While many have condemned the Iran-backed Hamas terror group for the October 7 massacre that killed 1,200 Israelis and wounded at least 5,400 others, the fact is that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leaders also bear responsibility for the carnage. The PA's rhetoric and actions actively paved the way for the hell that Hamas unleashed on Israel.
There is absolutely no difference between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas when it comes to spreading hate against Israel and inciting the murder of Jews. It has also been proven that each time Israel cedes land or makes gestures to the PA or Hamas, they respond by increasing terror attacks against Jews. The areas controlled by the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip have become havens for countless terror groups.
It is no coincidence that Hamas has named its bloody attack on Israel as "The Al-Aqsa Flood." Al-Aqsa refers to the mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to arch-terrorist Mohammed Def, the commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, the attack came "in response to Israeli violations at the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem]." Def accused the Israeli "enemy of defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque."
So, Hamas decided to brutally murder, rape and decapitate Israeli women, children and the elderly because of Israeli "violations" against a mosque in Jerusalem?
What are these purported "violations" and who has been calling on Palestinians to sacrifice their lives to defend the holy Islamic site?
First, the alleged "violations" refer to ordinary and peaceful visits by Jews to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism where the First and Second Temples, which were destroyed in ancient times, once stood. Jews have been visiting the Temple Mount since 1967, when Israel liberated east Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation. The visits were halted when the Palestinians launched a massive campaign of terrorism against Israel during the so-called Second Intifada in 2000. A few years ago, Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, a compound that measures 37 acres (15 hectares), resumed. It is worth noting that Jews who tour the holy site do not set foot inside any mosque or disrupt Muslims' access to the site.
Who was the first Palestinian leader to come out against the Jews' right to visit their holy site? Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. In 2015, Abbas stated:
"The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are ours. They are all ours, and they [Jews] have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We shall not allow them [Jews] to do so, and we shall do whatever we can to protect Jerusalem. We salute every drop of blood spilled for the sake of Jerusalem. Every martyr will be placed in Paradise, and all the wounded will be rewarded by God."
Notably, the Hamas mass murderer, Mohammed Def, repeated the same lie as Abbas when he, too, accused Israel of "defiling" the mosque. Def and his Hamas terrorists picked up the word "defile" straight from Abbas's mouth. When the Hamas terrorists set out on their mission to slaughter Jews on October 7, they undoubtedly had in mind the pledge made by Abbas, namely that those who murder Jews will become "martyrs" and end up in Paradise.
Since then, Abbas and many of his senior aides in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, never cease looking for opportunities to repeat the blood libel that Jews are desecrating the Al-Aqsa Mosque by peacefully touring the Temple Mount. Palestinian Authority officials and media outlets have consistently described the Jewish visits as "incursions by Jewish extremists" and spread lies that Jews are planning to demolish the mosque. The Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, is one of the officials who have been making these false accusations: "Israel is planning to demolish the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. It wants to replace the mosque with a synagogue."
Three weeks before the October 7 massacre, Mahmoud al-Habbash, a senior adviser to the Palestinian Authority president, also made similar charges against Israel. Habbash warned that Israel was planning to "impose a new reality on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by increasing the incursions during Jewish holidays." He also accused, falsely, "racist [Jewish] extremists of holding Jewish rituals and prayers inside the mosque," adding:
"The desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the attack on its sanctity is tantamount to a religious war against Muslims."
Make no mistake. Inflammatory statements such as these drive Palestinians to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews. Shortly after Abbas accused Jews of "defiling with their filthy feet" the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians launched the "Knife Intifada." Between October 2015 and March 2016, there were 211 stabbings or attempted stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians, 83 shootings and 42 car-ramming attacks, killing 30 Israelis and two Americans.
The Palestinian Authority, whose representatives have been warmly embraced by the Biden Administration and many Western leaders, cannot escape responsibility for Hamas's October 7 massacre. Not only have PA leaders used the Jewish visits to the Temple Mount as an excuse to incite their people to murder Jews, but they have also been making other false accusations, including the one that Israel is carrying out "ethnic cleansing."
Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have also been working hard to legitimize Hamas and transform it into an acceptable player in the Palestinian arena. In July, Abbas met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh under the auspices of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A few weeks later, Abbas and Haniyeh met again, this time under the auspices of Egypt, to discuss ways of achieving reconciliation and unity between their parties.
At the meeting in Cairo, the Hamas leader called on all Palestinians to "adopt the option of comprehensive resistance [meaning terrorism] against Israel." Abbas did not walk out of the meeting when he heard the Hamas leader call for more terrorist attacks against Israel. Instead of denouncing Hamas and calling them out for their recurring terrorist attacks against Israel, Abbas has over the past decade been seeking ways to embrace Hamas and form a unity government with its leaders.
Besides its anti-Israel rhetoric, the Palestinian Authority's refusal to rein in terror groups in the West Bank emboldened Hamas. Many of these terror groups, which are responsible for dozens of armed attacks against Jews over the past two years, are affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both Iranian proxies. The success of these groups in murdering dozens of Jews through shootings and car-ramming attacks increased the appetite of Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip to attack Israel. The terrorists in Gaza must have said to themselves: If terrorism is working in the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority is not doing anything to stop us from murdering Jews, why not launch an attack to murder Jews from the Gaza Strip?
Abbas's "Pay-for-Slay" program, which financially rewards terrorists who murder Jews to the tune of more than $340 million a year, also must have incentivized the Hamas terrorists. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has revealed that the Palestinian Authority may now be obliged to pay stipends to the families of the Hamas terrorists who were killed during the October 7 invasion and salaries to those who were captured and are now being held by Israel. "The Palestinian Authority pays salaries to every single terrorist and to anyone who is arrested fighting Israel," said PMW director Itamar Marcus.
Under Palestinian Authority law, every terrorist who is killed while attacking Israelis is defined as a "martyr," whose family is immediately rewarded with a 6,000 shekel ($1,500) grant, plus an ongoing 1,400 shekels ($350) a month. This means each family of the 1,500 dead Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel will receive roughly 7,400 shekels ($1,800) for the first month. Families of those terrorists who were married and had children will receive even more. In addition, captured terrorists will receive monthly salaries starting at 1,400 shekels ($350), which will eventually rise to nearly 12,000 shekels ($3,000).
This month alone, the Palestinian Authority will pay the families of the Hamas terrorists who were killed this month at least 11.1 million shekels ($2.7 million) "Pay-for-Slay" reward for perpetrating the atrocities against Israeli civilians.
Abbas and the PA leadership refuse to condemn Hamas for the atrocities it committed on October 7. They have good reason not to do so. How can they denounce Hamas when they know that it is their own words and actions that have encouraged the terrorists to carry out the deadliest massacre against Jews since the Holocaust?
For the rest of the world, it is not enough to condemn Hamas for the atrocities. The Biden administration and the international community must understand that the hands of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority also drip with the Hamas victims' blood.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.