Jihad for Jerusalem 2021: How the Media Facilitated the Delegitimization of Israel

Nowhere does history repeat itself more often than in Jerusalem and Israel. But far too many journalists covering events in the region are ignorant of the patterns. Rather than delving into the issues on which they report, they dismiss history, preferring to parrot the simplistic, propagandistic lines they hear in their echo chamber. The result is a distorted media narrative of Palestinian grievances and Israeli fault that is promoted by, and further promotes, an extremist anti-Zionist ideology that seeks the elimination of a Jewish state.

A recent case in point is the reporting on the 2021 Jihad for Jerusalem that occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This was a violent campaign that was planned well before Ramadan and evolved into a full Hamas war with Israel that extended beyond the period of Ramadan. That war, in turn, became a tool to demonize Israel in the latest round of a hostile propaganda campaign whose goal is the delegitimization and eradication of the Jewish State.  

The mainstream media failed to a) examine all the factors that contributed to the violence, including the planning, organization and encouragement of anti-Israel aggression; b) point out the history of Islamic conquest and promotion of jihad during Ramadan; or c) compare the inflammatory, anti-Israel rhetoric used to incite the 2021 jihad with the century-old pretext by Arab leaders to incite attacks on Jews.

The result was a false narrative blaming Israel with ever-changing pretexts that was amplified by anti-Zionist zealots seeking to end the existence of a Jewish state under the guise of human rights advocacy. 

How did the media fail? What did reporters miss?

Timing: Ramadan and Jihad

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam, is considered a month of jihad, not only in terms of a Muslim’s psychological inner faith but in terms of physical conquest to expand Islam’s power and reach.  Ali Gum’a, Egypt’s former mufti and a member of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars, explains:

“Ramadan in Islamic culture has not only been a month [devoted] to worshipping God and growing close to Allah the Almighty, but also a month of action and jihad in order to spread this mighty religion.”[1]

As such, Ramadan is viewed as a propitious time to wage jihad against the Jewish state.  According to Al-Ummah University Political Science Professor Adnan Abu Amer:

“The Palestinian [custom] of mobilizing for operations and intensifying them in the month of Ramadan is inspired by [Islamic] history, which is replete with wars and conquests that took place during this month, because the Muslims clearly made special efforts to carry out attacks then… Every year, at the beginning of Ramadan, the military branches of the Palestinian resistance factions stress that this is a [special] month, in which the jihad fighters pray during the daytime and defend their Palestinian homeland during the night. It is a month marked by outstanding Muslim victories, and the month during which the resistance carried out [its] most impressive wars of heroism and sacrifice…

…It is the custom of the resistance to step up its activity during Ramadan…The Ramadan atmosphere increases the readiness for sacrifice, due to its religious and psychological effect, which is automatically felt by the resistance fighters. Consequently, Ramadan always sees an increase in the resistance against the occupation…[2]

In 1979, the Iranian Islamic Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini proclaimed the last Friday of Ramadan to be the International Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day for “Muslims from all around the world [to] show their support for the oppressed Muslims of the world and in particular Palestine.”  Iran encourages Muslims around the world to rally on this day for the elimination of the Jewish state, and “the return of the Muslim nation of Palestine which is under the oppression of Zionists.” As Khomeini declared in his statement introducing Al-Quds day:

“The Zionists have good reason to feel threatened as millions of Muslims prepare to liberate al-Quds.” [3]

Again this year, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on Palestinian youth to wage jihad against Israel:

“Palestine and Jerusalem are mentioned in the holy Quran as ‘sacred ground.’ For decades, this pure land has been occupied by the filthiest and most evil people – devil’s spawn who slaughter respectable people and shamelessly acknowledge this. They are racists who have tormented the [true] owners of the land [the Palestinians] with murder, looting, arrest, and torture for 70 years. But, with God’s help, they have not succeeded in vanquishing their will… Palestine lives and continues to wage jihad, and, with God’s help, ultimately it will be able to triumph over the evil enemy. Jerusalem and all Palestine belong to its people, and they will return to it, with God’s help…” [4]

Iranian spokesmen announced they were arming their Palestinian proxies with rockets and military equipment to wage jihad and liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from the Jews.    

Palestinian Elections

With pending Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections for the first time in more than 15 years, the violence that began at the start of Ramadan 2021, emanated from both Fatah and Hamas. Each vied against each other for popularity among the Palestinians by fomenting the anti-Israel jihad that would demonstrate their role as Islam’s promoters and defenders.

After 16 years of a four-year-term presidency and 15 years after the last legislative vote, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced legislative elections would be held on May 22, 2021 with presidential elections to follow on July 31. But with Fatah divided into three separate factions and a united Hamas gaining ground, things did not look good for the PA. Fearing defeat, Abbas threatened to postpone elections over the issue of whether Israel would allow voting stations to be set up in East Jerusalem for Arab residents to vote. These threats were delivered under the banner of defending Jerusalem from Jewish control.

