JERUSALEM: Palestine has condemned in strongest terms an Israeli court decision allowing the Jews to perform silent prayers in the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
In a statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this decision is a flagrant aggression against the Al-Aqsa mosque, a real declaration of war against the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations, a real beginning of the spatial division of the mosque and its courtyards, and an explicit call for religious war in the region.
The statement said the decision of the Israeli court revealed the true nature of the incursions and the scheme behind them. “It is another evidence that the system of courts and justice in Israel is an integral part of the occupation system itself,” it said.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry vowed to confront the decision and continue its political and diplomatic action at all levels with the coordination of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and friendly countries at the regional and global levels.
An Israeli judge’s conclusion this week that “quiet” Jewish prayer should be allowed at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound has stirred Palestinian furore over the flashpoint, revered by Muslims and Jews.
Al-Aqsa is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, falling within Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, but administered by the Waqf Islamic affairs council. The Waqf called the ruling by Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court judge Billha Yahalom an illegitimate “provocation,” while Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned Israel against any moves to enforce it.
Even Israeli police have appealed the decision, which came in response to a petition by an Israeli rabbi, Aryeh Lippo, who on September 29 was slapped with a two-week ban after praying there.
The Waqf reluctantly grants Jews limited access to the site at certain hours, but the Jewish presence at the Al-Aqsa has long been a rallying cry across the Muslim world. Before Israel’s 1948 creation, riots during the British mandate of Palestine in 1929 were linked to the possibility of Jewish prayer there.
In May this year, clashes over possible evictions in a nearby Palestinian neighbourhood spread to the mosque compound, sparking an Israeli crackdown that escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
No Israeli law prohibits Jewish prayer at the site but since 1967, the year Israel captured east Jerusalem including the Old City in the Six-Day War, Israeli authorities have enforced a ban on Jewish prayer to prevent tensions.
In a ruling earlier this year on a petition demanding prayer rights for Jews, Israel’s Supreme Court found that, “every Jew has the right to pray on the Temple Mount, as part of the freedom of religion and expression.” “At the same time, these rights are not absolute, and can be limited to take into account the public interest.”
Muslim leaders reacted to the Jerusalem court ruling with unanimous condemnation. The Saudi Arabia-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation strongly condemned “the decision of the so-called Israeli Jerusalem Court”. Some Jewish leaders were underwhelmed by the impact of the decision.