As Palestinians are facing a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases detected in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank, their Islamic religious leaders are responding in their usual way: inciting against Israel and Jews. Pictured: Palestinian Authority policemen man a checkpoint in Bethlehem on June 29, 2020, to enforce a 48-hour closure of the city, aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus. (Photo by Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)
As Palestinians are facing a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases detected in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank, their Islamic religious leaders are responding in their usual way: inciting against Israel and Jews.
These religious leaders say they are also worried about other "epidemics" that post a threat to Arabs and Muslims, such as peace with Israel and women's rights.
By July 23, the number of Palestinians diagnosed with the coronavirus since last March reached 8,411, according to the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health. Seventy-one Palestinians have died after contracting the disease, the ministry said.
Such disturbing statistics, however, do not seem to worry the so-called Association of Palestinian Scholars. These self-proclaimed religious scholars, who proudly describe themselves as "inheritors of the prophets," say that they see no difference between the dangers of the coronavirus and peace with Israel.
The Islamic group, in a recent statement, issued a prayer to the "Almighty God to protect our nation from this [coronavirus] epidemic and to protect it from the epidemic of normalization" with Israel. The statement came in response to claims by Palestinians and Arabs that some Arab television networks had aired programs allegedly promoting normalization between Arab countries and Israel.
The "scholars" ruled that it is haram (forbidden by Islamic law) for Muslims to watch such programs. "We affirm," they said, "that boycotting these channels is a religious duty, and we would like to remind our nation that the boycott campaign against this [Israeli] enemy is increasing in Muslim and non-Muslim countries."
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Association of Palestinian Scholars has been offering Palestinians nothing but anti-Israel incitement and calls for jihad (holy war) against Israel and Jews. This is the sole "remedy" these "scholars" have extended to their followers as they grapple with the rising number of coronavirus infections and economic hardship resulting from lockdowns and other restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
In a more recent statement, the Association of Palestinian Scholars completely ignored Palestinians' fears concerning the alarming increase in confirmed coronavirus cases. Instead, the group embarked on yet another bellicose campaign against Israel and Jews, echoing the old anti-Semitic libel that Jews are "desecrating with their filthy feet our blessed holy sites."
Accusing Jews of "cowardice and turning mosques into places of entertainment," the Muslim "scholars" said that Jews will remain in a state of fear "because they have cut off their relationship with God."
Needless to say, the "scholars" also did not forget to send another warning to all Arabs and Muslims against engaging in any form of normalization with Israel. The "scholars" said they will be "afflicted with God's curse in this life and hereafter" if they do not heed the warning. They then sent yet another warning to Jews: "Do not be tempted by those who support normalization [with Israel] and remember that the Quran descended from Heaven to prevail and triumph."
The Muslim "scholars" also seem concerned about the possibility that Palestinian women may be coming closer to being accorded the rights that are now accorded only to men. For these religious figures, the prospect of women being treated equally and with respect appears to be more of a threat than the coronavirus.
The Palestinian Authority's decision to join the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, has enraged the Association of Palestinian Scholars and many other extremist Islamist groups, tribal leaders and religious figures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In December 2019, the heads of several Palestinian clans criticized the PA for committing to CEDAW and called for banning feminist groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Association of Palestinian Scholars recently joined the campaign against the treaty, notwithstanding the Palestinian people's preoccupation with the coronavirus outbreak.
"The CEDAW treaty claims that it wants to protect women and the family," the Association said in another statement. "In fact, it wants to destroy the human structure by spreading vice and plunging societies into the swamps of disintegration and loss."
The Muslim "scholars" are saying, in effect, that they do not care about Palestinian women who have been affected by the coronavirus, directly or indirectly, as much as they care about ensuring that these women are not given the rights enjoyed by Palestinian men.
These "scholars" have no advice to offer Palestinian women during the coronavirus outbreak other than issuing fatwas (Islamic opinions) on menstruation during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. In Islam, Muslim women are required to take a break from fasting during their menses.
One of the questions that seems to be preoccupying the "scholars" is what happens when a Muslim gets her period during the fast.
Across the globe, people are preoccupied with preventing the spread of the coronavirus and rescuing the global economy. The world's best minds are racing against time to invent a vaccine that will save the lives of millions of people threatened by COVID-19. The pandemic has caused panic about basic living conditions, health and livelihood.
Palestinian Islamic leaders, meanwhile, are busying themselves with the religious implications of menstruation. For these leaders, it is peace with Israel, not the virus, that is imperiling the health of Arabs and Muslims.
These Muslim leaders appear to be more interested in preventing women from working under unbiased conditions than about those individuals suffering from the pandemic. They also seem to be more interested in demonizing Israel than in dealing with the demon called COVID-19.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.