Palestinians are continuing to use the Temple Mount, in Arabic known as the Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem, as a platform for incitement against Israel in general and Jews in particular.
This incitement, which began after Jewish tourists were permitted to resume their visits to the holy site in 2014, has since taken various forms. The Jewish visits to the holy site had been suspended for several years during the Second Intifada uprising, which erupted in September 2000.
Since 2014, the Palestinian Authority leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, have been waging an unprecedented wave of incitement against Israel and Jews to protest visits to the Temple Mount.
In 2015, Abbas announced that the Palestinians "won't allow Jews with their filthy feet to defile our Al-Aqsa Mosque."
He went on to praise Palestinians who were ready to sacrifice their lives in order to stop Jews from visiting the holy site: "We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Allah and Jerusalem. Every martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah."
Palestinian incitement and the cynical exploitation of a holy site to spread lies and blood libels is barely noticed by the mainstream media in the West. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Abbas, his senior officials and media outlets have since been lying to their people and the rest of the world by claiming that "extremist Jewish settlers were forcibly and violently invading the Al-Aqsa Mosque." Of course, no Jewish extremist or settler has "invaded" any mosque on the Temple Mount, certainly not the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Most of the visitors happen to be religious Jews. The Palestinians, however, regularly label all religious Jews "extremists" or "settlers." It seems to be their way of stereotyping Jews as aggressors, colonialists and extremists.
The Jewish visits to the Temple Mount are conducted in coordination with the Israel Police and consist of a brief tour of the Temple Mount compound. The Jewish visitors do not enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the nearby Dome of the Rock. Yet this prohibition has not stopped Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, careful not to let facts get in their way, from continuing to peddle the lie that Jews are "storming" the two mosques.
What is dangerous about the Palestinian lies and incitement is that many Palestinians appear to believe them. The Jewish visitors are often greeted by angry Palestinian worshippers who hurl abuses at their police escorts and them
Early this week, the Palestinians provided yet another example of how they are using a holy site to spread lies and blood libels against Israel and Jews. The Palestinians also showed that their real goal is apparently to instigate a violent confrontation with Jews at the Temple Mount. That way, the Palestinians would be able to run and tell the world that Israel is trying to wage a religious war on Muslims.
The latest Palestinian provocation occurred when an Israeli policeman on a routine security check tried to enter the Dome of the Rock -- a daily practice on the part of the Israel Police and mainly aimed at ensuring the safety of Palestinian worshippers. There was, however, was one small "problem" with this specific policeman: he happened to be a religious Jew who was wearing a skullcap.
In keeping with their stereotyping of Jews, the Palestinians claimed that this policeman was an extremist Jewish settler, so they tried to prevent him from carrying out his task. Chanting, "Allahu Akbar!" ("Allah is Great!"), guards belonging to the Wakf Department, the Islamic religious body that manages the mosques at the Temple Mount, immediately closed the gates of the Dome of the Rock. The guards and dozens of Muslim worshippers barricaded themselves inside the mosque and began calling on other Palestinians to converge on the holy site to "protect" it from the Jews.
Hours later, thanks to negotiations between senior police officers and heads of the Palestinian religious authorities, an ensuing standoff between the protesters and the police ended peacefully. The Palestinian Authority, nevertheless, chose to take advantage of the incident to continue its campaign of incitement against Israel and Jews. A number of senior Palestinian officials, including Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his Minister for Religious Affairs, Yusef Edais, issued separate statements in which they condemned Israel for its "ongoing assaults and violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic and Christian holy sites" in Jerusalem.
These statements are total falsehoods that appear in the context of the Palestinian leaders' daily incitement against Israel and Jews. The policeman was not part of any Jewish group touring the holy site. He had no intention of praying or "assaulting" any Islamic religious site. He was on a routine security patrol to ensure the safety of all visitors to the Temple Mount -- Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
The Palestinian uproar over the scene of a religious Jewish policeman can, in short, best be described as a display of anti-Semitism. Otherwise, how do the Palestinians explain their non-objection to a non-religious Jewish policeman patrolling the holy site? Why is it all right for a policeman without a skullcap to enter the Dome of the Rock, but not all right for one wearing a skullcap to visit the site?
The Palestinians who protested against the policeman wearing the skullcap were following the words of their president, Abbas, when he stated that the Palestinians won't allow Jews with their filthy feet to defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque." In this instance, though, the Palestinians were disturbed not by the policeman's "filthy feet", but by the fact that he was a religious Jew. Perhaps Abbas should modify his statement from 2015 so that it would include, in addition to "Jews with their filthy feet," also: "Religious Jews wearing a skullcap."
Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are clearly trying to drag Israel into a religious conflict with all Muslims, not only Palestinians. The Temple Mount has become their favorite platform for disseminating blood libels and fabrications against Israel and Jews. If anyone is defiling the sanctity of the holy site, it is Abbas and his representatives in the West Bank. Abbas's ruling Fatah faction played a major role in the protests that erupted over the latest incident at the Dome of the Rock (involving the policeman with the skullcap. The police later detained Awad Salaymeh, a senior Fatah official in east Jerusalem, for his role in the incident involving the policeman. He and other Fatah activists were at the scene as part of their leadership's ongoing effort to instigate tensions between Jews and Muslims at the Temple Mount.
Other forms of Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews at the Temple Mount include weekly sermons delivered by leading Islamic figures. Almost every Friday, another senior Islamic cleric uses the podium to deliver inflammatory sermons against Israel and Jews. One of these clerics is Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, who last week told his followers that Jerusalem will never be a Jewish city. Sabri and other senior clerics have also used the podium to warn Palestinians against selling their properties to Jews.
This Palestinian incitement and cynical exploitation of a holy site to spread lies and blood libels and stereotype Jews is barely noticed by the mainstream media in the West. Were Israel to stop a Palestinian from entering a holy site because of his clothing, the foreign reporters based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv would have rushed to the scene to interview the man and tell the world that Israel is violating freedom of worship. This is yet another example of how the media gives the Palestinians a pass and allows them to continue their vicious incitement against Israel. The next time a Palestinian grabs a knife and goes out to stab a Jew, foreign journalists might consider the last time they failed to report on the Palestinian leaders, especially their incitement.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.