Above: the rally in Gaza City in support of Al-Aqsa mosque (Al-Aqsa TV, November 15). Left: flyer in support of Al-Aqsa, from the Hamas Website (palestine-info, November 19).
1. Over the past few days Hamas has undertaken a campaign to put Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque at the top of the Palestinian agenda, exploiting the International Jerusalem Forum which met in Istanbul on November 15-17. The campaign is based on the false claim that Al-Aqsa mosque is endangered by tunnels being dug under it and the "invasion” of right-wing activists into the mosque precinct. 1 Abu Mazen is also accused of being willing to make concessions on Jerusalem in Annapolis .
2. Putting Jerusalem at the top of the Palestinian agenda and resurrecting slogans about the dangers to Al-Aqsa mosque enable Hamas to represent itself as working for a national Palestinian interest for which there is broad Palestinian, Arab and Islamic consensus. The campaign is also intended to undermine the negotiations Abu Mazen is conducting with Israel in preparation for Annapolis (called by Hamas "the shame and disgrace meeting”). In addition, Hamas wants to deflect Palestinian attention from the rising internal tension caused by the gunfire of Hamas security forces into the crowd at the Arafat’s memorial rally in Gaza City . 2
3. The following are the main events in the campaign so far:
A mass rally in the Gaza Strip in defense of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque
4. On the afternoon of November 15 there was a mass rally in Gaza City in support of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque. Several thousands attended, 5,000 according to Hamas. Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV interrupted its regular programs and began broadcasting live from the rally.
The rally in Gaza City (Al-Aqsa TV, November 16).
5. Ismail Radwan , a high-ranking Hamas member in the Gaza Strip, spoke at the rally and incited the crowd with calls of "With spirit, with blood, we will redeem you, oh Al-Aqsa.” The main points of his speech were the following (Al-Aqsa TV, November 15):
1) Those who had come to the rally were there to express their strong opposition to " the criminal attacks recently carried out against Al-Aqsa mosque .” Hamas warned the Zionist enemy against attacking the mosque, and if it did, "the world will be surprised by Hamas’ response.” Ismail Radwan sent a message to the "jihad fighters” and the "operatives of the Palestinian resistance” [i.e., the Palestinian terrorist organizations] to get ready to defend Al-Aqsa mosque.
2) Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem are the center of interest for the Arab-Islamic nations and not only the Palestinians . The Jerusalem Forum, attended by 5,000 leaders, intellectuals and "men of the resistance,” met in Istanbul for the sake of Al-Aqsa mosque. It is up to the Arab-Muslim peoples to go out into the streets and vent their rage and censure of the barbaric attacks the "Zionist enemy” is carrying out against Al-Aqsa mosque.
3) Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen should be wary of participating in the Annapolis meeting , "the shame and disgrace meeting, the concessions meeting…” The entrance of the Zionist enemy and groups of settlers into the Al-Aqsa mosque precinct "are preparation for what will happen at the Annapolis meeting.”
4) Hamas will not waive the principles of the Palestinian people . It emphasizes the "right to return” and the "option of resistance” [i.e., terrorism] as "the strategic option” for the liberation of all Palestine .
Statements made by high-ranking Hamas activists
6. On the evening of November 15 Hamas government prime minister Ismail Haniya delivered a speech emphasizing the "danger” to Jerusalem and the importance of the International Jerusalem Forum in Turkey . He related to Jerusalem at the beginning of his speech, and said the following (Al-Aqsa TV, November 15):
1) Israel continues damaging Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque . It is planning to excavate additional tunnels under the mosque, right-wing Israeli activists "invaded” the Al-Aqsa mosque precinct, and the Knesset passed a law regarding Jerusalem on the first reading. 3 "At the same time, [Ehud] Olmert demands that the PA recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for the success of what is called the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”
2) Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque are in genuine danger which will not end until the "occupation” ends . The way to restore the Palestinians’ national rights is to restore national unity. Otherwise success will crown the Israeli policies in favor of the Jerusalem’s being a Jewish city, settlements and changes made in archaeological and historical sites to erase Jerusalem’s identity.
3) The timing of the Israeli "attack” on Jerusalem and the Jerusalem with the Jerusalem Forum and the anniversary of the proclamation of Palestinian independence are all proof that Palestinian independence will never be genuine unless Jerusalem is the capital of the independent Palestinian state . Convening the International Jerusalem Forum illustrates that there is a Palestinian-Arab-Islamic consensus about not ceding Jerusalem and giving up of the refugees.
7. Salah al-Bardawil , Hamas faction speaker in the Palestinian Legislative Council, issued a press release on the last day of the International Jerusalem Forum. He called for urgent action " to repulse the aggression against the holy places and to awaken an Islamic struggle to rescue the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque.” He said that "the [Israeli] occupation is deliberately committing a series of crimes against the holy places, burning them, destroying them and tunneling under them .” He stressed "the need to unite behind the resistance [i.e., the terrorist movements] as the only strategic option for restoring [Palestinian] rights and exposing the occupation’s attempts [to act] against Jerusalem and the holy places” (Palestine-info Website, November 17).
8. On November 16 and 17 Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV broadcast propaganda-ridden programs and songs reiterating that " Jerusalem is in danger ” and that Al-Aqsa mosque was exposed to Israeli attacks. On November 16 it went live from Istanbul and broadcast the speech made by sheikh Raed Salad , head of the northern faction of the Islamic movement in Israel . It also broadcast telephone interviews with Forum participants, including Muhammad Nizal , a member of Hamas’ political bureau.
Sheikh Raed Salah speaking at the International Jerusalem Forum
in Istanbul (Hamas Website Palestine-info, November 15).
Processions organized by Hamas, including slogans warning against
making concessions on Jerusalem
9. On November 16 there were processions in the Al-Nuseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in the Gaza Strip "to rescue Al-Aqsa mosque.” Both Hamas and Fatah activists participated. Sheikh Yussuf Farhan , a Hamas activist, said that the goal of the procession in Al-Nuseirat was "to say no to the fall meeting [i.e., Annapolis ] and no to concessions on Jerusalem and the right to return.” He also condemned those "who want to sell Jerusalem for pennies,” and warned that "Hamas was almost at the end of its patience…” (Palestine-info, November 16).
10. In Lebanon , in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon , Hamas organized a procession as a show of solidarity with Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque, which led to tension between Hamas and Fatah supporters (Radio al-Sharq, November 16).
1 The elaboration of the false claim that Israel is causing damage to Al-Aqsa mosque can be found in the International Jerusalem Forum’s closing statement. It states that "the dangerous damage [done] to the holy places of Islam and Christianity, especially Al-Aqsa mosque, and the excavations which threaten to collapse it in order to reconstruct The [original Jewish]Temple on the ruins are a threat to the peace and security of the region and the world…” (Middle East News Agency, Istanbul , November 17).
2 For further information see our November 15 Bulletin entitled "A record in Hamas’ violent suppression of Fatah in the Gaza Strip” .
3 The law in question was proposed by MK Gideon Saar and passed on November 14 in a preliminary vote. According to proposed law, every change relating to the Jerusalem area will necessitate a 2/3 majority instead of a simple majority of 61 votes, as stated today in the basic Jerusalem law.