UPDATE: Yesterday, Border Police once again stormed the Al Aqsa mosque and its defenders fought back to repel the desecrators of the holy shrine. One of them, 21-year-old Walid al Sharif, was shot in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet. Eyewitnesses and his family confirmed this. He was mortally wounded. Taken to Hadassah Hospital, he is now in a coma and his death appears imminent.
Police claim he fell and hit his head while throwing rocks. As if throwing rocks at police defiling a sacred shrine was a capital offense. Despite videos taken of the incident, the police have not produced any documentation of their claim. Meanwhile, Hadassah Hospital cleverly covers the lie, claiming there is “no evidence” of injury from “live ammunition.” Only a knowledgeable individual would know rubber bullets, considered non-lethal (though they are often quite lethal), are not categorized as “live ammunition.” Therefore, they are tacitly admitting he was killed by ammunition that was not live. That is, rubber bullets. The Israeli medical establishment is helping perpetuate the lies of the security apparatus, employing a deliberately misleading statement. This is medicine in service to not just the state, but the state’s terror apparatus.
I saw this photo on Twitter tonight and made me sick to my stomach. It shows the interior of Al Aqsa mosque earlier this week, after pitched battles between Muslim worshippers and Israeli Border[less] Police. The worshippers were especially enraged by the presence of 750 Israeli settlers who, each year recreate the ancient Israelites’ pilgrimage to the Holy Temple.
The not-so-subtle message of the settlers is that they are pressing for the rebuilding of the Temple. As there is only one place it can stand–its original location is smack-dab where Haram al Sharif now stands–this would require the destruction of the Muslim holy site.
Nor am I comforted by Haaretz’s liberal Zionist columnists who dismiss the seriousness of these threats:
Contrary to what is being said on Palestinian social media, in the mainstream Arab media and by preachers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli government has no secret plans to push Muslims off the Temple Mount and turn it into a site of Jewish worship. The security cabinet hasn’t decided to divide the Al-Aqsa compound and prayer times on the Mount between Jews and Muslims, as it did at the Ibrahimi Mosque (the Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron.
The government hasn’t ordered the police’s special forces to draw up an operation to oust Muslims from the Mount, nor has it ordered settlers to sacrifice goats at Al-Aqsa on Passover.
This is nonsense. There doesn’t have to be a “secret plan.” What matters is not whether there is a plan or not. But actions on the ground. And the thuggery of those acting in the name of the State are all that matters. And they belie Hasson’s claims. He continues:
I’m just pointing out that the people who want to offer sacrifices or build a synagogue there belong to small, radical groups that are unpopular with most Israelis. Most of Israel’s religious parties oppose visiting the Mount for reasons based on Jewish religious law, and even in the religious Zionist community, opinions are split on this issue.
There were certainly German Jews who dismissed the fears of Hitler in the years leading up to his assumption of power: don’t worry, they’re just a few crazy extremists, it can’t happen here, there are too many good people who will stop it, etc. We’ve heard that sort of wishful thinking before. But it could happen there and did.
So Mr. Liberal Zionist, don’t tell me it can’t happen in Israel. Because it can. Those like Nir Hasson, who argue cavalierly that the Palestinians and left-wing Israelis who warn of catastrophe are the Boy Who Cried Wolf, are deluding themselves. Even worse, they are confusing their readers. When they hear such rhetoric, they put their guard down. As a result, they will be totally unprepared when the real catastrophe does come.
The Nazis too began by assaulting Jews in the street, breaking windows in their shops, publishing cartoons comparing them to rats and vermin. But then they escalated their attacks and desecrated synagogues by burning them to the ground. So don’t say Israel isn’t capable of such horrors in Jerusalem. Even if it isn’t now, things can change in an instant. What was once impossible is now not only possible, but normalized, accepted behavior. Could a German Jew or any German have imagined in 1930, what would happen in 1939 and afterward?
