Sheikh Yusuf Salameh, a preacher at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, denounced on Thursday a statement by Israel's Attorney General that Israeli law must be applied to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has said that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is part of Israeli territory so Israeli law applies there, including antiquities laws and laws regarding building and planning.
At the same time, he said, the law had to be applied with extra sensitivity and pragmatism, due to its unique nature.
In response, Sheikh Salemeh said that “Al-Quds” (the Arabic name for Jerusalem) is an Islamic city, as determined by the creator of the world and as indicated in the Koran.
He said that no decision by one person or another will be able to change this reality, stressing that “Al-Quds” will remain Islamic until the end of time. “Al-Quds threw up its occupiers in the past and it will throw up this occupier, too,” he said.
Sheikh Salameh added that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is spread over 144 dunams of land and includes the entire area within the walls, buildings, roads, terraces, and domes of the mosque. He said the mosque is land belonging to the Waqf both above the ground and below it. Salameh called on UNESCO to bear the responsibility and preserve the historic Islamic sites in the holy city.
This week, Abdul Rahman Abbad, the head of the Muslims’ scholars council in Jerusalem, said that “Muslims are the only ones who own this mosque.”
He insisted that religious authorities are not bound by Israeli decisions, and warned of Israel's intentions in issuing such a statement ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims flock to the compound.
The Temple Mount was left in the hands of the Waqf following Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967, a decision of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. The Waqf has taken advantage of this and removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the Jewish holy site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property.”
Police, in an attempt to appease the Waqf, discriminate against Jews. They limit the number of Jewish worshippers allowed on the Temple Mount at one time in order to prevent conflict with Muslim worshippers. They often close the Mount to Jews in response to Muslim riots – despite evidence that Muslim riots have been planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.
Waqf officials recently told a young Jewish man to remove his kippah on the Temple Mount. The young man was visiting the Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, as part of a tour group from Europe. When Waqf officials saw his kippah, they ordered him to remove it, saying, “This is a holy place.”