Palestinians must build on UNESCO's Al-Aqsa resolution

Palestinians must build on UNESCO's Al-Aqsa resolution
Comment: Buoyed by UNESCO's ruling on the Al-Aqsa mosque, the time has come for Palestinians and their allies to challenge Israel's claims on the international stage, writes Isra Namey
5 min read
07 Nov, 2016
Palestinians walk past the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque [AFP]

The latest resolution adopted by the United Nation's cultural body, UNESCO has been widely welcomed by all sides of the political spectrum in Palestine and the Arab World.

The decision saw 10 member states vote in favor, two against, and eight abstentions. It denied any historic connections between the Jews and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, a claim that has been long used by the Israeli occupation and its Zionist movement to fight any existence for the indigenous people of the holy city.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound and Al-Buraq Wall are purely Islamic holy sites, the resolution stated, and called for an immediate stop to the Israeli harassment around these places. 

There is no doubt that the resolution is a significant step for the Palestinian cause on the international stage.

However, while Arabs continue to commend the decision, it is feared that ceaseless Israeli diplomatic efforts are currently underway to overturn the resolution when presented at the General Assembly next April.

Palestine and other Arab countries could double their gains when initiating dialogue with countries that have a positive stance regarding the Palestinian cause, but who abstained in the last vote to ensure more advocates at the final vote.

But Palestinians should never feel satisfied with half solutions: This resolution must be followed by an explicit mechanism detailing how to apply it in order to preserve Jerusalem from the continuous systematic Israeli colonisation. Ethnic cleansing in the city has not let up since Israel annexed the Palestinian occupied territories following its invasion in 1967.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound and Al-Buraq Wall are purely Islamic holy sites, the resolution stated

On the ground, the reality of the old city and East Jerusalem has been distorted. Incursions into the mosque grew more frequent: Right-wing extremists, or even Israeli leaders and ministers guarded by the Israeli police storm the mosque in provocative manner.

These incidents have inflamed tensions and resulted in fierce clashes many times between the settlers and the Jerusalemites. On the other hand, Muslims' access to their third-holiest shrine is tremendously restricted by the Israeli military forces. Escalating measures are put in place by Israel to keep the Palestinians away from their holy place.

In international law, blocking people from having a free access to their places of worship constitutes a grave violation according to the fourth Geneva agreement.

Will it be possible for the Palestinian leadership to raise the issue so that international players can proceed with further practical steps to safeguard the Palestinians' right of free movement on their land?

Based on these resolutions, the Palestinian leadership can raise the issue at the International Criminal Court, of harmful Israeli practices in Jerusalem, paving the way for more efforts to hold Israel accountable for its detrimental policies.

Should this fail to happen, there is a worrying possibility that Jerusalem's struggle will be forgotten, as was that of the apartheid wall.  

The head of the Palestinian council of Human Rights, Raji el-Sorani said that refuting Israeli claims of having ties to the mosque should propel all sides to halt Israel's policies that keep changing the demographic and geographic shape of Jerusalem.

"Palestinians are finding themselves estranged from their origins. International means should not be overlooked but we have to work hard in order to get the most out of them to get our rights," el-Sorani said. He argued that in doing so, the conflict with Israel would take on new political and legal dimensions, that may pave the way for victories in diplomatic battles.   

The facts on ground are shocking, said el-Sorani, referring to the swift Israeli expansion in the Old city. The excavation under the foundations of Al-Aqsa is very worrying, as many extremist Jewish movements have not stopped calling and working for its complete demolition.

The resolution is a significant step for the Palestinian cause on the international stage

The people of Jerusalem are left alone in their struggle with less attention being directed to Palestine in the war-ravaged region.

Yet, for countries such as Jordan, which holds custody over the holy shrines in Jerusalem, there might be ways to pressurise Israel into alter its policies. This could be achieved by ending the security cooperation with Israel on the eastern borders.

In addition, all Arab countries have a responsibility to declare a harsher stance towards Israel, in order to push it into the corner. Efforts should be exerted in order to confront Israel's international impunity.

The time has come for challenging its claims in front of the world. The more Israel's lies and crimes are revealed worldwide, the closer Palestinian become to their freedom and independence.

UNESCO came under sharp criticism from Israel and its allies. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister raged with anger over the resolution, as it touches on one of the most sensitive issues for the Israeli entity.

Netanyahu has stripped the international organisation of its legitimacy, ordering a complete suspension of the cooperation and bonds with it. Were he not afraid of such decisions, his government would not have deprived experts affiliated with the UNESCO from having access to Jerusalem.

Several international workers wishing to enter Palestine, have complained of unprecedented Israeli intransigence in this respect.

In an expression of his fury, Netanyahu opted to personally partake in the ongoing excavation of Al-Aqsa.

Nevertheless, this reflects something deeper, as the Israeli government's reaction appears to be an attempt to show that it still has the upper hand inside the holy compound.

Will the Palestinians and Arabs use the opportunity to prove them wrong?      

Isra Namey is a freelance writer based in Gaza. Her writings have appeared in the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Al Jazeera, and Middle East Eye.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff