Placing East Jerusalem under the MIDF

It’s strikingly anomalous that the UNSC or the UNGA have never considered an international task force for East Jerusalem.

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Published by AstroAwani, image by AstroAwani.

A Multinational Islamic Defence Force (MIDF) of frontliner Arab nations in the initial stage can fulfil an equally strategic and pivotal role beyond serving as a rapid reaction force against Zionist aggression and genocide. 

The advocacy of a MIDF by EMIR Research (as exemplified in previous articles) has been to ensure that:

  1. the tide of the Zionist genocidal design can be pushed back/repelled; 
  2. the two-state solution can be put on track again; and concomitantly and finally
  3. a full-blown regional war that can escalate into a World War 3 is avoided. 

At the same time, it can’t be strongly emphasised enough that there’s also the imperative and call and need for a MIDF to step in and replace Zionist occupation in East Jerusalem to safeguard and uphold the sanctity, integrity and dignity of the holy sites (Islamic and Christian) – most prominently the more than 1300-year-old blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This is also central to the premise for the establishment of a MIDF.

Al-Aqsa is situated within the larger compound known as the Al-Haram ash-Sharif/The Noble Sanctuary (first built in the 8th century, circa between 685 to 705 AD or thereabouts). 

It was on this site that Prophet Muhammad made the night journey and ascension (Al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj) as revealed in the Holy Quran (sura Al-Isra 17:1).

As such, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only a cultural and social icon of the Palestinians and a conspicuous landmark in East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine (Dawlat Filastin). 

More importantly, it’s also foundational and integral to the Islamic faith of the Palestinians as the indigenous residents of the land. 

And, by extension, of the worldwide ummah.

With such a complex of intertwined dimensions, and as recognised and reinforced under international law, the outrage and anger of Palestinians and of Muslims globally is understandable and justified, no less. 

The regular gross and blatant infractions and violations of fundamental and basic human rights by the Zionist occupation forces in East Jerusalem in the form of beatings, gassing, and other forms of assaults on worshippers deepens the sense of injustice, oppression and helplessness of the Palestinians who also have to endure much more (both in qualitative and quantitative terms) in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Again, it’s not simply limited to human rights “only”. 

But the situation in East Jerusalem, especially, with respect to the Al-Aqsa Mosque evokes very strong religious and confessional sentiments that’re – as alluded to before – not limited only to the Palestinians and the Arabs but the worldwide Muslim ummah too. 

More so when we see that the deliberate and unilateral acts of provocation (to say the least) by the Zionist occupation forces are intensified during the holy month of Ramadan – a time when the devotional piety of Muslims are heightened (as embodied by the daily Teraweh night prayers). 

This means yet even more weightier acts of sacrilege committed by the Zionist occupation forces such as the violent raids and encroachments of the inner sanctuary of the Mosque in order to expel the worshippers through the use of stun grenades and beatings. 

Last year’s incidents during Ramadan drew unqualified opprobrium from the Kingdom of Jordan, the official custodians of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites (both Islamic and Christian) in East Jerusalem. 

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the incursion (already illegal under international law) “in the strongest terms [and warned] … of the consequences of [the] dangerous escalation and [unequivocally] held Israel responsible for the safety of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) on its part warned Israel that such a move “exceeds all red lines and will lead to a large explosion” (“Israeli forces carry out violent raid at Al-Aqsa Mosque”, Al-Jazeera, April 5, 2023). 

Ramadan clashes have worsened in recent years, and especially now under the extremist and far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu. 

This year saw Zionist occupation forces beating younger worshippers to prevent their entry to Al-Aqsa for prayers to mark the start of Ramadan (“Israel blocks thousands of Palestinians from visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque”, Al Jazeera, March 15, 2024).

National security minister Itamar Ben Gvir had been pushing plans to completely exclude the presence of younger worshipers from Al-Aqsa – which is deemed as simply another act of provocation by the Zionist entity. 

It’s already heinous enough that the Zionist entity breaches international law with the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem. 

