As representatives of donor countries were meeting in Norway on November 17 to discuss providing financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinian leaders were busy doing what they have perfected: denying Jewish history and inciting their people against Israel.
Denial of Jewish history and the delegitimization of Israel have long been an integral and major part of the rhetoric of Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian narrative. In the world of the Palestinians, Jews have no history in Jerusalem; they have never lived there; and the Jewish Temples never existed.
These are the messages Palestinian leaders have been passing from one generation of Palestinians to another in the past few decades. The messages come mostly from PA leaders who continue to claim that they support the “two-state solution.”
If Palestinian leaders believe that Jews are not entitled to their holiest site, the Temple Mount, and that Jerusalem belongs only to Muslims and Christians, how can they talk about establishing a Palestinian state that would exist in peace and security next to Israel? Doesn’t the “two-state solution” mean that Israel is entitled to its own capital, Jerusalem? Doesn’t it mean that Jews would have free access to their holy sites in the city, including the Temple Mount?
Palestinian leaders who are claiming that there are no traces of Jewish history in Jerusalem and that the Jewish Temples never existed are in fact saying that if and when a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is ever established, Jews would be denied access to Jewish holy sites.
According to the Palestinians and other Muslims, even the Western Wall, the most significant site used today for prayer by the Jewish people, is Muslim-owned property. “The so-called Wailing Wall [Western Wall] is a lie,” according to the Cairo-based Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Again, this means that if and when a Palestinian state is established, Jews will not be permitted to pray at the site.
Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfedlt said in a statement on November 17 that the donor countries reaffirmed their support for a “two-state solution.”
“Now,” she stated, “we must focus on getting everyone to build on this and pull in the same direction.”
Huitfedlt and the rest of the representatives of the donor countries chose to ignore the fact that Palestinian leaders are hindering the “two-state solution” by insisting on denying Jewish history and constantly inciting the Palestinian people against Israel. Western donors seem not to understand that the refusal by Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people remains a major obstacle to peace and the “two-state solution.”
“We categorically reject the Jewish state,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas has stated on more than one occasion. “We will not backtrack on this matter.”
Earlier this month, Abbas ordered Palestinian flags to be flown at half-mast each year to mark the anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Abbas’ decision sends a message to the Palestinians that they must continue to oppose the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. It also sends a message to the Palestinians that the Balfour Declaration was a crime against Arabs and Muslims.
On the eve of the meeting of the donor countries, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh reminded Palestinians that there is no such thing as Jewish history in Jerusalem.
Addressing the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet, Shtayyeh denied any trace of Jewish trace of Jewish history in Jerusalem. The city, he said, belongs exclusively to Muslims and Christians:
“We are on the outskirts of the eternal capital, the jewel in the crown, the point where heaven and earth meet, the flower of all cities, the object of longing of the hearts of the Muslim and Christian Believers who come to it to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to walk on the Via Dolorosa in order to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jerusalem has Canaanite, Roman, Islamic and Christian antiquities, and no one else has any traces in it.”
This is the same Shtayyeh who days earlier told foreign journalists in Ramallah that the Palestinians have no problem with Jews. “The issue for us is not about Jews and Judaism,” he said. “We have a great respect to every single Jewish person in the world.”
Obviously, Shtayyeh does not believe that denying Jewish history is disrespectful to Jews. He does not believe that his claim that there is no trace of Jewish history in Jerusalem is offensive to Jews. Perhaps Shtayyeh thought that his remarks in Arabic during the PA cabinet meeting would not be translated or noticed by non-Arabic speakers.
On the same day the Western donors were meeting in Norway, the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the Palestinians oppose visits to the Temple Mount by Jewish students. The statement came in response to a debate in the Israeli parliament about the need to include the Temple Mount in school trips organized by the Ministry of Education.
“The Ministry of Foreign affairs views with grave seriousness the calls to include the so-called Temple Mount as a mandatory site on the schedule of visits by Israeli schools,” the PA statement said. It also accused Israel of working towards “Judaizing Jerusalem and changing its Islamic and Christian identity.”
Mahmoud Habbash, religious affairs adviser to the PA president, was quoted on November 17 as saying that Israeli “schemes” to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city are tantamount to “crime” and “terrorism.”
Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, has also played a significant role in denying Jewish history in Jerusalem and making false charges against Israel. Recently, Hussein accused Israel of working towards “changing the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem” by turning it into a Jewish city.
The Norwegian foreign minister and the donor countries should have taken note of what Palestinian leaders are telling their people and the rest of the Arabs and Muslims about Israel and Jewish history. Had they paid attention to the words of the Palestinian leaders, they would have realized why it is impossible to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel at a time when the PA is openly saying that Jews have no right to live in their own homeland.
In this regard, the PA is no different from the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas. Like Abbas and the PA officials, Hamas also believes that Jews are “Zionist invaders” and that “the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations.” (Hamas Charter, Article 11). Article 15 of the Hamas Charter states:
“The day that enemies usurp part of Muslim land, Jihad (holy war) becomes the individual duty of every Muslim. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the [Islamic] nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters. It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis.”
Judging from the statements of Abbas and his officials, it is clear that they have been instilled with the “spirit of Jihad” against Israel and Jews. By denying Jewish history, they—just like Hamas—are making it plain that there is no room for Jews on “Muslim land.” Western donors might wish to consider this Judenrein type of Palestinian antisemitism and incitement against Israel and Jews the next time they open their wallets to the PA.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.