Tensions in and around Jerusalem have soared since Arab Israeli terrorists murdered two Israeli police officers and injured a third in the sacred Temple Mount complex in the Old City last Friday.
Israel responded with new security measures, including installing metal detectors that have been met with unjustified outrage. It’s of little consequence to the enraged that security is common at holy sites throughout the world and the new measures will protect all worshippers visiting the Temple Mount. But then, reason can’t compete with a good narrative, and the narrative that Jews are threatening the al-Aqsa Mosque is a surefire way to win the hearts and minds of the Palestinian public.
The Palestinian leadership has long been quick to jump at any chance to distract from its own internal dysfunction by stoking the flames of popular discontent and channeling outrage at Israel. As with the Gaza electricity crisis playing out this summer, the Palestinian people are pawns in an ongoing game of political dominance between Fatah and Hamas.
Following last Friday’s attack, Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately assured both Palestinian President Abbas and the international community that Israel would preserve the sensitive status quo, but add security measures to prevent further attacks. The holy site was temporarily closed as security forces investigated the murders and searched the compound for weapons.
Cue the contrived Palestinian outrage.
Abbas’s Fatah party called on Muslim worshipers to defy the closure of the Temple Mount, posting on its official Facebook page, “Set out for the al-Aqsa Mosque.” Palestinians have since taken to the streets, clashing daily with Israeli security forces.
Abba Eban, Israel’s first ambassador to the United Nations, famously said, “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” At a time when the situation in the Old City resembles a powder keg, and calm, responsible leadership is called far, Palestinian leaders have rushed to pour kerosene on a highly flammable situation. Sensing a chance to score points with the masses, Fatah declared Wednesday a “day of rage.”
The Arab world, meantime, has responded in a predictably irresponsible manner. The Arab League issued a statement reprimanding Israel for “banning Palestinians from praying.” It of course made no mention of the terrorists who desecrated the Temple Mount or the murder of two Israelis. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation similarly castigated Israel and called the closing “a serious crime and a dangerous precedent.” True to vile form, Hamas praised the terrorists and declared that the attack “was a natural response to Israeli terrorism and their defilement of the al-Aqsa mosque.”
Arab and Palestinian leaders are well aware of the impact of their words. In 2014, Abbas called on Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using, “all means” necessary. The following year, he went on Palestinian television and said, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.”
These words heralded a flood of incitement that triggered the 2015-16 wave of stabbing, shooting, and car ramming attacks aimed at Israelis. The adulation of violence is so entrenched in Palestinian society that schools, squares, and sports tournaments are named after terrorists. Cartoons and music videos circulate virally through social media, with hashtags such as “Poison the Knife before You Stab” and “Slaughtering the Jews.” A generation raised in a culture that venerates terrorists and dehumanizes Israelis and Jews needs little encouragement to take to the streets.
For its part, the international community has turned a blind eye to the pervasive anti-Israel incitement and the growing payments to terrorists. According to Palestinian Media Watch , the Palestinian Authority has increased spending to terrorist prisoners by thirteen percent and to families of terrorist “martyrs” by four percent in 2017.
The UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations that proclaim to champion human rights are silent as Palestinian children are exploited. European governments that are quick to decry the building of Jewish homes in Jerusalem, are silent as Jewish lives are threatened in Jerusalem. Not a single voice has emerged from the Arab world calling for a restoration of calm and an end to the violence.
Jerusalem is a tinderbox. The city’s Muslim leadership has called for the closure of all mosques on Friday and urged all Muslims to converge on the Temple Mount. Tens of thousands of worshipers are expected to visit the site, creating an extraordinarily volatile situation.
As Arab leaders fan the flames of discontent for selfish political gains, the international community, beginning with every Western head of state, must urge Palestinian and Arab leaders to act responsibly and call for calm. Anything less is to be complicit in the violence that is sure to follow.
Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer and Executive Director of The Israeli-Jewish Congress. Aviva Klompas is the Associate Vice President of Strategic Israel Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
[Photo: AFP News Agency / YouTube]