Returning to Al Aqsa, Israeli police muscled their way into the holy sanctum, defiling it with stun grenades, tear gas and flailing billy clubs. Their goal was to lock Muslims into the site so the settlers could congregate in the courtyard in front of the mosque. On that day, those pictured were among 400 worshippers arrested and 150 were injured by the police assault. Take another look at those shackled prisoners above. Remember the gruesome photos of Ukrainian civilians murdered in cold blood with their hands similarly tied? The difference: the Muslims were only beaten and shackled. Not killed as the Ukrainians were. Does Israel want the reputation: Not-as-bad-as-the-Russians??
As a Jew, I imagine great rabbis of the past–Rambam, the Baal Shem Tov, Hillel, Rabbi Akiva, Rav Kook, Leo Baeck, even the Lubavitcher rebbe–assaulted by thugs in their synagogue with all their disciples bound and gagged and forced to lie face-down on the floor. How can we, as Jews, countenance this outrage? How can our own leaders, including our rabbis behold this schandeh and not be revolted by it? I’ll tell you how: they are fatally compromised by their loyalty to Israel. They can claim all they want that their loyalty is to their vision of a Jewish, democratic state holding liberal, humane values, and not to any particular government or policy. But that is a lie they tell themselves. The truth is that Israel has become a thuggish fascist state, resembling the Third Reich more and more with each passing day.
I was banned from Twitter for a few days for posting the analogy between settlers chanting Death to Arabs and the Nazis. I tweeted Death to Arabs=Sieg Heil. Twitter called it hate speech. I call it a reality check. I’m proud of what I wrote. Even though it pains me as a Jew and former liberal Zionist myself.
I’m aware of how troubling, even enraging this analogy will be for some Jews. But we can no more mince words about what Israel has become. There is not enough lipstick we can put on this pig. Yes, I’m aware of the pejorative nature of this choice of animal imagery and I chose it deliberately. Israel, like the pig, is treif.
Israel and its captive media speak of “unrest,” “riots,” and “rock-throwing,” which justified the Israeli assault, designed solely to restore civil order. This is a smokescreen to conceal the fact that Israel has no right to, or control over Haram al Sharif. In 1967, it ceded control to the Jordanian Waqf in return for Israeli sovereignty over the Kotel.
But over the years, the Israeli ultra-right governments have encroached and gradually whittled away Muslim control. Settlers come in their thousands every year. Rather than show sensitivity to the feelings of Muslims, the government curries favor with its settler base and their right-wing enablers.
Ultimately, if left to its own devices, Israel would remove the Waqf and institute its own form of control. It already places limits during Ramadan on who may enter Jerusalem to worship. Numerous times in the past, it has prohibited men under the age of 50 from entering. Israel’s intent is to exert absolute control over not just Israel itself, but Palestine as well. It has essentially stolen most of what was Palestine. The crowning achievement for these messianic Jews, who believe there must be an all-out war of extermination between Jews and Muslim in the Holy Land, is rebuilding the Temple and eliminating any Muslim presence there.
The Israeli assault on Haram al-Sharif flies in the face of nearly 2,000 years of Jewish law. From the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the rabbis decreed this as sacred space and warned Jews that they must not enter. In 1967, the Chief Rabbis of Israel forbade entrance to it. This prohibition was renewed in 2005. The vast majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews will not do so. Historically, the Ottoman authorities prohibited entrance to non-Muslims from the mid 19th century. Though there are extremist rabbis and their disciples who willingly ignore/violate the prohibition, they are a minority of a minority.
Though Israel claims it is a Jewish state, which Jews does it represent? Certainly not all Jews. given what’s happening in Jerusalem. How many Jews in the world believe it’s worth asserting Jewish dominance over this spot? How many even in Israel? Apparently, Israel is the State of only a tiny minority of those Jews in Israel (settlers) and an even smaller minority of Diaspora Jews. It is shameful that this tiny sect has hijacked an entire nation’s security policy. How is it that such a policy now mimics the visions of messianic zealots, leaving the Israeli state in their hands?
Whether or not they achieve their messianic vision in all its details is almost immaterial. Even if they don’t, they will, and are doing enormous damage to Israel. Damage that is irreparable. They are creating a fascist authoritarian state run by religious extremists and their political martinets. Israel, if it survives, will never be the same.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.