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Violence Around the Al-Aqsa Mosque

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Photograph taken by an Israeli sniper of the head of a Palestinian boy in the cross-hairs of a rifle scope.
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Update: By the early hours of Thursday -- after this interview -- Israel had removed the metal detectors from Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Violence flared in East Jerusalem starting on July 21, as a result of Israel's decision to put metal detectors at the entrance to the Palestinians most holy site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, along with the stationing of hundreds of Israeli security forces and police.

Palestinians protested all over occupied Palestine against the decision and at least four Palestinians and three Israelis have died as a result. The situation triggered international alarm and caused the United Nations Security Council to convene a meeting to explore ways to calm the tension.

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I spoke to Ramzy Baroud, editor of the PalestineChronicle.com, about the situation on the ground last weekend and the continuing moves by Israeli occupation forces to seize more and more Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Dennis Bernstein: What are your thoughts on the tense situation and the standoff in East Jerusalem?

Ramzy Baroud: Well, the situation on the ground is quite difficult right now. As you know, there was this gun battle a few days ago, which resulted in the closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram Sharif compound, one of the holiest sites for Muslims everywhere. This is the first time we have seen such a closure since the time of the Crusades. So this is a huge deal for the Palestinians and many fear this is an indication of a much more extensive political plan to normalize the annexation of East Jerusalem.

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We have seen tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers, mainly Muslim but also joined by their Christian brethren, prevented from entering the compound to pray. On July 21, Israeli [forces] installed metal detectors and, of course, the Palestinians are protesting this. The Al-Aqsa compound has been under the management of the Islamic Trust since an agreement was reached by the Israeli and Jordanian governments in 1967. Installing metal detectors is Israel's way of rejecting this agreement, which has been in force for five decades now.

Palestinians are feeling a great deal of outrage and insecurity now in East Jerusalem. They fear this is part of a larger Israeli plan that brings right-wing politicians such as Benjamin Netanyahu into the same camp with extremist Zionists who believe that the mosque is built on the site of an ancient Jewish temple and want to destroy it. They have attempted to do so in the past but this recent violence has inspired many of them to believe that the moment is now.

DB: Maybe you could put this latest violence into the context of the ongoing seizure of Jerusalem.

RB: American politicians such as Trump tend to neglect the complexity of history. They assume that all it takes to be an effective politician is the ability to attract campaign contributions and win the support of powerful segments of the population. Truly wise politicians try to understand the repercussions of every decision they make.


President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are welcomed by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, on their arrival to Ben Gurion International Airport, May 22, 2017, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
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With the Trump administration, there has been a kind of euphoria in Israel, particularly among the ultra-nationalists, the most extreme camps in the Israeli government and society. They feel that Trump is their messiah, not in a religious sense but in the sense that he is going to be the one to fulfill biblical prophecy. Trump has promised that he is going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in defiance of international law, making the US the only country in the world to do so.

Whether he actually carries through on the promise is not the issue. The message is loud and clear: The US is no longer following any kind of international consensus, on Jerusalem or the status of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. That changes the rules of the game entirely.

Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the UN, has repeatedly insisted on Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem, on Israel's ownership of the Muslim and Christian holy shrines. I don't think we have seen anything like this since the George W. Bush administration and the Negroponte doctrine, which stated that the United States would not accept any UN resolution inconsistent with Israeli interests.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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