Israel fails to silence call to prayer as defiance spreads

22 Nov

aqsa_mosque_soldiers_cookIsraeli vengeance surpassed the realm of media rhetoric into aggressive action. (Photo: File)

VIDEO: Watch the frenzied reaction as Arab-Israeli MK Talab Abu Arar recites the Athan (Islamic call to prayer) at the Israeli parliament in protest at a bill backed by Netanyahu to ban the call. [Video: Middle East Eye]

The Palestine Chronicle, 21 November, 2016

Israeli Authorities Punish Mosque over Prayer Call as Crisis Escalates

The Israeli authorities in the city of Lod, which has a large Palestinian community, have imposed a $US200 fine on a mosque after the Imam has recited the Sunset Prayer Call. The fine is the first following passing a law in the Israeli Knesset the bans Muslim call to prayer claiming its ‘noise pollution.’

The Israeli Knesset has passed the first draft of a legislation that imposes restrictions on the Muslim call to prayer.

The authorities said the call to prayer has “disturbed Jews living in the surrounding area of the mosque.”

Many experts believe that the Israeli law to ban Muslim call to prayer is part of a series of measures and laws that aim to change the cultural and religious character of Palestine by removing Islamic and Christian symbols and replacing them with Jewish ones.

The law has stirred outrage across the region. Palestinian churches have responded to the Israeli plan by reciting the Muslim call to prayer using the loudspeakers of churches.

Palestinians took to the roofs of their houses reciting the call to prayer. Protests were organized to stop the Israeli law. And most recently, footballs fans in Jordan have recited the call to prayer in refusal of the Israeli law, which they call racist.

[See below for two other articles on this issue. Ed]

Israel’s new attack on Palestinian culture

Jalal Abukhater, The Electronic Intifada, 19 November 2016

Israeli lawmakers propose to ban mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer. Oren Ziv ActiveStills

A bill being put forward to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, will, if passed, ban mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer five times a day.

The bill has government backing and support from a significant number of legislators. And though it is currently being appealed, it is likely to pass should the vote take place.

The backers of the bill, which was originally intended to stop the broadcasting of nationalist messages, now claim that the goal is to curb “noise pollution.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has stated that “Israel is committed to freedom for all religions,” and the proposed ban serves to “protect [Israel’s] citizens from noise.”

Assault on Palestinian identity

Whatever Netanyahu says, the move to ban the call to prayer should be understood first and foremost as an assault on Palestinian identity.

The Israeli European settler colony project has relentlessly manipulated and wholly changed the cultural features of Palestine in its imposition of supremacy over the land and the people who dwell there.

The Muslim call to prayer is a staple feature of our lands, and its significance extends well beyond its religious purpose. One cannot violently force a settler presence and then express annoyance at a defining feature of the indigenous people’s culture.

As for the “noise” pretext presented by the backers of the bill, Israel is hardly concerned about the noise pollution it systematically inflicts on millions of Palestinians living under occupation.

Israel’s militarized drones hover over the Gaza Strip, often nonstop for weeks, causing alarm and distress and preventing Palestinians living there from sleeping at night. In Gaza, they call it “zannana,” an onomatopoeia describing the obnoxious buzzing noise it creates.

The West Bank gets its share of drone noise as well, though perhaps not to the extent of Gaza. During the Jewish holidays in October, the drone loomed in the skies over Jerusalem and Ramallah, and at workplaces each day, Palestinians compared how they were awoken or kept awake by its buzzing.

And what about the noise pollution caused by the hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints throughout the West Bank, which profoundly disrupt Palestinians’ lives?

A short while ago, I was leaving Bethlehem and heading back to Jerusalem at a late hour. The Bethlehem checkpoint had a long queue of cars waiting to pass, the drivers sitting 45 minutes without moving an inch.

The checkpoint abuts a neighborhood and a refugee camp, the residents of which are subjected to the horns of frustrated drivers and their running engines, all because a lone Israeli soldier on the other side of the queue might feel like searching each car very slowly.

Night raids

And then there’s the nightly raids conducted by Israeli occupation forces in cities, towns and villages in the predawn hours across the West Bank.

Soldiers throw sound bombs, waking up whole neighborhoods, often for absolutely no reason other than terrifying the sleeping population. During these raids, children in their beds are woken up by heavily armed soldiers who photograph, interrogate or even arrest them.

The Hebron-area community of Dura was subjected to a month of night raids as a form of collective punishment earlier this year. Soldiers broke down doors and even brought large dogs to harass Palestinian families in their homes in the middle of the night.

The government proposal to ban the call to prayer drops a barely concealing mask by which Israel presents itself as a vibrant, diverse democracy. This was never the case, and the charade is further exposed each day.

The true aim of the bill is to catalyze the complete erasure of Palestinian identity from the land.

