Palestinian leaders seem more worried about an Israeli plan to install an elevator for disabled people at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron than about a Palestinian upsurge in violent crime. Pictured: People exit the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron on August 7, 2020. (Photo by Hazem Bader / AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian leaders seem more worried about an Israeli plan to install an elevator for disabled people at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron than about a Palestinian upsurge in violent crime.
The Israeli government recently approved the construction of a handicapped access elevator at the holy site. "Every person, irrespective of whether or not they are disabled, should have the opportunity to visit the tomb, which is an important Jewish heritage site," said former Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. "The tomb belongs to us after Abraham bought it with his own money 3,800 years ago."
The 2,000-year-old structure was built by King Herod the Great to house the Cave of Machpela, burial site of the Biblical founding fathers and mothers. The site, divided into separate Muslim and Jewish prayer areas, has only steep staircases for entrances.
The decision to build the elevator came in response to the Israeli Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law that requires every public structure to be fully accessible to the disabled.
Palestinian leaders, however, do not seem to care about the rights of people with disabilities, particularly when it comes to providing access to Jews who want to pray at one of their holiest sites. These Palestinian leaders continue to deny any Jewish connection to the holy site on the pretext that it belongs exclusively to Muslims.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki has condemned the elevator plan as an Israeli "war crime" and a "violation of international law." In his opinion, enabling handicapped Jewish worshippers to enter the holy site is part of an Israeli scheme to "forge Palestinian history and heritage."
Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian PLO leader, is also pretending that she is worried about Islamic holy sites. Ashrawi, in a statement published on July 25, also denounced the elevator project and accused Israel of "stealing Palestinian history, holy sites and identity and provoking the feelings of Muslims."
Ashrawi does not seem to be concerned about the dwindling number of her fellow Christians in the West Bank. Evidently, she has not heard of a recent public opinion poll that showed that the desire to emigrate is much higher among Palestinian Christians than among Palestinian Muslims.
The poll found that a "very large minority [of Christians] believe that most Muslims do not wish to see them in the country" and face discrimination when searching for jobs or when seeking Palestinian Authority services.
The Palestinian incitement against the planned elevator also happens to coincide with a dramatic increase in violent crime and scenes of anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank. It also comes at a time when Palestinians are coping with an increase in the number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 and the economic hardship resulting from restrictions imposed by the Palestinian government to prevent the spread of the disease.
Instead of holding an emergency meeting to discuss ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians during the pandemic, Palestinian leaders are busy inciting violence against Israel over the elevator project for the handicapped.
Instead of taking serious measures to disarm gangsters and militiamen roaming the Palestinian streets and killing and terrorizing Palestinians, the Palestinian leaders are continuing to demand that the International Criminal Court launch a "war crimes" probe against Israel for planning to facilitate access for Jews to pray at a site that is holy for Jews.
In the past two weeks, masked gunmen have reappeared on the streets of Palestinian cities in an open challenge to the Palestinian Authority and its security forces. Palestinian leaders, however, do not seem to be worried about the gunmen, most probably because they belong to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction.
On August 5, dozens of Fatah gunmen took to the streets of Ramallah and its twin city, Al-Bireh, firing into the air from automatic rifles and terrorizing their residents. The gunmen were protesting the fatal shooting of Khalil al-Sheikh, a brother of senior Fatah official Hussein al-Sheikh, during a "family feud."
Two weeks ago, the residents of another Palestinian city, Nablus, underwent a similar experience. Scores of Fatah gunmen took to the streets to protest the killing of one of their commanders by Palestinian security officers.
Both incidents sparked widespread protests among Palestinians, who are now complaining of "anarchy and lawlessness" and are accusing their leaders of failing to tackle the crisis of rising crime and violence.
Palestinian human rights organizations are also complaining about the "chaos of weapons" and are calling on Palestinian leaders to order the PA security forces to confiscate weapons from gangsters and militiamen. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, however, continue to pretend that the major problem currently facing the Palestinians is Israel's elevator for the handicapped.
Some Palestinians believe that the latest wave of violent crime in the West Bank is a sign of what awaits the Palestinians in the post-Abbas era. They fear that tensions among several Palestinian officials who see themselves as natural successors to Abbas could spill into violence, given that many of them have armed their own followers and private militias.
"There is a state of mobilization among a number of influential people in power who aspire to rule after Abbas, and each one of them has his power and [security] apparatus through which they will try to impose themselves," said Atef Udwan, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative council.
"We expect the violence to worsen because matters are not stable. Those who create security chaos in the West Bank do not care about the homeland or the people; they want to achieve personal goals and political influence. The anarchy in the West Bank is a crime that needs to be confronted."
By failing to address the grievances of their people, Palestinian leaders are again proving that their main priorities are preserving their political seats and diverting all rage away from themselves and toward Israel.
For Palestinian leaders, denying Jewish history and heritage is far more important than combating a range of domestic crime that runs wide and deep.
As Palestinians bury the victims of violent crime week after week, Abbas and his officials take step after step to bury their own credibility. The winners? The Iran-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who dream of extending their control from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. This dream, thanks to the lawless and lethal regime of the Palestinian Authority -- funded by the West -- appears closer than ever.
Bassam Tawil, a Muslim Arab, is based in the Middle East.