Saturday, February 10, 2007

You say you want a revolution?

The Globe & Mail reports on more Israeli conflict. No one is shocked, of course, but I do find the precise cause of the conflict interesting.

There is a pre-construction excavation going on near the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. "Israel says the dig is a necessary precursor to replacing an access ramp connecting the Jewish quarter of the Old City to the compound, which is in the Muslim quarter. Muslim leaders complain they were not consulted about the dig, and say that the foundations of the al-Aqsa mosque could be damaged."

The al-Aqsa Mosque is a very holy place in Islam. The Temple Mount, however, is a very holy place in both Islam and Judaism (and Christianity, but honestly, they have enough to go around). The Temple Mount also contains the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

The al-Aqsa Mosque has always been a target for Islamophobes and a flashpoint for rebellion--much of it unjustified. The Wikipedia article has a good summary here. In 1969 an evangelical Christian-Zionist set fire to the mosque. Israel was incorrectly blamed. In 1981 an American-Israeli soldier opened fire in the mosque, killing two.

In September 2000, future Israeli PM Ariel Sharon "visited" the site--with an armed escort of several hundred policemen--which contributed to the al-Aqsa Infatida. Aside from being a champion of the settlement movement, Sharon was viewed by Muslims as a war criminal for his part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982. In short, he was a bogeyman, and although the visit was not the sine qua non of the ensuing 4.5 years of insurrection, I suspect it could rightly be called a contributing cause.

So, why the history lesson? It's just another lesson in the stupidity of the species. Clearly, the state of Israel should be very cautious in dealing with the site (parts of which, I should add, are under Muslim administration, so it's not like it's being held hostage by Israel--quite the opposite). And yet, and in spite of the warnings of his own Defense Minister, the Israeli PM Olmert is ordering the excavations to continue.

Which once again begs the question: why do so many on both sides of the conflict seem determined to prevent peace?

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