I’m reminded of a summer night in Ramadan, sitting on a rooftop with friends, hearing “Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar” in the distance, everyone becoming quiet for a moment, listening, feeling the breeze on our faces, and preparing our souls for the approach of dawn.

It is beautiful, and it is our culture.

 

Israel Cannot Silence Prayer Calls

By Ramzy Baroud, The Palestine Chronicle, 21 November 2016

In a succession of events that indicated major coordination between various Israeli government offices, Jewish settler groups and the municipality of Jerusalem, Israel recently moved to outlaw the Muslim call for prayer, first in Jerusalem, then in other Arab areas inside Israel.

This move was clearly aimed at literally and figuratively silencing Palestinian Muslims and would have been casually filed under yet a new Israeli attempt aimed at Judaizing Jerusalem and eradicating Palestinian heritage — Muslim and Christian alike — throughout Palestine.

But there is more to the story: The timing of these efforts.

True, the original bill to ban the call for prayer was presented by member of the Knesset Moti Yogev, last March, but has become more pressing in recent weeks, following a vote in the UNESCO, which was the subject of much annoyance by Israel.

Following its occupation and illegal annexation of Arab East Jerusalem, Israeli leaders have labored to claim the occupied city as their own, labeling it Israel’s “eternal and undivided capital.”

However, the reality is that aside from most Israelis and their friends in the Christian Right, the international community has never accepted or agreed to the occupation or annexation of Palestine, nor the Israeli designation.

On Oct. 26, following robust campaigning from various Arab and other countries, a UNESCO resolution, once more, emphasized the status of Jerusalem in international law as occupied and agreed to retain the UN designation of the Old City of Jerusalem as “endangered.”

The resolution, which was passed after a vote by the organization’s World Heritage Committee strongly criticized Israel’s violations of the sanctity of Palestinian houses of worship, demanded access to the holy sites to determine their conservation status and, particularity significant to Israel, called Palestinian holy sites by their Arabic, not Hebrew names.

Israel was infuriated. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded angrily. His ministers alleged that the vote further demonstrated the UN’s supposed anti-Semitism.

Israel’s evangelical friends flooded UNESCO officials with bibles to “refresh diplomats’ memory” on Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem.

Israeli vengeance surpassed the realm of media rhetoric into aggressive action. First, Netanyahu moved to formalize the illegal annexation of hundreds of acres of Palestinian land in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Berkat threatened to demolish “hundreds or thousands” of Palestinian homes in the city.

In other words, Israel’s response to UNESCO was a continuation of the illegal and criminal activities that pressed UNESCO to produce the resolution in the first place.

Israel went still further in trying to silence the call for prayer, first in Jerusalem, then in other cities.

Of course, the call for prayer in Islam carries a deep religious and spiritual meaning but, in Palestine, such religious traditions also carry a deep, symbolic meaning that is unique to Palestinians: The call for prayer means continuity, survival, unity and rebirth among a host of other meanings.

It is these very meanings that made Palestinians in Gaza pray on top of the ruins of their mosques, which were destroyed by Israeli bombs in the last, most devastating war of 2014.

According to government and media reports, a third of Gaza’s mosques were destroyed in the last war on the Strip.

Israel’s attempt to ban the call for prayer is a new low. Its pretext behind the move was termed “noise pollution” — a complaint repeatedly made by Jewish settlers, who moved to Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Territories from Europe, the US and other countries, to build homes atop illegally stolen Palestinian land.

On Nov. 3, a small crowd of settlers from the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev gathered in front of the home of Nir Berkat, demanding that the government end the “noise pollution,” emanating from the city’s mosques. The mayor readily and immediately obliged.

But it didn’t stop there.

On Nov. 13, the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the draft law aimed at barring loudspeakers on “houses of worship” and quickly pushed the draft for its first reading at the Knesset.

Things seemed to be moving smoothly until Nov. 16 when an ultra-orthodox minister filed an appeal against the draft law. The appeal by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman appeared to be out of character, since ultra-orthodox zealots in the Knesset and cabinet have been the leaders of Israel’s cultural war on Palestinians.

The discerning minister noticed a little defect in the draft law.

Although the bill is entirely aimed at Palestinians, this detail is not specified in its wording, and might, if passed, become a ground for legal arguments by Israel’s secular parties to end Jewish religious practices, where sirens blare every Friday evening to announce the Jewish holy day of Shabbat.

While the vote on the draft law is likely to be postponed for now, until a more unambiguous rhetoric replaces the current one, the war on Palestinian heritage, whether religious and national for both Muslims and Christians, will not cease.

In fact, it will escalate, especially in Occupied Jerusalem and particularly in and around the Muslim Haram Al-Sharif Compound.

It is beneath that compound that Israeli machinery has been tirelessly digging for years, attempting to locate a lost temple, while all the while threatening the foundation of Islam’s third holiest site.

– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net.

 

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