In a speech before the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on September 15, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas repeated the old libel that Israel was planning to establish special Jewish prayer zones inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Abbas claimed that Israel was seeking to copy the example of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where Jews and Muslims pray in different sections.
Abbas did not say what his lie was based on. He also did not provide any evidence of Israel's ostensible plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He said, nevertheless, that the Palestinians, together with Jordan, were planning to bring this issue before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
Abbas's allegation was quickly picked up by several media outlets in the Arab world, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The headlines that appeared on websites affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, claimed that Israel is planning to permit Jews to pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Needless to say, there is no Israeli plan to allow Jews to pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, in the past few years Jews, like all other non-Muslims, have been allowed to resume their perfectly legal visits to the Temple Mount. Thousands of Jews have toured the holy site under police protection, despite provocations and violent attacks by Muslims. It is worth noting that any kind of prayer of "religious displays" by Jews or Christians anywhere on the Temple Mount are completely forbidden by the Israel Police.
Why is Abbas's false accusation significant and dangerous? Hours after reports were published of Abbas's allegation, a 17-year-old Palestinian from the town of Yatta in the southern West Bank fatally stabbed Ari Fuld, a 45-year-old Israeli-American citizen and father of four, in a shopping center in Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem.
According to Palestinian terrorist groups, the terrorist, Khalil Jabarin, decided to murder a Jew in response to Israeli "crimes" against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular and Islamic holy sites in general.
In other words, the terrorist was influenced by Abbas's incitement, and this is why he decided to set out on his deadly mission. There is no doubt that the terrorist saw the reports quoting Abbas's claim that Israel was planning to allow Jews to pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian terrorist groups were quick to establish a connection between the murder of Fuld and Abbas's remarks.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, for example, noted in a statement that the stabbing attack was a "natural response to Zionist terrorism committed by aggression and crimes against our people, our lands and our holy sites."
Hamas, for its part, said that the terrorist attack came in response to Israeli "violations" against the Al-Aqsa Mosque. "We welcome this heroic attack and affirm that harming Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line," said Hamas senior official Husam Badran in a statement. "This operation is in response to what Israel is planning to do in Al-Aqsa Mosque."
The statements made by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirm that there is a direct link between Abbas's false charge against Israel and the murder of the Israeli-American citizen. The terrorist groups are indirectly saying that Jabarin decided to murder a Jew because his president, Abbas, told him and the rest of the world that Israel was planning to create special Jewish prayer areas inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Abbas's false claim was not the first libel of its kind.
It is time to remind those who may have forgotten that it was Abbas who sparked the 2015 "knife intifada" with his accusation that Jews "with their filthy feet were defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque." Abbas's statement came in response to the Israeli government's decision to lift a temporary ban on Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Here is what Abbas had to say then:
"The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem."
Abbas went on to say:
"We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward."
Shortly after Abbas's remarks, Palestinians launched a wave of stabbing and vehicular attacks as part of what they called the "Jerusalem Intifada," or the "Knife Intifada," in which hundreds of Israelis have been murdered and injured.
Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have since continued to incite Palestinians against Israel by claiming that Jews were "violently storming and invading" the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
This claim, of course, is also false because the Jews touring the Temple Mount have never set foot inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Jews and Christians are not even allowed to pray anywhere on the Temple Mount. In fact, Jews who are spotted praying, singing, bowing down, closing their eyes or crying during the tours are often arrested by the Israel Police.
Abbas, however, will not allow anyone to confuse him with the facts. He lives in his own dreamed-up world where he continues to spread lies and incite against Israel. Abbas's latest fabrication is directly responsible for the murder of Ari Fuld, stabbed to death by a terrorist who actually believed Abbas's lies about a purported Israeli scheme to split the Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews.
It is high time for the international community to see that Abbas's anti-Israel incitement is what is driving Palestinians to grab a knife and set out to stab the first Jew they meet. The blood of Ari Fuld, among many others, is all over Abbas's hands.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.