and Answers About
the Crisis In Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem)
The following information was compiled by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) for the Nation Rally for Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem, October 28, 2000 (www.jerusalemday.com). The material was produced from publications and news releases by the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee; Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition; American Muslims for Jerusalem; and from the book “Deliberate Deceptions” by Paul Findley (American Educational Trust) American Muslims for Jerusalem:
Q: What connection do Muslims worldwide have with Jerusalem?
A: Jerusalem is a central city of the Islamic faith. Jerusalem was the original qibla, or direction of prayer, for Muslims. Islam teaches that Prophet Muhammad made a miraculous journey from Mecca to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 621 C.E., where he ascended to heaven and conversed with God. The event is central to Islamic belief, and is mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’an (Al-Isr:17): “Glory to Him Who did take his servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque (in Mecca) to the Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) Whose precincts We did bless-in order that We might show him (Prophet Muhammad) some of Our signs: for He is the One who hears and sees all things.”
Prophet Muhammad said that visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque is a religious practice comparable only to the pilgrimage to Mecca, and that a prayer offered there is worth 500 prayers elsewhere.
Q: Who is responsible for the ongoing bloodshed?
A: In a Los Angeles Times column published October 13, Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote:
“The preponderance of responsibility lies with Israel and with an international media that continue to obscure the basic realities facing the Palestinian people, and continue to treat the death of Israeli soldiers enforcing a brutal occupation as somehow more outrageous and barbarous than the killing of many times as many Palestinian teenagers who were resisting the occupation.”
The violence has been largely one-sided, mainly Israeli shootings of unarmed or lightly armed Palestinian demonstrators... Almost all of the dead in the current conflict have been Palestinians, including numerous Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s use of “excessive force” against the Palestinian population, including the indiscriminate use of automatic weapons, exploding bullets, helicopter gunships, tanks and rockets. It is the use of such weapons -- almost unheard of in civilized countries for the suppression of demonstrations -- that has led to the high number of casualties and the fact that almost all of them are Palestinian.
Q: Aren’t Palestinians just over-reacting to a visit by an Israeli leader to a mosque in Jerusalem?
A: The deadly violence from the Israeli army has been an attempt to brutally suppress major demonstrations and protests by Palestinians. These were initially sparked by a deliberately provocative intrusion into Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem by Likud leader Ariel Sharon, the man responsible for many massacres of unarmed Palestinians including Sabra and Shatila in 1982. Sharon’s action was overtly designed to demonstrate Israel’s “sovereignty” over Jerusalem, especially the Haram Ash-Sharif, and was intended to provoke an angry response.
However, at a deeper level, the current protests reflect years of mounting Palestinian frustration, rage and despair over the failure of the “peace process” to address their basic human and national rights. People have an absolute right to resist occupation, especially by demonstrating on behalf of their human and national rights.
Moreover, Israel’s 33-year occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is the all-encompassing violent reality that forms the backdrop to the current conflict. Israel has refused to live up to its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 242 and withdraw to its 1967 borders. Israel has even reintroduced its armed forces into numerous Palestinian population centers in the occupied territories, which is another principle cause of the current conflict.
Q: Do Palestinians deliberately send their children into danger?
A: The Israeli government’s claim that “the Palestinians are deliberately provoking Israeli troops to kill their children for purposes of propaganda” is racist and absurd. Historically, youth have always been at the forefront of popular uprisings against oppression such as the apartheid-like conditions facing Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Demonstrating and stone-throwing by Palestinian children does not justify Israel’s wholesale massacre of them, any more than the South African government was justified in shooting children at Soweto or southern governors in turning dogs and fire hoses on children involved in the American civil rights movement. The heavy involvement of youth in the anti-apartheid, civil rights and Palestinian liberation struggles reflects the natural and irrepressible response of oppressed peoples the world over.
Q: Who are the Palestinian refugees and why are they refugees?
