Since the start of Israeli celebration of Jerusalem Day today, the Israel police have acted forcefully against Palestinians in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and engaged in measures in clear violation of the Status Quo and repeated Israeli government commitments to uphold it.
From early morning onwards, the police imposed collective age restrictions on Muslims, banning anyone under age 40 from entering the holy place along with preventing the entry of Palestinian journalists. The restrictions began before dawn, hours before the visiting times for non-Muslims, thereby preventing many Palestinians from praying in Al-Aqsa. This is a flagrant violation of the Status Quo and Israeli commitments to Muslim freedom of worship on the Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif. The use of collective restrictions against Muslims is a grave resumption of policies that Netanyahu's government put in place in 2014, which were forced to a halt in 2015 (see more below).
This morning, when large numbers of Temple Movement activists began to enter the Holy Compound, police clashed with Palestinians, including assaulting senior Waqf officials and arresting one of the Al-Aqsa Sheikhs. At least four Palestinians have been injured and 18 arrested so far.
Over 1800 Jews have visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif over the course of the day. Nearly all of them are from the Religious-Zionist sector and supporters of the Temple Movements, whose aim is to overturn the status quo, achieve Jewish worship rights on the mount, and ultimately rebuild the Jewish temple where the Dome of the Rock stands today. The amount of Jews who visited the Mount constitutes a near record number for Jerusalem Day. Video footage show groups overtly chanting Jewish prayers, prostrating, and waving Israeli flags under police escort
. Although such actions are in blatant breach of the Status Quo and in contradiction to the Israeli government’s declarations that it prevents Jewish worship in the holy place, the police systematically refrained from intervening.
Due to the volatility of the situation, it is certain that the Israeli police are acting according to detailed instructions it received from the Israeli government and specifically from the Minister of Internal Security. As such, the police, on instruction from the Israeli government, are therefore flagrantly infringing on Muslim freedom of worship at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, while it allows Jews to pray there unencumbered.
The Nationalistic Flag Parade & Restrictions Against Palestinians in the Old City
Alongside these measures, after final government approval, the nationalistic Flag Parade is slated to march later today through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter--the very heart of Palestinian life and the most distinct Palestinian public spaces in Jerusalem. The parade will draw thousands of Religious-Zionist Jews, many of them youth, who march with Israeli flags and often engage in acts of provocation and violence towards Palestinians in the Old City. The parade is not only a gross display of anti-Palestinian incitement, racism, and Jewish supremacy, but it also infringes on Palestinian freedom of movement and commerce. For hours, Israeli police block access to the Old City and cordon off the Muslim Quarter to allow the parade to pass unencumbered, while most of its shops remain closed as a result and its residents shuttered in their homes. Despite calls by organizations like Ir Amim and others to reroute the parade from this area out of respect for Palestinians and their public space, the Israeli government capitulated to extremist, nationalist voices and ultimately approved its passage.
Since early morning, the police have set up roadblocks and checkpoints at the gates of the Old City with the purpose of limiting Palestinian entry. Only Palestinians who live and/or work in the Old City are allowed to enter. In contrast, near complete access has been given to Israeli groups who have gathered at Damascus Gate and/or entered the Muslim Quarter throughout the day, chanting and waving Israeli flags, and in many cases instigating clashes and assaulting Palestinian shop-owners and passersby.
Violation of the Status Quo - Collective Restrictions on Muslim Access to the Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif
Collective restrictions on access of Muslims to the Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif were imposed by Netanyahu's government in 2014 and 2015 as part of its support for the Temple Movements. The restrictions violated the freedom of worship of Muslims in Al-Aqsa. They led to waves of violence and a crisis in Israeli relations with Jordan. An Ir Amim analysis from 2015
illustrates how collective restrictions prioritize Jewish visits to the holy place over the prayer rights of Muslims in contradiction to the spirit of the Status Quo.
Following US intervention, in 2015, Netanyahu affirmed Israel’s commitment to the Status Quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Netanyahu explicitly stated that Israel is committed to respect Muslim freedom of worship in the holy place and will act to prevent Jewish prayer there. Since then, Israel has refrained from using collective restrictions against Muslims.
Today's resumption of such measures is a grave breach of Israeli commitments and a dangerous regression to a policy that Israel has refrained from using during the past eight years. Not only have entry restrictions been imposed on Muslims today, but the police have permitted explicit mass Jewish prayer in an unprecedented manner.
This is the most far-reaching violation of Israel’s repeated declarations to prevent Jewish worship on the Mount. Israel’s actions clearly point to a complete defiance of the Status Quo and an alarming shift in policy on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, which comes with increased curtailing of Muslim freedom of worship and infringement of their exclusive prayer rights in the Holy Esplanade.