A prominent American-born Jewish activist was the victim of an assassination attempt in Jerusalem late on Wednesday, the latest in a string of terror attacks that Israeli leaders have linked to heightened incitement by top Palestinian Authority (PA) figures. The Times of Israel described the victim, Yehuda Glick, as having “worked tirelessly in recent years to restore the right of Jews to worship on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.” Jews and other non-Muslims are barred from praying on the compound, which contains several structures that Muslims consider holy, including the Al-Aqsa mosque.
It is difficult to overstate Glick’s central role as a public face for efforts to expand Jewish access to the area, which is also holy to Jews as the site of ancient Jewish temples. A Times of Israel profile gestured toward his position:
Rabbi Yehudah Glick, who was shot and seriously hurt outside Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center Wednesday night, has worked tirelessly in recent years to restore the right of Jews to worship on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in preparation for the arrival of the messiah and the building of a third Holy Temple. His activities, which rub up against Israeli police’s ban on Jewish and other non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount, have led to his being barred more than once from the site. In October 2013, he held a hunger strike, which ended after 12 days with the reinstatement of permission for him to ascend the Temple Mount.
Eyewitness descriptions suggest that Glick was targeted due to his political activities. The shooter – a former prisoner who served over a decade in jail for various offenses – was subsequently killed by counter-terror forces in a gunfight.
The attack comes after several months of sensational calls by PA leaders – including most recently by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah – for Palestinians to deny Jews access to the Temple Mount.The exhortations often included lurid accusations describing Jews as seeking to desecrate and destroy holy places in the compound.
An extensive 2013 study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) had described the theme [PDF] – which it dubbed the “‘Al-Aqsa is in Danger’ libel” – as “a classic libel that was embroidered in the first half of the twentieth century against the Jewish people, the Zionist movement, and, eventually, the State of Israel.” Palestinian Media Watch, an Israel-based NGO that, among other things, monitors anti-Israel incitement, more recently rounded up statements from the PA Foreign Ministry accusing Israel of having activated “the Judaization plan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and of seeking to destroy it.
Earlier this week Hamdallah gave a fiery speech while visiting the site, characterizing it as under threat and claiming it for the Palestinians. The speech was seen as the PA doubling down on an earlier one, given two weeks before by Abbas, in which he declared that Palestinians must prevent Jews from entering the compound quite literally by any means necessary:
Abbas said during a conference in defense of the mosque and Jerusalem in the Red Crescent headquarters in al-Bireh that “without it there will be no state,” official Wafa news agency reported. He called on people to defend al-Aqsa saying, “it’s not enough to say that the setters have come; we must stop them from entering the compound by any means necessary.”
The calls were alarming enough that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted portions of his speech on Monday, given to mark the opening of Israel’s Knesset parliament, to emphasizing that Israel had no designs on the Temple Mount – and to warning that continued Palestinian incitement regarding Jerusalem risked generating violence. The assassination attempt – which targeted perhaps the most prominent figure associated with Jews accessing the Temple Mount, two weeks after Abbas called on Palestinians to use any means necessary to prevent Jews from doing so – is likely to deepen concerns about the potentially destabilizing consequences of Palestinian incitement.
[Photo: euronews / YouTube]