Driving the streets of the West Bank, you see Israeli-issued street signs reading, in Arabic, “Urshalaym”, the Hebrew word for Jerusalem instead of the Arabic namesake “Al-Quds”.
Like most Palestinians with West Bank IDs, I am rarely presented with the opportunity to visit Jerusalem owing to Israel’s discriminatory regulations requiring a permit issued by the District Coordination Office.
On the rare occasions that I have been able to visit Jerusalem, it has appeared foreign and has clashed with the accounts of my grandfather who would often visit it before the creation of the state of Israel.
The solace testifying that I am not a stranger was the Arabic call for prayer rebounding off the walls of the old city. It was, in a way, contesting the Israeli procedures aiming to eradicate any Palestinian linkage to the land.
Another step to colonise further
Earlier this week, the Israeli Knesset approved a preliminary reading of two versions of a bill aimed at muffling mosque calls to prayer in Jerusalem and Israel.
While its critics deem it racist and a contravention of the right of worship, the ramifications are far more intricate. They, however, will align with Israel’s ironclad efforts to belie the Palestinian register.
Israel has constantly fought the Palestinian narrative of its colonisation. They have divided us into bantustans, forced us into exile and fought our de facto existence as this bill does through muffling a traditional sound associated with the Arabic-speaking Palestinian population.
The call to prayer has been a part of Muslim culture since the rise of Islam and a part of Jerusalem since Arab presence was established in the region.
In Islam, prayer call is to designed to be a reminder, to both Muslims and non-Muslims, of the spiritual element of the religion while concurrently acting as a collective call for mobilising the congregation of Muslims.
While Israel continues to monopolise on the myth of being the “only democracy in the Middle East” its practices parallel institutions built on supremacy. Sixty-nine years ago, Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, noted in his diary “we must do everything to ensure [the Palestinians] never do return” and the strategy to prove this true has been the guardianship of a dual justice system.
The treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population as second and third-class citizens through discriminatory laws is the reification of what Gurion meant when he gestured that the Palestinians must be driven out.
Already 50 percent of the Palestinian population lives in exile, and as daily life becomes more difficult there is growing disenchantment and feelings of rejection among the younger generations.
Throughout the process of colonising Palestine, Judaizing Jerusalem has played a fundamental role in Israel’s claim for the territory.
When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir stated in 1969: “There was no such thing as Palestinians … they did not exist” she was not stating a fact but an aspiration.
The latest move to mute the call to prayer serves to further bereave the Palestinian Muslim culture from Israel, making them feel like guests in their own homes.
‘Out of sight out of mind’
Hoping to conceal the prejudice behind this move, endorsers of the legislation argue that it serves the Arab population who also complain of the noise.
The actuality is this excuse furnishes the necessary justification for the colonial ideology behind it.
It is reminiscent of the colonisation of the Americas, when in 1892 Richard Pratt notoriously suggested that to deal with the native inhabitants they must “Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”
To disallow the Palestinian Muslim community from practising the call to prayer is to obliterate Jerusalem of the cadence which reaffirms the existence of Palestinian and Muslim culture there.
As a result, visitors and Israelis are not reminded, through sound, of the the Palestinian Muslim population, rendering Meir’s quote true in their minds.
It’s a tactic of “out of sight out of mind”, except in this case it’s being connivingly utilised in the auditory sense.
It is important to note that the bill aims not to mute call for prayer in its entirety but specifically targets the dawn call to prayer.
Motti Yogev, one of the bill’s legislators, explains it as “a social-minded law that aims to protect citizens’ sleep” while supporters insist that it is to improve the conditions of life.
While the Muslim call for prayer presents a nuisance for Israel’s Jewish majority, there is the siren which echoes through the streets every week for Shabbat.
This fact is the reason Health Minister Yaakov Litzman blocked the original draft of the bill – out of concern that it would also apply to the sirens. He altered his position only after the bill was amended to apply from 11pm to 7am, and therefore targeting mosques in particular.
Despite Motti Yogev’s comment that it is done “without, God-forbid, harming anyone’s religious faith” the modification of the draft personifies Israel’s duplicity and divulges its islamophobic orientation.
It is no coincidence that the men who perform the call to prayer – muezzin – are also being ascribed of inciting violence through this function.
This citation has been repeated by Israeli officials ad nauseam when speaking of Palestinians.
The most prevailing manifestation of this ideology is the proclamation that “Palestinians teach their children to hate” which is employed as a justification for violating Palestinians’ inalienable rights.
Butchery of an identity
When an Israeli settler hovered over the bleeding body of Ahmad Manasra in Jerusalem shouting “Die, you son of a bitch, die”, he was merely reiterating a long-standing Israeli notion.
Israel not only wants to ensure the erasure of Palestinians and any resistance to it, but also wants it to happen as quietly as possible. The bill is merely a continuation of the process to erase all the scent, sound, and image of the Palestinian; and what Israel cannot get rid of, it appropriates just as it has donewith Palestinian cuisine and traditional attire.
There is an ongoing butchery of an identity and a population, and while legislatures are not hovering over a body screaming for us to die, they are in fact finding various instruments to secure our corrosion into the archives of history, and this bill is no different.
Such discriminatory practices that Israel enforces are a form of soft power intended to ethnically cleanse Palestinians through exploiting the contours of “the only democracy” in the Middle East’s judicial system.
It is necessary to note that none of these practices would be possible without the tolerance of the international community towards the human rights violations Israel commits with impunity.
Israel pursues to silence the sound of prayer, but the global community – through a silence of its own – suppressed the Palestinian call for justice long ago.
Mariam Barghouti is a Palestinian-American writer based in Ramallah. Her political commentary has been featured in the International Business Times, The New York Times, and TRT-World, among others.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.