In the weeks leading up to elections, the PA issued many statements threatening to cancel elections if east Jerusalem was not included. On the eve of Ramadan (April 12, 2021), the various Fatah/PLO factions called on Palestinians to turn the election issue into an area of “comprehensive popular resistance” against Israel. [5] 

Hamas and associated terrorist groups, angered at the possibility that Fatah would appropriate the Jerusalem issue as a ploy to cancel elections, urged Palestinians to ensure through the use of force that elections be held in Jerusalem. Hamas’ list of candidates, headed by Khalil al-Hayya, centred its own election campaign around the issue of Jerusalem with the slogan “Jerusalem unites us.” In a statement to reporters, a Hamas spokesman explained the slogan “emphasizes the importance of Jerusalem and the insistence on its liberation from the Zionist enemy” and declared that “the Palestinian people would continue their struggle and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.” [6]

Shifting Pretexts, Same Rallying Call

While the pretexts continually shifted, the call to arms remained the same: “Defend al-Aqsa,” “Defend Muslim holy sites,” “Defend Jerusalem.”

These were the historic battle cries to violent jihad that have garnered wide support among Muslims in the past. They follow a century-old pattern established by Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem between 1921 and 1948. The mufti repeatedly incited jihad to defend Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem – using it as a pretext to attack Jews in the name of Islam.  The “Defend Jerusalem/al-Aqsa” war song resulted in the murders and massacre of dozens of Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed in 1929 and set the stage for many “Jihads for Jerusalem” that were to follow.[7]  

Waging a jihad for Jerusalem has served – and continues to serve– a political purpose.  It moves the focal point of grievances over failures of local leaders onto Israel and garners support amongst Muslims across the world for Palestinians and Islam. 

In the days approaching Ramadan, Fatah and Hamas urged Palestinians to “defend Palestine with [their] bodies”[8]  and to “resist” Israel in all ways and all over the world.[9] A video broadcast just before Ramadan featured Hamas Political Bureau Chief Isma’il Haniyeh proclaiming that his party would liberate Jerusalem, the al-Aqsa mosque and all of “Palestine” and Political Deputy Chairman Saleh al-Arouri insisting Hamas would revive the “resistance” and “struggle” against the expulsion of the “occupation”.[10]

Thus, it was already clear in the approach to Ramadan that another jihad was in the making.  Still, the stated reasons continued to shift.  And most of these ever-changing pretexts were dutifully parroted and amplified by much of the Western media.

  • Security barriers near the Damascus Gate Plaza

With the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan (April 13), Israeli security forces, citing security and health (Covid-19) concerns, erected security barriers near the Damascus Gate Plaza to prevent large masses of Palestinians from congregating there after Ramadan prayers.

Palestinian leaders seized on the barriers as a pretext to incite rioting by alleging that its purpose was an anti-Islamic show of power by Israel meant to prevent Muslims from praying during their holiest month.  The Ramadan riots consisted of Palestinians throwing rocks and incendiary devices at security officers, who responded with riot dispersal methods. These confrontations spread throughout eastern Jerusalem.

Israel dismantled the barriers on April 25, but Palestinian leaders continued to urge a continuation of the Ramadan Jihad for Jerusalem.

  • Protest march by radical Jewish group

Responding to Palestinian leaders’ Ramadan rhetoric encouraging jihad, Palestinian youth began to randomly assault identifiably Jewish individuals, including, among other attacks,[11] the unprovoked slapping[12] of a yeshiva student engaged in conversation on a train; the circling and physical assault[13] of a young bicyclist; the beating of a man walking his dog,[14] the vicious attack on a Jewish driver whose vehicle was stoned and later set ablaze: the driver was hospitalized after being brutally kicked and beaten as he attempted to flee.[15]

There were also violent assaults by Palestinians on Jews in Israeli cities with mixed Arab-Jewish populations. Some of the attacks were filmed and posted on TikTok, spurring copycat incidents. The TikTok phenomenon followed the same pattern as the 2015 “knife intifada” where film clips of attacks were posted on social media as a means of further inciting an intifada.[16] Some dubbed the filmed attacks during Ramadan the “Tik-Tok intifada.”

One result of these attacks was the response of Lehava, a radical Jewish group that took to the streets on April 22 in a confrontation with Palestinians and police. Jewish rioters shouted, “Death to the Arabs,” while their Palestinian counterparts shouted, “Allahu Akbar” and “With our souls and blood we will redeem al-Aqsa.”

The police used riot control methods to disperse both groups of rioters and it ended without major incident. Palestinian leaders, nonetheless, employed the incident as a pretext to incite further violence in Jerusalem.  The march, in addition to the erection of barriers, were cynically portrayed as the reason for unrest in Jerusalem.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh praised the courage of the Palestinian rioters who “resisted” the “occupation and settlers,” and misrepresented the Lehava march as “an organized act of state terrorism intended to obliterate the Palestinian character of Jerusalem” even though it had been quickly brought under control by Israeli security forces and was provoked by anti-Jewish violence incited by Arab leaders.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party encouraged additional violence in the name of defending Jerusalem. A Fatah social media post proclaimed:

“The message of President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas to our people in Jerusalem – we will defend Jerusalem with our lives. Long live Fatah, the defender of our land, our holy sites, and our people.” [17]   

Other prominent Fatah members similarly praised the actions of Palestinian rioters and assailants as “heroic” and continued to encourage further rioting as part of a “sacred battle” for the defense of Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites. 

