Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walking in the Mufti's Shoes 3

This will be my final post in this series.

The Mufti died in Beirut in 1974. His deep concern for the protection of the Noble Sanctuary (Haram ash-Sharif) from Zionist vandalism and destruction (illustrated by the first post in this series) was well-founded. The Haram, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, only escaped an Israeli takeover in 1948 thanks to the efforts of Jordan's Arab Legion. Nineteen years later, however, it was not so lucky, with Israeli forces violating its sanctity during their conquest of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Mufti's worst nightmare was realised on June 7, 1967 when the Israelis stormed the Haram:

"The Israelis are shrewd - but it is the wisdom of Harvard Law School, not of Solomon. For all the biblical publicity puffs, they had fought here in Jerusalem, as everywhere, with all the cautious, long-range planning and reliance on technology of any modern industrial state - their combat style and manner of movement, however improvised the logistics, were reminiscent of the American army. 

"When the paratroopers drove into the city, their leading elements swerved sharply to the left and pushed on into the Haram ash-Sharif. Heavy armour could not pass even through this most northernmost and accessible gate, so the men stormed the shrine by foot and in jeeps, and with a tremendous roar which told us at the other end of the Haram that the city had fallen.

"Within minutes they were in the Awqaf to take as prisoner the Governor, the Qadi, and [tourism director] Khalidi. Directly across the lane leading from the Awqaf gateway into the Haram is the African Hospice - for pilgrims from Sudan and Chad who settled generations ago in Jerusalem. The Israelis were rounding up all the men they could find, and here they fell upon the deputy governor, the chief of police, and his deputy, who had abandoned [Governor] Khatib in a last-minute bid to evade capture. Both the chief of police and his deputy had thrown away their uniforms, and they cringed with fear and embarrassment as they were led out of the Hospice wearing the outrageously misfitted civilian clothes they had grabbed there. The men were first frisked and then marched with their hands above their heads 200 yards down to the lower platform of the Haram directly beneath the windows of my apartment and told to face the wall.

"The Qadi was wearing a heavy jibba - the cleric-like coat favored by Azhari-trained sheikhs - and each time his arms would begin to fall the Israeli guards jabbed him lightly with their bayonets. But the Qadi never lost his composure. Within a few minutes they were brought before the paratroop commander, Colonel Mordecai ('Motta') Gur, who had established his HQ next to the Dome of the Rock. A swarm of photographers replaced the guards.

"Khatib told the Colonel that a meeting had been scheduled for 1200 hours, at which time the city could be formally surrendered. Gur replied that while he welcomed any measure that would save him the trouble of putting down resistance, everyone should understand that his first duty was to his soldiers. If resistance came from any house, they would destroy it. But at the same time he stressed that his soldiers had strict orders not to molest or destroy either persons or property except in self-defense.

"The spot from where Gur stood and spoke with the Governor and his party afforded one of the most exquisite views of the Haram. A little to the south, the high platform they stood upon fell away for the broad stairs - Mawazin (The Scales) - framed by unattached arcades and descending to the pool and cypress-groved compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The door of Al-Aqsa had been blasted open by a bazooka shell that also damaged the upper facade. There had been no snipers in the mosque. 

"Below the platform, hundreds of Arabs were being marched in for detainment, interrogation, and occasional beatings as the Israelis continued to round up men at random throughout the city. Hundreds of these men, many of them my neighbors, were passed off to foreign correspondents as captured soldiers who had thrown away their uniforms.

"An Arab dressed in khaki and limping on his deformed leg was brought in. His khaki shirt and pants - the war surplus that afforded cheap and popular dress to the poor - were covered with blood. The paras, assuming that it was Israeli blood, began kicking and beating him with their rifle butts until the cripple was close to death. The blood splattered on his clothes had come from the bodies of his two children whom he had just dug out of the ruins of his shelled house when he was seized as a prisoner and sent off to the Haram. If any of the detained men moved awkwardly or implied defiance, they too were beaten." (The Fall of Jerusalem, Abdullah Schleifer, 1972, pp 195-196)

The fears for the sanctity and integrity of the Haram ash-Sharif which plagued the Mufti back in the 1930s are as relevant today as they were back then. Scan just about any recent ms media report which touches on the subject of the Haram , the stand-out feature of the Jerusalem skyline since the 7th century, and you'll invariably find it referred to as the Temple Mount.

Schleifer wrote elsewhere in his book: "The fall of Jerusalem took 3 days; the siege had been under way since 1917." (p 22)

In fact, the siege continues. The demolition of Arab homes and the takeover of others by Jewish settlers is a feature of life in occupied Arab East Jerusalem today,  and Zionist fanatics, fixated on burying the Haram under a third Jewish temple, are just biding their time.

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