with continued zionist incitement to wrest control of Al Aqsa from the Islamic Endowment waqf. Extremist settlers, instead, want to place it under the control of the same occupying force which is committing daily atrocities against occupied and besieged Palestinians, atrocities which have shocked the world. 

     The Haram Al-Sharif and the Al Aqsa Mosque, was the first place Muslims prayed toward and remains a sacred site of great importance in Islam. It has long been a flashpoint for far right extremist settler and occupation forces’ violence and antagonization of Palestinians through continuous incursions; its majesty the backdrop of the repeated and arbitrary denial of access to Muslims.  

     Across a timeline littered with incursions into the area, May saw hundreds of settlers marking “Flag Day” by rampaging through occupied East Jerusalem where soldier and settler alike hurled racial insults and assaulted Palestinians in the area. And in early October, far-right extremists repeatedly stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound coinciding with the Jewish Sukkot seven day pilgrimage festival. Incited by Jewish ultra-nationalist groups, extremist settlers continued an antagonistic campaign of repeated trampling of the courtyard at the holy site even as faithful Palestinians were being violently denied entry, an arbitrary age-restriction which is ongoing.  

Al Aqsa Compound stormed by extremist settlers on October 5, 2023. photo credit: The New Arab.

     Al-Aqsa’s administrative workers, including Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, one of Al Aqsa’s main Imams, have endured repeated targeting. Sheikh Sabri has faced terrorist death threats by settler vigilantes, a raid of his home to announce an arbitrary travel ban against him, and an outrageous eviction and notice of impending demolition of his home just days ago. This home demolition is especially egregious because it involves the collective punishment of 100 Palestinians who also live in separate homes inside the threatened structure.  

     People of all faiths, including Palestinian Muslims, have an inalienable right, echoed in OCHA’s International Standards article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of freedom from religious-based discrimination. Palestinians regularly attempt to reach Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, but are blocked by Israeli barricades, police, and military who attack the worshippers while they are praying week after week. Human rights defenders holding a non-violent presence to document the restriction, assault, and harassment of Palestinian Muslims at their holy site, have had their phones and passports confiscated and have been forced from the site by occupation soldiers. Despite these provocations, and the recent jailing and forced deportation of a Belgian human rights defender while documenting an illegal home demolition, international human rights defenders continue to document and intervene in human rights violations. 

     The violent, extremist settler march was an incitement to further violence and marginalization of indigenous Palestinians and the obscene violation of a holy site meant to be a welcoming sanctuary to those whispering prayers within its walls. The organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, blueprints the odds between the Jewish faith and this supremacist Zionist ideology; “Zionist interpretations of history taught us that Jewish people are alone, that to remedy the harms of antisemitism we must think of ourselves as always under attack and that we cannot trust others. It teaches us fear, and that the best response to fear is a bigger gun, a taller wall, a more humiliating checkpoint.” Their statements and demonstrations are part of a growing worldwide Jewish resistance to occupation, apartheid and the systematic dehumanization which maintains them. “Rather than accept the inevitability of occupation and dispossession, we choose a different path. We learn from the anti-Zionist Jews who came before us, and know that as long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it.”

     Many Palestinian families remember the stories of their great grandparents who recall how Palestinian Arab and Jewish neighbors babysat for each other and were not only at peace, but close friends, prior to the imposition of settler-colonialism. Palestine, “the land of barakah” (the land of blessings, peace, salvation, liberation, and spiritual presence) and site of the stories that have shaped so many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim lives is experiencing a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. The Al Aqsa Mosque, the soul of Jerusalem, is at the epicenter of the fate of this land and its people, with reverberations around the world; a crossroads between liberatory survival and genocidal desolation, of human rights and the restriction thereof, justice and justice denied.