Fatah’s Facebook page included a clip of President Abbas’ filmed 2014 call for jihad to protect al-Aqsa.[18] [19]

Hamas, backed by Iran, tried to position itself as leader of the newest  jihad. On April 23, the day following the march, Hamas threatened to “teach the enemy unprecedentedly hard lessons” claiming “the spark they [Israelis] had ignited in east Jerusalem would lead to an explosion that would blow up in the criminal enemy’s face.”[20]

Palestinian riots continued over the following two nights (April 23-24), spreading from the area near Damascus Gate to Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where support for Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif was voiced.[21]

On April 24, the joint operations room (terrorist groups operating under Hamas auspices from Gaza) released a public statement calling on Palestinians to “defend” Jerusalem:

The enemy, with his aggression, has opened the gates of hell on himself and we will have the final word to deter the enemy. An attack on our capital, our people and our holy sites is a red line and there will be serious consequences and a heavy price to pay if Israel crosses it.[22]

This announcement was followed by the firing of missiles into Israeli population centers from the Gaza Strip. Some 41 rockets were fired at Israeli communities (36 on April 23, two on April 24 and three on April 25, 2021), to which the IDF responded by targeting Hamas military sites with air strikes and artillery fire. In Gaza, demonstrations were organized in support of the attacks on Israel, with placards encouraging further Palestinian rocketing from Gaza and riots in Jerusalem.[23]

On April 25, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal publicly announced that Palestinians were living at a historic moment and that the “struggle” against Israel would not be a “temporary” one. He incited his constituents by claiming that Israel was in the process of taking control of Jerusalem and urged Palestinians to save Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque. The same day, Hamas’ website featured a declaration by political bureau chief Isma’il Haniyeh that Hamas would agree to nothing less than continued intifada/jihad for Jerusalem on behalf of the Muslim world.[24]

Israeli security forces announced on April 25 that they were dismantling the barriers near the Damascus Gate Plaza.  But calls for jihad did not end there.  Palestinians celebrated the removal of the barriers, shouting the jihad’s mantra, “With our souls and blood we will redeem you, al-Aqsa mosque.” 

Hamas and terrorist leaders presented Israel’s dismantlement of the barriers as a model of the jihad’s success and threatened to escalate the violence while turning to the next pretext. 

Hamas Deputy Chairman Khalil al-Haya held up the jihad’s “victory” as an example of how Israel can be forced to hold Palestinian elections held in Jerusalem,[25] while Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan encouraged further intifada, using the elections as the newest pretext.[26]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Gazan terrorist group working in concert with and under the auspices of Hamas, entered the action, broadcasting film clips of Palestinians attacking Jews in Jerusalem and encouraging Palestinians to follow in their footsteps. The film, which was shown on PIJ TV was titled: “#Jerusalem rises in rebellion #Ramadan intifada.” 

PIJ’s political bureau chief Mohammad al-Hindi called for targeting Israel with rockets and missiles, claiming it demonstrates “support for Jerusalem” which would unite all Palestinians, and expressed hope that the “intifada” would spread everywhere.

Dubbing it the “Ramadan Intifada,” a PIJ representative in Lebanon called for the Palestinian leadership to turn the daily rioting into a comprehensive uprising against Israel. PFLP, too, called for an escalation of the jihad/intifada.[27]

  • Palestinian Elections in Jerusalem

While Hamas vowed to escalate the jihad in the name of elections, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas ratcheted up pressure on Israel to hold Palestinian elections in Israel by appealing to international leaders. Israeli Foreign Ministry political director Alon Bar told European ambassadors that Israel would neither prevent the PA from holding elections nor intervene, but maintained that Hamas’s participation in the election would violate the Quartet’s demands.[28] 

On April 29, Mahmoud Abbas convened a meeting in Ramallah to inform the various Fatah factions that he would postpone elections indefinitely because Israel had not yet issued a formal public response about Palestinian elections in Jerusalem. He used the meeting as an opportunity to blame Israel for the cancellation of elections and further incited “popular resistance” to defend Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem belongs to us; our brothers managed to remove the barricades that prevented them from moving and working in the city. They launched a peaceful, popular resistance. This is the only way to confront this aggression on our people. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine.” [29]

Following the meeting, Abbas released a statement announcing:

“We have decided to postpone the parliamentary elections until we ensure the participation of the people of Jerusalem. The elections must be held in all the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.”[30]

The official Fatah Facebook page followed suit, blaming Israel for forcing the postponement of elections.[31]

Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, portrayed the postponement of elections as an act of nationalism to preserve Jerusalem. [32]  

