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هاني المصري
السبت, 22 تموز (يوليو), 2017


REMEMBERING THE OCCUPATION: "To begin with, we should all remember – and we hereby remind everyone who may have forgotten or is feigning forgetfulness – that Jerusalem and the Noble Sanctuary are inseparable parts of the occupied Palestinian and Arab lands," writes Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian website

We also remind everyone that the natural, historic, and legal rights enshrined in international law include the right to self-defense and all forms of resistance, especially against racist, settler-colonial, Zionist schemes of aggression. These schemes are meant to Judaize and Israelize Jerusalem, and to expel the maximum number of its original inhabitants, turning the lives of those who remain into an unbearable hell. And they also target the Noble Sanctuary by alleging that it was built atop Solomon's Temple, and must therefore be demolished so as to rebuild the Temple in its place.

There are some whose minds and hearts have been so blinded that they claim that resistance is the cause of the Palestinian Nakba and all other catastrophes. They forget that resistance is a reaction and one of the means that keep the Palestinian cause afloat. Without it, this cause would have disappeared, and Israel would have been able to complete its colonial project.

Can we forget the roots of the conflict, the nature and aims of the Zionist project, and the implications of the Jerusalem Law if passed by the Knesset? Can we ignore the scale and source of the threat, and the ideas proposed at the 2000 Camp David summit that granted the Palestinians sovereignty over the Sanctuary over-ground and to Israel underground? Can we ignore the fact that there are Israeli groups, clerics, political leaders, Knesset members, and ministers who have adopted the call to build Solomon's Temple in place of the Noble Sanctuary, so much so that one Israeli minister has said that he 'dreams every night that the Aqsa has been destroyed and that the Temple has been built in its place'?

Moreover, there is public scheme to build a Jewish synagogue on the Aqsa compound and it is liable to be implemented at any time. For as Netanyahu has said, the current regional conditions do not allow changing the status quo, which only confirms the intention to change it.

Lending further credence to all the above is the fact that the assaults on the Aqsa and its violation by Jews – including leaders, clerics, and Knesset members – have become a routine daily affair, recurring hundreds of times, whereas they previously used happen only occasionally or tens of times at most. Moreover, the archeological digs around and under the Aqsa have gone too far, so much so that some engineers believe that any medium-sized earthquake that Palestine may suffer could cause the Mosque to collapse.

The fact that resistance is a right does not grant everyone wherever and whenever to do as he or she wishes, however. For resistance is not an idol to be worshiped, but a means that must serve a common national strategy, under a single leadership and via institutions that enjoy a national consensus.

But what is to be done when the inter-Palestinian [Fatah/Hamas] split continues and is deepened, when we remain lost, when standing and waiting is given priority over every other option, and in the absence of a single leadership and a common national strategy? Are the Palestinians supposed to raise the white flag, or should they continue to beat at the wall until hope emerges from it?

This situation has created a vacuum that Israel, some Arab, regional, and international parties, and certain groups and individuals are now trying to fill. Some want to liquidate the cause; others want to use it merely to serve their aims. And there are Palestinians whose only concern is their own private interest, even if that comes at everything else's expense. And there are those who want to pursue resistance and steadfastness as an expression of the majority's will and interest, even if by means of the spontaneous individual acts that have characterized the recent resistance attacks including stabbings, vehicle-ramming, the use of firearms, collective and individual prisoners' strikes, and the popular boycott and resistance movement – all of which lack a political framework, leadership, program, organization, and capabilities.

Should the response be to denounce these attacks? Or should we view them as a natural reaction to the occupation and its practices, to the absence of a political horizon, and to the leadership and the various factions' failure to assume their responsibilities?

The Palestinian leadership, elite, and factions are responsible for the spread of such phenomena, and not those who are sacrificing their lives in defense of their people, land, and faith. Consequently, is wrong to place individual attacks on trial, since they signal that the nation is still alive and is willing to stand its ground and resist even in the worst conditions, and even if in an individual manner. 

