While Fatah and Hamas have been complaining and crying over the past week about the torching of a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf -- an act allegedly carried out by extremist Jewish settlers – where were Hamas and Fatah when Palestinians set fire to and damaged synagogues in Gush Katif following the IDF pullout from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005? Where were Hamas and Fatah when Palestinians repeatedly set fire to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus over the past decade?
Of course arson is a despicable and abhorrent assault on a holy site that requires all those who care about coexistence, peace and tolerance in the Middle East to strongly condemn it, and there should be no justification for any attack on any holy site, be it a mosque, church or synagogue.
But those who remain silent or condone attacks on other people’s holy sites and religious symbols should be the last to raise their voices when a mosque is vandalized.
Similarly, those who have denied other people’s religious and historic ties to holy sites and lands should also keep their mouths shut.
Why hasn’t any Palestinian party of leader ever condemned acts of vandalism against Jewish cemeteries? Where were they each time a Jewish worshipper was stabbed or killed while on his way to a yeshiva, the Wailing Wall or the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron? How come we didn’t hear the voices of Hamas and Fatah when Palestinians hurled stones at Jewish worshippers visiting Joshua’s Tomb in a village in the northern West Bank?
And where were Hamas and Fatah when Palestinian demonstrators repeatedly hurled firebombs and stones at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem [a site which even Muslims consider to be holy, referring to it as the Bila bin Rabah Mosque]?
Unfortunately, assaults on Jewish holy sites have often been hailed by many Palestinians as acts of heroism against “legitimate targets.”
Condemnations for the Yasuf arson have come from across the political spectrum in Israel. The Israeli president, prime minister, defense minister, religious and secular leaders and even some settler figures were among those who publicly condemned the desecration of the mosque.
Ironically, the Israeli media seemed to be much more interested in the incident than the Palestinian media. At one point, it appeared as if the number of statements of condemnation coming out of the Jewish state exceeded the number of denunciations issued by Arab and Islamic governments and parties.
Following the arson at Yasuf, a large group of Jewish rabbis attempted to enter the village to express its strong condemnation for the incident and to present copies of the Koran to villagers. The rabbis were forced to call of the visit after villagers took to the streets, threatening to use force to prevent them from entering.
Out of concern for their safety, the rabbis had to meet at a nearby junction with a small group of Palestinian Authority officials under IDF protection.
It would have been a great gesture had the rabbis been permitted to enter the village and condemn the torching of the mosque while standing next to village leaders and Muslim religious figures. In any case the idea of the visit was brilliant.
When did any Palestinian ever think of dispatching a group of imams to express solidarity with Jews following an act of vandalism against a synagogue or yeshiva? Has the Palestinian Authority ever encouraged inter-faith dialogue? Has a rabbi ever been invited to speak at a mosque or an Islamic center in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, as opposed to the many Muslim speakers who are invited to address crowds at synagogues? Those who in the past have condoned and even encouraged acts of vandalism against other people’s religious sites have no right to sound their voices over the mosque incident.