Abbas’ opponents reacted negatively to Abbas’ cancellation of elections. Hamas political bureau chief Isma’il Haniyeh criticized Fatah’s weak dependence on Israeli acquiescence to Jerusalem elections and announced that the more powerful Hamas, in conjunction with fellow [terrorist] organizations, would find “alternative ways” to ensure elections would take place in Jerusalem. He lauded rioters in Jerusalem for proving “the Palestinian people could regain their rights by force and guard the holy places” and praised Gazans for firing rockets at Jewish population centers.[33]

Organized protests took place along the Israel-Gaza border where demonstrators were told they were at a crossroad in the battle against the “Zionist enemy”.  Hamas spokesman Musheir al-Masri urged Palestinians to forcefully ensure elections be held in Jerusalem by turning it into a day of “national struggle against the occupation.”[34]  

PIJ leaders too pointed to the postponement of election as a reason to continue “jihad and resistance to the Zionist enemy.” [35]

  • Sheikh Jarrah

A February court eviction order that was slated to be carried out in Sheikh Jarrah at the beginning of May was the latest development in a longtime, ongoing real estate dispute in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, but it provided another pretext for the Ramadan Jerusalem Jihad.[36] [37]

More than two months earlier, the Jerusalem District Court had upheld a lower court decision requiring Palestinian tenants to vacate the Jewish-owned property on May 2, 2021 because they refused to pay rent to the owners.[38]  An appeal to the Supreme Court, however, resulted in an extension of several days in order for the disputing parties to reach a compromise.

As the impending date approached, PA Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague to publicly speak out against what he called “the crime being committed in the [Sheikh Jarrah] neighborhood,” referring to the court ruling against the delinquent Palestinian tenants. Fatah similarly called on the UN Security Council to rule against Israel’s “slaughter” and eviction of Palestinian residents from their homes.[39]

Hamas condemned what it called the “collective eviction” in Sheikh Jarrah and urged Palestinians to gather in Sheikh Jarrah and “resist” what it portrayed as the “attack on Palestinian identity.” It also called upon the Arab states to support “resistance” (i.e.armed attacks).

Palestinian Islamic Jihad called on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem to respond with “all forms of resistance” and address the “crime being committed in Sheikh Jarrah.” The terrorist organizations, with Hamas at their helm, threatened to increase violence and urged Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem to step up their attacks against Israeli Jews.[40]

The Sheikh Jarrah real estate dispute proved to be the longest-lived pretext and was adopted wholesale by Western media.

  • Defense of Al-Aqsa

Long before there was any activity ― Palestinian rioting and Israeli riot dispersal ― at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Hamas and terrorist leaders from the Gaza strip had already fabricated the pretext that Israel was scheming to storm and take over the holy site during Ramadan.  This was, after all, the ultimate historic battle cry to incite Jihad for Jerusalem.

On April 27, Hamas official Usama Hamedan threatened to fire rockets deep into Israel if Jerusalem or the al-Aqsa mosque was harmed. He rallied his troops by declaring that Jerusalem would only be liberated through “the resistance” and labelled Jerusalem the “red line” for the terror groups operating from the Gaza Strip.[41]

Hams leader Ismail Haniyeh praised Ramadan rioters in Jerusalem who “restored the Palestinian cause to center stage” and set a date for the purported Israeli scheme to “storm the al-Aqsa mosque”.  It would take place, he predicted, “on the 28th day of Ramadan” – a date that coincided with Israel’s “Jerusalem Day” on which Israelis celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem with a march through the Old City to Judaism’s holy sites. That Israelis had no intention of storming and taking over the al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem Day – nor have ever done it in the past – was of no importance to those bent on leading the jihad against the Jewish state.  

By delineating a specific day on which the enemy would allegedly seize a Muslim holy site, Palestinian leaders could successfully provoke their constituents to attack Israeli security forces patrolling the area, thus setting up a violent confrontation on the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa compound that would be further exploited for propaganda purposes. The plan for unrest on Ramadan, and especially the 28th day of Ramadan was not that of Israel, but of the Palestinian leaders inciting violence with the cri de guerre that was used so often to murderous effect by their predecessors.

Over the following week, Palestinian leaders unleashed a torrent of incitement urging their constituents to join the battle for Jerusalem. News programs on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV highlighted and praised Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem with claims that “Jerusalem is going up in flames in the faces of the settlers through the courage and sacrifice of the rioters.” A video posted to social media insisted the Palestinian people would not abandon “the resistance” against the Jewish character of Jerusalem.[42]

Hamas leader Isma’il Haniyeh spoke at an Iranian-sponsored event in advance of International Al-Quds Day to declare the battle for Jerusalem “open.” He warned that Palestinians were “in danger” because “settlers” were planning to “break into al-Aqsa mosque” on Jerusalem Day. He called on Palestinians “to take a strong position to defend al-Aqsa mosque” and to “support Palestinians in Jerusalem.”[43]

Other terror group leaders similarly urged armed struggle until Jerusalem and all of Palestine was liberated.

