Israeli police walk near the Dome of the Rock during clashes with Palestinians (Image credit: TRT World)

Tracing the history of conflict around East Jerusalem

The clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslims of East Jerusalem have once again opened the old wounds of historic tussle between the two Abrahamic religions.

When Israel was created by the Western powers on May 14, 1948 the western part of new Jerusalem went into its hand. In fact, before the creation of Israel the whole region was called Palestine, a province of the Ottoman Empire. But the Allied powers (Britain and France) occupied it during the First World War. Till 1948 Palestine was part of the British Mandate. While leaving Palestine in 1948, Britain, with the help of USA, France and other Western powers divided the province and a new nation Israel was created.

In fact, the Western powers had started settling Jews from across the world since 1920 in the region. So the first bloody clashes took place between Palestinians and Jewish settlers leading to the death of a dozen people in that very year. After the coming to power of Hitler in Germany in 1933 and expulsion of Jews from that country, thousands of them were brought by the Western powers and settled as refugees in Palestine.

Those were the high time for the demand of a separate Jewish homeland. The Western powers fully fanned and funded this movement as they wanted a sort of base for them in the post-Ottoman Middle East. The Palestinians as well as the neighbouring Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan and Syria—opposed the partition of Palestine and creation of Israel. So, when Israel was created the aforementioned Arab countries immediately attacked the new country which got full military backing from the West.

However, after eight long months the war ended in a deadlock. The western part of Jerusalem was occupied by Israel while the eastern half remained in the hands of Palestinians backed by Jordan. It is in the eastern older part of Jerusalem that most of the holy sites of the three religions—Islam, Judaism and Christianity—such as Al-Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount, Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are situated.

Without Eastern Jerusalem in its hand, there is no meaning of the Jewish homeland. So, in the Six Day War of 1967, the Israeli army with the help of Western powers occupied East Jerusalem and reached the West Bank of Jordan river which is further east. Not only that, the Israeli forces also occupied Sinai from Egypt and Golan Heights from Syria.

But the Palestinians living in old Jerusalem always protested the presence of the Israelis. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, its leader Ayatollah Khomeini appealed to the Muslims of the world to observe Al-Quds Day on the last Friday of Ramadan. This year too, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem assembled at Al-Aqsa Mosque to offer Friday prayers. They have also been protesting against the eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem as well as West Bank. Here Israel is busy settling new Jewish refugees who have come from different African and Asian countries. So, like this year, the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces on the occasion of Al-Quds Day has become a sort of annual phenomenon.

Except some lip service, the Western world has remained a mute spectator to Israeli brutalities against the Palestinians.

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