Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II have signed an agreement pledging to cooperate on protecting Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
The agreement will be read against a series of moves by Abbas to implicitly and explicitly declare that Israel is endangering Muslim holy sites in the Israeli capital. Last month Abbas called on Muslims to wage a “fierce and brutal” campaign against the “Judaization” of Jerusalem. Last week he accused Israel of “working in a systematic and hurried way to Judaise east Jerusalem.” Jerusalem has had a continuous Jewish majority since at least the mid-1800s.
The claim that the Jewish state is endangering Muslim sites has long been used by Palestinian leaders to incite violence:
Why do Palestinian leaders continue to insist that the al-Aqsa mosque [in Jerusalem] is “in danger?” The answer may lie in the shiny gold covering of the Dome of the Rock itself. Since the 1920s, Palestinian leaders have used the site as a rallying cry to wage war against the Jewish presence in Israel, and to try and gain support from Muslims abroad…. a 90-year tradition of incitement… began with the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Husseini, who is widely seen as the father of Palestinian nationalism, used the al-Nabi festival, which commemorates the defeat of the Crusaders, and conquest of Jerusalem by the Islamic general Sala’ah al-Din, to instigate anti-Jewish riots in April 1920, even before he became a mufti. His message was simple: Jews are the new Crusaders, and Islam must re-invade Jerusalem…
Haj Amin also had photos with the Star of David superimposed on the Dome of the Rock distributed widely, in order to convince Muslims of a “Jewish plot” against the site. In April 1929, Haj Amin helped stoke riots by issuing a Friday afternoon sermon at the al-Aqsa Mosque, reemphasizing the charge of a Jewish bid to take over the Islamic holy sites.
The incitement continued right through into the 1990s, when in 1997, Yasser Arafat declared: “I am ringing the bell of danger to warn against the Jewish plan to build the Temple of Solomon in the place where today stands Al Aqsa Mosque, after removing the mosque.” Similar incitement flooded the airwaves of the Palestinian Authority following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, launching what has now become known as the al-Aqsa Intifada.
Further incitement, by Abbas or others, risks severely destabilizing the West Bank controlled by Abbas’s Fatah faction.
The West Bank has been roiled by a recent uptick in violence, most recently focusing around President Barack Obama’s trip to the region. The PA had instructed all schools in Ramallah to close and many of its roads to be blocked for the day in anticipation of Obama’s short visit to the city to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The security clampdown came just a day after a protest of several hundred people in Ramallah organized by the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. A Hizb ut-Tahrir leader rallied the crowd with denunciations of America and Obama as the “number-one enemy” of Islam and of Muslims.
Threats of violence aimed at the U.S. president by Palestinians had focused on, among other things, the allegation that his presence would reinforce the Jewish state’s soverignty over Jerusalem.
[Photo: marsmet542 / Flickr]