03 May 2018

An Israeli court ruled in April that Jewish visitors storming Al-Aqsa Mosque can chant patriotic slogans as they did not count as religious prayers, according to the Times of Israel.

Under the status quo, Israelis are not permitted to enter the site to conduct prayers, but a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in favour of right-wing Jewish activist and lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir, who was detained for several hours in 2015 for chanting “Am Yisrael chai” (“The people of Israel will live”) in Hebrew.

Ben Gvir was touring the compound with a number of other Jews and responded with the slogan to a Muslim woman who told the group Allahu Akbar.

Ben Gvir sued for wrongful detention by security forces and the judge ruled in his favour, writing in his decision: “During the tour [of Al-Aqsa Mosque] and afterward, cries of ‘Allah is the greatest’ were heard, and there is nothing wrong with saying ‘the people of Israel live’.”

The judge went further and criticised police for taking no action against the Muslim woman who protested the group’s presence in the Muslim holy site.

The attorney had also attempted to sue the Waqf administration that regulates the mosque for alleged discrimination against the Jewish group, but the judge dismissed that aspect of the case.

The attorney told Hadashot news that his court victory was “a gift to the Jewish people on the eve of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.”

“I believe that the time has come for the courts to rule that Jews are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Mosque], just as Muslims are permitted to pray at the site,” Ben Gvir said. “There can be no wrongful discrimination at the most important site for the people of Israel.”

Israeli settlers regularly storm the Al-Aqsa compound in coordination with Israeli forces, performing rituals and pledging to destroy the mosque, whilst Muslim worshippers are left outside. Extreme settler groups have repeatedly called for increasing raids of the holy site, especially on significant Jewish holidays.

Last month, an Israeli Magistrate Court in Jerusalem ruled that Jewish settlers can perform prayers at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, adding that it would be “the best proof of the Israeli control of the area”.

A study last November found that some 68 per cent of Israeli Jews believe that the status quo at the compound should be abolished and they should be permitted to perform rituals freely, despite previous UN investigations finding no link between the mosque and Judaism.

Israel has also continued to perpetuate the myth of the existence of a Jewish temple at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, despite archaeological evidence to the contrary. It has used the search for the alleged temple to justify excavations under the Noble Sanctuary, weakening its foundations.