Incitement over Temple Mount Leads to Palestinian Violence, Again

What you might have missed by relying on mainstream news coverage of recent Palestinian-Israeli developments— especially Arab attacks against Jews on or near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year):

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas called Jewish history in Jerusalem a “delusional myth” according to a report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). The PA leader’s remarks—made in an Aug. 1, 2015 speech to Muslim figures—occurred the same day as a narrator on PA state-run TV labeled stories about Jewish history in Jerusalem “delusions and legends.”

This ahistorical, anti-Jewish revisionism has been followed by violent attacks in Jerusalem on Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount. Abbas’ allegations and those in media he controls violate the letter and the spirit of the 1993 Oslo Israeli-Palestinian accords and repeat a pattern that frequently has accompanied anti-Israel violence.

The latest incitement—echoing an old libel by Palestinian Arab leadership to the effect that “the Jews are attacking al-Aqsa”—was followed by organized violence against Jews on the Temple Mount that broke out on September 13, during Rosh Hashanah. The attacks (continuing at the time of this writing) include the use of gasoline bombs, rocks and fireworks by Palestinian Arabs and have resulted in the murder of one Israeli man so far and dozens more injured.

In his August 1 speech denying the 3,000 year-old Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Abbas claimed that Israel imagined it could “by brute force” “invent a history.” PA media elaborated on this imagined conspiracy, denying any Jewish connection to the land of Israel, eretz Yisrael, while inciting Palestinian Arabs:

“The story of the Temple is nothing but a collection of legends and myths for political reasons. They [Jews] have set Palestine and Jerusalem as their goal, and have used the myths in the service of their declared goals of occupation and imperialism. In the spirit of the delusions and legends, they try to get rid of the Al-Aqsa [mosque] and establish their so-called ‘Temple’—the greatest crime and forgery in history.”

Palestinian denial of Jewish history chronic and dangerous
In claiming that Jews held designs to “rid” Jerusalem of al-Aqsa mosque, located on Judaism’s holiest site, Temple Mount, PA media were engaging in the latest in a long pattern of such falsehoods that often incited Arab violence against Jews. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) notes in a lengthy report on the subject, “’Al-Aqsa is in danger’ is a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and eventually, the State of Israel” (The ‘Al-Aksa is in Danger’ Libel: The History of a Lie, Nadav Shragai).

JCPA notes that the “birthfather” of this enduring libel was a future Adolf Hitler collaborator, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. In 1924, al-Husseini falsely claimed al-Aqsa mosque was in danger from Jews to help him raise funds for the building’s restoration. The mosque, in recent decades described as Islam’s third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina, had languished in the latter part of Jerusalem’s rule by the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917).

In 1929, the Mufti used lies alleging Jewish designs on the mosque to inflame an already organized and armed Palestinian Arab populace—leading to attacks on Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods and nearby Jewish communities that killed 133 Jewish men, women and children and wounded 339.

Use of the al-Aqsa libel to stir violence against Jews has been repeated many times since. For example, in 1969 a deranged Protestant fundamentalist named Dennis Michael Rohan attempted to set fire to the mosque. Not only did Palestinian leaders and press claim Jews committed the arson, Muslim bystanders attacked Israeli firemen attempting to put out the blaze.

In 2000, while engaging in U.S.-led peace talks with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat simultaneously was arming and preparing for the second intifada. A Sept. 28, 2000 visit to the Temple Mount by then-Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon provided what senior Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti called a “good excuse” for outbreaks of organized violence and terrorist attacks that would, over the course of five years, murder more than 1,000 Israelis, mostly non-combatants, Jews and Arabs alike, and foreign visitors.

Israel’s Islamic Movement stokes tension
For the last several decades, incitement at al-Aqsa and Temple Mount has been led by the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which, with financing from Persian Gulf Arabs, has bused in and paid stipends to Muslim Arabs to curse, threaten, and assault non-Muslim visitors. Such intimidation and attacks have prompted Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to outlaw two of the North Branch’s groups, the Morabiton and Morabitat (“Israel Bans Two Muslim Activist Groups From Temple Mount,” Ha’aretz, Sep. 9, 2015).
Abbas’ denial of Jerusalem’s Jewish history and Palestinian incitement to attack Jews violate numerous pledges made since Oslo. Yet, sidestepping and violating pacts he helped forge seems to be one of the PA leader’s tactics. For example, Abbas reportedly seeks to cancel the Oslo agreements, according to a plan drafted by longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (“Abbas set to annul Oslo accords, declare Palestine a state under occupation,” Times of Israel, Sep. 7, 2015).
By rejecting the possibility of achieving Palestinian statehood via direct negotiations with Israel and resulting in peace between “Palestine” and Israel as a Jewish state Abbas—who has served 10 years of a single, elected four-year term—may be giving Palestinian Arabs what they want. A poll in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, conducted from June 7 to 19 by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, shows a plurality prefer “reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea” over a “two-state solution.”
The American novelist William Faulkner famously said “the past is not dead, it’s not even past.” When it comes to rejecting peace agreements, denying Jewish connection to the land, and use of the “al-Aqsa is under attack” libel it appears that for Palestinian leadership the past is not only prologue, but also a playbook.

Palestinian Media Watch’s report on Abbas’ remarks can be found here.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report on the al-Aqsa libel can be found here.

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