Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has announced that Palestinian leadership will freeze all contact with Israel, including crucial security coordination. On Friday, a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis, including a 70-year-old man, in their home in the West Bank. On Facebook, the attacker posted: “They desecrate Al-Aqsa & you sleep. They declared war on Allah & all I have is a knife.” Hamas applauded the attack as “heroic,” and a Fatah-affiliated militia also praised it. On Sunday night, a Jordanian man stabbed a security guard with a screwdriver at the Israeli embassy in Amman. On Monday, yet another terrorist stabbed an Israeli in the neck and torso, and then told police he “did it for al-Aqsa.” Meanwhile, violence rages across East Jerusalem and the West Bank as Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli police. Three Palestinians have already died. Hundreds are injured. More bad news arrives each hour.
What in the world is going on?
The current spate of violence started last week, when Palestinian terrorists smuggled guns into the Temple Mount. The guns were then used to murder two Israeli-Arab police officers guarding one of the entrances to the al-Aqsa mosque. Afterward, the attackers ran back to the Temple Mount plaza to engage in an open gun battle. (This was all the more shocking since the Temple Mount, home to al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, is considered the third-holiest site for Muslims and the holiest site for Jews.)
In response, the Israelis temporarily closed the Temple Mount for a police investigation. The site was later re-opened with metal detectors and security cameras installed at its entrances. That Israeli response — not the Palestinian smuggling of weapons, not the Palestinian attack, not the shooting that followed — was then deemed an outrageous desecration of the holy site by Palestinians and their leaders.
It’s worth noting that metal detectors and other security measures are common at holy sites around the world. Everyone passes through them to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, for example. It is also worth noting that the status quo at the Temple Mount discriminates against Jews, who are forbidden from praying there. In 2014, Abbas even called on Palestinians to prevent all Jews from entering the Temple Mount. Before 1967, the Jordanians did just that, blocking Jews from their faith’s holiest site.
But no matter. Abbas’s Fatah party told its followers to “Set out for the al-Aqsa Mosque” on Facebook, initiating riots and clashes with Israeli police. Videos, however, showed large crowds of Palestinians chanting slogans against President Abbas, who is widely perceived as weak. Eager to fight that perception, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, chaired by Abbas, escalated the situation by declaring Wednesday a “day of rage,” calling for mass demonstrations at al-Aqsa and throughout the suburbs of Jerusalem. Abbas has since placed responsibility for the resulting violence on the Israeli government, of course.
Remember, these are the Palestinian “moderates.”
By pretending that the al-Aqsa mosque is under Israeli attack, Palestinian political and religious leaders have deliberately drummed up senseless violence.
Senior PA clerics have also done their share to stoke tensions and incite violence, as the Middle East Media Research Institute has shown over the last few days. PA and Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein banned Muslim worshippers from passing through the metal detectors on the way to al-Aqsa. “The prayer of anyone entering the al-Aqsa mosque via the metal detectors is null and void,” he said last Monday. On Thursday, the PA’s minister of religion, Yousef Ida’is, declared that, “The continued damage to the holy places requires exceptional activity by the Muslim Arabs.” The words “exceptional activity” are rather open to interpretation; others aren’t. On its official Facebook page, a Fatah branch posted: “Rage Jerusalem — the Intifada will continue, the revolution will continue to Jerusalem.”
On Friday, the city’s Muslim leadership closed all mosques, telling parishioners to go to the Temple Mount in order to form a volatile mob.
Seemingly every PA official has chimed in. “Israeli intervention in the affairs of al-Aqsa constitutes aggression against the Muslims’ religious and political rights,” the PA’s chief Sharia justice said. “The occupation’s installation of metal detectors and cameras is part of repeated attempts by Israel to take over al-Aqsa,” added Jerusalem district governor Adnan al-Husseini. Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s powerful Central Committee, called for marches across the Arab world to protest America’s support of Israel.
Hamas, the terror group governing Gaza, has also made its voice heard. It has congratulated the terrorists who carried out the original shooting near al-Aqsa, and called for more riots. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, went on television to get his message out: “I urge all members of the Islamic ummah to make Friday into a turning point for Arab willpower, when the people will launch an intifada in every city to defend [al-Aqsa].” Palestinian media has been flooded with fiery images calling on Muslims to “Arise and Resist.” Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and a religious leader for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, told his followers on Twitter that “The Jihad will Continue” in reference to the al-Aqsa conflict.
All of this sends an urgent and clear message to the Palestinian people: Riot. By pretending that the al-Aqsa mosque is under Israeli attack, Palestinian political and religious leaders have deliberately drummed up senseless violence.
How is it, after all, that murder on the Temple Mount does not defile the holy site, but metal detectors and cameras around its entrance do? Mecca, to take one example, is surveilled by 5,000 CCTV cameras. Besides, the Temple Mount must be accessible to Jews as well as Muslims; without the metal detectors, Jewish visitors might be unable to safely access their holiest site — surely an unacceptable state of affairs in the world’s one Jewish State.
For now, neither side is budging. Israel, on principle, does not want to give in to the perpetrators of the violence. Abbas and the PA cannot back down for fear of looking weak and abandoning al-Aqsa; without Israeli security cooperation, the PA is now particularly vulnerable. And Hamas — well Hamas doesn’t mind the violence one bit.
If this turns into a full-fledged intifada, Palestinians will likely suffer most, as young men hurt and die in clashes with police, while peaceful men and women must endure enhanced security measures. This would truly be tragic — and it would be the fault of a Palestinian leadership class that is content to sacrifice its own people for media attention.
Such demagoguery is nothing new, of course. Palestinian leaders have been making false claims of Jewish threats to the al-Aqsa mosque since 1929. For 88 years, they have beaten the same conspiratorial drum. For 88 years it has been a call for war and a call for the murder of Jews. For 88 years — at least — the Palestinian people have been treated as pawns by a leadership more interested in protecting its own power than in helping them. It’s long past time for them and us to see through the charade.