Screwdriver Attack at Israeli Embassy in Jordan over Aqsa Mosque Tensions

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Sunday in Amman, the capital of Jordan, two workers arrived at the Israeli Embassy in the tony Rabiyeh neighborhood. One of them attacked the Israeli security guard with a screwdriver, lightly injuring him. The guard appears to have shot his assailant. Somehow the building’s landlord also ended up dead.

The attack at the Israeli Embassy came after a week of building tension in the region over the Aqsa Mosque on the temple mount.

First, three Palestinian-Israeli gunmen staged an attack at the mosque on July 14, killing two Druze guards.

Then the Israeli government announced that they would put metal detectors at the Aqsa Mosque.

That move, seen as a form of desecration of the holy site, provoked big demonstrations and late last week several Palestinians at rallies were shot dead by Israeli police. 8 people are dead over the weekend.

On Friday Jordanians staged demonstrations in Amman.

This sort of thing can weaken and disrupt the Jordanian government, which has a peace treaty with Israel. The 2009 Israeli attack on Gaza provoked huge demonstrations in Tunisia, establishing networks of protesters and expertise in mobilizing that were deployed in 2010-2011 to make the Tunisian Revolution.

Cooler heads are urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reconsider the metal detectors, which are causing more deaths than they might prevent.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 and has pursued an aggressive colonization policy that has aimed at emptying East Jerusalem of Palestinians and surrounding the remaining families and cutting them off from the West Bank. The Palestinians are under martial law and ruled by the Israeli military in one of the world’s last truly colonial enclaves, deprived of most basic human rights (including to their own property). Ultimately, Israeli officials hope to ethnically cleanse the 2.4 million Palestinians from the West Bank and replace them with Israeli colonizers. These actions are illegal in international law. Moreover, if you try to steal everything over decades from 2.5 million people while subjecting them to foreign military occupation, there is likely to be trouble over it.

The temple mount is where Israeli Jews allege the old Temple of Solomon was, but it was torn down by the Chaldeans or Neo-Babylonians in 587 BCE. Then the Iranian Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the Great and his successors let the Jews rebuild the temple. It lasted until the revolt of 66-70 CE, a little over thirty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, against the Roman Empire. The Romans tore down the second temple in 70 CE and expelled Jews from Jerusalem, renaming it Aelia Capitolina and constructing huge temples all over the place to Jupiter and Venus, making it a pagan city until the 300s. After the Roman Empire turned Christian under Constantine and his successors, they continued the formal ban on Jews in Jerusalem and made it a Christian city. Briefly, in 614-629, it was ruled by Sasanian Iran. Then the Roman Empire recovered it under Heraclius for a few years until it fell to the Muslim Arabs in 637.

Muslims ruled Jerusalem for most of the succeeding 1,281 years, with a hiatus during the Crusades. For Jews and Christians, it is natural to associate Jerusalem with Jews, and sure it has been intimately intertwined with Jewish spirituality. But the city existed for millennia before there were any Jews, having been a Canaanite settlement dedicated to the god Shalem. And it wasn’t actually ruled by Jews for all that long (Egypt, Iran, Rome and the Muslims also ruled it).

Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam and Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad spiritually journeyed there and ascended into heaven from the temple mount. Muslims have for centuries been stopping off in Jerusalem for a pilgrimage (ziyarah) before or after the Hajj or major pilgrimage.

The Aqsa Mosque is extremely important for Muslim spirituality.

After Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, Jewish millenarians began dreaming of tearing down the Aqsa Mosque and replacing it with the Third Temple.

Your own personal security is wrought up with this issue. Ambassador Peter Galbraith once observed Iraq in 2006 that the most successful terrorist strike in modern times killed no one. Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia blew up the Golden Dome or Askariya Shrine in Samarra, which is holy to Shiite Muslims. This insult to religious feelings during holy days set off a Sunni-Shiite civil war that by summer of 2006 was killing 3000 people a month and which led the Shiites to ethnically cleanse the capital of Baghdad of Sunni Muslims. That civil war in turn laid some of the foundation for the embrace in 2014 by Iraq’s Sunni Arabs of ISIL, and their virtual secession from the country.

Religious shrines are not ordinary spaces. Most Western journalists, academics and military officers are secular-minded and cannot imagine the passions provoked by attacks on holy sites.

And the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is the Big Kahuna of sensitive world religious sites.

This is a place that could set off decades of violence and inflame the passions of 1.6 billion Muslims. In fact, the Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque was cited by Usama Bin Laden as one of the three reasons for which al-Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center, which killed nearly 3000 Americans.


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2 Responses

  1. Bruno Latour, a French polymath, put together a thought, experiential exhibit in 2002 at the innovative German effort ZKM. The proceedings were published by MIT press with over a hundred contributors. The book when it came out was over $1,000.

    Here is an abstract that describes the project


    Iconoclasm is when there is a clear intent for the destruction or the demise of an image. Iconoclash is when there is an uncertainty about what is committed when an image –from science, religion or art- is being smashed. The paper presents the rationale and the scene of an exhibit taking place in Germany and which aims at turning iconoclasm –and more generally the critical gesture- into a topic rather than a ressource. It contrasts the different pattern of confidence and diffidence into image in the three contrasted realm of science, religion and art. It offers a classification of the iconoclastic gestures and introduces to the catalog entries.

    Here is a 2015 post that was extracted from the catalog. There is more on this link with details on each area.

    a rough classification of the iconoclastic gestures

    Now that we have some idea of how the material for the show and the catalog has been selected, it might be useful for the reader as well as for the visitor to benefit from a classification of the iconoclashes presented here. It is of course impossible to propose a standardized, agreed-upon typology for such a complex and elusive phenomenon.

    It would even seem to run counter to the spirit of the show. As I have claimed, somewhat boldly: are we not after a re-description of iconophilia and iconoclasm in order to produce even more uncertainty about which kind of image worship/image smashing one is faced with? How could we neatly pull them apart? And yet it might be useful to briefly present the five types of iconoclastic gestures reviewed in this show, for no better reason than to gauge the extent of the ambiguity triggered by the visual puzzles we have been looking for.

    The principle behind this admittedly rough classification is to look at:

    – the inner goals of the icon smashers,
    – the roles they give to the destroyed images,
    – the effects this destruction has on those who cherished
    – those images,
    – how this reaction is interpreted by the iconoclasts,
    – and, finally, the effects of destruction on the destroyer’s own feelings.

    This list is rudimentary but sturdy enough, I think, to guide one through the many examples assembled here.

    That came from this link

    link to

    An article on the exhibit, which was published as the intro to the book is on line here

    What is iconoclash?

  2. This whole situation has many roots. One of the strongest, though not the oldest, is the efforts by the West to exploit the sectarian divisions in the Arab world, notably from Sykes Picot on to the present day. Only its unification through some supra-divisional event, possibly connected with the Aqsa mosque, will turn the tide. But it could do so in a moment which is probably why Israel has decided to abandon metal detectors. However, there will almost inevitably come another, particularly as secularist lifestyles advance and the monarchies weaken from the economic effects of falling fuel use. Netanyahu and his kind are not capable of treading carefully when it comes to the religious sensibilities of Muslims since doing so would imply an equality, stripping the Judaic religion of its exclusivity and acknowledging it simply as one among others, and the conviction of religious exclusivity justifies a wealth of questionable actions, vide Phillip II and the rape of South America, and the fate of indigenous Palestinians today.

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