Erdogan urges ‘100s of thousands’ Muslims to visit Jerusalem in support of Palestinians

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The Turkish president has described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “racist” and “discriminatory,” as he urged Turks and other Muslims to visit Jerusalem “more often” to support the Palestinian struggle for an independent state.

Claiming that the decade-long Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip “has no place in humanity,” Recep Erdogan called Israeli practices against Palestinians “racist” and “discriminatory.”

The “only solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian issue is to establish “a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 1967,” Erdogan stressed speaking in Istanbul at the International Forum on Al-Quds Waqfs.

The fate of Jerusalem is one of the key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Both Israel and the Palestinians want the historic religious cradle as their capital.

The United Nations considers East Jerusalem to be occupied Palestinian territory but hopes that one day Jerusalem can become the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine.

While both Israel and Palestine declared Jerusalem as their capital, Palestinians usually refer to East Jerusalem as the capital of their independent state, implying that if Jerusalem is one day shared between the states, West Jerusalem could serve as the capital of Israel.

Israel, however, refuses to share custody of the Holy City which it annexed in 1967. With President Donald Trump in office, Israel hopes that Washington would be the first major power to recognize its claims to Jerusalem and abandon the decades-long policy of keeping an American embassy in Tel Aviv.

As Trump and the White House press ahead to help Israel reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, Erdogan said Turkey would continue to support “the diplomatic efforts led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

The Turkish president also called on the international community to “show needed care” on Jerusalem-related issues.

“Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is holy for all three divine religions,” Erdogan said, nothing however that the city remains a symbol of the Palestinian struggle that Turks ought to support.

“Both in terms of our religion and historical responsibility, Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us. We will keep making efforts for Quds to turn into a city of peace.”

To aid the Palestinian cause, Erdogan urged more Muslims to visit Jerusalem.

“We, as Muslims, should be visiting Al-Quds [Jerusalem] more often,” Erdogan said, noting that only 26,000 Turks visited the Holy city in 2015, as compared to 600,000 Americans and 400,000 Russians visitors.

Mass pilgrimage and “hundreds of thousands” of Muslim visitors “would be the greatest support to our brothers there,” he noted.

The Turkish president also took the time to criticize the Israeli push to limit the Muslim calls to prayer (adhan), especially in the early morning hours through loudspeakers.

“If you have faith in your religion, why are you afraid of the adhan?” Erdogan asked. “We will not allow the adhan to be stopped in Al-Quds.”

In March, the Israeli Knesset approved a preliminary reading of a bill which would ban the use of loudspeakers in Israel between 11pm and 7am.

The draft law must, however, still be validated in the Knesset.

New Hamas charter

About the new charter that Hamas released recently, Erdogan said: “I find it a significant step over the negotiation process between Hamas and Fatah.

“The document went beyond the ordinary. I hope Palestine’s fight for rights and freedoms will get stronger from now on,” he added.

The new document no longer pledges Israel’s destruction, and accepts a Palestinian state along the borders set before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The Gaza Strip-based movement also accepted the Palestine Liberation Organization as the “national framework” for Palestinians.

Hamas leaders have previously floated the idea of accepting a long-term truce with Israel that established a Palestinian state along the 1967 border, but the latest announcement meant it became official Hamas policy.

Israeli move to limit call to prayer

The Turkish president also severely criticized moves by some Israeli lawmakers to limit the Muslim call to prayer, or adhan, made through loudspeakers.

Erdogan said it was definitely against freedom of religion and conscience and asked: “If you have faith in your religion, why are you afraid of the adhan?”

In an address to Israeli authorities, Erdogan said: “We will not allow the adhan to be stopped in Al-Quds.”

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in March approved a preliminary reading of a controversial bill. It would ban the use of loudspeakers to amplify the adhan — in Israel and Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem — between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The bill proposes fines on violators ranging between the equivalent of $1,300 and $2,600.

Second and third readings of the draft law must still be approved by a majority of Knesset members before the legislation becomes law.

The Al-Quds forum will continue on Tuesday with more sessions on various topics.

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