After Israeli flags waved at Temple Mount, Islamic Movement warns of ‘red line’

Individuals briefly detained by police, escorted off holy site for displaying flag; Ra’am’s religious council says ‘status quo’ violations at flashpoint site can lead to conflict

A police officer confiscates an Israeli flag from a woman on the Temple Mount, September 27. 2021. (Video screenshot)
A police officer confiscates an Israeli flag from a woman on the Temple Mount, September 27. 2021. (Video screenshot)

A number of visitors to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City displayed Israeli flags on Monday, a prohibited move that angered Palestinians and the Ra’am-linked Islamic Movement.

Those waving the Israeli flag on Monday morning during the Sukkot holiday were briefly detained by police and escorted off the holy site.

The Islamic Movement warned the Israeli government of “ongoing violations on the Temple Mount and the escalations against the holy al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist settlers,” according to the Ynet news site.

The coalition’s Ra’am party is the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, an organization inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The racist right-wing has recently been trying to exploit the al-Aqsa Mosque for its political purposes. These violations have led to conflicts in the past, and could lead to conflicts if the phenomenon continues,” the movement warned.

“We have declared this before and we declare it again, al-Aqsa [mosque] is a red line, and for us, it is the holiest shrine in this country,” the Islamic Movement’s statement said.

“We will not allow any violation of its sanctity or any change in the status quo,” it added.

The Temple Mount compound is considered the holiest place in Judaism as it is the site where the first and second Jewish Temples once stood. It also houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The flashpoint site is an emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many rounds of deadly fighting in the decades-long conflict have erupted around it.

Israel captured the Temple Mount, and the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, and annexed it, but it allowed Jordan’s Waqf (Muslim trust) to continue to oversee the compound and other Islamic sites in Jerusalem.

Since 1967, a loose set of rules known as the “status quo” have governed day-to-day operations at the site. Any actual or perceived changes to the status quo have the potential to ignite violence.

Under the arrangement, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there.

Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols.

For decades, religious Jews largely avoided visiting the site for religious reasons. Many leading rabbis, including the country’s Chief Rabbinate, ruled after the 1967 war that Jews “should not enter the entire area of the Temple Mount” out of concern for ritual impurity and uncertainty over the exact location of the ancient Temple’s holy of holies.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina party, raised eyebrows in July on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av when he said Israel was committed to protecting “freedom of worship” for Jews at the compound. His office quickly issued a clarification stating there was “no change whatsoever” in the status quo.

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