As the close of Ramadan approached, the incitement to jihad against Israel intensified. Terrorists in the West Bank took heed.  One deadly shooting attack by a Palestinian terrorist in the northern West Bank resulted in the death of a Jewish seminary student and wounding of his friends. Several other attacks were thwarted by Israeli security forces and some of the armed Palestinian assailants were killed while in the process of attacking Israeli soldiers. The perpetrator of the deadly attack on the Jewish students was celebrated by Palestinian leaders and managed to evade capture with their encouragement and help but was found and arrested by Israeli security forces several days later. President Abbas’ office portrayed the shooting of the Palestinians who attacked Israelis as “the occupation” carrying out a “policy” of “killing and executing” Palestinians and called on the international community to defend Palestinians from Israel.[44]

Hamas Political Bureau Member and former Minister of the Interior Fathi Hammad, meanwhile, exhorted Palestinians in Jerusalem to cut off the heads of Jews with 5-sheqel knives (an echo of the rhetoric that brought about the 2015 “knife” or “stabbing” intifada[45]). He urged:

“People of Jerusalem, we want you to cut off the heads of the Jews with knives. With your hand, cut their artery from here. A knife costs five shekels.  Buy a knife, sharpen it, put it there, and just cut off [their heads]. It costs just five shekels. With those five shekels, you will humiliate the Jewish state.”[46]  

Against this climate of general incitement to jihad and the spurious claims that Israel was planning to storm and takeover the Al-Aqsa mosque, Palestinians stepped up their attacks on police patrolling Jerusalem’s Old City, including at the Temple Mount, where thousands of Palestinians had gathered for prayer on the last Friday of Ramadan (May 7). Following prayers, rioters attacked Israeli security officers at the Temple Mount compound with rocks, bottles and incendiary devices. Police responded by firing stun grenades and sponge bullets at the rioters. Some rioters barricaded themselves in one of the prayer halls, and the clashes extended for several hours until the plaza was cleared and the gates to the compound were locked.  At least 17 police officers and 200 Palestinians were reported injured. 

Palestinian leaders then falsely accused Israeli forces of trying to prevent Muslim prayers by attacking worshippers at al-Aqsa: The Palestinian Authority turned to the Arab League and international authorities to blame Israel for “assaults on worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan,” while Khaled Mashaal, Hamas chief abroad declared Hamas and other terror groups ready to resist Israeli “aggression.”  Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) secretary-general Ziyad al-Nakhaleh joined as well, threatening to “respond to the aggression on the worshippers inside the al-Aqsa Mosque” and warning Israel to “expect a response from us at any moment.”[47]

Israeli forces went on high alert.  On May 8, police put out a statement stating:

“The Israel Police respects all religions and will continue to allow freedom of worship. At the same time, the police will not allow protesters to arrive in Jerusalem for the purpose of participating in violent disturbances.” [48]

To ensure security on the Temple Mount, security forces erected temporary roadblocks. One bus was stopped for investigation, temporarily blocking vehicular traffic, but worshippers continued to enter the Temple Mount on foot.  That night, some 90,000 people gathered at the al-Aqsa mosque to mark Islam’s holiest night, Laylat al Qadr (“Night of Power”).  After prayers, rioting resumed near the Damascus Gate and other parts of the city, with Palestinians hurling stones and setting fires and police responding with riot dispersal measures, including stun grenades and water cannons. According to Palestinian reports, 60 Palestinians were wounded.

On May 9, rioting occurred in the Damascus Gate Plaza area, Sheikh Jarrah and near the Hebrew University in Mount Scopus where students and professors went on lockdown. There were also clashes on the Temple Mount between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters, forcing the closing of Lion’s Gate.  The clashes on May 8 and May 9 around Jerusalem resulted in injury for 100 Palestinians and 20 security officers.[49] [50]

Palestinian leaders amplified their warnings about the alleged Jewish plan to “storm” the al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the traditional Flag March to celebrate Jerusalem Day. They urged their constituents to converge on the holy site to “thwart” any attempt to storm it by “Jewish extremists and settlers.” That evening, several thousand Palestinians gathered in the mosque and stayed overnight, having stockpiled rocks and other makeshift weapons. They blocked the doors and sabotaged security cameras in advance of the designated date the following day that Palestinian leaders gave for an Israeli attempt to takeover Muslim holy sites.

In a bid to lower tensions, Israel banned all Jews from entering the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day (May 10). Nonetheless, rioters, heeding the warnings of their leaders, hurled rocks toward a police post and the Mughrabi gate near the Western Wall, the only gate from which non-Muslims are allowed to enter the compound. This prompted police to enter the compound, whereupon they were attacked and responded with stun grenades. Loudspeakers were used throughout Al-Aqsa to encourage more people to join the riots. At about noon, police withdrew to the entrance gates of the compound. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported several dozen wounded, four of them seriously.  Footage of the clashes was posted on social media, and the riots spread to other areas of eastern Jerusalem.  In rioting nearby, an Israeli driver was stoned as he drove outside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, causing him to lose control of the car and swerve onto the sidewalk. A mob of Palestinian men converged on the car and attempted to drag the driver and a passenger out of the car for further attack but a lone Israeli police officer came to the car occupants’ rescue, shooting into the air to disperse the attackers.[51]

Israel further tried to lower tensions by postponing the planned Flag Day parade, but despite banning Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and celebrating their Jerusalem Day with a parade, Hamas was determined to plough ahead with it jihad for Jerusalem. Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif threatened to further attack Israel if it did not remove all security forces from the area of the Al Aqsa compound and from Sheikh Jarrah and release all terrorists in Palestinian jails by the end of the afternoon.  When Israel did not accede to Hamas demands, rockets were fired into Jerusalem.

