In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
"Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing." God Almighty has spoken the truth.
His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani,
Moroccan Prime Minister, Mr. Abdelilah Benkirane,
His Excellency the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr. Nabil Al Arabi,
Firstly, I send my sincerest thanks and appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani for hosting this significant conference in Doha, where we signed a declaration some days ago to accelerate the Palestinian national conciliation steps which we already signed in Cairo to put an end to the disputed issues. I would also thank my brother the Secretary-General of the Arab League and its Secretariat General and personnel, and all those who contributed to organizing this conference.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The International Conference to Defend and Protect Jerusalem is being held today amid a very critical phase concerning the capital of Palestine and its beating heart, and the challenges and dangers it is encountering – which we cannot ignore and let pass without resistance from here on.
Giving full answers to these challenges is a great responsibility, one that prompts all those who are concerned about Jerusalem to approve policies and provide the possibility of ensuring that it keeps its Arab-Islamic and Christian character. It is the Prophet's (peace be upon him) Ascendance to Heaven, the First Qiblah to Muslims; the Second Mosque and the Third Noble Sanctuary; It is the city of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the mosque of the Dome of the Rock, and it is the city of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Via Dolorosa, and it is the city which must be a symbol of peace.
Within this scope, we must focus our reading on what seems to be general and significant regarding the Israeli plans for the city. This will enable us to draw certain conclusions that would allow us to perform to meet these challenges.
In reviewing the events which Jerusalem has been witnessing during the past few years and today by the occupation we can draw but one conclusion: The Israeli occupation authorities are using the ugliest and most unprecedented dangerous means to implement plans to erase and remove the Arab-Islamic and the Christian character of East Jerusalem and to make it the capital of the occupied state, contrary to more than 15 UN Security Council resolutions which call on Israel to retract its procedures and consider them void. In this respect, I would support His Highness the Emir's suggestion to raise the issue of Jerusalem in the Security Council.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The occupation authority's attempts to achieve its final goal through these plans in Jerusalem are being implemented on three interrelated axes.
The first axis: This is the axis through which the occupation authority changes the smallest details of the sacred landscape and structure, believing they can erase from the world's memory and awareness the image of the glittering golden rock of the Noble Rock, and the deep and long established visionary image of the brotherhood of the minarets and domes of the churches amidst the city's walls, which have witnessed its history, memories and events. They fancy that they can create a history, establish claims and cancel religious and historical facts.
In this context, Jerusalem is witness to an unprecedented acceleration of settlement attack, where work is being done day and night to create false details in the Jerusalem scene, where architectural features come in contradiction to the Arab civilization and cultural roots under which the city of Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were established.
Since the removal of the Maghariba Quarter (the Moroccan Quarter) inside the Old City of Jerusalem following the 1967 War by the occupation forces, they continue to demolish homes which carry historical symbols, such as Karm Al-Mufti (the Shepherd's Hotel) and others, and build settlements on lands confiscated from residents of the Holy City.
In spite of all the enormous possibilities which the occupation forces put at the disposal of extremists to carry out ongoing excavations that threaten to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque in order to obtain evidence that would support the Israeli vision of Judaism, they miserably failed. However, that did not prevent them from racing against with time to implement whatever would give the city a Jewish character, beginning from the construction of synagogues to block the view of Al Aqsa and the preparation of a foundation to the so-called "Temple" for the purpose of building it on the remains of Al Aqsa and establishing the so-called "Biblical Gardens" at the expense of the residents' lands and homes in Jerusalem.
In a similar context, Jerusalem has been surrounded by the apartheid wall as well as an enclosure of settlements to separate the city from its surroundings in the West Bank and to interrupt the sequence between the northern and southern regions of the West Bank.
The second axis is the completion of the ethnic cleansing plan: Since the very beginning, after the 1967 War, the occupation launched a plan with the purpose of prompting Palestinian citizens to leave their own city by exhausting Jerusalem residents with a series of expensive taxes connected to penal procedures so as to force merchants, business owners and most residents to close their businesses and leave the city. The occupation forces also adopted a policy of refusing to give home construction permits. Instead, they are destroying homes which have been built without permits. These plans culminated with the withdrawal of Jerusalem residents' identity cards and depriving them of residence in their homeland. In the past months, the situation took another serious turn when the occupation forces arrested Jerusalem representatives, then issued and enforced orders to deport them from the city and away from their families. Simultaneously, the occupation forces encourage settlers to seize Arab homes and force their dwellers to leave.