A: Two major waves of Palestinian refugees have been created by the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first wave resulted from the 1948 war and numbered 726,000, two thirds of the total Palestinian population of 1.2 million. The second wave came in the 1967 war when 323,000 Palestinians became homeless, 113,000 of whom were already refugees. Reports from a variety of independent and reliable sources show that the vast majority of the Palestinian refugees were children, women, and old men. Israeli propaganda claims that Arab leaders ordered the population to flee from their homes, but this is a lie. Irish journalist Erskine Childers examined the British record of all the radio broadcasts by Arab leaders during 1948 and concluded: “There was not a single order, or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948. There is repeated monitored record of Arab appeals, even flat orders, to stay put.” The UN General Assembly called on Israel as early as December 1948 to allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, but Israel continues to refuse.
Q: Isn’t Israel the only democracy in the Middle East?
A: Israel is a self-declared “Jewish State.” This automatically precludes the ingredient of equality essential to a true democracy. Arab citizens of Israel make up at least 18% of Israel’s population. On October 6 the UK-based Guardian newspaper reported that Arab citizens of Israel “suffer systematic discrimination in jobs, schools, housing and social services. Since 1948 no new Arab town has been built in Israel, and until this year Arabs were legally barred from buying land and building homes in much of Israel.” Israel’s Religious Affairs Ministry dedicates less than 2% of its budget to the needs of non-Jews.
Israel practices as a state policy a number of measures that are illegal in the United States and other Western countries. These include assassination, kidnapping, expulsion, detention without charges or trial, land confiscation, and collective punishment. It is also the only country in the world that officially permits torture.
Israel is a democracy for those of the Jewish faith alone in the same way that Apartheid in South Africa was a democracy for only those of European heritage. A 1975 resolution of the Organization of African Unity stated that “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”
Q: Is Israel really America’s friend?
A: Time and time again, Israel has been shown to be a strategic liability for America and counter to America’s national interest. By being associated with Israel’s actions, America’s standing in the entire Muslim world is damaged.
Israel routinely spies on the United States and carries out espionage and political assassinations on the soil of America’s allies.
And on June 8, 1967, with no other combat taking place nearby, Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats repeatedly attacked the U.S. intelligence ship Liberty off the Sinai coast, killing tens of American sailors and wounding 171. Though Israel insists the attack was an accident, abundant evidence has surfaced that Israel deliberately attacked the ship, fearing it would monitor Israeli preparations for an attack on the Golan Heights the next day. In 1991, columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak discovered that the US embassy in Beirut had intercepted Israeli radio traffic in which an Israeli pilot reported: “It’s an American ship.” The Israeli command ignored the report and ordered the pilot to press the attack.
Q: What is Palestine?
A: The geographical boundaries of Palestine have long been fluid, but the reality of Palestine as a territorial entity is ancient. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus mentions Palestine at least six times in The Histories. Romans, Byzantines, Muslims and Crusaders also used the name. The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs defines Palestine’s location this way: “Palestine lies on the western edge of the Asian continent and the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on the north by Lebanon and Syria; to the west by the Mediterranean Sea; to the south by the Jordanian Gulf of Aqaba and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula; and to the east by Jordan.”
Q: How much money does the United States give to Israel?
A: Israel is not self-sufficient and relies heavily on US assistance to maintain its economy. Since 1976 Israel has been the single largest annual recipient of US aid. Israel has received $4.1 billion from the US this year, $81.3 billion since 1949. Much of this is in the form of military grants. Between 1949 and 1996 Israel received $29 billion in military grants; from1997-1999 the amount was $1.8 billion annually. This year, the amount stands at $3.12 billion. Israel has brought shame to America by using US foreign aid and grants to kill civilians.
Q: Are Zionism and Judaism the same thing?
A: No. Judaism can be seen as both a religion and an ethnic heritage with a rich moral and scholarly tradition. Zionism is a political movement that was first articulated in the late 1800’s that called for the establishment of a Jewish national home on any available territory, not necessarily Palestine. Many deeply religious Jews are opposed to the philosophy of Zionism and regard it as a blameworthy innovation to their religion.
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