Three years ago, Henry Kissinger supposedly predicted, “In 10 years, there will be no more Israel.” Will Israel bring the ominous prediction to fruition by its own coercive actions? The former US secretary of state did not qualify his dramatic statement sending the media into a spin. Following on its heels was a damning 82-page report entitled “Preparing For A Post Israel Middle East.” Commissioned by 16 American intelligence agencies, the authors concluded that Israel was currently the “greatest threat to US national interests because its nature and actions prevented normal US relations with Arab and Muslim countries and, to a growing degree, the wider international community”. The most recent report card with an ‘F’ for the state of Israel is by the UN, accusing Israel of violation of international law, including suspected war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas, too, does not escape the UN’s censure for firing rockets on Israeli citizens.
While the swirl of allegations and counter-allegations between Israel and Palestine continues, the losers are Muslims, globally. It is the month of Ramazan and many yearn to visit Al-Quds in Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, or to step inside the nearby Dome of the Rock, known as Al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). Built over a sacred stone believed to be the place from where our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) ascended to Heaven during his Night Journey (Isra wal Mi’raj), the Dome is Islam’s oldest shrine.
“My parents wanted to visit the Holy Land during Ramazan but were denied a visa by Israel,” says Jihan, a young woman seated next to me on the bus that is driving us to the Israeli border from Jordan. She lives in Riyadh with her husband; her parents live in Amman and her sister lives in Jerusalem. “My sister has just had a baby and needs looking after. She had to get her hospital in Jerusalem to send a certificate to the Israeli authorities asking for my visa so that I can help her with the newborn.”
Tariq, my Jordanian driver who dropped me off at the border, was born in Hebron in Israeli-occupied West Bank. “Imagine it’s so close and yet so far for me: I can never hope to visit my birthplace,” he says with a faraway look in his eyes. At the Old City in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem that Muslims call Bayt Al-Maqdis or Al-Quds where stand the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, I can feel the tension in the air. Recently, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman at the entrance. Over the years many pitched battles between Muslims and Jews have taken place on this holy site. The most terrible being in 1969, when a fanatical Zionist set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque destroying the priceless the minbar (pulpit); a gift from Salahuddin Ayubi. Since that dastardly incident, non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the Muslim Quarter. “Recite Surah-e-Fateha,” I was ordered by the guards at the entrance. The holy compound is managed by an Islamic Trust under the custodianship of Jordan. Only Muslims can enter.
It is during Ramazan that Israel’s heavy hand falls on the worshippers who want to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque but are turned away on the pretext that the Palestinian youth can stir trouble and clash with the Israeli police. Last year, during Ramazan, Muslims under the age of 50 were banned from offering their Juma-tul-wida prayers. This year, one heard that Israel would allow 800 residents of the blockaded Gaza Strip to attend Friday prayers alongside letting 200 Gaza residents visit relatives in Israeli-occupied West Bank. The offer stands cancelled! Israel has rescinded the ‘goodwill’ gesture, claiming that Hamas has fired rockets from the Gaza Strip. When will this doggone fight end? I ask a Jerusalem resident. “Only when Kissinger’s prophecy comes true!”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian foreign minister, along with a high-powered delegation, has personally handed over thousands of pages that contain “clear evidence” against Israel’s aggression. Yet another ‘F’ will be added to Israel’s already burgeoning list of war crimes that Prime Minister Netanyahu will scornfully throw in his wastepaper bin.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.
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