Palestine: Where Freedom is Considered A "Good Will Gesture"

Michaela Whitton
June 25, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Each year during Ramadan, Easter, & Christmas, the Israeli authorities partially ease the process of obtaining permits for Palestinians to enter Jerusalem. Last week saw COGAT—The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories— announce a relaxing of restrictions on entry into Israel for West Bank Palestinians. Men over 40, children under 12, and women of all ages have been able to enter Jerusalem without permits during Ramadan.

For some, it will be the first time they have visited their holy city. Despite living just one or two miles away, they are separated from Jerusalem by concrete walls, armed soldiers, and checkpoints.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Nisreen El-Shamayleh told Al-Jazeera, “While happy to be able to travel to Jerusalem, most Palestinians don’t believe their right to worship should be restricted in the first place.”

Before we swallow too much of the PR about good will gestures and Israeli benevolence, let’s acknowledge a few things.

After the 1967 war, the Israeli government annexed East Jerusalem, forcing it into the jurisdiction of Israel. Annexation using force is prohibited under international law, so the annexation and many Israeli policies in East Jerusalem are considered illegal by the international community.

Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is in East-Jerusalem and internationally recognized as part of the Palestinian West Bank.

Freedom to worship and freedom of movement are rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

These fundamental human rights are continuously denied to Palestinians by the Israeli authorities and although the administration of the Al-Aqsa mosque is in the hands of the Islamic Waqf, it is controlled on a day to day basis by the Israeli police.

“All the people of Palestine have the right to access the city and pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in full freedom without the need for permits,” director of the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma’an News.

Earlier today, Ma’an News reported that the Israeli authorities have stopped 500 Gazan worshipers from travelling to Jerusalem. Permissions to leave the open air prison and pray at Al-Aqsa mosque were punitively cancelled after rockets fired from Gaza hit Western Negev.

Two attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank have seen the cancellation of 500 additional travel permits for Palestinians in an act of collective punishment by the Israeli authorities. Some Palestinians reportedly ripped up permits in acts of civil disobedience.

Regardless of the Israeli authorities’ habit of giving with one hand and taking back with the other, the right to worship— or even so much as to visit what is revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary—will continue to be a dream for the majority of Palestinians.

A Palestinian from Hebron told Anti-Media, ‘’Last week my cousin went to Jerusalem for the first time since 1996 and my brother for the first time in 13 years. On Friday, I will go and take my family, I may not get this chance again, it’s rare. Giving the permits Is putting a water on the fire but not stopping the fire.’’


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