The many uses of Jerusalem’s cameras
AMMAN - Surveillance cameras installed around Jerusalem’s flashpoint al Aqsa mosque compound are a double-edged sword: They will monitor Israeli violations but can also tip-off Israelis on Palestinian activists attending prayers.
Israel may also try to reassert its sovereignty over the compound, using the cameras to arrest Palestinian activists or barring them entry.
The cameras are the idea of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his information minister said. Jordan is a custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Muslim sites under a peace treaty with Israel that recognised a “special” Jordanian role in caring for Islamic shrines in Jerusalem’s old Walled City.
Palestinians blame Israel for provocations they say are aimed at annexing the shrine. The latest wave of violence was sparked by Jewish hardliners saying prayers in the courtyard of al Aqsa in September 2015. So far, 198 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have died in the ensuing violence.
Islam’s third holiest shrine, al Aqsa mosque is in a compound known as al-Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for the “Noble Sanctuary”, which also houses the golden Dome of the Rock.
Jews refer to the sanctuary as the Temple Mount, arguing that the ruins of two ancient temples lie under al Aqsa. The Western Wall, revered by religious Jews, is believed to be from the second temple, destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.
The rabbinical consensus since Israel seized and annexed Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 remains that it is forbidden for any Jew to enter the site until the Third Temple is built.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Momani said that al Aqsa’s compound of 144,000 sq. metres “is sacred for Muslims only”.
The cameras will “preserve the Arab and Islamic identity of the al Aqsa mosque”, Momani insisted.
Kamal Khatib, deputy chief of the Palestinian Islamic Movement in Israel, argued that the cameras “enforce Israeli sovereignty over the compound”.
“The cameras will also allow Israel to monitor Palestinian activists in the mosque and arrest anyone, or ban them from entering,” added Khatib, speaking by telephone.
“Muslims are not doing anything wrong at the mosque. They’re praying where they’re supposed to pray.”