Masjidul Aqsa exclusively belongs to Muslims and there is no archaeological or historical connection to Judaism. This was the outcome of a ground-breaking vote for a UNESCO resolution on Thursday regarding the status of the contentious Al Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem, which has been at the centre of a battle between Israel and Palestine for decades. Masjidul Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam after Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid al-Nabawi in Madina.
UNESCO made the resolution in April this year, referring to Israel as the “occupying power” and using the Arabic term al-Aqsa Mosque without ever calling it the Temple Mount used by Israelis. It also includes the Arabic al-Buraq Plaza when making reference to what Israelis call the Western Wall Plaza.
On Thursday, 24 member states voted in favour of the resolution, six against and 26 abstained. The proposal was put forward by Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and the Palestinians.
“From the occupation of 1967 till present, when Jerusalem was placed under occupation, the entire Muslim ummah has been affected. This ruling is an occasion to celebrate,” said Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, the director of Al Quds Foundation.
Hendricks is considered South Africa’s most outspoken advocate for the preservation of Masjidul-Aqsa and has over the years, exposed Israel’s excavations taking place underneath the masjid. Analysts have noted that the Israeli government, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Fund were all working clandestinely on extensive excavations next to the mosque compound to create a network of underground spaces. Over the years, prominent historians of Palestine origin have made a number of presentations to UNESCO on the historical significance of the site.
Three years ago, Hendricks delivered a khutbah in which he categorically said there was no historical connection for the Jews to the Al Buraq wall (Wailing Wall). This wall is of huge significance in Islam, as it is where the Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) tied the Buraq on the night on Lailatul Isra wal Mi’raj.
The presentation, published in the Jerusalem Post, was challenged by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF). Ben Levitas wrote in May 2013 that Hendricks sermon was “concerning because it perpetuates an unfortunate tradition amongst many Muslims, that finds it necessary to rewrite history and undermine well established facts with pure fantasy and conspiracy theories.”
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed UNESCO, saying the organisation “hasn’t read the Bible”.
“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids. With this absurd decision, UNESCO lost the little legitimization it had left. But I believe that the historical truth is stronger and the truth will win,” he said.
Voting in favor were: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.
Voting against were: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstaining were: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.
Hendricks said it was “an embarrassment” that some UN member states chose to vote against the resolution.
“We celebrate those who used their intellect and their reason and accepted the ruling of UNESCO.”
On Friday, the situation around Masjidul Aqsa was tense, as Palestinians converged for the Jumuah. More than 200 Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip travelled to occupied East Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to Palestinian liaison officials.[Source: VOC and agencies]