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Palestinians Try to Deny Emiratis Access to Al-Aqsa Mosque

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The Palestinians, enraged that the U.A.E. signed a normalization agreement with Israel, have described the Emiratis as “betrayers” who have “stabbed us [the Palestinians] in the back.” They have burned Emirati flags, and defaced, stomped on, and set fire to, images of the Emirati Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Zayed. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has raged in Ramallah, denouncing the Emiratis in spittle-flecked impotent fury. And when ten Emiratis recently visited Israel, and prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque, Palestinians on the Haram al-Sharif tried to interfere, shouting slogans and threats. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had last August issued a fatwa banning the Emiratis from praying at Al-Aqsa, but that did not stop them; when ten Emiratis recently visited Israel as part of a business delegation, they went to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians on the Haram al-Sharif tried to interfere, shouting slogans and threats. The story is here.

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Emirati worshipers remain defiant in the face of a fatwa banning them from praying in the al-Aqsa mosque, claiming it is their religious right to do so. The fatwa, issued by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was issued after the August announcement of normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel under the Abraham Accords.

It has been met with criticism from religious leaders in the region including Dr. Abbas Shuman, a member of Al-Azhar’s Committee of Senior Scholars in Egypt, who rejected the fatwa as un-Islamic. He told the UAE news agency WAM: “To the best of my knowledge, our Islamic history has not witnessed any fatwa by the righteous forefathers and their descendants banning any Muslim from praying in any mosque around the world.”

Flags of Israel and the United Arab Emirates were burnt by Palestinians across the territories in the wake of the announcement on August 13, including the burning of images of the UAE’s de facto ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, on the Temple Mount.

A recent Emirati delegation was verbally abused and threatened while visiting the mosque, but Emirati Lubna Khawaja, one of the founders of the UAE-Israel Youth Forum, remains defiant. “I’m not afraid. It’s our right as Muslims to experience this,” she said.

The Emiratis were guarded by Israeli police who accompanied them to the Al-Aqsa compound. Palestinians chanted slogans against them, but they managed nonetheless to enter Al-Aqsa to pray. The delegation consisted of nine men and one woman.

After the Emiratis had left, Palestinians continued to rail against their visit. Shadi Mtour, a Fatah leader from east Jerusalem, accused the Gulf visitors of “storming al-Aqsa Mosque,” a phrase regularly used by Palestinians to describe tours by Jews to the Temple Mount.

Mtour said the visit “was not different from the repeated incursions of the occupation soldiers and settlers, who desecrate al-Aqsa under the protection of the occupation soldiers, during which attacks are carried out on worshipers and Jerusalem residents.”

The Israelis do not “storm al-Aqsa mosque”; nor do they “attack worshippers.” The Israeli security detail stayed well away from Al-Aqsa itself. The Emiratis whom they were protecting came to pray, not to “storm” the site. They simply walked calmly in like all the other worshippers who entered Al-Aqsa at the same time.

He [Mtour] added that “any [Arab] delegation visiting Jerusalem through the gates of the occupation is not welcome.”

Monir al-Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official, recently warned that Arabs who support normalization with Israel would have shoes thrown in their face if they enter Jerusalem under Israeli protection. “They should only blame themselves if our people welcomed them by throwing old shoes in their faces,” al-Jaghoub wrote on Twitter.

Throwing shoes at someone is in Arab culture the greatest possible sign of contempt.

A group called the National and Islamic Forces in Occupied Jerusalem said the visit was an “implementation of the treacherous agreement signed between the UAE and the occupation entity.”

Many Palestinians also took to various social media platforms to denounce the Emirati delegation for visiting and praying at al-Aqsa, especially under the protection of the Israel police. They accused the delegation members of “desecrating” the mosque and called for replacing the carpets where the visitors prayed.

Clearly, that “protection of the Israel police” was merited, given the kind of reception the Emiratis endured.

How did those ten Emiratis “desecrate” the mosque? Would any Muslim who favored relations with Israel and came to pray at al-Aqsa thereby – because of his political views — “desecrate” Al-Aqsa? Are all Egyptians and Jordanians, whose countries have long had diplomatic relations with Israel, similarly “desecrating” Al-Aqsa, or are they exempt because both Egypt and Jordan have what is called “a cold peace” with the Jewish state? And as for the ten Emiratis who prayed at al-Aqsa, how do the Palestinians know whether all of them support the normalization agreement, or are simply going along with it, reluctantly, and only because of the business opportunities the agreement offers?

There’s even the suggestion by Palestinians on social media that there is now a need to “replace the carpets” which, by sitting on them to pray in Al-Aqsa, the Emiratis had irredeemably befouled; no good Muslim could now be expected to use them. That’s the height of hysteria to which some Palestinians have reached.

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