Yesterday, thousands of Palestinians came to Jerusalem to perform the most simple, most peaceful act: prayer. Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, women and men, young and old – prayed in the streets after refusing to enter through the new metal detectors and barricades erected by Israel in front of the al-Aqsa compound. Israeli forces, armed with live ammunition, stun grenades, sound bombs, water cannon and tear gas, came prepared to kill.
And they did: by the day’s end Israeli forces and armed settlers had killed three young Palestinian men and injured more than 450 others, some of them very seriously. Israeli forces even raided a Palestinian hospital in an attempt to arrest those injured by their weaponry.
WATCH: Israeli officer kicks worshipper praying outside al-Aqsa (0:43)
Israel claims that the metal detectors are necessary for Israel’s “security” following an incident last week in which two armed Israeli officers were killed. These metal detectors are not about security, but rather about deliberately attempting to bar Palestinians from their places of worship. Contrast, for example, Israel’s recent stance towards the Temple Mount Faithful – a group of Jewish extremists who have openly announced that they seek the destruction of the al-Aqsa compound in order to build a Jewish temple in its place.
Yet, while openly advocating for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the destruction of Muslim holy sites, the Israeli government continues to allow this group to enter the al-Aqsa compound (including with arms) under the guise of “freedom of religion”.
In 1990, this group attempted to lay a cornerstone for a Jewish temple at the compound triggering protests in which some 20 Palestinians died.
The demand for freedom of religion for Palestinians – the ability to worship without the interference of Israel’s armed forces – is conveniently ignored. The metal detectors must be viewed in their proper context: as another of Israel’s settler-colonial acts of erasing us, the indigenous population, erasing our homes, our culture and our religious sites and replacing us with settlers.