Informed Comment / Apil 15, 2023
Ann Arbor – Quds (Jerusalem) Day is commemorated on the last Friday of Ramadan, and was held yesterday. “Al-Quds” is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, meaning “the Holy.” Revolutionary Iran established this custom, and some of the biggest Quds Day crowds gathered in Tehran. Demonstrations were held, however, all over the Muslim world. In Jerusalem itself, Jordan said that 250,000 Palestinians gathered for worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the Palestinians of Gaza by video, underscoring Iran’s role as the leading supporter of Palestinians of a fundamentalist orientation (a minority– most Palestinians are secular-minded).
By backing Israel to the hilt and basically telling the Palestinians to drop dead, the United States has lost influence in the Muslim world, where the Palestinian cause is popular among the people. The US is not only dedicated to making Palestinian lives miserable but it has also pivoted away from the Middle East toward Ukraine and Taiwan. This combination of a muted role in the region and a completely one-sided approach to a key flashpoint has increasingly robbed Washington of influence. So it was the Iranian president who spoke by video to Palestinians in the region.
AFP Arabic reports that rallies for Palestine and for Jerusalem as its capital were held in Iran’s capital, Tehran, and were attended by thousands of people. Demonstrations were also held in Tabriz, Hamadan and other cities. Among their banners, one said, “Palestine is the center of the unity of the Muslim world.” With regard to emotional investments, this sentiment is certainly accurate.
In the Dahiyeh district of East Beirut, Lebanon, Palestinians from the Burj Barajneh refugee camp came out to demonstrate. These refugees were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel by militant Zionists (Israeli nationalists) and were never allowed to return. Their property is now owned by European Jews. The major political force in Dahiyeh is the Shiite party-militia, Hezbollah, the leader of which, Hassan Nasrallah came out in support of the Palestinians.
In Gaza, thousands of demonstrators protested the repeated Israeli storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan. These Israeli incursions were ordered by Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir in order to facilitate the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound by members of a small Jewish sect. The mainstream rabbis in Israel have ruled that it is not permitted for Israeli Jews to step foot on what they call the “temple mount,” though there is no evidence that the temple of Solomon ever stood on that site.
Jerusalem is the third holiest site in the world for the 1.8 billion Muslims, who believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended from there to the precincts of paradise, where he glimpsed the angel of God.
Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the author of, among others, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam