A religious affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas compared Israel’s security measures for Muslims at the Temple Mount compound to those employed against Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.
In remarks last week on Palestine TV, Mahmoud Habbash lamented restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the holy site known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif.
“There are roadblocks, restrictions, closure of the gates, road closures, and age restrictions… People who are under 40 years of age are not allowed to pray,” Habbash said, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“Dear God! What is this? What historical age are we living in?” said Habbash, also the PA’s supreme Sharia judge. “In the days of the Inquisition? Are they trying to do to others what was done to them in the ghettos, in the Inquisition courts, or in the Nazi courts? Is this or is this not the Inquisition?”
“It is an Israeli Zionist Inquisition, which is trying to violate one’s human dignity, and the dignity of religious belief and of human faith in God,” the PA official concluded.
The Temple Mount houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, and is considered Islam’s third holiest site. It is the holiest place in Judaism, revered by Jews as the location of the Jewish Temples.
Under the present arrangement instituted by Israel after it captured Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967, the site remains under Jordan’s religious custodianship. Jews are allowed to visit the compound under the existing arrangements but are barred from religious worship or prayer.
Israel does not restrict access for Muslims in Israel, including East Jerusalem, to the site. It has sometimes closed the area to men under 40 at times of high security alert, but has not done so recently. It does routinely maintain restrictions on West Bank Palestinians entering the country, amid its overall security procedures.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace accord in 1994, but relations have long been cold.
Last July the holy site became the focus of a major crisis between Israeli authorities, Palestinians, and Jordan over security measures taken at the entrances to the compound. Metal detectors and cameras were installed following a deadly attack in which three Arab Israelis emerged from the site and shot dead two Israeli police officers using weapons that had been smuggled onto the Temple Mount. The upgraded security measures were all ultimately removed.
Early last year Habbash warned that the Trump administration’s plans — since realized — to move the US embassy to Jerusalem were “a declaration of war on all Muslims.”