Soldiers line up at Al-Aqsa. Soldiers line up at Al-Aqsa. Photo: Tasnim News Agency

The shocking scenes of Israeli violence from Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque demonstrate a nasty right-wing government in crisis – and our solidarity with those fighting back is vital, argues Shabbir Lakha

It’s Ramadan and once again the Israeli military has violently raided the Al Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to attack Palestinian worshippers.

Videos emerged on social media in the early hours of Wednesday showing Israeli soldiers savagely beating Palestinians with batons and rifle butts. They fired rubber-coated bullets as hundreds of Palestinians faceplanted on the ground with their arms handcuffed behind their backs. Several hundred Palestinians were injured and arrested – simply for being in the mosque and praying.

Despite being an annual routine of provocation and humiliation by the Israeli state, this attack comes at a time of growing tensions, a deepening crisis for the Israeli state and mounting resistance by Palestinians against the occupation.

The Israeli military have been carrying out nightly raids of the mosque to stop worshippers staying in the mosque overnight and last night’s attacks were particularly brutal to stop Palestinians opposing encroachment by ultra-nationalist Jews in the compound.

The Israeli government set arbitrary restrictions on who can pray in the mosque. Currently men under 45 are not allowed to attend dawn prayers in the third holiest Islamic mosque in the world and are prohibited from praying overnight – a standard practice for many Muslims during the month of Ramadan. Palestinians who were arrested last night were released on the condition that they are not allowed to enter the mosque compound for at least a week.

The attack on Al Aqsa has to be seen as a deliberate provocation. In 2021, it was attacks on Al Aqsa which sparked a response from militants in Gaza which Israel then used as a pretext to launch a barbaric assault on the besieged strip. After last night’s attack, several rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded immediately with airstrikes.

There are two clear reasons for Israel’s attempts to escalate in this way. The first is the government is in crisis. There have been mass protests against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul which is seen as an attack on Israeli democracy. On Monday, Netanyahu’s government was brought to its knees and forced to ‘pause’ the legislation by a general strike.

National guard

The strings attached to the pause by the far-right elements of the government who are driving the judicial changes, was the approval of a new ‘national guard’– a specific force to be created and controlled by far-right National Security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and aimed at quashing Palestinian resistance to the occupation.

The protests have continued, with Israelis fearing the national guard force will be used against pro-democracy protesters. The fact that this is the main concern of the anti-government protesters exposes how limited in scope the protests are. That there has never been democracy for the Palestinians living under occupation or that the main target of the existing Israeli security apparatus and any new force is Palestinians does not feature in the opposition to the government, barring a small minority of anti-occupation activists.

The Israeli government has routinely used offensives on Gaza, military operations against Palestinians in the West Bank and rhetoric of being under attack to stoke nationalist sentiment and rally the Israeli public behind the government when opposition arises. It’s easy to see the Israeli government following the pattern and provoking Palestinians to create such a pretext for ‘war’ once more.

The second reason, and what differentiates the current escalation from previous Israeli attacks on Palestinians, is that the Palestinian resistance is growing. Following the last major bombardment of Gaza in 2021, new networks of Palestinian resistance have emerged. Faith in the Palestinian Authority has crumbled, Palestinians are far more organised and willing to take the initiative to defend themselves, and there is a far more established link with Palestinians living within Israel.

These are all dangerous developments for the Israeli occupation and is the reason the previous administration launched ‘Operation Break the Wave’ that has seen the deadliest year for Palestinians in decades. The Netanyahu administration, which includes members who have called for the ‘wiping out’ of Palestinians and who self-identify as fascists, is determined to escalate this fight and break the Palestinian resistance.

This is an extremely dangerous moment for the Palestinian people. The global solidarity movement needs to organise to force our governments to pressure the Israeli government into stopping its attacks on Palestinians – instead of rolling out the red carpet for Netanyahu as Rishi Sunak did last month.

We need the biggest show of solidarity with Palestine on the Nakba Day national demonstration on 13 May.

Read Counterfire’s series Nakba 75: the Roots of Israeli Apartheid, with a new article out every Monday

Before you go

Counterfire is growing faster than ever before

We need to raise £20,000 as we are having to expand operations. We are moving to a bigger, better central office, upping our print run and distribution, buying a new printer, new computers and employing more staff.

Please give generously.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.

Tagged under: