Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Attempts to Destroy the Haram Al-Sharif Have a Long History

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Attempts to Destroy the Haram Al-Sharif Have a Long History

Article excerpt

Attempts to Destroy the Haram al-Sharif Have a Long History

The violent clashes that left 70 dead in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are both the result of Arab frustration over the lack of progress in the so-called peace process and an example of how greatly Palestinians fear for the security of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque. which make up the Haram al-Sharif. Their fear for Islam's third holiest site, called the Temple Mount by Jews, is not unfounded. Palestinians have seen 29 years of violent provocations by Jewish extremists seeking to end the "Islamic occupation of the Temple Mount." They fear that the Netanyahu government's effort to settle the political issue of Jerusalem unilaterally will ally them with violent zealots eyeing Al-Aqsa.

Following the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel announced it would respect the status quo of the religious sites in Jerusalem. At that same time, however, a movement began among religious nationalists in Israel to gain a foothold on the Haram al-Sharif in order to build a new temple there on what they claim is the site of the destroyed first and second Jewish temples. During a conference on Jerusalem, Dr. Z. Wahrhatig, the Israeli minister of religious affairs, stated that while he did not object to the idea of rebuilding the temple, the time had not yet come. An "earthquake" would occur, he said, to ruin the mosques and enable Israel to rebuild the temple there.

Swiss Ambassador E. Thalman made a fact-finding tour of Jerusalem in late 1967 and reported fear among Arabs concerning Israeli intentions on the Temple Mount. "Statements by Israeli official representatives and Jewish personalities concerning Jewish claims and plans in the temple area had an alarming effect" on him and the Arabs, Thalman said. He also expressed concern about Dr. Wahrhatig's "provocative" statements that sooner or later Israel would "rebuild their temple on the Dome of the Rock." At the same time, prominent rabbis formed an organization called el Har Adoni, which was devoted to "regaining" Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

In 1969, an Australian set fire to Al-Aqsa's southeastern wall. Though linked to messianic groups, the man was declared insane and deported.

There has been a serious growth in right-wing religious nationalism in Israel over the past 29 years. Settlements are built on biblical sites and religious rationales employed by the right wing to justify political policies that violate international law.

Within this emergence of the settler movement in Israel is the creation of several groups devoted to "reclaiming" the Temple Mount for the Jewish people. There are adherents to a school of thought in Israel who believe that the coming of the messiah cannot occur without first "rebuilding" the temple. Unfortunately, they want to place it on the land administered by an Islamic trust known as the Waqf.

In the 1970s extremist groups devoted to retaking the Temple Mount began a campaign of provocation and violence against the Haram al-Sharif, including the digging of tunnels, attempts to enter the area by force and, increasingly, efforts to bomb the two mosques. Between 1978 and 1982, the Waqf documented 200 acts of desecration and provocation on or near the Haram al-Sharif by Israeli extremists.

In 1982, Allan Goodman, an Israeli soldier with an American passport, charged into the Haram al-Sharif, spraying worshippers with gunfire, killing two and wounding 30. According to Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper, Goodman was recently seen trying to enter the area with tourists during one of his 48-hour releases from prison. …

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