Samir A. Zedan
The Palestinian Authority has clearly begun to test President Biden’s toughness, to see if he will stand up about Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel, as did his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
Indeed, following Secretary of State Blinken’s recent announcement that the US embassy will remain in Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ expectations will likely be met with disappointment.
But what is alarming is that the rhetoric of excluding others is intensifying on the official Palestinian channels, as if Jerusalem’s history began in the seventh century, after the Arab-Islamic invasion.
It is no coincidence that the former Palestinian Minister of Endowments, Yusef Jumah Salameh, recently published an article entitled “Al Aqsa mosque is an Islamic mosque until Judgement Day”, thus confirming the Palestinian denial of any Jewish rights to the Temple Mount, where the Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
In fact, this denial was one of the most important reasons for Israel ending its recognition of Arafat as a peace partner after the failure of Camp David negotiations during the Clinton administration in 2000.
The Palestinian official added that “the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque has a divine decision [to remain] as an Islamic site that cannot be rescinded here or there, while non-Muslims have no right to it.” This is further evidence of the Palestinian denial of any Jewish connection to the city itself.
By emphasizing that “Jerusalem will remain with an Islamic face, an Arab history, and a Palestinian identity,” the article reflects the Palestinians’ prejudices regarding coexistence in a city that witnessed also the birthplace of Christianity.
Moreover, the former Palestinian minister published another article, entitled “Mosques and their Status in Islam”, in an attempt to present a different perspective on the reality on the ground.
“The mosques in Palestine are groaning under the yoke of the occupation, and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is imprisoned and shackled, while these days, the Israeli occupation forces prevent the restoration work in the Dome of the Rock, the Marwani prayer hall, and the Gate of Mercy inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Salamah falsely claimed in his article, which was published two days ago.
On the other hand, his official Facebook page shows this photo of a magnificent mosaic with the caption, “Part of the restoration work of the Dome of the Rock and the Marwani Mosque in the Al-Aqsa Mosque this morning.”
The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is appropriate here to reveal what some see as an intentionally falsification of the facts, or as symptomatic of collective schizophrenia among some Palestinians.
The former Palestinian minister, who is currently the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s principal preacher and first vice president of the Supreme Islamic Authority, urged the intervention of international organizations, which are frequently used by the Palestinians to defame the Jewish state.
He concluded by also calling upon Arab and Muslim countries to intervene in order to “protect all mosques and sanctuaries in Palestine, foremost Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is subjected to repeated attacks and continuous Judaization attempts.”
It is well known that grotesque exaggeration and the use of slander have become omnipresent in the prevailing discourse among some Palestinians, who seek to conceal the religious nature of their alleged national aspirations. However, it’s the writer’s responsibility to illustrate this through hard evidence.
While researching current accusations against Israel made by Muslim clerics in Jerusalem, the writer came across an aerial photo of the Ali Mosque in Herzliya on the Mediterranean.
This photo was published on the official Israel website “Israel speaks Arabic,” which added that prayers are held regularly in the mosque and the call to prayer is sounded, as in any Muslim country.
It is worth noting that this mosque is one of more than 400 mosques in Israel. It is noted that the number of mosques in Israel has increased five times in the past 25 years, according to the same source.
It is also confirmed that around 300 imams and muezzins are on the official payroll of the Israeli government; meanwhile, Israel provides funds and Korans to Arab schools and many Islamic educational institutions.
Besides teaching the Israeli general curriculum, these schools also teach Islamic studies and Arabic.
The question here is how many synagogues and churches were built in Islamic countries in the last 25 years.
Sheikh Yusuf Jumaa Salamah deliberately omitted that a few months ago, Turkey converted the Hagia Sophia Cathedral — for nearly a millennium the principal Eastern Orthodox church in the world — into a mosque, and the former preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Ekrima Sabri, recently led prayers there in the presence of Turkish President Erdogan.
While some Muslims attack churches in Turkey, Palestinians want their fake accusations against Israel believed without any discussion. Ekrima Sabri’s decision to pray in Hagia Sophia represents flagrant Palestinian aggression against Christianity in general and the Orthodox Church in particular.
Finally, could this latest hardening of the Palestinian official discourse be following the newly harsh Iranian rhetoric and ISIS’s recent resurgence in Iraq, while Hezbollah and Hamas prepare their missiles against Israel after feeling the softness of the new US administration?
The next few weeks and months will most definitely reveal more.
Samir A. Zedan is a former Senior Counter-Terrorism Analyst at the US Department of State, and a former Development Outreach and Communication Specialist at USAID/Iraq. He has contributed to hundreds of articles published in major media outlets with assignments in the Palestinian Areas, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Europe.