ALERT: What I Saw at Al-Aqsa Mosque This Week

April 6th, 2023 - by Linda Sansour / MPower Action & ActionNetwork

ACTION: What I Saw at Al-Aqsa Mosque This Week
Linda Sansour / MPower Action & ActionNetwork

(April 5, 2023) — As salaamu alaykum.

It takes all my strength to keep my heart from breaking.

The images broadcast from Al-Aqsa Mosque in the last 48 hours are almost too much to bear:

Israeli police brutally beat Palestinian worshippers, during the sacred month of Ramadan, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in our faith.

For US Muslims, and all people of conscience in the United States, the immense pain of these images comes with a question: Why does our government fund this kind of violence against Palestinians?

Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Jamaal Bowman are taking unprecedented steps to investigate — and possibly legally force an end to — US funds supporting the kind of atrocities we saw in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

ACTION: Tell your Senators and US House Representative(s): Sign on to the letter calling on President Biden and Sec. of State Anthony Blinken to investigate US funding of Israeli violence against Palestinians. We know that what we saw Tuesday night — Palestinian Muslims beaten while in prayer — was immensely evil.

We know that the atrocities visited upon Palestinians living in occupation and apartheid violate international law.

We also know it’s not new: Israeli forces committing violence against Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa Mosque has somehow become a regular, repeat occurrence every Ramadan.¹

But here is something very few people know:
There is good reason to believe what we have witnessed this week in the Al-Aqsa Mosque violates US laws — in a way that could threaten US funding of Israeli violence moving forward.

In a moment of immense pain, this is something meaningful that we can do right now.

It is our elected officials that make US funding of Israeli violence possible. This is a rare opportunity to do something about it. Please — act now.

The Bowman-Sanders letter is just the start of what we so desperately need.
Thank you for everything you do.
In solidarity,
Linda and the MPower Action team

P.S. Want to support our work towards justice for all people and against white supremacy and Islamophobia? Sign up here to become a recurring MPower Change donor today. MPower Action Fund is the largest Muslim led social and racial justice organization in the United States. Rooted in our Islamic faith and the prophetic model, we believe in lobbying to build a more just world for all people. We are building a grassroots movement made up of diverse Muslim and ally communities throughout the United States.

Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa Mosque as Palestinian worshippers visit during Ramadan.

What’s Behind the Raids at the Al-Aqsa Mosque?
Al Jazeera

(April 5, 2023) — Tensions in Jerusalem have flared after Israeli police attacked worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound overnight during the holy month of Ramadan.

The raids continued until Wednesday morning when Israeli forces were once again seen assaulting and pushing Palestinians out of the compound and preventing them from praying – before Israelis were allowed in under police protection.

What Happened in Al-Aqsa Compound?
Before dawn on Wednesday, Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, attacking dozens of worshippers in the Qibli Mosque.

Israeli police, who claimed they were responding to “rioting”, beat worshippers with batons and used tear gas and sound bombs to force them out of the prayer halls, according to witnesses.

Videos shared on social media showed women screaming for help as a small fire erupted in the prayer hall.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 people injured, including three who were taken to hospital. It also said in a statement that Israeli forces prevented its medics from reaching Al-Aqsa.

At least 400 Palestinians were arrested and remain in Israeli custody, according to local officials.

Why Would Armed Security Enter a Mosque?
Israeli police said in a statement that they were forced to enter the compound after “masked agitators” locked themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks and stones.

“When the police entered, stones were thrown at them and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” the statement said, adding that a police officer was wounded in the leg.

The Israeli police also said that according to a prior agreement with the Al-Aqsa compound authorities, no one was to spend the night inside the compound during the month of Ramadan.

“The police said they ‘peacefully’ tried to convince people to leave but when that didn’t happen they forced their way into Al-Aqsa,” said Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim.

But Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned what happened as “a major crime against the worshippers”, adding that “prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque is not with the permission of the [Israeli] occupation … it is our right.”

“Al-Aqsa is for the Palestinians and for all Arabs and Muslims, and the raiding of it is a spark of revolution against the occupation,” he added.

Has This Happened Before?
In recent years, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been an annual flashpoint during Ramadan.

Last year, more than 300 Palestinians were arrested and at least 170 wounded as Israeli forces launched incursions at the compound during the holy month. This followed deadly violence in the occupied West Bank in late March, in which 36 people were killed.

In May 2021, Israeli forces stormed the compound using tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades against worshippers during Ramadan. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured, drawing international condemnation.

The developments coincided with a rise in violent incidents against Palestinians by Israeli settlers and forces in East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah as Palestinian families faced the threat of forced eviction from their homes.

Confrontations in Jerusalem and the wider West Bank culminated in an 11-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip on May 10, which killed at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Thirteen people were killed in Israel, including two children, one Indian woman and two Thai men.

Why Are Faithful Fearful about Al-Aqsa’s Future?
The Al-Aqsa compound sits on a plateau in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by most in the international community.

For Muslims, the compound hosts Islam’s third-holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock, a seventh-century structure believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

The compound is also where Jews believe the Biblical Jewish temples once stood and is known to them as Temple Mount.

The contested site has been the focal point of the decades-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

“Jerusalem is perhaps the number one issue that has the potential of triggering wide-scale violence,” Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, told Al Jazeera last year. “We have seen that in the past,” he said.

Palestinians see Al-Aqsa as one of the few national symbols over which they retain some element of control. They are, however, fearful of a slow encroachment by Jewish groups akin to what has happened at the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, where half of the mosque was turned into a synagogue after 1967.

Palestinians are also worried about far-right Israeli movements that want to demolish the Islamic structures in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and build a Jewish temple there.

Why Do Jews Want to Enter the Compound?
In recent years, large groups of nationalist Jews have regularly visited the site with police escorts, something the Palestinians view as a provocation.

Earlier this week, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir encouraged Jews to visit the site to mark the upcoming Passover holiday, which coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

At the same time, fringe Jewish groups, including the Return to Temple Mount, have offered cash prizes to anyone who goes into Al-Aqsa Mosque and sacrifices a goat – a Jewish religious ritual that is prohibited inside the mosque and that would constitute a further provocation. No sacrifices have been made at the site so far.

On Monday, a leader of one of the groups who was planning a sacrifice in Al-Aqsa was detained by Israeli police.

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