Anger & outrage at UN meeting over Ben Gvir storming Al-Aqsa compound

3/14/2023 4:55 PM

The Palestinians and several Muslim countries condemned Israel at an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound by an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister.

Earlier in the week, a video showed Israel's far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It’s the first time since 2017 that an Israeli minister has gone to the site, known by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

The visit sparked condemnation internationally and was seen as an act of provocation that could trigger violence in the region.  

The emergency UN session was called jointly by the Palestinians, the United Arab Emirates, China, France and Malta.

Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour insisted Ben-Gvir, a West Bank settler leader who draws inspiration from a racist rabbi, is pursuing “his extremist view, to end the historic status quo.”  

The status quo is the decades-old law that allows only Muslims to worship at the compound.  

He urged the Security Council and all countries to stop this from happening again and “to uphold international law” otherwise “Palestinian people will.”

Countries unite in condemnation

Khaled Khiare, the UN assistant secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said the incident is “seen as particularly inflammatory,” given the minister’s “past advocacy for changes in the status quo.”

UAE representative to the UN Mohamed Abushahab said his country “strongly condemns the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister."

Jordanian Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, the country that is the custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites, also said the storming was a provocative move that violates the historic and legal status of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood underscored President Joe Biden support for the status quo.

“In this spirit, we oppose any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historical status quo that are unacceptable,” he said.

“We expect the government of Israel to follow through on that commitment,” he added.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan criticised the Security Council for holding the emergency meeting.

Ben-Gvir’s history of extremism

For years Ben-Gvir was considered too extreme — even by right-wing politicians. But his party became the third largest in the country, which saw Benjamin Netanyahu bring him into what has become Israel's most extreme government in history.  

Ben-Gvir once belonged to the Kach party, an ultra-nationalist movement later outlawed as a terrorist organisation. He has been convicted of incitement to racism and once called for the expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens.

The far-right politician regularly makes proactive visits to Palestinian neighbourhoods and was recently pictured pulling a gun on Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.  

Ultra-nationalists and religious extremists regularly pray at the Al-Aqsa site, despite the decades-long consensus not to allow the practice.

Some groups have openly stated their desire to destroy Muslim buildings inside the compound and build what is known as the ‘Third Temple.’


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