Israel Moves to Outlaw Muslim Guards at Al-Aqsa Mosque

‘Mourabitoun’ said to be at center of recent clashes with Jewish worshippers.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Palestinian women pray inside the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount during Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City, November 14, 2014.
Palestinian women pray inside the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount during Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City, November 14, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The Public Security Ministry and other branches of Israel’s defense establishment are advancing a bill to outlaw the organization of Palestinian guards stationed on the Temple Mount to block entry by Jews. The guard corps, staffed by Muslim men and women, has often been at the center of clashes with Jewish worshippers during the past year.

The guards are called “Mourabitoun” in Arabic, a term used to describe an advance guard meant to protect Islamic holy sites from heretics. Dozens of men and women are part of the guard, and are present near the mosques on the Temple Mount – which is worshipped by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – day and night. They are funded by various Islamist parties, including some extremist groups in Israel. In many cases, the guards, particularly the females, have been involved in clashes with the Israel Police or Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Five female members of the guard have been issued orders prohibiting them from being on or near the Temple Mount, due to their involvement in previous incidents.

A bill targeting the Mourabitoun is currently being drafted on behalf of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service. Aharonovitch has also discussed the bill with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. A senior security official told Haaretz that the defense establishment has learned that the Mourabitoun guards receive a monthly salary of between 3,000 and 4,000 shekels ($776 - $1036). Some of the funds come from the Gulf States, through the occupied territories by way of couriers, and from there the money makes its way into East Jerusalem. Recently, the Shin Bet and Israel Police apprehended a courier at the Jordanian border in possession of 1 million shekels, meant for the Mourabitoun guards.

During a November 2 meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said the police and the State Prosecutor’s Office are working to stop Palestinians involved in organizing demonstrations and clashes with security forces on the Temple Mount. Danino added that “the smartest thing to do is to show how we’re stopping the funding. We recently seized roughly a million shekels. We felt a drastic change on the Temple Mount in a matter of days, the numbers [of demonstrators] went down. I think it’s an effective way to deal with this phenomenon.”

The move to criminalize the guards' activities on the Temple Mount is one of a series of steps being taken to reduce the tension on the Mount, which is considered to be the primary cause of the escalation of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem during the last month. Security officials are united in the opinion that the government must continue restricting access to the Temple Mount for Knesset members and right-wing activists, in light of the tension in Jerusalem.

Palestinian women pray outside the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound following Friday prayers in the Old City of Jerusalem, November 21, 2014. Credit: AFP

Danino said Tuesday at the Sderot Conference that Weinstein made a mistake by allowing MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) to enter the Temple Mount. “I forbade Feiglin from going up to the Mount until I no longer had backing from the attorney general. It was a mistake to allow someone up there who symbolizes changing the status quo,” said Danino. Feiglin, in response, lashed out at Danino, saying the commissioner has “failed to defend Jerusalem, and is looking for a scapegoat. I’m praying in accordance with the law.”

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