Hamas spokesman Usama Obeida announced that Hamas had followed through on Deif’s threats and that the rockets were fired at the “enemy of occupied Jerusalem” for their “crimes and aggression” against the Al-Aqsa mosque and on Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. The joint operations (of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip) made a similar announcement, stating that since Israel had not obeyed Deif, the time had arrived for Israel “to pay for its aggression against the holy sites.” They named the war they had launched “Sword of Jerusalem”.[52]

The rocketing of Jerusalem was followed with barrages of missiles fired from Gaza at Israel’s southern communities including the cities of Ashdod and Ashqelon, causing injuries and hospitalizations among Israeli civilians, as well as property damage. The Gaza terrorist groups’ Operation “Sword of Jerusalem” which included firing of missiles at Israeli civilians, launching incendiary balloons into Israel and encouraging Palestinians in the West Bank and Arabs inside Israel to fight their Jewish neighbors ― to “attack the settlers, attack the posts, attack the roadblocks and checkpoints.”[53]

Israel responded by attacking terrorist targets in Gaza in a campaign they called “Operation Guardian of the Walls.”[54]

PA Prime Minister Muhamad Shtayyeh turned to the UN Security Council to punish Israel and stop what he called “Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip and the Muslims in al-Aqsa mosque.”[55]  He also urged human rights organizations to condemn Israel.  

Over the following 11 days, the war escalated, with more than 4000 rockets fired into Israel and Israeli military strikes in response. The hostilities ended in a ceasefire on May 21, 2021, but the propaganda war against Israel – in which Israel was blamed for the destruction and casualties that the Palestinian-initiated war had wrought, not to mention the pretexts on which it was based – continued on, with the help of the media.

Media Promotes Palestinian Pretexts

Below are just some of the many examples of news reports that echoed and amplified the pretexts put forth by Palestinian leaders. (It does not include the amplification of these pretexts in opinion columns.)

  • Security Barriers near Damascus Gate Plaza and Lehava March

AP: “The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast…

…Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting, “Arabs get out!” toward Damascus Gate. The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs…” (“Dozens Held in Jerusalem Unrest,” Joseph Krauss, April 23, 2021, published in many media outlets, including the LA Times, The World.)

[Editor’s Note: In fact, there were no reports anywhere else of “other videos” of Jews assaulting Arabs]

New York Times: “The violence broke out as an extremist Jewish supremacy group marched in the city, chanting, ‘Death to Arabs’…

…Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians erupted overnight in Jerusalem as hundreds of supporters of an extremist Jewish supremacy group staged a march, chanting “Death to Arab” near the Old City…

…Palestinians had already been clashing with the Israeli police in East Jerusalem for several nights after the police prevented them from gathering on the steps in front of Damascus Gate, which form a kind of amphitheater at one entrance to the Old City. The steps have traditionally served as a festive meeting place fo “Israelis and Palestinians Clash Around Jerusalem’s Old City youths at night after the breaking of the daily fast during Ramadan.” (“Israelis and Palestinians Clash Around Jerusalem’s Old City,” Isabel Kershner, New York Times, April 23, 2021)

“In Jerusalem, the situation is tense, following a march last week by far-right Jewish supremacists who chanted ‘Death to Arabs,’ attacks on both Palestinians and Jews, and the provocative Israeli decision, now rescinded, to close a central plaza in East Jerusalem where Palestinians enjoy gathering during the ongoing month of Ramadan.” (“Palestinian Vote Postponed, Prolonging Tensions,” Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, April 30, 2021)

NPR: “[The violence in Jerusalem] began when Israeli police confronted Palestinian crowds with water cannons and arrests. Then Israeli extremists marched through the city chanting anti-Arab slogans….

…It started at the beginning of Ramadan. There’s a large plaza at one of the entrances to the Old City, where big crowds of Palestinians gather every night during the holiday. It’s decorated with lights. It’s usually very festive. This year, however, Israeli police fenced off a lot of the area. They don’t usually do that, and they say it was for crowd control. Palestinians, though, saw it as an affront, and chaos erupted. Police say that Palestinians threw stones. I’ve spoken with Palestinians and Israeli peace activists who were there. They say it was police who charged at them unprovoked.” (“All Things Considered,” NPR April 25, 2021) 

  • Palestinian Elections

New York Times: “Under the interim agreements signed in the 1990’s between Israeli and Palestinian leaders known as the Oslo Accords, the Israeli government is obliged to allow Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem…

…But Israel has neither blocked the election nor agreed to allow it. The Israeli government has not made a decision either way, an Israeli official confirmed, despite requests by the Palestinian leadership. The Israeli police have detained several representatives of Palestinian parties who attempted to campaign in the city. (“Palestinian Vote Delayed, Prolonging Split for West Bank and Gaza,” Patrick Kingsley, April 29, 2021)

[Editor’s note: As CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal has indicated, the Oslo Accords do not require Israel to allow Palestinian elections in Jerusalem, but only to allow voting for a small minority of eligible Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem — a symbolic figure of those eligible to vote. According to Israel, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem would be able to participate in the elections according to special arrangements detailed in the agreement, with voting to take place in  localities outside Jerusalem, and with some voting from designated post offices in Jerusalem.]

