One of the most controversial aspects of the situation in occupied Palestine revolves around the frequent attacks on Masjid-Al-Aqsa by far-right Zionist groups.
Recently, there have been several incidents of brutality at this holy site, perpetrated by the Israeli security service, Israeli citizens, and extremist groups such as the Temple Movement against Muslim worshippers. The Temple Movement’s stated aim is the “liberation of the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa) from the murderous Islam.” The Temple Movement’s chief Rabbi, Yisrael Ariel, a former paratrooper who participated in the 1967 war, has publicly called for the “destruction of mosques and Christian spires.” He has urged his followers to commit genocidal violence to achieve their goal, instructing them to “kill all their males by the sword.” Despite his overt call for violence, he has been recognized for his work with the Temple Movement by the mayor of Jerusalem.
The aim of these groups is to replace Masjid-Al-Aqsa with a Jewish Temple, reconstructing what they believe to be the Temple of Solomon, which existed approximately 2000 years ago.
Recent times have witnessed attempts to damage or even destroy the mosque by various disgruntled Zionist factions. The Israeli authorities have fueled animosity by funding non-profit organizations aiming to build the Third Temple on Jerusalem’s holiest site, Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Over the past decade, the Israeli Cultural and Education Ministries have invested significant funds into a non-governmental organization called The Temple Institute. The institute’s website states that their “short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education. Our long-term goal is to do all within our power to facilitate the building of the Holy Temple in our time.” Many powerful groups with close ties to the Israeli state have been instrumental in promoting numerous disturbances at Al-Aqsa.
A specific group, Return to the Mount, has consistently caused issues at Al-Aqsa by storming the complex under Israeli security’s protection. These incursions have led to assaults, injuries, and shootings of worshippers by state security protecting the Zionist extremists. This group has also disguised themselves as Muslims to enter the compound for worship, even offering cash rewards to those who can successfully sacrifice an animal within the compound.
Another organization, The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Movement, aims to liberate the Temple Mount from any Arab/Islamic ‘occupation.’ They also argue that the Muslim ‘pagan shrines’ should be relocated to Mecca.
However, the most sophisticated group in this network is The Temple Institute. They have produced construction blueprints for a new Jewish Temple, intended to be built upon Masjid-Al-Aqsa’s ruins. They have also integrated their beliefs into the education system, promoting the idea that replacing Al-Aqsa with a Jewish Temple fulfils biblical prophecy. The group has prepared many religious artifacts for the new temple, including a 200-pound golden menorah and other religious items.
The US-born leader of the Temple Movement, former politician and Israeli intelligence operative Yehuda Glick, has noted the Movement’s transition from a fringe extremist organization to mainstream acceptance in Israel.
When President Netanyahu delivered a speech at the US embassy’s transfer ceremony to Jerusalem, he openly praised the Temple Mount Movement. Some of its prominent vocal supporters include former Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan, who funded the movement during his tenure. Dahan has described the Palestinian people, saying, “To me, they are like animals; they aren’t human.”
The past 16 years have seen an educational trend emphasizing the conquest of Masjid-Al-Aqsa and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. The Israeli Ministry of Education has promoted field trips to Haram-Al-Sharif, with proposals in the Israeli parliament to mandate tours of the holy site for school children.
The Temple Mount movement has garnered explicit support from the government’s highest echelons. This backing resulted in an 80% increase in Temple Mount movement supporters under Natalie Bennett’s government, with over 10,000 visitors between 2020 and 2021. This rising trend in the number of the Temple Mount Movement’s visitors is likely to exacerbate an already volatile situation.