An aerial view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel. (Image source: Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Palestinian Authority (PA) spent the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha this week inciting against Israel because of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif in Arabic, in Jerusalem. The site is also sacred to Jews and Christians: it is where the First and Second Temples had stood before being destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE and by the Romans in 70 CE. (The Western Wall, or so-called Wailing Wall, sacred to Jews, an ancient retaining wall of the Temple Mount, is all that remains of them.)
Depicting the peaceful visits as "incursions by Jewish settlers and extremists," PA officials and media outlets accused the Israeli government of repeatedly carrying out "provocations and assaults against holy sites in Jerusalem, particularly Al-Aqsa Mosque."
Mahmoud Habbash, religious affairs adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, went as far as describing the Jews visiting the Temple Mount as "terrorists." Habbash, who also serves as Supreme Shari'a Judge, also accused the Jewish visitors of "defiling the Haram al-Sharif and provoking the feelings of Muslims." He further appealed to all Muslims to "defend Al-Aqsa Mosque against Israeli conspiracies and barbaric violations."
Habbash was echoing Abbas's notorious statement that Palestinians won't allow Jews with their "filthy feet" to "defile our Al-Aqsa Mosque."
Abbas's statement came during a meeting with a group of Palestinians from east Jerusalem in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Abbas even encouraged Palestinians to engage in violence by saying:
"We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every shahid (martyr) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. We will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem."
A few days after Abbas made his statement in September 2015, Palestinians launched the "Knife Intifada" against Israel – which included a wave of terror perpetrated by individuals inspired by vicious incitement in the Palestinian media and urged on by Palestinian leaders. In the first 12 months of the terror attacks, mostly by stabbings and car-rammings, 40 Israelis were killed.
The PA government, headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, has also joined the anti-Israel campaign of incitement and praised Palestinian rioters who clashed with Israeli security forces at the Temple Mount on the first day of Eid al-Adha.
The rioters, who were trying to stop Jews from touring the holy site, threw rocks and chairs at policemen guarding the visitors. Shtayyeh's government said that the rioters were seeking to thwart Israeli schemes to "Judaize Jerusalem in the face of organized state terrorism."
Needless to say, none of the Jews visiting the Temple Mount was involved in violence or any kind of "provocation." The only violence that took place at the holy site came from Palestinians, who attacked the policemen with stones and chairs and hurled insults at the Jewish visitors.
The PA's rivals, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which occupy the Gaza Strip, in response to the Jewish visits, called for "escalating the Intifada (uprising) against Israel. When Hamas and Islamic Jihad talk about "escalating the Intifada," they are actually urging Palestinians to carry out various forms of terror attacks against Israel. The two groups are responsible for thousands of terror attacks against Israel in the past few decades.
Let this be made unquestionably clear: the PA leadership's incitement and the threats by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to step up terror attacks against Israel could trigger another wave of terrorism like the "Knife Intifada."
By describing any Jew who visits the Temple Mount as an "extremist settler," the Palestinian leaders are sending a message to their people that the peaceful Jewish visitors are legitimate targets -- and that it is open season on them.
By calling the visits "incursions" and "raids," the Palestinians are trying to create the false impression that Jews are violently storming an Islamic holy site. The Arabic word Palestinians use to describe the visits: Iktiham (storm or break in). This rhetoric is meant to imply that the "extremist settlers" are carrying out a violent action against innocent Palestinians and their holy sites, thus signaling the Palestinians to rise to defend themselves and their mosque.
In the eyes of Palestinian leaders, Jews are always the "aggressors," while Palestinians are the perpetual "victims."
Consider this: in the Palestinian lexicon, a Jew peacefully touring the Temple Mount is an "aggressor," while a Palestinian who throws stones and chairs at police officers and abuses the visitors is the real "victim." This is the image Abbas, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are seeking to create in the minds of their people and the rest of the world.
Why do Palestinians always refer to the Jewish visitors as "settlers"? Because they falsely assume that most religious Jews live in West Bank settlements -- as opposed to Haifa, Ashdod or other Israeli cities, or are affiliated, in one way or another, with settlers.
Palestinians regularly refer to settlers as "illegal colonizers" and "herds of colonizers and extremists" as a way of delegitimizing them and justifying terror attacks against these Jews. It is the Palestinian way of saying: "We have the right to murder these Jews because they are illegal colonizers living on our land."
In the eyes of Palestinian leaders, the Jews visiting the Temple Mount are not only "extremists," but also "terrorists" -- supposedly like the Israeli government and its leaders -- and not like the Palestinians who attack the policemen and Jews during those visits.
Against this backdrop of whipped-up incitement, the next murder of a Jew is no longer a matter of whether it will take place, but rather when. It is this type of rabble-rousing and fabrications by Palestinian leaders that drives terrorists to set out on their mission of murdering the first Jew they see.
Palestinians leaders are masters in condemning and delegitimizing Israel and Jews. They have specialized in this behavior for decades. Yet, when it comes to denouncing crimes committed against their own people by their Arab brothers, Palestinian leaders are happy to look the other way.
As Abbas and his officials were busy issuing one poisonous statement after another against Israel in the past week, a report released by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria revealed that 250 Palestinian children have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.
According to the report, 128 children died under shelling; 15 were fatally shot by snipers; 11 were gunned down; two children were tortured to death; 22 drowned at sea while fleeing Syria; 22 others were killed in car explosions, and 35 died due to the blockade and medical neglect. Another 14 children died of other causes, including burns, suffocation, run-over accidents, and abduction.
The group pointed out that the total number of Palestinians killed in Syria since 2011 now stands at 3,989.
Where is the outrage from Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip about that? It is reserved for a Jew peacefully visiting the Temple Mount. For them, such visits are far more important than 250 Palestinian children killed in any Arab country. this sums up the Palestinian leaders' attitude -- ruinous disregard for the lives of their own children, and malign intentions for the Jews and their children.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.