Reuters: “Abbas, 85, issued a presidential decree postponing the May 22 parliamentary and July 31 presidential elections…

…He blamed Israel for uncertainty about whether it would allow the elections to proceed in East Jerusalem as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza…” (“Palestinian leader delays parliamentary and presidential elections, blaming Israel,” Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub, April 30, 2021)

[In fact, there was never any question about Israel preventing elections in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.  The question was only about voting in Jerusalem.].

  • Sheikh Jarrah

Fox News: “Last year an Israeli court ordered the eviction of four Palestinian families who have lived here for decades. The decision was based on an obscure Israeli law approved by parliament in 1970, and follows a series of evictions over the past several years….Clashes are erupting each night as observers fear the forceful removal of families could be just days away…” (“Israeli-Palestinian clashes escalate in Jerusalem in wake of court-ordered eviction of Palestinian residents,” Trey Yingst, May 8, 2021)

[Editor’s note: The court order to evict the families was based on their refusal to pay rent. As CAMERA’s Karen Bekker has pointed out, it  is not an “obscure Israeli law” to demand rent from tenants.]

New York Times: “After throngs of Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets of East Jerusalem in recent days to protest Israeli settlements and the evictions of Palestinians there, particularly in the heavily Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a crackdown by security forces gave way to escalating violence.” (“Why Biden Can’t Look Away From the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis,” Giovanni Russonello, May 12, 2021)

  • Defending Al Aqsa

New York Times: “After a raid by the Israeli police on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded, militants in Gaza responded by firing a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem, drawing Israeli airstrikes in return.” (“After Raid on Aqsa Mosque, Rockets From Gaza and Israeli Airstrikes,” Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kirshner, May 10, 2021)

ABC: “[Tensions] boiled over as more than 100 worshippers and protesters were injured as Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque using tear gas and rubber bullets.” (Good Morning American, Martha Raddatz, May 11, 2021)

AP: “Hamas’ leader says Israel is responsible for the latest round of fighting in the region because of its actions in Jerusalem. The fighting broke out on Monday after Israeli police used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem…” (Dateline: Gaza City, May 11, 2021)

“Dozens of Pakistanis have rallied in the southern port city of Karachi to condemn Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.” (Dateline: Pakistan, May 11, 2021)

“Arab foreign ministers have urged the International Criminal Court to proceed with an investigation into Israel’s possible war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinians, including the planned eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem…They strongly condemned what they call Israel’s crimes against Muslim worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the latest court orders to evict families of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.” (Dateline: Cairo, May 11, 2021)

  • Promoting Multiple Palestinian Pretexts as Reason for Violence

Washington Post: “…The latest explosion of hostilities [Hamas rocketing] has a long tail, following numerous aggressive actions by both Israeli security forces and far-right Jewish supremacist groups in Jerusalem. Two weeks ago, bands of Jewish extremists, including some settlers from the West Bank, marched through Palestinian-populated areas of the holy city, chanting “Death to Arabs,” attacking bystanders and damaging Palestinian property and homes.

Israeli attempts to evict a number of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — a microcosm of what Palestinians view as part of a long history of dispossession and erasure at the hands of the Israeli state — had stirred Palestinian solidarity protests in various parts of the occupied territories and Israel proper.It also raised tensions ahead of the commemoration of Jerusalem Day on Monday, an official Israeli holiday celebrating the capture of the city during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

A planned annual march by far-right ultranationalist Israelis was called off after authorities rerouted its path at the last minute. Large numbers still made their way to the Western Wall and sang an extremist vengeance song against Palestinians…Israeli forces stormed the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque, firing tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds gathered there both in protest and prayer, in which U.S. officials urged “both sides” to eschew unilateral actions…A growing list of rights groups now see the status quo of Israeli military occupation over millions of Palestinians as tantamount to apartheid and see the United States as enabling a morally unacceptable reality.” (“The U.S. calls for ‘calm’ between Israelis and Palestinians. But it’s part of the problem,” Ishaan Tharoor, May 11, 2021)

  * * * * * *

By failing to explore the full picture of what contributed to the violence in April and May of 2021 and by stripping the Palestinian leadership of agency, many journalists and  media outlets contributed to the delegitimization campaign against Israel, playing straight into the hands of those who seek the demise of the Jewish state.

