Israel restricts al-Aqsa mosque access after Jerusalem protests

Israeli police on July 1 limited access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock for Friday prayers in a precautionary measure a day after clashes in the Old City. “This Friday we are preventing access to the plaza for Muslim men less than 45 years old,” a police spokesperson said, although she denied the restriction was linked to the previous night’s violence. The spokesperson added police have been “deployed in force” around East Jerusalem as security forces prepare for the possibility of new clashes with Palestinians. In the previous day’s unrest, a Palestinian was wounded when an Israeli border guard opened fire to disperse protesters who were throwing stones and reportedly Molotov cocktails at the entrance to Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. (AP, July 1)

However, new unrest in the city on July 3 actually began when haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jews protested the arrest of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, gathering outside his house, where MKs Michael Ben Ari and Yaakov Katz both addressed the crowd. In two instances, the protesters surrounded a car full of Arabs, broke the windows and sprayed pepper spray into the vehicle. Police arrested several, and tried to disperse the crowds with water cannons. Haredi protesters retaliated with hurled rocks.

Police arrested Rabbi Yosef that morning on his way home from morning prayer, to question him on suspicion of incitement to violence and racism over his alleged endorsement of the controversial book, Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah). Police said they had repeatedly requested Yosef to turn up for questioning on his own volition, but the rabbi refused. Torat Hamelech, by the rabbi of the Yitzhar settlement on the West Bank, Yitzhak Shapira, gives Jews permission to preemptively kill gentiles under certain conditions in wartime. (Jerusalem Post, July 3)

“The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder'” applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew,” states the book, which poses itself as a compendium of Halacha, or Jewish religious law. Non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks on them “curb their evil inclination,” while babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.” (The Forward, Jan 20, 2010)

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