And to top it off, the Knesset in 1980 declared under what’s known as the Basic Law of Jerusalem – in formalising the annexation – that the entirety of Jerusalem, “whole and united”, is the “one, indivisible and eternal capital” of the State of Israel. 

In response, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 478 (1980) affirmed that the enactment of this so-called “Basic Law” constituted a violation of international law and determined that all legislative and administrative actions aimed at altering the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem are null and void. UNSC Resolution 478 also reaffirmed that Israel has no right to the acquisition of East Jerusalem.

It’s telling that throughout the decades, despite the repeated UNSC and UN General Assembly (GA) Resolutions regarding Israel’s status as occupying power and the illegal occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem together with the horrendous human rights crimes committed, there’s been no political will to send an international security and peacekeeping force to be stationed in the holy city. The only UN force closest to this is, of course, none other than the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) established in the aftermath of the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948. 

The UNTSO has only played a very limited role in subsequent Arab-Israeli Wars, i.e., maintaining the same responsibility as observers of ceasefires and of supervising truce agreements, nothing more. 

So that when the Zionists occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the UNTSO wasn’t called upon to assume the added responsibility of having an enlarged presence to function for security purposes in the holy city (i.e., in place of the occupying forces). 

However, the UNTSO can readily assume the position and function as such. It just needs to be expanded. In fact, the UNTSO is based and headquartered in Jerusalem.

Or it can provide the nucleus/core for a new UN force equipped (legally, militarily) for the task – to manage and administer the security situation in East Jerusalem.  It’ll also be positioned in the West Bank and Gaza. 

In EMIR Research article, “Responsibility to protect – the strategic role of the Multinational Islamic Defence Force” (April 5, 2024), it’s mentioned that such a UN task force can operate first and the numbers can be readily bolstered by drawing from the pre-existing African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) under the mandate of the UNSC. 

Joint-operationality with a MIDF will take place only when the latter is fully mobilised (which would take longer to be operationally-ready). 

Other than the UNTSO, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) also fulfils peacekeeping and security requirements. 

Practically speaking, due to its mission, nature and size, UNIFIL more closely resembles the specific establishment of a MIDF. 

Established and mandated under UNSC Resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of March 19, 1978, UNIFIL is stationed on Lebanon’s border with Israel and has around 10,500 peacekeepers from 48 contributing member-countries.

According to its website, UNIFIL maintains an intensive level of operational activities amounting to approximately 14,500 activities per month, round-the-clock.

Approximately, seventeen percent of the activities are carried out jointly with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). UNIFIL is also complemented by a five-vessel Maritime Task Force.

Its operational duties were initially to:

  • confirm the withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from southern Lebanon; 
  • restore peace and security;
  • assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

Additionally, UNSC Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006 mandated UNIFIL to:

  • monitor the cessation of hostilities [substitute Zionist occupation forces and settler violence].
  • accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces [substitute Zionist occupation forces]. as they deploy throughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as the IDF withdraws from southern Lebanon [substitute the West Bank and the Gaza].
  • coordinate its activities referred to in the preceding paragraph (above) with the Government of Lebanon [substitute the PA] and the Government of Israel.
  • extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons [substitute the right of return of Palestinian refugees].
  • assist the LAF [substitute the security forces of the PA, including of Hamas] in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in the area.
  • assist the Government of Lebanon, at its request, in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon [substitute the West Bank and the Gaza] without its consent of arms or related materiel [substitute the West Bank settlements].

It’s strikingly anomalous and sheer inconsistency, therefore, that the UNSC or the UNGA have never even considered a similar international task force for the West Bank and Gaza and, what more, East Jerusalem

To reiterate from previous articles, the role of UNIFIL as enumerated thereby can be readily assumed, substituted and replicated by a MIDF.

Finally, a MIDF would be deployed with greater effectiveness due to the nature of the mission as conditioned by geographical proximity and, not least, religious mandate, responsibility and conviction. 

Jason Loh Seong Wei is Head of Social, Law & Human Rights at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focussed on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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