Tensions mount as Israelis continue to encroach on al-Aqsa Mosque, a hotly contested religious site for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. To Muslims, al-Aqsa is the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. To Jews, the site is known as the Temple Mount, and is considered the holiest place in all of Judaism. The area surrounding al-Aqsa is controlled by Israel, but a formal agreement grants Palestinians and other Muslims control over the mosque itself. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit during select hours. However, growing movements in Israel are demanding the right for Jews to reclaim the site as a place of worship. These movements, including the Temple Mount Faithful and the Temple Institute, demand the right to build a new temple where al-Aqsa now stands, the prophesied Third Temple, whose construction would mark the coming of the Messiah. These movements have only heightened tensions in an already tense area, with many Muslims fearful that they will be driven out of al-Aqsa by force.
Unfortunately, that fear seems to be a looming reality. Israeli security forces often escort Jewish worshippers onto the site, in defiance of the agreement. Muslims visiting the mosque are frequently subjected to brutal assaults. Their rights to freely worship have been restricted by increased security measures, including metal detectors and invasive searches. This is symptomatic of a broader pattern of behavior, with Israel’s government going out of its way to make life difficult for Palestinians, who are forced to live under an eye of constant suspicion on land that was illegally seized from their people.
President Donald Trump has doubled down on the United States’ unflinching support of Israel with his decision to withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations’ world cultural organization. UNESCO was perceived as showing support for Palestine, a state the US does not recognize, by acknowledging the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a Palestinian World Heritage site. In so doing, the US continues its long history of enabling Israel on the world stage.
US corporate media coverage of Israeli abuse of power has been either biased or insufficient. The UNESCO decision received some publicity, but the ongoing tensions surrounding al-Aqsa and other contested religious sites did not garner much attention. Middle Eastern news outlets such as Al Jazeera have devoted significant attention to the ongoing troubles.
Shahrazad Odeh, “Israel turns bus into torture chamber,” Electronic Intifada, October 10, 2017, https://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-turns-bus-torture-chamber/21931
Maureen Claire Murphy, “Right wing Israelis rampage through Jerusalem’s Old City,” Electronic Intifada, October 12, 2017 https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/right-wing-israelis-rampage-through-jerusalems-old-city
Dan Cohen. “These are the Israeli leaders who want to destroy al-Aqsa,” Electronic Intifada, July 24, 2017, https://electronicintifada.net/content/these-are-israeli-leaders-who-want-destroy-al-aqsa/21166
“Five things you need to know about al-Aqsa,” Al Jazeera. July 24, 2017 http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/07/al-aqsa-170719122538219.html
Student Researcher: L. Joseph Smith (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)