Yesterday, thousands of Palestinians came to Jerusalem to perform the most simple, most peaceful act: prayer. Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, women and men, young and old – prayed in the streets after refusing to enter through the new metal detectors and barricades erected by Israel in front of the al-Aqsa compound. Israeli forces, armed with live ammunition, stun grenades, sound bombs, water cannon and tear gas, came prepared to kill.
And they did: by the day’s end Israeli forces and armed settlers had killed three young Palestinian men and injured more than 450 others, some of them very seriously. Israeli forces even raided a Palestinian hospital in an attempt to arrest those injured by their weaponry.
Israel claims that the metal detectors are necessary for Israel’s “security” following an incident last week in which two armed Israeli officers were killed. These metal detectors are not about security, but rather about deliberately attempting to bar Palestinians from their places of worship. Contrast, for example, Israel’s recent stance towards the Temple Mount Faithful – a group of Jewish extremists who have openly announced that they seek the destruction of the al-Aqsa compound in order to build a Jewish temple in its place.
Yet, while openly advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the destruction of Muslim holy sites, the Israeli government continues to allow this group to enter the al-Aqsa compound (including with arms) under the guise of “freedom of religion”.
In 1990, this group attempted to lay a cornerstone for a Jewish temple at the compound triggering protests in which some 20 Palestinians died.
The demand for freedom of religion for Palestinians – the ability to worship without the interference of Israel’s armed forces – is conveniently ignored. The metal detectors must be viewed in their proper context: as another of Israel’s settler-colonial acts of erasing us, the indigenous population, erasing our homes, our culture and our religious sites and replacing us with settlers.
For his part, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is happy to see Jerusalem erupt in violence. Facing a corruption investigation for a submarine scandal, Netanyahu is refusing to remove the metal detectors so as to ensure that attention is deflected from this deal and instead focused on violence. You see, in Israel, “security” sells – it ensures votes and ensures that corruption charges are deflected.
To be clear, no Palestinian wants to see their holy sites turned into places of armed conflict. But using the guise of “security”, Israel has ensured that we, Palestinians, live as prisoners in our homeland.
In the name of “security,” Israel expropriates Palestinian land. In the name of “security”, Israel builds Israeli-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land. In the name of “security” Israel demolishes Palestinian homes and schools and in the name of “security” Palestinians are besieged in Gaza, forced to live without electricity, adequate medical supplies or water and even barred from accessing the sea.
And, when Palestinians are gunned down by mass murderers, as they were in the 1990s in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein, in the name of “security”, Palestinians – and not Israelis – are subject to increased security restrictions. In short, Israel seeks to turn Jerusalem into Hebron: blocked off from Palestinians, with convenience for Israeli Jews taking precedence over Palestinian rights. So as Israel continues to gun down Palestinians, who will provide security to Palestinians?
This security will not come from the current unelected Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who spent four days in China as Palestinians were barred from accessing al-Aqsa compound and as Gazans suffered under a siege that he has openly supported. Nor, of course, will it come from a silent international community that only knows how to wring its hands and meekly condemn Israel.
Rather, Palestinians will continue to bravely stand and defend themselves, bowing down only to the God they worship and never to Israeli diktats.