While Hamas and Islamic Jihad are continuing to exploit our teenagers in the Gaza Strip by training them to join the jihad against Jews and "infidels," our leaders in the West Bank are committing a similar crime against Palestinian youths.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who falsely describes himself as President of the State of Palestine, has been encouraging our teenagers to engage in the so-called "popular resistance" against Israel. But these leaders, including Abbas himself, are not willing to send their own children and grandchildren to participate in the "popular struggle." As usual, our leaders want the children of others to take to the streets and throw stones and firebombs at Jews.
The "popular struggle" that the PA leadership is spearheading these days is anything but peaceful. In some instances, it has even proved to be lethal. Recently, Alexander Levlovich was killed after losing control of his vehicle in Jerusalem. Investigations showed that at least four Arab youths had pelted his car with stones, causing Levlovich to hit a tree.
During the past few months, hundreds of Palestinian teenagers from Jerusalem have been arrested for throwing stones and firebombs at Israeli vehicles. These teenagers have offered various explanations as to why they decided to take part in the "popular resistance" against Israel. Most of them said they wanted to protest against visits by Jews to the Temple Mount -- an act described by our leaders as a "contamination" of Islamic holy sites. Mahmoud Abbas, who is by no means a devout Muslim, recently accused Jews of desecrating Al-Aqsa Mosque with their "filthy feet."
Abbas and other senior figures in the Palestinian Authority leadership have also been issuing daily threats against Israel in response to perfectly peaceful visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. One of them, Mahmoud Habbash, even went as far as announcing that the visits by Jews to the Temple Mount would ignite a third world war.
It is this type of incitement that prompts our youths to hurl stones and firebombs at Jews. These youths are not taking to the streets to fight "occupation." Their main goal is to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to Jews. Otherwise, how does one explain the fact that Palestinian teenagers have thrown dozens of firebombs at Jewish homes in the Old City? When someone tosses a firebomb at a house or a car, his intention is to burn civilians alive.
Our leaders, who are fully responsible for sending these teenagers to throw stones and firebombs at Jews, are sitting in their luxurious offices and villas in Ramallah and rubbing their hands with deep satisfaction. Abbas and several Palestinian leaders in the West Bank would like to see our youths rioting on the streets of Jerusalem and in the Temple Mount's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, so that they can hold Israel responsible for cracking down on "innocent" Palestinians. Their main goal is to embarrass Israel and depict it as a state that takes tough measures against Palestinian teenagers, whose only fault is participation in "popular resistance."
After having incited our youths to engage in violence against Jews, our hypocritical leaders are now rushing to condemn new Israeli measures against stone-throwers. It is as if our leaders are saying that throwing stones and firebombs at Jews in cars and homes is a basic right of Palestinians.
One of the loudest hypocrites is Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator who was recently elected Secretary-General of the PLO. Erekat, who never dispatched his sons and daughters to throw stones and firebombs at Jews, was quoted this week condemning Israel's newly approved measures against Palestinian stone-throwers. He described these measures as "inhumane" and part of Israeli "incitement" against Palestinians.
Neither Erekat nor his boss, Mahmoud Abbas, has denounced the violence by Palestinians against Jews. The only time they issue condemnations is when Israel arrests teenagers for throwing stones and firebombs. Our leaders believe Israel has no right to defend itself against those who seek to burn Jews driving in their vehicles or sleeping inside their homes.
If anyone is desecrating Islamic holy sites, it is those who bring explosives, stones and firebombs into Al-Aqsa Mosque in the first place. For the past few months, dozens of Palestinian youths have used the mosque as a launching pad for attacking Jewish visitors and policemen on the Temple Mount. The Jews who visit the site do not bring with them stones, firebombs and clubs. It is young Muslim men who are desecrating our holy sites with their "filthy feet."
Such reports show that Muslims have no respect for their religious sites. The images of masked youths inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, collecting stones for attacking Jews, also reveal the true intentions of the rioters and those behind them: to harm Jewish visitors and policemen, who anyway have no plans to enter the mosque.
We contaminate our mosques with our own hands and feet and then blame Jews for desecrating Islamic holy sites. Not only are we lying, but we are also displaying the highest level of hypocrisy and impudence. We plan and initiate the violence on the Temple Mount and elsewhere and then we run to complain to the world that Israel is arresting our youths "for no reason."
It is obvious that our leaders are once again leading us toward a catastrophe. They want our children to get hurt or killed so that they can go to the United Nations and complain that Israel is using "excessive force" against the Palestinians. Our leaders, of course, do not tell the world that they are the ones inciting these young men to take to the streets and attack the first Jew they run into. Nor do they tell the world that it is Muslims, and not Jews, who are contaminating Islamic holy sites through their violent acts.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.