Palestinians and Israeli Police Clash in East Jerusalem

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 16, 2010

Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(from Telegraph.co.uk) – Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem on Tuesday on a “day of rage” declared by Hamas Islamists in protest against Israel’s consecration of an ancient synagogue in the city.

The violence was another challenge to US efforts to revive Middle East peace talks after Israel angered Palestinians and touched off a dispute with Washington by announcing a Jewish settlement project near East Jerusalem, an area captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war.

In a deepening U.S.-Israeli crisis, U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell cancelled plans to return to the region on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not curb such construction, opposed by the United States.

Clashes erupted in several areas of East Jerusalem. Palestinians hurled stones at police and burned tires and trash bins. Police responded with tear gas and fired rubber bullets.

Some 40 Palestinians were treated at East Jerusalem hospitals for minor injuries and two policemen were hurt, medical officials said.

A police spokesman said some 3,000 officers were put on high alert after Hamas, an Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip and wields influence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, urged Palestinians to mount anti-Israeli protests.

“We call on the Palestinian people to regard Tuesday as a day of rage against the occupation’s (Israel’s) procedures in Jerusalem against al-Aqsa mosque,” Hamas said in a statement.

Hamas leaders said renovation of the Hurva synagogue, in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s walled Old City, was an Israeli plot to demolish al-Aqsa mosque, some 400 yards away.

Israel, they said, wanted to build a Jewish temple to replace al-Aqsa at the compound Muslims call the Nobel Sanctuary, and which Jews revere as Temple Mount, the site of two destroyed biblical temples.

Israel has denied the allegation and the US State Department, appealing for calm, voiced concern at what it described as Palestinian incitement and mischaracterisation of the restoration work.

Israel’s announcement, during a visit last week by US Vice President Joe Biden, of the plan to build 1,600 homes for Jews near East Jerusalem embarrassed the White House. The Palestinians, who had just agreed to begin indirect talks with Israel, demanded the project be scrapped first.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in unusually blunt remarks, called Israel’s actions an insult. Mr. Netanyahu voiced regret at the timing of the move but made no move to cancel the plan. Israel said construction was several years away.

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Questions

1. Why did hundreds of Palestinians attack Israeli police in East Jerusalem yesterday?

2. a) How did Israeli police respond to stone throwing and tire/trash can burning by Palestinians?
b) Do you think this is the most appropriate response? (If you were a police officer, how would you respond to an angry crowd hurling stones at you?)

3. What are Hamas leaders accusing Israel of doing to their al-Aqsa mosque?

4. How has Israel responded to this accusation?

5. Contrast the U.S. government’s response to Israel’s plan to build apartments near East Jerusalem with the U.S. government’s response to Hamas’ call on Palestinians to act out a day of rage against Israel’s synagogue renovation.


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Background

THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY’S RULING POLITICAL PARTIES:
The Palestinian Authority is currently ruled by two parties, Fatah and Hamas. Hamas holds the majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament and the office of Prime Minister.  Fatah holds a minority of seats in the Parliament, and the office of President.

Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority from its establishment in 1994 until 2006. [Yasser Arafat was the head of Fatah until his death in 2004.]  Fatah is a major secular Palestinian political party. … [Since its loss in 2006 as the ruling party] it has … been described oftentimes in the media as the more “moderate” party, although many dispute this due to its past actions and current policies. (from Wikipedia.org)

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that currently (since January 2006) forms the majority party of the Palestinian Authority…. Hamas is known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against Israeli civilians, as well as military and security forces targets. Hamas’ charter…calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. … In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections….  (from Wikipedia.org)

THE TEMPLE MOUNT (from wikipedia)

  • The Temple Mount known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is a religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem.
  • According to Jewish tradition, it was from here that the world expanded into its present form and from where God gathered the dust used to create the first man, Adam. It was the place God chose to “dwell”, hence the construction of two Jewish Temples at the site. Traditionally, it is believed that a Third and final Temple will also be located here. The Mount is considered the holiest site in Judaism and due to this, many Jews will not set foot on the Mount itself.
  • Among Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary and the destination of Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, the site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam. The al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, the oldest extant Islamic structure in the world, currently stand on the site.
  • In light of the dual claims of both the Islamic and Jewish faiths, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A Muslim council, known as the Muslim Waqf, manages the site. The Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors.

Resources

Click here for a map of Israel (including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank).

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of the Middle East.

For background information on Hamas click here.