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Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
UK architects, planners and other construction industry professionals campaigning for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.


Temple Mount Crisis: Jerusalem Unifies the Muslims Through Struggle

Although most Palestinians are not allowed to visit Al-Aqsa, this holy site is doing what the siege of Gaza and the expansion of the settlements could not: bringing them together.

by Amira Hass        23 July 2017         Haaretz

Palestinians outside the Temple Mount, Friday July 14, 2017.

Palestinians outside the Temple Mount, Friday July 14, 2017. Emil Salman

A secular young man from the Ramallah area expressed his astonishment at how Jerusalem was unifying the entire Palestinian people, and compared the perpetrator of Friday night’s attack in Halamish, Omar al-Abed, to Saladin. A silly comparison, all would agree. Still, the need to bring up Saladin encapsulates all the fatigue among Palestinians about those they perceive as the new Crusaders.

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That young man can’t go to East Jerusalem and the Old City, which is less than 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) from his home, because even in ordinary times Israel doesn’t give entry permits “just like that” for people his age. And perhaps he is among those who consider it humiliating to have to request an entry permit to a Palestinian city. The last time he visited was when he was 13 – some 13 years ago.

And so this young Palestinian did not hear a few of the preachers in Jerusalem on Friday talk about their longing for Saladin. Because the Palestinians stuck to their prohibition on entering Al-Aqsa through the Israeli metal detectors, self-styled preachers spoke to groups of worshippers who had gathered in the streets of East Jerusalem and the Old City, surrounded by Border Police personnel aiming their long rifles at them.

One of those preachers said that if not for the positions and actions of various regimes in the world in the past and present, the Jews would not have overcome the Palestinians. Then he paused and added, “If not for the Palestinian Authority, the collaborator, the Jews would not have the upper hand.” He also wondered: “Is it possible that in all the Muslim armies in the world today, not one can produce a Saladin?” And then he promised that the day would come when armies from Jakarta, Istanbul and Cairo will arrive to liberate Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa.

Another preacher made similar statements to a tourist from Turkey before the sermon. The content and style recalled the Islamist-Salafist party Hizb El Tahrir: There is no preaching for an armed struggle against the Israeli occupier, but strong faith in a day when the Muslim world mobilizes and brings down the “Jewish Crusaders.”

When the prayer was over, only a few joined the call warning Jews that “the army of Mohammed would return” – but no one protested the characterization of the PA as a “collaborator.” Anyway, its activities are forbidden in Jerusalem. Israel pushed out the PLO (to which the PA is theoretically subservient) from every unifying, cultural, social or economic role it had until the year 2000. A vacuum like that can only be filled with religious entities and spokesmen who will give meaning to a life full of suffering.The consistent position of the PLO and the PA that this is not a religious conflict and that Israel should not be allowed to turn it into one doesn’t sound particularly convincing in Jerusalem.

Since most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank can’t go to Jerusalem, the city – and particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque – are for them abstract sites, a “concept” or a picture on the wall; not a reality to be experienced. But this abstract place, Al-Aqsa, is doing what the siege of Gaza and its 2 million prisoners, the expansion of the settlements and the confiscation of water tanks and solar panels from communities in Area C, are not doing: It is unifying them. The anti-colonial discourse, which is essentially national, political and secular, is channeled to Facebook posts, to scholarly articles that do not reach the general public and to hollow slogans mouthed by leaders, the shelf-life of whose leadership and mandate has long since expired.

Palestinians at Friday prayers outside the Temple Mount, July 21, 2017.

Palestinians at Friday prayers outside the Temple Mount, July 21, 2017.Emil Salman

In other words, the national discourse and the veteran national leadership are no longer considered relevant today. While Al-Aqsa, in contrast, manages to create mass popular opposition to the foreign Israeli ruler –and that sparks the imagination and inspiration of masses of others who cannot go to Jerusalem. Not only nonreligious people came to places of worship in Jerusalem on Friday to be with their people. A number of Palestinian Christians also joined the groups of Muslim worshippers and prayed in their way, facing Al-Aqsa and Mecca.

Of course, this is first and foremost the strength of religious belief. The deeper the faith, the greater the insult to its sacred elements. The fact that Al-Aqsa is a pan-Islamic site is an empowering element. But not only that: Jerusalem has the highest concentration of Palestinians who rub elbows with the foreign Israeli ruler, with everything this entails in terms of the trampling on their rights and humiliating them. They don’t need “symbolic sites” of the occupation, like military checkpoints, to recall the occupation or express their rage. And the Al-Aqsa plaza, for its part, is where the largest number of Jerusalemites can gather together in one place to feel like a collective. And when this right to congregate is taken away from them, they protest as one – which also reminds the rest of the Palestinians that the entire public is one, suffering the same foreign rule.

