The Editorial Staff
Since the very beginning of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem have been under attack, particularly Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, one of Islam’s three holiest sites. The explicit goal of these attacks and violations is to build the ‘third temple’ on the site of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Attacks & Violations
In recent years economic, social, political and physical attacks on Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa have intensified. Calls for the demolition of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, once the preserve of extremists and fundamentalists, have now become pervasive, commonplace and to be found even in mainstream media. This, coupled with an almost daily violation of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa by violent settlers and their ilk make the partition or even destruction of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa a distinct possibility. The partition of the Ibrahimi Mosque into Jewish and Muslim parts in neighbouring Hebron in the early 1990s is the blueprint for these ambitions for one of Islam’s most holy and sacred sites.
Breaking of a Taboo
On 28 February, 2012, during a meeting for the Arab League in Doha, Qatar, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a plea for Muslims to visit Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. On April 18, 2012, H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, accompanied by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, broke what had been, in some parts of the Islamic World, a 45-year taboo by visiting Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa in order to pray there and support the beleaguered Jerusalemites. The visit was viewed as controversial in Egypt, but set off a change of public opinion in the Islamic World. During the trip to Jerusalem, the Prince and the Grand Mufti also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This visit was much appreciated by the Christian community of Jerusalem. This past year has seen numerous Arab officials visit Jerusalem.
Palestinian-Jordanian Agreement on the Holy Sites of Jerusalem
The Agreement signed between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holy Sites, signed on March 31st 2013, reaffirmed the following:
His Majesty King Abdullah II is the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, and has full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve them, especially al-Masjid al-Aqsa, defined as the entire al-Haram al-Sharif (of 144 Dunums).
Historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.
The status of East Jerusalem is Palestinian sovereign occupied territory, and that all post-1967 occupation practices or aggressions against Jerusalem are not recognised by any international or legal entity.
Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Sites started in 1924, and Jerusalem was physically part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from 1948 until 1967, and legally until 1988, when Jordan severed ties with the West Bank (excepting only the Holy Sites and the Awqaf or Religious Trusts). Thus from 1988 until 2013, there was some ambiguity as to the status of the Holy Sites. After Palestine became recognised as a state in November 2012, a treaty between Jordan and Palestine became absolutely necessary not merely to avoid any disputes between Jordan and Palestine, but more importantly, to enable Jordan and Palestine to jointly legally protect the Holy Sites in Jerusalem against Israeli (official or unofficial) incursions, physical destruction and illegal annexation.