A wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks has intensified in Israel over the past week. Four Jewish Israelis were killed last weekend and there have been hundreds of attacks since then, ranging from stone throwing, stabbing and attempted lynching to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army and armed civilians have killed several terrorists while they were attempting to carry out their attacks and rioters during protests which turned violent. There have also been several revenge attacks in which Israelis have taken the law into their own hands and attacked Arabs at random.
No Arabs have been killed in these attacks.
Some have blamed this latest uptick in violence on Israeli access to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, home of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday "Jews are trying to take over the Al-Aksa mosque but they will not succeed." His statements were part of a speech declaring the "Al-Aksa intifada has been revived and we intend to join."
It is commonly accepted that Jewish access to the Temple Mount enrages the Palestinian street. Palestinian leaders have been doing their utmost to encourage this rage, making incendiary speeches accusing Israel of attempting to change the 50-year status quo put in place by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan on the Mount which prohibits Jewish prayer.
This is despite the Israeli government’s repeated denials that it is planning any such change.
“Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher” ranted Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas. “They [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
It is never asked why this should be the case.
Why is it that leaders such as Abbas find it so difficult to accept the presence of non-Muslims at the Temple Mount?
The answer lines in a doctrine of Islamist supremacism. Islamists believe that in any place where Muslims are dominant, especially in holy sites, no non-Muslim can have any rights or even any access if the site is considered particularly holy, as in this case.
We see this in action in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, where no non-Muslims are allowed to enter. We see this also in the behavior of the Waqf, the Jordanian authority charged with guardianship of the Temple Mount, which expels any non-Muslims suspected of praying. The Waqf has also carried out extensive renovations of the site and deliberately damaged and discarded archaeological remains of the Jewish temples which once stood on the site.
This is why the terrorist who killed two Jewish Israeli citizens last week wrote on Facebook before he carried out his attack: “According to what I see, the Third Intifada has erupted. What is happening to al-Aqsa [mosque] is what is happening to our holy sites, and what is happening to the women of al-Aqsa is what is happening to our mothers and women. I don’t believe that our people will succumb to humiliation. The people will indeed rise up.”
The Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in the world, arguably the holiest. It is holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews of all denominations, not just to the extreme Islamists who take any attempt to venture there as a personal affront.
If the world is serious about challenging Islamist extremism, they should support the rights of peoples of all faiths and none to access, pray or simply quietly contemplate at the Temple Mount unmolested.
Other holy and ancient sites such as the Vatican, the Cave of the Patriarchs, where Abraham is buried, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, are open to those of all faiths who wish to access them and pray there.
Times of Israel editor David Horowitz argued that this latest round of violence “suggests that the Palestinians have a knife-wielding, even suicidal intolerance for the Jewish state’s connection to Judaism’s holiest place, and that Moshe Dayan’s historic decision in 1967 has hardened intransigence rather than encouraged the reciprocal imperative for understanding and compromise.”
Far from ameliorating the crisis, failure to address the Islamist supremacist doctrine surrounding Al-Aqsa seems likely inflame tensions further.
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.