October 20, 2015IMEU
he Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem. (Photo Credit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
Misperception: East Jerusalem is part of Israel.
Palestinian East Jerusalem was occupied by the Israeli army in the 1967 War and is not legally part of Israel. This includes the Old City and its holy sites such as the Noble Sanctuary (Al Aqsa) mosque complex, known as the Temple Mount to Jews.
Although Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, the international community, including the United States, does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city. For this reason, no country, including the U.S., has its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.
The United Nations has repeatedly affirmed that East Jerusalem is occupied territory and the illegitimacy of Israeli claims to sovereignty over it, including through Security Council Resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476 and 478.
Misperception: The violence has been taking place in Israel.
Most of the violence and protests have been taking place on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, not inside Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders.
Most the victims of the current violence have been Palestinians, including at least two dozen unarmed protesters shot dead by Israeli soldiers, and a pregnant woman and her young daughter killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. More than 1,800 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli soldiers using live ammunition and rubber-tipped steel bullets.
Misperception: The violence and protests are a result of incitement by Mahmoud Abbas and/or social media.
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have publicly accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud of inciting violence, according to reports in the Israeli media, the Israeli military and Israel’s internal secret police, the Shin Bet, have told the government that Abbas is in fact trying to prevent violence.
The protests and violence are a response to Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation regime and the theft of Palestinian land and homes for the use of Jewish settlers and other violations of Palestinian rights that have accompanied it, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem. As noted by the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report:
Many of the [Israeli] national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.
Just this week, Jewish settlers under the guard of Israeli police evicted at least nine Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where settlers have been attempting to change the ethnic composition of the area and drive Palestinian residents out.
The immediate spark of the current unrest is growing provocations by messianic Jewish extremists – including senior Israeli government officials – who have the openly declared goal of destroying the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem and building a temple in its place, as well as a rash of settler violence and killings of unarmed Palestinians by settlers and occupying Israeli soldiers.
Misperception: The Israeli government has not been provoking tensions in Jerusalem and Palestinian concerns that Israel wants to change the status quo regarding the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex are baseless.
Senior Israeli government officials, including Minister of Culture Miri Regev, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and Agriculture Minister (and settler) Uri Ariel, have been campaigning for several years now to change the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary. Ministers Ariel, Hotovely, and Erdan have also all publicly called for a Jewish temple to be built in the Noble Sanctuary.
The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has also held hearings on changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary, including a February 2014 debate that was initiated by extreme right-winger Moshe Feiglin, then a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and deputy Knesset speaker.
The Israeli government also provides funding to messianic extremist groups like the Temple Institute, which are working towards building a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary. According to a March 2013 report by Israeli NGOs Ir Amim and Keshev:
The State of Israel directly funds various Temple movement activities. In the years 2008-2011, the Ministry of Culture, Science and Sports and the Ministry of Education supported the Temple Institute and the Midrasha at an average rate of NIS 412,000 [approximately $105,000 USD] per year. In 2012, the Midrasha, the educational arm of the Temple Institute, received NIS 189,000 [approximately $49,000 USD] from the Ministry of Education.
On December 30, 2010 a highly attended conference took place at Binyanei Ha’uma (The Jerusalem Conference Center). The event, promoted as ‘Every Jew Has a Part in the Sacred’ (the logo on the invitation proclaimed ‘Something good is happening in Jerusalem!’), drew thousands of attendees, mostly Haredim. The program included a discussion of ritual sacrifice and an exhibit presenting a model of the Temple. It also showcased a virtual presentation illustrating the construction of the Third Temple on the ruins of the Dome of the Rock. The conference was held under the auspices of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Department of Religious Culture.
Following the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers by an Israeli-American settler in 1994 in the historic Ibrahimi mosque in occupied Hebron, the Israeli government took over half of the mosque and gave it to Hebron’s notoriously extreme settler community for exclusive Jewish use. Palestinians fear that Israel plans to repeat this takeover with the Noble Sanctuary.