Had they been systematic and organized actions, they would have to be weighed on the scale of gain and loss, judging the appropriateness of their timing, the ability to employ them for political ends, and so on. This is because a rifle that lacks any aim, and without the means of accumulating its achievements, is a lost rifle that seeks someone to lead and guide it to the kind of fruitful resistance that is appropriate for every phase.

This kind of attack has also given rise to the claim that it is enabling the occupation to achieve its aims, which it could not have done otherwise. In response, we can survey what happened since Israel's occupation of the rest of Jerusalem in 1967. It initially recognized the status quo and did not intervene in the Noble Sanctuary based on an agreement reached between [then Israeli defense minister] Moshe Dayan and the Islamic waqf.

After the attempt to burn down the Aqsa in 1969, the Israeli army began to enter the Sanctuary in small numbers. Then this developed both quantitatively and qualitatively after the 1990 massacre [in which 20 Palestinians were killed and 150 wounded] committed on the compound. The police did not stop at entering the Sanctuary, but also established posts and deployed guards around the gates.

In [September] 2000, Ariel Sharon's visit accompanied by two thousand heavily armed policemen and soldiers detonated the Aqsa Intifada. After 2001, the Israeli police was able to enter the Sanctuary without consulting or coordinating with the waqf despite Jordan's sponsorship of the Aqsa based on the 1994 Jordanian/Israeli peace treaty.

In 2013, and based on a Jordanian/Israeli agreement sponsored by the U.S., Israel sought to set up surveillance cameras in the Aqsa; but it retreated after widespread Palestinian and Jordanian protests. In 2014, after the attempt to assassinate Yehuda Glick, the Jewish extremist and constant aggressor of al-Aqsa, Israel shut down the Sanctuary, but quickly rescinded this decision before the following Friday prayers after widespread Palestinian and Jordanian reactions.

After all that has happened, it is as clear as daylight that Israel has violated the sanctity of the holy sites after it has turned them into arenas for confrontation, shootings, and bombs to protect the settlers and extremists who are entering the Sanctuary and constantly aggressing the Aqsa. It has turned the holy sites into a military barracks in the service of its declared aims, regardless of whether there is any Palestinian resistance or not. In fact, Israel's pursuit of these aims increases in times of calm when no attacks are being carried out.

Today, after this 'Sanctuary operation' that is the first of its kind, we must warn against the consequences of the continued implementation of Israeli policies. At the same time, no one – whether they support or oppose these sorts of attacks – should be fooled into forgetting that the occupation is responsible, and that all denunciations and eyes should be focused on it.

The closure of the Aqsa sets a very dangerous precedent that has never occurred over the past fifty years but may now possibly be repeated. It is a calculated risk that aims to test Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, and international reactions. If they prove to be limited – as they did in fact– then further steps to alter the status quo may be taken. And we can notice this all the time, despite claims that it is not so, as evident from the installment of cameras and gates, which recalls what happened to the Ibrahimi Sanctuary [Hebron Cave of the Patriarchs]. Access to that sanctuary has been divided along spatiotemporal lines ever since the massacre committed by [Israeli officer] Baruch Goldstein in 1994, who slayed [Muslim] worshippers during prayer and not after a resistance attack.

Despite their suffering and frustration, and the repetition of the phrase 'we are all alone,' the Palestinians – especially those Jerusalemites who reside in and around al-Aqsa – are ready to persist with their steadfastness and struggle all by themselves. They are willing to continue until the Arab people rise, no matter how long it may take and how dear the sacrifices they may have to make. They are the ones who have protected and will continue to protect the Aqsa. They are the ones who have kept the Palestinian cause alive, waiting for success by changing the balance of power in a manner that is capable of bringing about the liberation of Jerusalem, at the heart of which lie al-Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

"They will do so with the backing of all of the forces of liberation, progress, peace and justice across the world that we have failed but that have not let us down when we have proven to be up to the cause and its challenges," concludes Masri.