This series of actions carried out by the occupation forces is ethnic cleansing in the fullest sense of the word against Palestinian citizens to make them a minority at best, having only the status of residents as opposed to the enhancement of the Jewish presence by building more settlements.
The third axis: Through this axis, the occupation forces impoverish the Holy City and destroy its infrastructure as well as its economic potential, although it has always been a site of prosperity, and the main economic, tourist, medical and educational activity center and cultural, intellectual and artistic hub in Palestine. To achieve this, the occupation forces closed several Palestinian institutions, such as the Orient House, the offices belonging to vocational and labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce which was established in the 1930s before the 1948 Nakba and establishment of Israel. They also refuse to give construction permits to build hospitals, universities, schools, hotels, homes and commercial compounds, and they enacted regulations and took procedures to control the flow of tourists to keep them away from Palestinian owned hotels in the city.
The most serious step– in addition to that taken to enclose Jerusalem with a series of settlements in order to separate it from the rest of the West Bank – is the erection of permanent barriers by the occupation forces since the 1990s, which has banned Palestinians from entering Jerusalem for prayer, work, medical treatment, study, marketing or visiting their families and relatives without nearly impossible to attain permits.
Yes, our people in Gaza and the West Bank are not allowed to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque and Church of the Holy Sepulcher to perform prayers and religious ceremonies. Where is the freedom of worship which is a basic right for everyone under all international conventions?
A generation has been born and grown up, ladies and gentlemen, and they are not able to visit their sacred city which is only a few minutes or at most a 30-minute drive away from their city, village or camp.
These actions have caused what is similar to the stoppage of blood flow from the veins to the heart. Throughout its history, Jerusalem has received tens of thousands of people coming from other Palestinian towns every day who flocked to its sacred places, markets, schools, hospitals, factories and workshops. The occupation aims to deprive Jerusalem of its historical and religious role, and it seeks to obliterate its distinguished character as a global and leading civilized center that never stops contributing and enriching human civilization, trying to change it into old and weak neighborhoods, deserted mosques and churches and empty markets and streets; it is attempting to take the jewel of Palestine and its cities back to centuries past.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These are the factual witnesses in the city of messengers, and these are the challenges ahead for both Arab-Muslim and Christian nations throughout the world. If we agree on defining the goals of the occupation's plans, it would be so simple to determine the means of confrontation.
One of our main conclusions which may rise to the level of a challenge is to stress what is required – to support the steadfastness and firmness of Jerusalemites, protectors of the sacred city, who, despite the dark image generated by the enormous and brutal occupation, remain a ray of hope and the insurance of success and determination, for they are the people of Jerusalem, the firebrand holders in and around the Sacred Home. They are also the people of the land of resurrection and ingathering. Regardless of the attempts and plans, Jerusalem will remain Arab in heart, emotion, spirit and language. The people of Jerusalem will – hand in hand with the rest of their nation – challenge these impossible situations, living in their overcrowded city and protecting Al Aqsa and the city's mosques and churches. When Israel threatened to withdraw the identities of Jerusalemite non-residents, thousands of them decided to return and some big families lived in small rooms to undermine the occupation plan.
I also would like to state that there are a number of detailed studies and projects that have been conducted in different sectors over the past decades on what must be done to rescue Jerusalem. There are approved Palestinian mechanisms and highly professional and competent staff throughout the international institutions who have the ability to implement any proposed projects. I also would like to point out that there have been decisions taken during the Arab summits, the last of which was taken during the Second Serte Summit, on support for Jerusalem, but these were not implemented. Recently, we have agreed through the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which approved the plan we already proposed for Jerusalem, to work hand in hand so that each one of the able Arab and Islamic states would support one of the our people's sectors in Jerusalem, such as health, education, residence, infrastructure, culture, religious sites, trade, economy, … etc. Yesterday, when I met with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsan Oglu, we agreed on the plan and implementation mechanism. Dr. Oglu will personally follow up on the plan's implementation, which we hope will turn into actions for the enhancement of our people in the sacred city of Jerusalem. On this occasion, I would like to thank the Islamic Bank for the projects it has funded to support our people in the city.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my great appreciation for the clear vision and proposed plans and actions stated in the "Jerusalem document," which was announced by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Mosque a few days ago during the closing session of a conference held in Cairo and dedicated to Jerusalem. In this respect, I would point to the report made by the EU Consuls on Jerusalem.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The core of any work we perform lies in the perception and establishment of Jerusalem as the center of the Palestinian question. Hence, we abide by our principal stand – not to resume negotiations as long as the occupation forces do not respect their commitments to halt the building of settlements, mainly in Jerusalem.