But that same unified public can no longer express its oneness in mass actions. It is closed and cut off in ostensibly sovereign enclaves, and split into social classes with ever-widening social, economic and emotional gaps. Its road to the symbolic sites of the occupation, which surround every enclave, is blocked by the Palestinian security forces as well as by adaptation to life in the enclave.

This is the political and factual foundation for the continued presence of lone-wolf attackers, without reference to the outcome of their actions: First of all, the intolerable continuation of the occupation; then the inspiration of Al-Aqsa as a place that unifies, religiously and socially; the disappointing, weakened and weak leadership; and a willingness to die that is a mixture of faith in Paradise and despair at life.


Every Israeli Should Read the Palestinian Assailant’s Last Will and Testament 

No one dared ask why Omar al-Abed, a 20-year-old with dreams and aspirations, bought a knife and set out to kill

by Gideon Levy      23 July 2017        Haaretz

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man following clashes outside Jerusalem's Old City, July 21, 2017.

A Palestinian being arrested during protest demonstrations around the Old City

Every decent Israeli should read Omar al-Abed’s last testament. The real betrayal is not to read his last words. The real betrayal is to think that metal detectors and targeted killings, more detentions and home demolitions, torture and disinheritance could prevent the numerous attacks that are yet to come. The real betrayal is to bury your head in the sand.

Without denying the horror of his terrible deed, every Israeli must pay attention to Abed’s words and draw the unavoidable conclusions. The entire West Bank, and the Gaza Strip too, of course, will turn into Omar al-Abed, there’s no telling when. Anyone who thinks it could be otherwise should look to history. This is what occupation and resistance to it look like: massive, pointless bloodshed.

“These are my last words,” wrote the young man from the West Bank village of Kobar before setting out to kill settlers in the adjacent settlement of Halamish. “I am young, not yet 20. I had many dreams and aspirations, but what kind of life is this, with our women and youths murdered without justification?”

The Facebook post of Omar al-Abed, posted hours before he killed three Israelis in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.The Facebook post of Omar al-Abed, posted hours before he killed three Israelis in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

What could we have told Abed? That their women and youths were not being murdered without justification? Abed lived in a beautiful village, in a reality that could not be uglier. His neighbor Nael Barghouti, for example, who was released from an Israeli prison after serving 33 years for murdering a bus driver, was returned to prison — in an act of terrible arbitrariness — ostensibly for violating the terms of his parole. Another neighbor, naturally, is Marwan Barghouti, who in a more just and less stupid world would have long been free ago to lead his nation.

Abed set out to kill settlers because “they desecrate the Al-Aqsa mosque and we sleep,” because “it’s a disgrace that we sit by idly.” As Israeli Border Police officers conducted a sickening search for corpses in the morgue of East Jerusalem’s Makassed Hospital, Abed planned his bloody deed. As his peers in Jerusalem tried to rescue the bleeding body of their friend, lest Israel abduct it, as is its wont, he was unable to remain silent. “You who have weapons that are rusting, that you take out only for weddings and celebrations, are you not ashamed of yourselves? Why won’t you declare war in the name of God? They have closed Al-Aqsa and your weapons are still.”

The words sound almost biblical. Similar ones have been written in the course of every struggle for liberation, including our own, of course. They are accompanied by religious terms, because the writer believes in God. In other struggles, too, such as ours, religion was harnessed to in the service of the nation. What would you have told Abed had you met him before he set out to sow death, other than “Thou shalt not kill”? That he should yield and surrender? That justice is not on his side, but on that of the occupation? That he has a hope of living a normal life? What could an Israeli say to a desperate young Palestinian who indeed has no future, no opportunity for change, no hopeful scenario, a man whose life is one long humiliation? What would you have told him?

Despair runs deep in the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip it is even worse. This should keep every Israeli awake at night, since their state bears most of the responsibility for this situation. But if the moral responsibility for the Palestinians’ despair is not enough to prevent Israelis from sleeping, then the fact that this despair augurs ill for them as well should be sufficient. Abed had nothing to lose, and the person with nothing to lose is the most dangerous of enemies. Not even Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan can stop him.

The Israeli army raided Kobar on Saturday, imposing a closure and arresting one of Abed’s brothers, everything proceeding as usual. Soldiers conducted an “engineering survey” of the family’s home. The defense minister and the army chief of staff were given a “security survey.” The new Labor Party Chairman, Avi Gabbay, called for a condemnation, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid termed Abed a “base terrorist” and Labor’s Tzipi Livni said “we are united in our grief.” No one dared ask why Omar al-Abed, a 20-year-old with dreams and aspirations, bought a knife and set out to kill.