It’s Is­raeli dom­i­na­tion, not se­cu­rity

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

More car­toons on­line at Azad Essa is a jour­nal­ist at Al Jazeera. He is also co-found­ing ed­i­tor at The Daily Vox

IT’S BEEN al­most a week, and still no respite. Pales­tini­ans con­tinue to gather out­side Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, de­mand­ing that the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment re­move sur­veil­lance and metal de­tec­tors (Is­raelis started re­mov­ing these yes­ter­day) at the en­trance to the mosque.

In re­sponse, Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces con­tinue to up­end the sit-in, spray­ing rub­ber-coated steel bul­lets in­dis­crim­i­nately into the thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans sit­ting on straw mats, pray­ing, singing and chant­ing for an end to the new mea­sure. Here out­side the Lions’ Gate, in the old City of Jerusalem, the tear gas hov­ers, drops, suf­fo­cates. And burns.

Since Fri­day, five Pales­tini­ans have been killed, 900 oth­ers re­port­edly in­jured. The UN says if left un­solved by Fri­day, the cri­sis will have “po­ten­tial cat­a­strophic costs well be­yond the walls of the Old City”.

All this over metal de­tec­tors? Well, let’s go back to the spark.

On July 14, three Pales­tini­ans shot and killed two Is­raeli po­lice of­fi­cers in the Old City be­fore be­ing shot dead them­selves in­side the mosque com­pound.

The next day, Is­rael shut the mosque and new metal de­tec­tors and se­cu­rity cam­eras were in­stalled.

Metal de­tec­tors can rea­son­ably be con­strued as a public-safety mea­sure – un­less they’re im­posed by an oc­cu­py­ing force.

And so the Pales­tinian re­sponse: A grass roots re­fusal to en­ter the mosque un­til the new pro­ce­dures were re­moved. It in­cluded nightly sit-ins and mass prayers five times a day on the gates of the Old City.

The sit-ins and prayers were in­evitably bro­ken up by the oc­cu­pa­tion’s se­cu­rity forces, cul­mi­nat­ing in a bloody Fri­day that left three Pales­tini­ans dead.

Most Pales­tini­ans are barred from even reach­ing Jerusalem, let alone the holy sites.

Pales­tinian Jerusalemites live un­der lay­ers of dis­crim­i­na­tory poli­cies that ren­der them tem­po­rary res­i­dents in their own city, deny them the right to build, cut them off from the rest of their pop­u­la­tion be­hind walls and check­points and al­low the growth of il­le­gal Is­raeli-only set­tle­ments deep into their neigh­bour­hoods.

And, never re­ally mak­ing in­ter­na­tional head­lines, fears set off by the con­stant clam­our­ing of some Jewish ex­trem­ists – in­clud­ing in­side the Is­raeli par­lia­ment – to de­mol­ish the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In that light, the metal de­tec­tors aren’t about se­cu­rity. They’re an­other layer of dom­i­na­tion.

Though Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has main­tained that the move was not to change the “sta­tus quo”, or terms of ac­cess to the mosque com­pound, Pales­tini­ans know too well: To­day’s metal de­tec­tors could eas­ily treat them as to­mor­row’s for­eign ob­jects.

It’s hap­pened be­fore: In 1994, an Is­raeli sol­dier named Baruch Gold­stein en­tered the Ibrahimi Mosque, known as the Cave of the Pa­tri­archs to Jews, and slaugh­tered 28 Pales­tini­ans while they prayed.

The in­ci­dent re­sulted in Is­rael clear­ing Hebron’s Old City of many of its Pales­tinian res­i­dents and busi­nesses, mak­ing the main mar­ket a no-go area for lo­cals and for­mal­is­ing a sys­tem of lim­ited ac­cess for Pales­tinian wor­ship­pers. The ex­cuse then was also se­cu­rity.

While the mas­sacre and its re­sult are hardly known to most out­side ob­servers, it’s a trans­for­ma­tive mo­ment for Pales­tini­ans – the com­plete di­vi­sion of one of their big­gest cities and one of their holi­est sites.

The first Pales­tinian sui­cide bomb­ing was a re­sponse to Gold­stein’s at­tack.

While the world’s diplo­mats have ob­sessed for the last three decades about a two-state so­lu­tion, Is­rael has op­er­ated like this on a wider scale: slowly but un­ceas­ingly colonis­ing, build­ing set­tle­ments, ap­pro­pri­at­ing more Pales­tinian land, dom­i­nat­ing the Pales­tinian econ­omy and strip­ping away its cap­tive pop­u­la­tion’s right to move­ment, ac­cess and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Through prop­erty laws and travel per­mits, per­ma­nent ex­pul­sions, de­por­ta­tions and a gi­ant wall, Is­rael’s en­tire colo­nial arse­nal is em­ployed in oc­cu­pied East Jerusalem, where 400 000 Pales­tini­ans, born and raised in Jerusalem, are per­ma­nent res­i­dents, not ci­ti­zens.

It’s a pre­car­i­ous life, with the oc­cu­py­ing power re­tain­ing a litany of ex­cuses it can use to strip a Pales­tinian of the right to en­ter or live in their city.

Mean­while, any­one on Earth can be­come a full-time ci­ti­zen with su­pe­rior rights to the na­tive pop­u­la­tion – pro­vided their re­li­gion and eth­nic­ity is deemed to be the cor­rect one by the self-styled Jewish state.

The Is­raeli state is ob­sessed with the ra­tio of the two pop­u­la­tions in its city, go­ing as far as de­ter­min­ing what per­cent­age of Jerusalemites should be Is­raeli and what per­cent­age should be Pales­tinian (for those in­ter­ested, the tar­get ra­tio was ini­tially 73.5% to 25.5%).

All this sug­gests that 50 years af­ter oc­cu­py­ing East Jerusalem and “uni­fy­ing the city”, and 37 years af­ter declar­ing Jerusalem its united and eter­nal cap­i­tal, Is­rael still sees the pres­ence of the city’s Pales­tini­ans as an in­tractable prob­lem.

And for the Pales­tini­ans, even some­thing as in­nocu­ous as a metal de­tec­tor at the en­trance to a holy site is a sym­bol of the state that has forced it­self upon them, dom­i­nat­ing and con­trol­ling ev­ery facet of their lives. And so, they refuse to en­ter.

HOTSPOT: Is­raeli po­lice at the Al-Aqsa Mosque com­pound near Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Po­lice yes­ter­day re­moved the metal de­tec­tors placed there af­ter two Is­raeli po­lice of­fi­cers were shot.

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