From this point, we are required to work on various axes, including:
The first axis: the question of Jerusalem must be the main topic and basic core in the political and economic relationships between the Arab and Islamic states and the rest of the world. We must draw up a unified action plan with the different Christian churches that are concerned with keeping the churches as homes of worship, not tourist sites, particularly because there are thousands of Christian believers who annually make pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
Accordingly, and from this stage, we confirm that the so-called "Jerusalem Annexation" law which was enacted on the 27th of June 1967 shall be deemed void … void … void! East Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine.
The second axis: Seeking to enhance the infrastructure for the people of Jerusalem through projects dedicated to support institutions and other projects in the Holy City. We can expand the scope of participation to include national institutions together with the Arab and Islamic governments. There are broad opportunities to establish twin relationships and partnerships between similar institutions in various educational, learning, economic, cultural and social sectors. There are also extensive opportunities to make a quality difference through a series of small projects that could include a large number of Arab Muslims and Christians working together. In this regard the role of businessmen from the private sector in the Arab world is vital.
The third axis: this axis has to do with creating a permanent line of communication with the people of Jerusalem to break the siege imposed on the city and its people. I would point here to the leading role played by our brothers in the 1948 areas who constantly organize visits that include thousands of people who flock to the sacred city, which is surrounded by settlement, the apartheid wall and the occupation barriers, filling its mosques, helping its markets thrive, and making its people feel they are not alone.
It is necessary, then, that we encourage whoever has the ability, particularly our brothers from the Arab and Islamic world, in addition to our Muslim and Christian brothers in Europe and America, to visit Jerusalem. This move will have political, emotional, economic and human impact. Jerusalem is of concern to us all, and no one can prevent us from having access to it. Encouraging crowds to stream towards it and making its streets and sacred sites busy will enhance the steadfastness of its people, and this will contribute to protecting and securing the city's history and heritage under the threat of being uprooted. This will remind the occupiers that the question of Jerusalem is of importance to every Arab, Muslim and Christian. I would emphasize here that a visit to a prisoner is a kind of support for him, and this does not mean in any way any sort of normalization with the jailer.
We shall always remember the saying (Hadith) by the Prophet (peace be upon him):
"Do not set out on a journey except for three Mosques, i.e. Al-Masjid-AI-Haram, the Mosque of Allah's Apostle, and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, (Mosque of Jerusalem)."
Al Aqsa Mosque was not then under the Muslim rule, but was under Roman rule. The saying (Hadith) is applicable for all times and situations.
I ask our Arab brothers to support Jerusalem and its resolute people. I quote from a saying by the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he was asked about Al Aqsa Mosque, while he ordered to visit it and perform prayer. He said: "He who cannot visit it should gift it with some oil to light its lamps." Material support to enhance our people's resoluteness may take the form of olive oil, fuel or anything else.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) came by night to the sacred home (Jerusalem) during the Isra and Mi'raj incident, where he led other prophets in prayer in the Al Aqsa Mosque while it was under Roman – not Muslim – rule.
Before that, the Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed for years in Mecca, praying at the Ka'aba while there were tens of idols. This was not an acknowledgement of pagan legitimacy, but rather a confirmation of his legitimate right in Al Masjid Al Haram (the Sacred Mosque).
When he decided to visit Al Masjid Al Haram (the Sacred Mosque) following the Hijra [Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD], he was forced to get approval from the Quraish disbelievers who were in control of Mecca. No one would dare say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) normalized relations with them. So, as we said, the visit with a prisoner is not normalization with the jailer.
Was the visit to Jerusalem and Al Aqsa outlawed by any Muslim jurist when they were under Crusader rule?
Did Muslims stop visiting Jerusalem during the British Mandate when the British High Commissioner was residing on the top of Jabal Al-Mukaber that towers over Al Aqsa Mosque, supervising and administering the Holy City?
Again, we confirm that a prisoner visit does not mean normalization with the jailer.