Israel is bracing for terrorist attacks ahead of the Jewish High Holidays. And it is incumbent upon international press outlets to highlight the looming danger.
Israeli officials, the Times of Israel reported on Sept. 13, have “concrete warnings” that terrorist groups are planning to incite violence in and around the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. A security assessment has been presented to top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai.
Citing an unnamed Israeli security source, Kan news has reported that police are issuing restraining orders to known Jewish and Arab agitators to keep away from the Temple Mount during the upcoming High Holidays, which stretch from late September through the middle of October.
Israeli officials are right to be concerned.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), among others, has documented, the Temple Mount has long been a wellspring for incitement to anti-Jewish violence by Islamists who seek to deny the Jewish people’s religious and historical connections to the land. Indeed, Palestinian movements like Hamas and Fatah routinely broadcast propaganda, both in their official media and even in their educational curricula, with this objective in mind.
Perhaps most infamously, several Palestinian leaders and movements have employed the so-called “al-Aqsa libel” to incite terrorist attacks. This decades-old lie consists of the claim that Jews seek to destroy or damage the al-Aqsa mosque, which is located on the Temple Mount. The founding father of the Palestinian Arab movement, Amin al-Husseini, made such claims in 1929, inciting anti-Jewish pogroms which murdered 133 men, women and children and injured 339 others.
The libel has been used on numerous other occasions, including in a 2015 speech by Palestinian Authority (P.A.) President Mahmoud Abbas, shortly before the Jewish High Holidays. Abbas called the “story of the Temple nothing but a collection of legends and myths,” exhorting that the Jews were trying to “get rid of the al-Aqsa and establish their so-called ‘Temple’—the greatest crime and forgery in history.” Violence soon followed, with Palestinian Arab terrorists using guns, knives, rocks and gasoline bombs to murder and maim Israelis.
Recent weeks have also seen attacks at other Jewish holy sites, such as the Joseph’s Tomb which was vandalized in August 2022. Palestinian rioters attacked Jewish worshipers who had to be protected by the Israel Defense Forces, who killed a Palestinian terrorist named Waseem Khalifa.
Religious holidays often see an increase in terrorist attacks in Israel. As CAMERA’s Ricki Hollander has highlighted, the Muslim holiday of Ramadan tends to coincide with the P.A.’s official media outlets promoting anti-Jewish violence. For example, during Ramadan 2021, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) documented how riots spread, coinciding with calls to “defend Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.” Jewish holy sites, including Rachel’s Tomb, were attacked.
Other factors, both external and internal, indicate that violence might be likely.
The P.A., the entity that rules the West Bank, is losing control of key towns and villages.
P.A. President Abbas is unpopular and has grown increasingly autocratic, imprisoning and reportedly torturing critics and dissidents. A March 2022 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 73% of Palestinians want him to resign. Currently 86 and in the 17th year of a single-elected four-year term, Abbas has steadfastly refused to hold elections.
Towns like Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Tulkarm, among others, have seen both increased disorder—and commensurate support for groups that rival Abbas’s Fatah movement. Support for rival, Iranian-backed entities like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Resistance Committees has only grown. Sensing weakness, the largest rival, Hamas has held rallies, protesting what they consider to be Fatah’s “collaboration” with Israel.
For its part, Fatah has responded to the pressure by praising terrorist attacks, several of which have recently been carried out by P.A. security service operatives, as Joe Truzman, an analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has documented. Fatah has long praised terror attacks. Indeed, under Abbas, the P.A. has refused to quit paying tax-deductible salaries to those who carry them out. Yet, the increase in attacks by P.A. security forces, who are themselves tasked with maintaining order and working with Israel to thwart terrorism, is worrying. Indeed, Fatah’s own al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have been carrying out attacks as well.
The increase in terrorist activity, and the P.A.’s complicity, has led the IDF to launch Operation Breakwater, which has detained more than 1,500 suspected terrorists. Counterterror raids have been unfolding at a near-daily tempo, with several resulting in shootouts.
One such raid in Jenin, led to the death of Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11. Her death led to widespread media coverage, much of which was little more than a rush to judgement to blame the Jewish state. Yet few news reports fully discussed the background of surging terrorist activity in the West Bank.
More violence seems likely, with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid warning of a “changing reality” in Sept. 8, 2022 remarks. The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, has thwarted “hundreds” of attacks this year, he noted. Earlier in the week, Aviv Kochavi, the chief of staff of the IDF, said that “the increase in terrorism” has resulted, in part from, “a lack of governance” by the P.A. in areas that are “fertile ground for terrorism.”
Nurtured by decades of anti-Semitic incitement, the soil that Palestinian leaders have been tending seems certain to produce more anti-Jewish violence—and soon. It is incumbent upon international media to turn their attention to what could be a looming inferno.
(A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in JNS on Sept. 18, 2022)