[1] Facebook.com/DrAliGomaa, May 15, 2019, quoted in “Egyptian Clerics, Articles: Ramadan Is The Month Of Jihad And Victories,” MEMRI  Special Dispatch No. 8096

[2] Aljazeera.net [Qatar], April 16, 2021, quoted in “Article On Al-Jazeera Website: Ramadan, ‘Month Of Jihad And Victories,’ Is The Season Of Palestinian Armed Operations,“ MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9316

[3] Khomeini’s message announcing Quds Day, dated 7 August 1979 (Sahifa-y Nur, Vol. 8, p. 229) cited on archived Al-Qods page of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting English-version website

[4] Quoted in “On Qods Day 2021, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Calls On Palestinians To Rise Up Against Israel,” A. Savyon and M. Manzour May 24, 2021 MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1577

[5] Wafa.ps, April 12, 2021

[6] The Palestinian Information Center daily news, March 29, 2021 – a Hamas-affiliated site

[7] “Backgrounder: The Battle Over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Calls to Jihad in “Defense” of Muslim Holy Sites,: Ricki Hollander, CAMERA.org, July 27, 2017  

[8] “The Tune of the Homeland,” music video on PA TV broadcast multiple times, April 2-10; recorded and translated by Palestinian Media Watch

[9] Hamas Deputy Chairman Khalil al-Haya, Al Aqsa TV, March 30, 2021, translated by Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[10] Al-Aqsa TV, April 11, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[11] Some of the Anti-Jewish Violence in Jerusalem These Past Weeks,“ David Lange, Israellycool blog, April 24, 2021

[12] “Police Arrest Arab Who Posted Video Of Yeshiva Bochur Being Slapped On Face,” Yeshiva World News, April 17, 2021

[13] “WATCH: More Violence In Heart Of Jerusalem: Bochur On Bike Attacked By Arabs,” Yeshiva World News, April 20, 2021

[14] “Israel arrests 17 more rioters as Arab-Jewish clashes in Jerusalem continue,” Yori Yalon and Shahar Klaiman, Israel Hayom-JNS, April 25, 2021

[15] “Driver assaulted during Jerusalem clashes: ‘I thought I was going to die’”, Times of Israel, April 24, 2021

[16] “Media Silent on Palestinian Leaders’ Incitement to Violence,” Sarit Catz, CAMERA.org, Oct. 13, 2015 

[17]  Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, April 23, 2021, translated by PMW: “Fatah seeks to incite violence in Jerusalem,” Itamar Marcus, Apr 25, 2021

[18] Posted April 23, 2021, Ibid.

[19] For more on that campaign, see “The Battle Over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Calls to Jihad in “Defense” of Muslim Holy Sites/2014,” Ricki Hollander, CAMERA.org

[20] Satellite Arabist Television Station Al Mayadeen, April 23, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[21] The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center review of week’s events, April 25, 2021

[22] al-Alam, April 24, 2021, translated  by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center

[23] The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center review of week’s events, April 25, 2021

[24] Ibid.

[25] Shabakat al-Quds, April 26, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[26] Al Aqsa TV, April 26, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[27] From weekly report on Palestinian-Israeli conflict, April 20-25, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[28] “Israel not interfering in Palestinian election, Foreign Min. clarifies,” Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2021

[29] “Abbas: Palestinian elections postponed after Israel blocks Jerusalem vote,” Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2021

[30] Ibid.

[31] From weekly report on Palestinian-Israeli conflict, April 28-May 4, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[32] Voice of Palestine radio, May 1, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[33] Ibid.

[34] Al Aqsa TV, April 30, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[35] PIJ website, April 30, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[36] Sheikh Jarrah: The Facts,” Alex Safian, CAMERA.org: May 13, 2021

[37] Almost Nothing You’ve Heard About Evictions in Jerusalem are True,” Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2021

[38] “Primer on Sheikh Jarrah Property Claims,” NGO Monitor, May 3, 2021

[39] From weekly report on Palestinian-Israeli conflict, April 28-May 4, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[40] Ibid.

[41] Al Manar, April 27, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[42] Palinfo Twitter account, April 28, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[43] Al-Mayadeen, May 5, 2021, translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[44] Wafa, May 6, 2021 translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[45] “Terrorism Against Israel: The Stabbing Intifada (October 2015 – Present),” Jewish Virtual Library

[46] Al Aqsa TV, May 7, 2021, recorded and translated by MEMRI

[47] “PA requests Security Council, Arab League meetings on Jerusalem violence,” Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2021

[48] Dozens injured as Palestinians riot in Jerusalem, al-Aqsa,“ Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2021

[49] Ibid.

[50] Review of events as of May 10, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

[51] “WATCH: Attempted lynching of Israeli driver in Jerusalem riots near Temple Mount,” Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2021

[52]Shehab twitter account, May 11, 2021, Translated by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

[53] Report on escalation as of May 11, 2021, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre

[54] “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” IDF: Wars and Operations, June 14, 2021

[55]  Report on Operation Guardian of the Walls as of May 13, 2021, The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

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