The Golden Gate also known as the Mercy Gate (R) and the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: THOMAS COEX / AFP)
There are times in which the overpowering political climate is reflected in a court decision. The latest decision by the Israeli courts to close part of Al-Haram al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa mosque for 60 days is one of them.
The decision by the Jerusalem District Court gave the Jordanian Ministry of Waqf, which supervises the 144-dunam Islamic complex, 60 days to reply to their order even though it is aware that the Jordanian Ministry of Waqf has refused and continues to refuse to deal with the Israeli legal system regarding Islam’s third holiest site.
The absence of any justification for this order was finessed by the Israeli authorities using (or rather abusing) the anti-terrorism law to justify their request. Earlier when the chairman of the Waqf council was arrested along with 100 other Palestinians, the Israeli courts revealed that there is no standing order about the use of the Mercy Gate site that Israel is trying to prevent Muslims from using. In fact, Israel has had an unjustified and illegal directive preventing the Waqf from using the location since 2003. All attempts by the Jordanian government to have this order rescinded was ignored. When the newly established Waqf council in January decided to hold a ceremonial prayer service at the site, the Israeli government reacted violently by rushing to close the site and put down local demonstrators trying to open it. The claim that it was used by Raed Salah’s committee rings hollow since Salah and his group have not been allowed to step foot in the mosque for more than a decade.
In the court case, Israel made the absurd argument that the location is not a mosque and therefore it should not be used for prayer. The entire Haram al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa mosque is a UNESCO world heritage site, and Israeli government officials including the current prime minister have always conceded that the mosque is for Muslims to pray and for all others to visit. Politically some Israelis even went as far as saying that opening Bab al-Rahma (Golden Gate or Mercy Gate) is a change of the status quo. My God. You ban people from using part of their mosque, and after 16 years you consider your ban to become part of the status quo that must be preserved?
If you picture the mosque area on most Fridays, and especially during Ramadan Fridays, one can see at times nearly half a million worshipers filling all mosques, courtyards and other locations within the mosque area. To argue that there are some locations that are forbidden to be used by Muslims for prayer is as ridiculous as preventing Catholics from praying in the St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
The issue, of course, has nothing to do with the right to pray at the Mercy Gate but whether the entire controversy is the product of the Israeli elections and the one-upmanship that Israeli officials are involved in to show who can be “tougher” with the Palestinian Muslims of Jerusalem.
Even scarier are the rumors that radical Jewish groups have their eyes on the very same location for a future synagogue in an attempt to convert Islam’s third holiest mosque into the long-lost Jewish Temple.
Both Jordanian and Palestinian officials are repeating the message that the Israeli government is playing with fire. Pushing radical ideas and challenging the status of the Hashemites as the custodian of the Haram ash-Sharif is a dangerous sign. King Abdullah II of Jordan is the 42nd-generation descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. After the 2014 agreement with President Abbas, he was also tasked by Palestinians to be the custodian of both Islamic and Christian sites in occupied Jerusalem.
Israeli officials need to understand that falling for politicians’ political tricks or for the ambitions of fanatic Jewish extremists will result in major trouble and bloodshed at this holy site. Respecting the rights of Muslims to manage, operate and pray in all 144 dunams of Al-Haram Al-Sharif is needed now more than ever to turn down the anger and bring some sanity to this sensitive holy site.
Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. Follow him on twitter.com/daoudkuttab
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>